Little Ways to Save Your Money (And Still Have a Life!)
I, like everyone else, am sick of hearing about how our economy is in the toilet. However, facing the reality of our fiscal situation is unfortunately a must in today's society.
Being a young professional in my mid-20's, I have had to learn the harsh realities of not being paid what I feel I am worth and realizing that paycheck that looked so good at first barely covers everything I need. So, recently, I have had to put on my "big girl panties" and learn how to budget and cut those unnecessary costs, without sacrificing the joys of living.
I have put together a list of some tips that have proven to be very helpful for me in trying to stretch those dollars but still be able to enjoy the things I want to do.
1. Discounts Discounts Discounts
I know that cutting those coupons to save $.35 on bread can seem like a waste of time, but these costs add up quick! I get several coupon books in my mailbox daily... And most of the time they are for things I use all the time (like razor heads and shredded cheese). You just have to have the patience to look through them, and of course remember to use them when at the store!
Also, go out and get yourself one of those discount shopping cards for groceries. I never forget to use my Kroger card on groceries. Plus, you get $.10 off a gallon of gas for every 100 points you put on your card. (One dollar = one point, and believe me they add up!) You can also get double points when you pay for your prescriptions at the Kroger pharmacy. Most grocery stores have some sort of discount card you can sign up for, and the best part is it's free!
Last week, my boyfriend and I took our original grocery costs down from $180 to $142 just by using the coupons we had and the Kroger card.
2. Generics are Good!
Stop wasting your money on brand-name products. Most of the time, you CANNOT tell the slightest bit of difference between brand-name and generic.
For groceries, I usually always buy the Kroger brand if available. A bottle of Cascade to put in your dishwasher can cost around $8. The Kroger brand, which behaves the same exact way, is only about $3. BIG difference!
Same goes for beauty products as well. You wouldn't believe the difference between buying a bottle of Pantene shampoo versus buying a bottle of Vo5. Sometimes, with the Kroger card I mentioned in number 1, a bottle of Vo5 shampoo can only cost $.99.
Also, if you're on prescription medications, ALWAYS ask if there is a generic option. Medicine can get very expensive very fast, especially if your insurance won't cover it. Generics work just as well and are usually much cheaper.
3. You Don't Have to Sacrifice Date Night Either
Have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Having a relationship can get very expensive, especially when you want to show your affection for the other person by taking them out and buying them gifts. However, money doesn't always equal love. In fact, sometimes little things that come from the heart can mean more to a person than some expensive gift. It can also force you to be more creative in showing your love, which can also be a lot more meaningful.
Renting movies from RedBox is really cheap (it's usually only a dollar a night for a rental), and RedBox usually has promo codes you can use so that your first night on a rental is free! For example, one promo code I have used before is DVDONME. It only applies to one movie, but if you only have that movie for one night, it was completely free! Check out some other promos here: http://www.prettyprovidence.com/2012/04/never-pay-for-redbox-again.html
Going out to eat is expensive, but having food delivered can get expensive too. A lot of times, carry-out is a much cheaper option than delivery (restaurants usually like to add delivery charges and tips for drivers and things of that nature). Check online for coupons...many of them will work for carry-out. My boyfriend and I recently carried out a large pizza from a place right down the street from us for only $8.
As mentioned before, being creative with your date nights can be a lot more meaningful than your average dinner and a movie date. For example, write love letters to each other and cuddle up and read them to each other. I have found websites before that offer games for couples to play together to get to know each other better, like asking each other funny questions and guessing what the other person will say. Here's an example of where to find one such game: http://www.lovethegrows.com/p/qa-questions.html
Cooking together can be really fun too and won't cost you as much as going out to eat. Pinterest is a GREAT resource for finding easy and cheap recipes. My boyfriend and I usually plan out ahead of time what our dinners for the week are going to be. We then only buy what we plan to make, so it keeps our grocery shopping on task. We also only eat what we have bought, because we planned it out ahead of time. This way we won't be tempted to say "Oh let's just go out/order in."
Another idea for a cheap date night is to read poetry to each other while enjoying some wine. A lot of times, bookstores have really good sales, especially if they're known for their discounts, like Hastings. Hastings usually also has really good deals on used DVD's too.
Speaking of wine, wine tastings can be a really fun, cheap thing to do together. Most liquor stores have wine tastings weekly - just call to find out when they are. It's usually always free to go and taste, and some of the wines tasted are usually on sale too. Not into wine? A lot of times liquor stores will also have other tastings like whiskey or tequila tastings too. Not into alcohol? Some grocery stores will have free tutorials on cooking and will let you sample the goods!
Packing a picnic can be really fun and cheap too. You can pack your own food and beverages and go sit in a park with some blankets and just enjoy the scenery and each other.
If you have yet not witnessed the greatness that is Groupon, you need to get on that!! They have deals daily and you can set it to where it will bring up deals in your specific area. They have discounts for everything from food and drink to appliances and gadgets to actual trips! (Their trip deals can be very reasonable...So the next time you think you don't have money to go on that vacation, check Groupon!!) It's also free to sign up and you can get the app on your phone for free too! LivingSocial is another company that also does the same thing.
