Growing up, I was taught that we do not discuss our financial situation. It is is considered rude or insensitive to give away the state of your finances. However, the dirt always comes up when friends begin discussing the reason they have rented for ten years or the massive amount of credit card past due statements hidden under the couch.
I became money conscious when I began counting up my financial aid to attend college. However, my lifestyle during college was not the most frugal. I did not have credit card debt or even students loans over 23,000. I did spend too much money going to the newly opened Target and eating out. Good gracious Ed and I have wasted so much money going out to eat! (Seriously, hundreds of thousands.)
Fast forward to 2009. We were ready to get married, buy a house, and live the American dream. (Now you know that I have changed my mind on that particular dream, but nonetheless my 25 year old mind wanted the classic package.) I was working for peanuts in my first entry level library job, and found this book shelving one day. Yes, it was fate. It changed my whole prospective on the way I spent money and managed debt. It is called The Cheapskate Next Door by Jeff Yeagar.
Jeff and his wife embark on a year long no spend adventure where they only purchase the basic necessities of life. Their real take and prospective motivated me to look critically at daily life. A few other jolts have moved Ed and I over the years to go back to these principals. Here based on my experience and the book are my top eight big ways to spend less, save, and pay off debt in 2018.
1. Menu+Grocery List=Big Savings
An old friend told me once when he wanted to save cash he looked back at all his old bank statements and receipts reviewing what he spent the most money on. I knew without having to do this that eating out was the biggest blow to my account. I also had my 2015 health issue where sodium was the enemy. For years now, I have systematically made a menu, and used the grocery list based on that to compete a weekly grocery haul.
By doing this I spent two dollars per person for each meal for seven days. Even eating out once depending on the price point would blow that budget. Now, we love to eat out, but now it is a luxury we choose to use in conjunction with a birthday or to celebrate a particular milestone. Use your crock pot or freezer to stretch meals out further. A meal of chili and black bean soup covered our lunches for four days last week in leftovers. Don’t forget to check sales ads, member’s deals, or coupons when making the list. Also, take into account items you have that may spoil within a week. I particularly love Walmart’s Savings Catcher and Target’s Cartwheel with the apps!
(**Note of caution for coupons: Don’t use a coupon on something you are not buying anyway or plan to use in an upcoming recipe! They can blow your budget if used just because you have one!)
Analyze your expenses first!
2. Do you really need to pay full price?
My life changed the day I realized I could purchase books from the thrift store for 25 cents to a dollar. I loaded up on books weekly, and then slowly moved to buying clothes there. I then discovered a department store outlet that run drastic sales every week. (We’re talking three dresses for the price of one on the discount price.) Then with the rise of Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, Ross, Big Lots, and others I realized I should not pay full price for anything!
So now, if I am dying for a new pair of name brand shoes for example, I scout these places in person or online until I find them for the price I want. The three things I ask myself before making a bigger purchase:
*Do I really need this?
*Do I need to buy this new?
*What is the most I am willing to pay for ___?
Those three questions have kept me grounded and have led to some good deals. Most recently a pair of Adidas tennis shoes for me to walk my neighborhood in great condition for six bucks. They are not brand spanking new, but after the rain we had it did not much matter after my inaugural walk in them.
Thrift haul from the past
3. Don’t be afraid of the side hustle.
I have paid tribute to the altar of many side hustles. I sold on eBay, Etsy, Poshmark, Facebook, and even the Pass Christian Farmer’s Market. Referred friends to different programs for cash, and even reviewed products and took surveys for free deals. Some have been busts, and some have been lucrative.
I used to laugh at these antique road show stories of people buying a painting at a garage sale and it turns out to be this long lost masterpiece worth millions. How surprised it was when happened to me! I found a stack of books from the 1960s in a local friends of the library sale for 25 cents each. This was back when I was selling vintage books on Etsy. Turns out one of those books was an early edition of The Phantom Tollbooth I sold for forty dollars. Another book in the same haul was a copy of Diamonds are Forever with Sean Connery on the cover. Turns out, it’s a limited edition and I sold it for 80 dollars! I have since moved on to selling clothes on Poshmark. I have made over 800 dollars there to date.
