How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Many people try this, and many people fail.  I am talking about months long no spends, shopping bans, or spending fasts.  (Many names for the same thing!) For the months of January and February I decided to cut all unnecessary spending.  I chose to do this because I did not want to be Christmas poor while going into Chinese New Year.  My online teaching job, is very dependent on the ebb and flow of holiday schedules in China.  I was able to alleviate some financial stress by focusing on my bills and savings goals. 

I have completed two no spends in the past by necessity.  The first fast occurred when my husband changed careers in 2016.  When this happened we had to reassess our financial future.  The second was when I changed careers and returned from teaching in Vietnam.  By 2018, I decided to become an independent contractor.  It took about three months to build my student base to where I needed it.  This time, I wanted to consider my actual thoughts behind making purchases. 

The book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders inspired this challenge.  She takes an honest look at why she spends and treats it like an addiction.  She was able to change careers and pay off all of her debt by the end of the year.  Due to her advice during this book and honest perspective, I decided to model my own rules based on her.  Below is my list of original rules that I shared on my Facebook list. 

January and February Rules for No Spend!

How I Did

Based on my self-created rules, I did very well my first six weeks.  I lapsed towards the end on the rules of eating out entering forbidden stores.  (Although I didn’t actually buy anything!)  I lasted the full two months without buying anything unnecessary.  The only unexpected purchase was a new pair of tennis shoes.  I deemed this as a much needed purchase since my other shoes had holes in them by this point. 

I feel like I met my general goal of thinking about my purchases carefully.  The No Spend Challenge helped me show some self-control when it comes to stopping for coffee.  I can say that I missed this the most.  I enjoy stopping by a coffee shop on my way between two jobs.  This breaks up my day and the coffee tastes way better than the staff room Keurig. 

One unexpected discovery about myself during the challenge.  I realized I am more of an extrovert than I realized.  I enjoy having a night where I go to the movies, browse shops with a friend, or even go to a restaurant I enjoy.  It did cause me to appreciate the times we went out for birthdays and trivia.  Some free things like taking a long walk or sitting on the back porch. 

Now that I am out on the other side, I would like to give some practical tips in successfully completing a no spend longer than a month.

Be Realistic

I said this recently, life is happening to us every day.  Situations come up and unexpected problems arise.  Also, some things may not be practical for your family.  For example, you may need to buy some shoes if you have young children growing like weeds.  Take note of possible situations and your family’s needs before even writing your rules. 

Have Accountability

Since I was trying to break a bad habit, I took a page from my friends completing fitness challenges.  I posted my first five weeks of progress on my Facebook group. It enabled me to have open conversation from friends and family about spending habits.  I was honest about my feelings and my failures.  Sometimes, when I was tempted to pull into the Starbucks drive-thru, I would think about having to confess it on Facebook later.

Know Your Triggers

How do you feel when you buy something new?  Do you try to put salve on a bad day by going clothes shopping?  Can’t resist a deal?  These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when creating your spending rules.  Knowing why you spend and considering your buying urges may be uncomfortable at first.  However, I did not realize how much I liked to go to Target when I am stressed. 

No Spend

Plan Ahead

The key to avoiding impulse buying is to plan days, weeks, and even months ahead.  In order to avoid buying lunches out, I would pack my lunch the night before at home.  I made sure to have plenty of coffee pods so I would not need to find caffeine elsewhere.  We went to a concert for Ed’s Christmas gift out of town.  I booked a reasonable AirBnb close to the concert venue before No Spend began.  Think of upcoming birthdays, events, trips, and daily habits when making plans for No Spend.

Clean Our Your E-mail List

Don’t forget temptation can come while you are sleeping at night!  Take time to remove yourself from e-newsletters.  Unsubscribe from shops that are tempting or offer flash sells.  I found out I had so many e-mails that I had to unsubscribe in three different sessions. 

Track What You Save

Reward yourself at the end by seeing how much you have saved!  It was very encouraging to see the amount of cash in my checking that I could transfer to savings at the end of each no spend month.  Bonus:  Take a moment to look at your bank statements from the months before the No Spend in order to see how much frivolous spending you cut out. 

