Money-Saving Tips for the Real World
Saving on a Tight Budget
We all wish we could save more money. And everyone's reason is different! While some folks want to save for vacation a year down the road, others may be putting cash back for college, a different car, or even for groceries next month. Saving allows us to have some extra cash later while not having to dip directly into our checking accounts or wallets.
As a former college student, I have mastered, at least for myself, a few ways of saving extra cash. Whether it's for items you want to splurge on or for surprise expenses you're not expecting, it's always best to have money set aside.
Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like. Will Rogers
Living on your own during your college years means either financing living expenses with loans, or by living on a strict budget. And while loans are convenient in the short term, they easily tend to drive people to madness down the road if they are not careful.
Avoiding loans as much as possible, I chose to rent a small apartment that included utilities in the rent payment. This is rare to find, I know, but if you look hard enough, and build your contacts, you can find renting deals.
- Ask around - Whether it is at school, work, circle of friends, or family, ask around about rental properties that are open and who you can call to inquire about them.
- If you are a busy college student, keep your standards equivalent to that of your income. Many people my age attending college are desperate to get out of the dorms and into a snazzy apartment. Who can blame them, right?
More room, more freedom, and if you're smart, less money per month. However, look within your means. Be realistic- do not rent an apartment that leaves you with little or no money for food, entertainment, or out-of-the-blue expenses.
- When looking for an apartment, aim low. If you come across an apartment that might need fresh paint, for instance, work with the landlord. Offer to paint for a discount on your first month's rent payment, or agree to a payment plan to pay off the deposit. Because I took the chance, this happened to me with my apartment.
The landlord showed me the apartment and pointed out that the walls were getting dingy and needed a fresh coat of paint. I told her that I would paint if she took it out of my rent payment. And as luck would have it, I got fifty bucks chipped off my rent for three months and she let me make payments to pay off the deposit. The bottom line is, you never know what deals you might get until you try - bargain, people, bargain!
- DO NOT BUY EVERYTHING NEW! This tip I cannot stress enough. Especially if you are just starting out, buy as much as you can used. Whether it is a couch, recliner, bed frame, kitchen items, or electronics, you can save so much money by allocating used items versus new.
I am a huge fan of yard sales, bulletin-board postings, hand-me-downs, and Goodwill. Finding treasures from others' clutter and scrap is not only cost-saving, but definitely fun because you never know what you will happen upon.
Elbow grease is the best polish — English Proverb
Save Money on Food
We all need food. So saving as much as possible on this necessity is an important avenue to look into. And while the stigma out there is that buying healthy food is expensive, that is not always the case! Keeping with my budget, religiously, I do everything I can to find healthy food for favorable prices.
- Buy in bulk and freeze. This is not limited to shopping from a wholesale store. Buying in bulk is cheaper and freezing will keep food in your house longer without going to waste.
- Check out local farmers' markets. Buy fresh produce and help out local families.
- Take advantage of Aldi! I shop there for a good amount of my groceries. Aldi is one of the largest private-labeling food sellers in the United States. Their products are manufactured by all the big brand names we all know except with an Aldi label.
If not buying private-label items from Aldi, choose store-brand items at the stores you do shop at. For instance, Wal-mart's brand of Frosted Flakes are identical to Kellogg's Frosted Flakes - just cheaper.
- Clip the coupons. As monotonous as clipping coupons can be, the savings do add up. However, do not buy an item you would typically not buy just because you do have a coupon for it. Keep with the items you normally buy (and eat!).
- Grow a garden! If you have a yard, grow your own vegetables. This will definitely save some money.
- Cook in bulk. On Sunday, make a crock pot of your favorite dish. Stew, chili, pot roast... you name it. Then pack it away in the refrigerator and/or freezer and you will have food for later.
- Don't buy bottled water. Walk a couple aisles over and pick yourself up a BPA-free re-usable water bottle. If you have city water, chances are that your tap water is either just as good, or even better than most bottled water.
- Utilize the deli. Do not buy the plastic-packaged cheese and meat. It is ALWAYS more expensive.
Odds and Ends
- If you are busy with work and/or school and you find yourself rarely watching television, ditch it. Sometimes providers will let you back out of a subscription at a small fee - or no fee. Just ask. Also, Netflix is a great way to have entertainment at a small cost.
- Cancel magazine subscriptions if you are not reading them! So many times I see stacks of magazines at homes and you can tell they were never looked at. Use your local library.
- Ditch the daily coffee drink. Not to beat a dead horse, but you can save hundreds of dollars a year by making your own drinks at home.
- Pay your car insurance either once or twice a year. By paying for either half a year or a whole year in one payment, your overall payment will be slightly less because of the absence of monthly service fees.
- For gas savings - check tire pressure, wheel alignment, spark plugs, air filters, and extra weight in your vehicle. A lot of things contribute to fuel economy.
- Do not buy your college textbooks from the bookstore. EVER. And I mean...ever. Buy them used online, rent them, or ask around at school about buying them at a discount from those who have used them in the past and no longer need them.
Again, do not buy from the college bookstore. The only time it may be necessary is when a college orders a customized book for a class that you cannot purchase anywhere else. This happened to me once. It is not common, but it does happen.
- If you want to see a movie at the theater, go to a matinee. Ticket prices are always cheaper earlier in the day than at night. Also, check for student-ID discount nights. A theater near my city offers college students $6 movie tickets with a student-ID on Wednesday nights.
- Use cash- not plastic (a rebuttal point next) - Each week I take out a certain amount of cash from my checking account for my spending money. Take out an amount you are comfortable with.
Because you are actually seeing your money handed over to someone else, you are forced to evaluate your purchases more so than you would be if you used a debit or credit card.
- A frequent flyer? If you have excellent credit, take advantage of credit cards that offer rewards on every dollar you spend. CapitalOne VentureOne Rewards Card earns you 1.25 miles for every dollar you spend, and if you spend $1000 in the first three months of activation, you earn 10,000 bonus miles.
So if you fly frequently or you have a trip coming up, take advantage of reward cards. Just make sure to pay off your balance, in full, each month. Or else you will pay interest - defeating the whole purpose.
- And most of all, watch impulse purchases. Before spending money on something, ask yourself if it is a need or a want.
Excellent Money Saving Tips for Everyone
How are You Saving?
What money-saving tips from this article will you be trying?
© 2012 Marissa D. Carnahan