You do not have to go over the deep end like me, but it is nice to have the extra cash. I always try to sell the older version of an electronic if I update. So every time I get a new iPhone, I wipe the old one and sell it. Same for DVD players, digital cameras, and even broken hair straighteners. Never be surprised on what people will buy. Just don’t be too proud on the asking price.
4. get cash back when you can on what you are buying anyway
The apps eBates and Ibotta are great cash back deals. They include many shops, and offer double cash back promotions. They work by tracking your purchases and offering you an incentive for it. I have made over 150 dollars with eBates since 2014! I especially like using these programs over Christmas when I am purchasing gifts online anyway to avoid the Black Friday pandemonium. Ibotta also offers cash back and challenges where you earn money you an redeem for cash! There are also fantastic signing bonuses for referring friends for both apps! These two apps will get you started, but there are many more available.
5. make use of free stuff
One frugal thing I did in graduate school was march to the main city library in Edinburgh. The main library is a towering and beautiful building with “Let there be light” scrawled over the door. I opened up a library card there. I would also go to cafes mid morning and read the discarded paper instead of paying the equivalent of 1.50 USD a day. Do not knock free stuff! Did you know you can get new release movies from most public libraries for free with library card? Not to mention the free books and programs. Our local libraries have free concerts, yoga, and classes! Now libraries have eBooks and audiobooks available through downloadable apps for free as well.
Weekly over the summer a local city plays free movies on the lawn. Check local blogs and newspapers online to find schedules for free events. Also, remember there are hikes and walks that you can enjoy for free on a nice day. Get creative, and think about ways to avoid spending money on entertainment!
Having fun isn’t hard with a library card!
6. go on a spending fast
The phrase is found on a favorite financial blog called And Then We Saved. The author and her husband were able to cut off unnecessary spending and paid off all debt rather quickly. Much like The Cheapskates Next Door they committed to stopping the sending train. In both cases, they went to the extreme and cut all spending out cold turkey.
However, I find it more effective to pick one aspect of life to have a spending fast. If I still have a bunch of samples from my days of subscription box obsession I will make a decision not to spend any money of bath products until they are all used up. Visiting Starbuck daily or the Target Dollar spot may be your weakness that needs curbed.
7. amazon prime is your friend!
While it may seem like a strange way to save money since a subscription to Amazon Prime is over 100 dollars a year now. However, we ended up saving close to 80 dollars a month when we cut our cable and exclusively streamed content. Through the Amazon Fire Stick I have free apps for shows with the CW and PBS. I do use Netflix and Hulu Plus as well but they average about 16 dollars a month extra. Still a fraction of what I paid for less than 50 cable channels a month! Not to mention the benefit Prime members have of streaming music and free eBooks.
(Tip: Students have the option for a price reduced Amazon Prime subscription!)
8. pull it out before it can be spent
One way to save money I found is to have it pulled out of your account and placed somewhere else before the money goes into your checking. Many banks provide the Christmas Savings service that entails pulling a portion of a check into a savings account that is only available in December of that year. By using retirement plans along with the Roth IRA and Roth 403b you can pull money from your check and are save until you reach retirement age. (The tax comes out of the Roth IRA at retirement, and the Roth 403b is taxed before.) Believe me, a hundred dollars a month can add up after awhile.
This post is not meant to preach to you or convert you to my methods of money saving. I hope you can come up with your own method of saving by reading using these tips. Get creative, if you need white noise to sleep, download a free app on your tablet instead of buying a sound machine or drag the fan from the back of the closet you already own. What are some ways you have saved money in 2017? Let’s talk!
Until next time..
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