No Spend Tip

Final Thoughts and Where I Will Go From Here…

I officially ended my No Spend the last week of February when my friend flew in from Scotland.  I must admit that it was nice to go into shops and head as I pleased to the coffee shop.  Over the two months, I felt guilty telling my friends no about spur of the moment plans or sales.  However, now I think twice about purchases. 

For the future, I hope to continue to implement some of my No Spend habits in the long run.  Beginning in April, I will make a fun budget to spend on coffee, eating out, and entertainment for the month.  Once the budget is reached I am finished for the month. 

I am also implementing a buying delay.  The higher priced the item, the longer I will wait to purchase it.  This way I can take advantage of the good habit I created over January and February of avoiding impulse buying.  How long do you think I should wait for an item under $25 dollars?

How to Survive a Month of No Spending

Will you try a No Spend?  Have you completed one before?  If so, what helped you be successful? 

3 Ingredients Homemade Beauty Products

In my quest for a simpler life, I decided to begin making some of my own bath products.  I hope to use things that are easy to purchase at the grocery store or on Amazon.  After some research, I found some items that appear many times as good for the skin. Some of these even appeared in my multipurpose products post last month!  My skin has always been oily and prone to breakouts.  Although I am over 30 it still breaks out and is still only.  Except now I have these weird dry patches as well! 

Below are some of the more appealing options I found in my search of the great wide web. 

Oily Skin Lotions

3 ounces cucumber juice

3 ounces witch hazel

1 ½ ounces rosewater

Mix, shake before using, apply with cotton pads in smooth, sweeping strokes.

Grapefruit Freshener

2 ounces grapefruit juice

3 ounces Witch Hazel

1 tablespoon lemon extract

Blend, store in refrigerator.  Apply as splash or with cotton pads. 

Green Tea Sunny Day Facial Mist

1 green tea bag

2-3 drops vitamin e-oil

Spray bottle

Steep tea bag in a cup of boiling water for 4-5 minutes.  Remove Tea bag and chill cup in fridge.  Add 2-3 drops of vitamin e oil for hydration.  Put in spray bottle and store in fridge. 

Vanilla Coconut Lip Scrub


  • 1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.  Take a small amount and massage it onto your lips for a minute.  Rinse it with warm water.

Coffee Body Scrub

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup ground oatmeal or coffee grounds (the coffee is more invigorating—choose oatmeal for sensitive skin)
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Combine ingredients and store the mixture in a dry place for up to 4 weeks. To use, wet skin first, and then apply in circular motions, gently exfoliating. Rinse. If you have extra sensitive skin, just leave out the sugar.

One thing to be aware of is that using this scrub in your shower requires some clean up afterwards!

 Fancy Castile Soap Body Wash

If you don’t want to use castile soap on its own to get clean, you can still use it to make a great body wash! Just mix it with a bit of honey, and some oils to make a gentle body wash that will moisturize and nourish your skin. Castile soap is plant based and a wonderful bath product for people with skin sensitivities and allergies.

Overwhelmed by the price tag of organic products? A great website to try is Brandless. They specialize in organic products with no additional taxes. They are a wonderful place to begin your search for cleaner and cheaper products.

Which one will you try? 

**I am not a doctor so please consult one before using if you have any doubts to your skin’s reaction. **

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

9 Multipurpose Products That Will Save You Money!

I am approaching week five of my two month No Spend goal.  So far, I have only had a few planned exceptions and desperate need for new walking shoes.  When I go on the weekly grocery haul, I make a list of all beauty, house, and food related purchases I need to make. Hands down my most expensive trip are when I need to buy non-food items like cleaners and shampoos.  Don’t get me started if I have to buy toilet paper or paper towels. 

So in the spirit of saving money.  I searched around Pinterest, websites, and my trusty historic newspaper database Genealogy Bank to find some multipurpose items that won’t break the piggy bank.  I chose nine of my top versatile products. 

Multipurpose Products


My earliest memory of vinegar, is using it to dye Easter eggs.  Its strong scent always sparks a childhood memory of the pastel eggs coming out of plastic cups.  As an adult, I rarely use vinegar with a few exceptions.  I have always used vinegar to descale my Keurig and other coffee pots. Vinegar also cleans makeup brushes well with warm water by pulling the oil right out of the bristles.  I have also used it to make easier to peel boiled eggs.  (Here I go with the eggs again!)

