Save yourself a pretty penny.
I’ve brought you an article on sleep, food, how you conduct yourself and now it’s time for finances.
We usually feel good when we buy something. We feel even better when we find a really good deal, in fact we’ll buy something just because it is a really good deal, despite the fact we may not even use it later and it can really add up. America is a nation of consumers, advertisements are everywhere. Most of us can’t afford to just buy something we want whether we do so or not, but separating want from need is a very important thing to do. Credit card debt is one of America’s biggest problems especially among households with 2 or more children; the last place it should be! The little things can make a huge difference though and by the end of this week’s Life article from GN you’ll be on your way to saving hundreds of dollars a month, with little or no change (no pun intended).
The first place we can start saving is by watching what we buy the most – things to survive; and the first thing that comes to mind is food. Sure $100 of groceries in a family of 4 can last a good week or so but work out to a couple thousand dollars a year, when you could be paying half that much for the same amount and quality of groceries – maybe even more and better groceries.
- Plan for things you need. Don’t go through the store and decide what you need. You’ll be caught getting things you don’t need and more of what you’re feeling like at the time. Get the things you make instead of things you pop in a microwave. You’ll get more food and better quality this way. Eating too much microwavable food can also damage your body and take the nutrition out of otherwise nutritious foods.
- Don’t spend unnecessary amounts of money, even 50 cents here and there.
- Cutting coupons isn’t a waste of time or embarrassing. You can save a lot of money, in fact just to test it take the money you save from groceries and put it in a big jar or something and see what you have at the end of the month – probably enough for another week or two of groceries.
- Generic brands can also be better quality and cheaper than mass produced brands. Processed pre-sliced cheese is a good example of this. Brand names are always a dollar or two more but the ones you slice yourself are better for you and cheaper.
- If you use something that doesn’t spoil very quickly or something that you use very often and you see it on sale, get as much as you can within a reasonable amount. Canned soup might be the first thing you think of in this case, when it goes on sale for half off, you can buy twice as much for the same price.
- Choose your store wisely. Location can save you gas money, or you may even be able to bike there if you’re only picking up a few items. Buy a basket even! Besides that, some stores can be more expensive than others. Just compare prices of things you use most often and do a little bit of math.
- Reduce how much you eat out at restaurants and fast food. One night out can cost the same as a week of groceries. Enough said. Save it for celebrating or nice occasions, the more you eat out the less fun it becomes! Especially when the money starts disappearing. Fast food, we all know isn’t nearly as healthy as running in the supermarket for some English muffins, pre-cooked sausage patties, eggs and cheese. Make some the night before, heat it up in the stove the next morning (or microwave if in a big rush) and it will taste better and be better for you. In time, cheaper as well. You’ll get the quantity you want too, without over or underpaying.
Now that you’re saving money on food, clothing falls right behind food in personal survival. Clothing can become something very expensive to some people worried about looks or with low self esteem or peer pressure, you name it. The place one shops is something one is judged on nowadays too. There are plenty of alternatives to being embarrassed, being in small areas with little option or whatever the reason. Buying clothing can be similar to food as well, you may pay more for rare material, but are you getting the craftsmanship or longevity from generic brands?
- Again planning here can save you tons of money. Winter clothing doesn’t sell as well after winter, so the prices are considerably lower. Get a jacket and some gloves during the summer and some shorts and short sleeved shirts during the winter. If the season is colder or hotter you can now just get one item to account for that period instead of something to compensate and end up not using it the whole season and having to replace it.
- Keeping fashion in mind can break the bank.
- Buy basic clothes for anytime situations and stay away from the yearly hot clothes like a new style of dress or faded jeans. When it’s out of style you’ll be buying something new. Don’t buy for every occassion, neutral colors and general situation clothes can last for longer than you think and may fit a situation better than you think.
- Think coordinated. I have a faux-suede coat that works well for winter, won’t get ruinded in snow or rain since its fake suede, I’ve had it for 3 years and it’s in perfect condition. Has tons of pockets, a hood and has prevented some pain after a fall. I keep a thin backup for fast, dirty or not as cold situations, which is reversible depending on what I wear. That one’s lasted me even longer. In turn, I have 2 pairs of different kinds of jeans, brown cargo pants that match my coat nicely, and a couple of pairs of zip off pants that are thick enough for colder weather and simply shorts for warmer weather. My pants are matchable by almost all of my shirts; tons of t-shirts with or without graphics and a couple of long sleeved striped or other design button shirts to put over in cooler weather. That all may not work for most people, but it keeps things very simple, saves me tons of money and time buying clothes, some of the graphics give people a good laugh and some conversation starters, and the coat and pants helps me carry things! Hopefully that gives you an idea of what to do though, so buy stuff that matches most of your other stuff. The more you combine the more you save. Accessories can change the way an outfit looks too, jewelry, a watch, etc. and so on.
- Buy things that LAST rather than buying cheaper and replacing them often. Buying a $40 pair of shoes that are really durable and good quality as compared to buying two $25 pairs of shoes that will last the same amount of time saves you $10 right there, not to mention the trouble of going out again for more shoes.