5. Shop Around for the Best Price and Be a Fighter!
Many times, we're tempted to take a price we're given at face value. Learn to not accept this! There is probably always a better price out there, you just have to be willing to hunt!
For example, I recently shattered the front screen of my iPhone 4... I don't have the money to get a new one at this time, so I figured I would shop around to find the best price to fix it. I called three different places that all three gave me very different prices. My boyfriend also happened to find a groupon (See #4 of this list!!) for a repair of an iPhone 4 screen for $65! Originally, at this same place, it was going to cost me $119! It pays to do a little digging...
I realize at some places they're not going to budge on their prices. However, some get a little squeamish when you start telling them how you're going to take your business elsewhere. I once got a free first class seat on a flight, because the girl I was with threatened to never use that airline again. Cable companies will do this too when you tell them you're switching to the competition. You have to remember that they want your business! Losing you does not help them, so a lot of times they'll make it worth your while to stay!
6. Sell What You Don't Need
I'm not talking about selling your essentials here... I'm talking about that velour pink jumpsuit you bought back when you were 18 and haven't worn it again since but is still hanging in your closet taking up space. I'm talking about that sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas that you wouldn't be caught dead in... Plato's Closet is a good place to take clothes and shoes that you don't want anymore, and they usually will give you decent money for them.
Let's be honest, are you REALLY going to use that PX90 you bought 6 months ago but haven't touched yet?? Take a good look around your apartment/car/house and really ask yourself, "Am I really going to use this?" If there is any hesitation there, that's a no. Ebay and Craig's List are great places to list any items you don't need anymore.
7. Cut Unnecessary Luxuries
There are always places in our lives to cut unnecessary expenses. But, just because you cut the expense doesn't mean you have to cut the action.
For example, are you paying a monthly fee to go to a gym every month? Don't get me wrong, staying physically fit is awesome, but do you really need that fancy gym? I think most people, if they are really motivated to get fit, don't need a gym to do it. Maybe invest in free weights to have at home. There are all KINDS of workout DVD's out there, and you can usually find them for pretty cheap. Also, check your cable channels, because some programs air fitness classes during the day. You could always record them and work out to them later. Again, Pinterest is a great resource for finding individual workouts you can do at home.
If you HAVE to have a gym, then find the deals. Gold's Gym has a policy where if you sign up for a certain membership, you can bring one guest with you for free. Split the membership with a friend and each take turns being each other's "guest." I knew a couple of friends who did this, and it worked out great for them. The gym I recently joined offered 2 free personal training sessions when you signed up online.
I have a dog whom I love dearly, but to have him groomed professionally can be very expensive. If you have a dog, groom him yourself instead of paying $50 for someone to do it for you. Just FYI though, at Petco, when you sign up for grooming the first time, you get 2 discount coupons for the next two times you come in. As I've said all along, find the deals like this! Chances are there are more out there than you think...you just have to ask!
Another expense that can be cut is professional grooming for us humans.... haircuts and colorings can get way out of hand! Look to see if there's a beauty school in your area... A lot of times the students need people to practice on, so they'll do your hair for free. I know it's a little scary to try this but could definitely save some bucks!
This may seem like common sense considering the subject matter here, but I felt it needed to be addressed.
It can make a world of difference to actually sit down and physically write out all of your expenses each month. It can also be very sobering to realize how much of your income is going towards your necessities, leaving very little "play money" left over. However, if you know exactly how much extra money you have to spend on whatever you'd like, you'll likely avoid that panicked feeling of not knowing if you can afford your rent because you went shopping.
You need to know where your money goes and how much you have so that you can plan for what you need to spend your money on and what you'd like to spend your money on.
Don't be afraid by these three little letters - they may just be your best friends!
You can save a lot of money by creating the thing you want as opposed to buying it or fixing something as opposed to paying someone to fix it for you. YouTube has a tutorial for just about everything out there in the do-it-yourself world, and pinterest has so many do-it-yourself projects it's mind-blowing.
I once fixed the faucet on my kitchen sink out of sheer determination and frustration with a cruddy sink... And believe me, if you knew me, I'd be the LAST person you'd think of to do this job...
With all of the information out there on the web, even the most unhandy of people (such as myself) can see it through.
10. Make Cost-Cutting a Group Activity!
It's probably pretty rare that you're going to find someone who doesn't want to save their money or stretch their dollar further. You and these people have a common goal: you all want to cut costs.
So, sometimes it's better to do things as a group in order to keep costs low. Are you friends with a coworker who lives close to you? Carpool to work together and agree to split the gas.
Get a group together to go to happy hour... A lot of times appetizers will be cheaper during this time, so you all can split the already discounted goodies. Same goes for alcohol: pitchers of beer are usually discounted as well, even outside of happy hour, so agree to all split the cost.
Bowling alleys usually have great deals during the week in order to get people in the door, and this is a great activity to do with a big group.