However, I have also been told vinegar makes great fabric softener, stain remover, odor reducer, glass cleaner, and so on.  This small list does not even touch the beauty and cooking possibilities of plain vinegar.  The best part?  Standard white vinegar averages less than $3.50 a gallon according to Walmart’s online store.  


Dawn (or comparative store brand) is a great option to scrub dishes without destroying your hands.   We have all seen the ads where the cute little animals are rescued from oil spills and bathed with Dawn. Those commercials get me every time!  I also recently discovered thanks to my best friend @muddymeraid that it is one of the few options that can pull grease stains out of clothes.  If the stain is too old it does not work.  However, it is possible to dab and massage the stain with a little Dawn, let sit for a bit, and wash.  It has worked on a few items I thought were goners for sure.  

One of my favorite YouTuber’s, Kristen, with The Gold Project mentioned taking a spray bottle and filling it with Dawn and our old friend vinegar for tough soap scum in bathtubs. I have not tried it yet, but have commandeered an empty spray bottle to give it a try when the expensive bathroom cleaner foam runs out.  The average price for Dawn brand dish soap is 12 cents a fluid ounce for the unscented at Walmart.  

Baking Soda

Keep the odors away with a box of baking soda open in the refrigerator.   Sometimes, back in the college days, the only thing in my refrigerator was a few bottles of water, a sad yogurt, and a box of open baking soda. Baking soda has many medical uses for minor ailments and tooth whitening.  (I am not a doctor, so please consult one before trying any of these!) 

One recent hack I tried with baking soda that worked wonders is to clean a grungy microwave.  The first, load some into a microwave safe cup and cover it with water.  Run it in your microwave and wipe away the residue left afterwards.  Just this alone makes baking soda worth 50 cents a box!  

Castile Soap

I like that castile soap is made from plant based oils instead of animal fat.  It can be purchased with or without scent.  Castile has more options uses that just lathering up and rinsing off!  Castile soap can be made into other products such as laundry detergent, shampoo, ant spray, and even to wash pets with sensitive skin.  Since it has all natural and biodegradable is a great option for those with sensitive skin.  It comes in so many scent and can easily be purchased at the grocery store on Amazon.

My top 5 scents for castile soap are…

1.  Lavender for relaxing. 

2.  Peppermint for decongestion and to wake me up.

3.  Almond to smell like wedding cake. 

4.  Rose to feel fancy.  

5.  Tea tree is one that I have not tried, but would like too!  

Tiger Balm

This topical ointment was all the rage back in the 1990s.  I remember having a version of this around the house at my grandmother’s.  I was reintroduced when I lived in Vietnam.  My friends were using it for bug bite relief since our flats were plague with mosquitoes sneaking in through the drains. Since I bought my first jar back in Ho Chi Minh City for 80 cents, I have kept one on hand.  They can be purchased in multi-packs as well.

There is a red version (with cinnamon) and a white version.  Both the white and the red are amazing.  However, the red stains everything!  It is camphor and menthol based with mint included.  It helps relieve muscles, decongest sinuses, stop headaches, and deodorizer.  I use it most mornings on my desk while I teach classes.  The fresh scent wakes me up and signals for me to start the day.  

Dryer Sheets

Confession, I rarely actually rarely use laundry sheets for what they are intended.  They only enter the dryer on cold nights when I need my Netflix and snuggle blanket fresh.  Dryer sheets actually make excellent baseboard cleaners.  They pull out a lot of the dust and do not leave streaks like when a liquid cleaner is employed.  

They also freshen drawers, suitcases, and cars.  I like to buy the small boxes for a few dollars since they can also be torn in half. This way each sheet gets two uses.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel has replaced all toners in my life.  Back in my acne prone and oily skin days it was not enough.  I had to use something with salicylic acid in it to have a hope of taming my skin.  Now my skin is still break out prone, and kind of oily.  However, it is a lot less intense and more prone to dryness than before. Witch hazel is a natural and gentle astringent.  