Food and clothes covered, what else do we do or use on a regular basis? The telephone. Long distance can be your worst enemy. Compare services in your area, even bargain with providers if you’re limited on service. If one place offers you something you could really use but just kills the bill in another, tell them you can easily get a better deal at their competitor and they may just give you a good deal. Telephone companies are at a new height for wanting customers, with Voice over IP (telephony over the internet) emerging successfully. Find deals that are geared towards YOU. Pay as you go can be good for people who don’t talk very much but can be a bad idea for those who talk a lot, whom on the other hand, fixed plans may benefit more. Keep a brief log on your talk time to better match plans. This is another area that good deals can talk advantage of you. Read the fine print! Contracts can surprise you too. Companies sometimes reserve the right to change your rate at later times. Consider things like Vonage but READ ALL OF THE DOCUMENTATION! Some services like Vonage don’t have or have limited 911 support!
Use the same principles for television as you would for the telephone!
All of this being said, strongly consider online shopping. You can get everything and more mentioned in todays article, save yourself gas money, and the shipping may even be free! USE TRUSTABLE AND RESPECTABLE SITES! Search engines can be a powerful tool. Read reviews of websites if you’re looking for something uncommon. Here is a list of some absolutely great sites I have personally used for over several years and have never ceased to fail me:
Amazon.com – Many people don’t realize how much you can really get here. You can get just about everything. Books, electronics, media, apparel, groceries even, and things like bicycles, weight training equipment, you name it! Be careful if you buy from independent sellers, you may be able to save 20% but it can be just as dangerous as eBay. Amazon.com also offers Free Shipping 3-5 days on most orders over $25; great for one stop shopping! They often times are a lot faster than they say. You can also sell things here but they usually take a much larger commission than other sites like eBay.
eBay.com – As you well know, you can always find “IT” at eBay. You’ll rarely find food items, but the more common the item, the bigger selection you’ll have. With more and more people on eBay now the prices of things usually get very low very quickly. But “buyer beware”! There are plenty of shady people on eBay, but plenty MORE people of whom are very well trusted. Pay close attention to feedback, not just percentage. Read the listing over very carefully, there could be a little piece of fine print that nullifies the entire assumption of the listing. Take a look at this Judge Judy clip of an eBay scammer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJDK6ctRjqw While the defendant was totally unethical and wrong, the plaintiff still fell for it. I highly consider the use of PayPal.com to speed up and ease the process for you, as well as protect your identity.
Woot.com – One Day, One Deal. You can get nearly anything here but the primary type of things sold here are electronics and household items. What Woot.com does is posts a brand new item at 12:00 AM (midnight) Central Time, at a usually incredible price. You can get a computer, big screen TV, vacuum cleaner, tool set, even toy robots for upwards of 50% retail price. Sometimes you’ll find unique items first, or only on Woot.com. A good example is an HDTV tuner card allowing you to record HDTV on your PC without any restrictions on this particular model for the slim price of $50. It may not be the best but you wouldn’t have found that for near that price for a good while. Woot.com also offers 3 sister sites, Shirt.Woot.com which has the exact same concept, but sells a new t-shirt every 24 hours at midnight with a cool graphic, designed by users and professionals, and every week they hold what they call a Derby, which you the user can create a design under their rules (http://www.shirt.woot.com/derby/ for details), Wine.Woot.com which has a new listing of a wine deal every week, rather than day and Sellout.Woot.com which is basically another Woot.com but with different items. The coolest thing about Woot.com is their random Wootoffs where rather than 1 item that day, come midnight you’ll see two yellow alarm like lights under the picture of the item with a yellow bar showing the progress of that item being sold (it empties rather than fills). As soon as an item fills out, another one is posted. These have been known to go on for less than 24 hours, or several days. But by far, the best thing about Woot.com is the Bag of Crap. For exactly $1 plus $5 shipping, you will receive one random item, always worth more than $1. People have received Nintendo Wiis, TVs, waffle irons, you name it. Now they allow you to purchase 3 for the price of one, if you’re fast enough. That’s the thing though, if you don’t go refresh-your-browser crazy, the Bag of Crap will sell out before you can type woot.com. BE FAST and shop smart here. Bags of Crap also turn up in Wootoffs. People stay up hours beyond what they should during these things. I just got a great gaming mouse myself!
Putting your Credit or Debit Card online can be safe, but you have to educate yourself on what is and isn’t secure. PayPal is secure, they can be hacked, but a store with your records can be broken into too. There are thousands of stores to buy from using PayPal which will secure your identity multitudes more than putting your card information on a website. Getting a post office box is also a great way to boost your security, although it may cost more than you would hope – still, look into it. Spyware and viruses look for passwords and personal information, so never store those sensitive data types on your PC, write them down and put them somewhere safe if you want the convenience. Do memorization exercises to remember your card info and passwords. Don’t use programs that store them whether they claim they’re secure or not, those files are still stored on your computer and if your hard drive or computer is stolen, can be even more easily compromised. So educate and protect yourself well. Prevention beats fixing.
There’s just one more thing I would like you to try. Every time you get change back from paying in cash, I want you to take all of that change, put it into a jar, or piggy bank of some sort, and come back to it in exactly 4 months and count how much you have. You’ll be very surprised. I do this all the time, and I’ve been able to look in there when short on money and be very satisfied I did, though, I do it more inadvertently than on purpose.
There are plenty of other areas you can save money too, which can be found at the source of todays information, such as travel and mortgage tips.
Best wishes, and God speed.