It is also plant based, and can be used to relive other minor skin irritations.  Hint:  The store brand witch hazel works just as well as the fancier brands in the skin care aisle.  Try to check the medical and pharmacy section first for cheaper options.  

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is the miracle product of the millennials.  It is said to cure everything and be everything.  I am not sure about all of this.  Recent articles are now claiming ingesting coconut oils is worse than vegetable oils for your arteries.  It has high content of saturated fat that is not good for cardiac health.  So I am going to focus on the topical benefits of coconut oil.  

It is literally the best moisturizer for everything.  Skin, scalp, and cuticles.  My favorite scrubs are coconut oil based because they offer a fresh feeling after taking off dead skin.  With prizes for lotions and creams what they are.  Why not buy a jar of coconut oil and make it yourself?  

Lemon Juice 

Who still uses it to lighten their hair in the summer? I remember I did during pool days in the 90s. 

It is very apparent by now that I like things that are kind of natural.  Lemon juice is to lighten nails.  I like to use this after wearing dark polish for too long.  It can polish silver and remove other stains.  It is also useful to refresh and deodorize garbage disposals as well as wooden cutting boards.  This article has several great uses to try with a bag of lemons!

In conclusion…

This list does not highlight other awesome products like essential oils, apple cider vinegar, or Epson salt. It is just my starting point as I begin to alleviate the ‘extras’ from our cabinets.  I hope to use combinations of these great projects to expand into more uses.  

What is your favorite simple or natural products?  Anything you suggest I should try?  

Yes, They’re Free! Favorite Podcasts


One device I use to enjoy podcasts!

Gone are the days of the family sitting together in order to tune into the latest radio programming.  Driving down the road listening to educational content on the A.M. radio is also a thing of the past.  However, the podcast is here in our modern world to fill that need.

Since podcasts began rolling out on iTunes around 2004 interest has steadily grown.  I know these are modern, but they are convenient.  My love for podcasts began with my first round of foreign service interest in 2015.  I used podcasts to learn about new things in order to prep for the test.  Now they are part of my regular walking routine.  You can catch me most afternoons walking the neighborhood taking in a podcast.

Any topic you want is available.  However, if you are interested here are my favorites!

how stuf works Stuff you missed in history class

These ladies present history in an informative and interesting way!  The podcast is part of  the How Stuff Works family, and lives up to the standard.  Stuff you Missed in History Class covers history from all over the world throughout pre and recorded history.  My favorite latest episodes were “Three Astonishing Belles” and “Carl Tanzler’s Corpse Bride.”  They also have a wonderful episode about the history of cake with author Anne Byrn that I enjoyed all the way to the last morsel.  Their boldness in covering  topics that are both obscure, relevant, and quirky keep me tuned in every week.

The History Chicks

The creation of The History Chicks is a modern day friend story.  The podcast was created by two mom’s who met on a message board with a love of history and literature in 2011.  As the name suggests, they focus on famous women from history both fictional and real.  I fell in love with their Zelda Fitzgerald episode after watching Amazon’s Z series.  These ladies do not worry about caping out at 30 minutes on their episodes.  They use details and commentary about the time period to have hour long comprehensive episodes.  These ladies still strive to host, and produce these episodes all on their own retaining the show’s original integrity.

Ladies who lunch

Ever have a rough day at work?  Feel like going home to eat ice cream, and drink wine?  This podcast is perfect for those days.  It is produced and run by two awesome ladies from the Youtube world.  Ingrid and Cat take a honest look on relationships, personal development, world issues, and any other topic that catches their fancy.  They take fan letters, and suggestions every episode giving all listeners a stake in the content.  Their episode “When Women Say I’m Sorry” changed the way that I saw myself in the work place, and society.  You can catch these ladies on iTunes every Tuesday for a new installment.  So grab some gummy bears and enjoy!

npr planet money

The subjects I know the least about are philosophy, sports, and economics.  Economics is a component on the Foreign Service Officer’s Test.  In order to fill in that knowledge I began listening to Planet Money podcast produced by NPR.  In just fifteen to thirty minute episodes I have learned so much.  They use easy to understand analogies and situations in order to convey economic topics.  They also touch on laws, business models, and world trends at large.  “The Wells Fargo Hustle” made me double check my own accounts, and “The Wild West of the Internet”had me rethinking self-hosted websites as a whole.

How stuff works foodstuff

I love food as much as history and vintage.  Even better, when the history of food is discussed!  FoodStuff is a year old podcast from How Stuff Works.  Anney and Lauren discuss the history, science, culture, and descriptions of their food topics.  They also cover food related topics such as restaurant culture, alcoholic beverages, and food fads.  They sold me on their pineapple episode and made me a loyal listener with their brunch episode.  Ever wonder the importance of cauliflower?  Find out at FoodStuff!

washington post’s  presidential and constitutional

Presidential began as a one off series by the Washington Post that covered one president a week until the 2016 presidential election.  It is a series I listened to in order to bolster my knowledge of American history.   However, I grew captivated each week learning about America’s leaders.  The series was so popular a follow up series is now running by the title of Constitutional.  Constitutional explores the finer points of the U.S. Constitution as well as the people that are part of it’s bigger story.  I have been holding off beginning this series so I can enjoy all the episodes in sequence without having to wait weekly.


First began listening to Radiolab on the ten hour drive back from Savannah, Georgia. The podcast entertained the five of us for over three hours.    Radiolab cover a plethora of topics from human interest to history.  I enjoyed their episode about the German P.O.W. camp in Alabama since I studied that time in history.  The jack of all trades in podcast form supports a massive listening library.  Just search their site and be transported into a land of amazingly interesting topics!


Where can I find free podcasts?

Podcasts are free entertainment, and a great way to save money.  Reference my post about “8 Ways to Save in 2018” for more ideas!  All of these podcasts and thousands of others are available on iTunes.  You can download or stream them directly to your device for immediate enjoyment.  Soundcloud is also available for download, and Ladies Who Lunch is available there as well.  All of these podcasts stream directly from their website linked in the headers.  The websites also provide transcriptions of the episode, show notes, and other media related to the topic.  Smartphones, tablets, computers, MP3 players, and home helpers (like the Echo and Google Home) are all devices capable of streaming Podcasts.


Pin me!

What are your favorite podcasts?  What do you plan on listening to next? 


Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

10 Top Tips for Poshmark Success!

As mentioned in my saving money article, my favorite side hustle is Poshmark.  Poshmark began around five years ago as an app only used clothing platform.  Since then it has grown to include a website and new features daily.  My best friend constantly mentioned the ease of listing and selling.  I took the plunge in the Fall of 2015 and listed my first ten items.  Since then I have made over $800 dollars on the side with very little effort.

Besides the extra cash, I find it satisfying to give old clothes new life.  Americans waste over 15 million tons of textiles each year according to The Balance.  By reselling and shopping thrift I am at least slowing the process however  slightly.  When I find a nice item while thrifting that is not my size I will sometimes place it on Poshmark in order to see it go to someone with a similar style to me.   It is also nice to see quality thrift pieces go to a happy home.

I also sell things that no longer fit or interest me.  Flipped thrift finds also make their way to my shop.  My highest profit margin was over fifty dollars for one item!  The biggest downside of Poshmark is their take on items is high. Usually three dollars and more depending on the items selling price.  However, I decided the time price ratio over the years has been well worth it.  Below, are my top 10 tips for success on Poshmark.   Please feel free to sign up using my referral code MANDYLHORNSBY, and get to poshing!


1. Pictures are key.

Post clear pictures in good light that show different views of the item.  I will post a front, back, tag, and detailed picture.  If the item has an imperfection photo that as well.  You are allowed 8 pictures per post so use them!  I think a simple background with the item on the hanger works.  Some poshers style their items with accessories or use a fancy backdrop which can be cute or busy depending on preferance.  I personally am not a fan of items laying flat.  Using a hanger allows the person to view it as if they are in a shop.  You are also welcome to model the item as well!  (Some buyers will request this or a specific type of picture.)  Below are some examples of past sold listings.

Example of a clear and simple listing picture.

2.  Titles and descriptions galore.

Make use of your adjectives in both titles and item descriptions.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the brand, size, and color of the item?
  • What is the material?  Any special measurements?
  • Are there any rips, tears, stains, etc.?
  • What makes the item unique?
  • Where and when can you wear the item?

Be as thorough as space allows in the description.

Detailed photograph of the patter and fabric.


3. Share your items multiple times a day.

When you “share” your items they are refreshed in the search by going to the top.  Unlike other sites, this is free and can be done an unlimited amount of times.  I make a point to share my items several times a day usually morning, lunch, and evening.  It is great to do it on weekends as well.  However, just doing this  a few times a week is effective as well.  I went through a sales slump after my first Christmas season, and realized that was my problem after speaking with a friend.  My items were sitting at the bottom of the search results.   It is an easy fix, and only takes a few seconds.

Show off the whole item in your listing.

4.  Participate in the community.

This is something else I did not do when I first began.  I would ignore my feed when other poshers followed me and shared my items.  What a mistake!  I now follow back all who follow me and share their items.  If someone I do not follow shares my item, I follow them and share their listings as well.  The more your items are shared the more they are seen, and have a chance to be purchased.  The posh parties that happen three or more times a day are also great opportunities.  Every time I share relevant items in a party it is shared and liked multiple times.  Take time to admire and comment on other shops.  It is usually much appreciated.  So get going, and make new friends!

Flat photos are not the best for selling.

5.  be willing to negotiate.

The “make offer” feature is the most annoying and useful seller tool on the site.  The offers can be ridiculously low!  However, nearly eighty percent of my sales are through an offer.  Clothes once purchased are like cars.  Their value plummets even if the tags are attached and they are not worn.  So be open minded, and counter any insulting offers with something more reasonable.  Try to keep in mind the cut that Poshmark takes and how much the buyer has to pay in shipping costs.

Don’t forget to photograph the back of items as well!

6.  follow trends.

I often try things both successfully and unsuccessfully to sell.  Even though I think it is unique or I would wear it does not mean I can sell it.  Keep track of items that have sold recently by limiting your search.  For example: last year LuLuRoe was selling like crazy, and now it has slowed considerably.  Vera Bradley used to be popular, and now I have to basically give it away.  Surprisingly kitschy items like a My Little Pony tshirt and Invader Zim blanket have sold well.  You can also take the approach of curating a closet to a specific theme like color, brand, or style to attract a certain type of customer.

Follow trends in styles and brands.

7.  Keep your active listings SEPARATE from your sold.

Another genius idea from my posher guru.  As items sell in your shop, share the ones below that have not sold. This way all your sold items are not mixed in with the items still available.  Customers can view all by scrolling your available listings without items getting lost.  Buyers can also bundle more than one item together to buy at one times.  You want to maximize these opportunities!

8.  use the free seller tools.

Going to be out of town?  No problem! You can put your shop on hold to where it can be viewed, but nothing purchased while you are away.  You also have a stats page that keeps a running tally of items sold, ratings, and shares.  Bundle discounts can be made for customers that purchase more than one item from your shop.  These features are all complementary with the site.

9.  Drop the price like it’s hot.

When you drop the price an item it is placed on sale on Poshmark.  They will  offer reduced or free shipping to the poshers who have liked the item.  I will wait until an item has multiple likes, usually over ten, to drop the price.  Doing this on Fridays and Saturdays after most people are paid can increase sales.  Reducing the price if no one likes the item can also assist in generating interest.

10.  Package your items cute and cheap!

All buyers expect a nice package that is shipped within three days.   Keep packs of  thank you cards from the Dollar Tree and Michaels to write a nice and personalized card to the buyer. For color, I will stuff my box with cute tissue paper for shipping.  I have always received good reviews for this, and it takes little money.  Some will wrap items like a gift or tie them with ribbon. That is fine as well!  You can get the boxes used for shipping for free from your local post office or order them online.  You need the Priority Boxes.  (NOT the flat rate ones that look exactly the same.)  I even schedule the postman to pick up my item the day after it sells from my porch after packaging and adhering the shipping label they e-mail.  There is no need to spend time or gas to go to the post office.

Closet Items



Do you use Poshmark?  What is is your shop’s name, and top posher tip? 

**Special thanks to @muddymermaid for all her awesome tips for Poshmark that has made mine so successful!**

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Sassy Starfish’s Top 8 Money Saving Tips for 2018

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.

In conclusion

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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