Wednesday, November 18, 2009
All About the Benjamins
A few weeks ago I made a new life goal for myself: I want to get control of my finances. The goal is threefold:
1. Pay off credit card debt and stop having it in the future. If I want something, I need to save for it.
2. Talk to a financial manager about saving for retirement. LAUSD automatically deducts for STRS, but I want to start putting away some extra amount now.
3. I want to save enough money for a down payment on a property of some sort (ideally a small house in LBC, but more realistically at least a condo.)
So, I have been brainstorming ways to save money in small ways. I am a big fan of a little bit going a long way. And now I would like to share my ideas with you, blog readers, in the hope that you will share your ideas with me. I have divided them into categories (because I am a huge nerd).
1. Use the library. Which is totally obvious, I know, but I never used to do it. I recently decided to start a book club and rather than buy the book I went online to see which of Long Beach's libraries have it and went and picked it up. The only catch is returning the book on time so I don't have to pay late fees.
2. Strike up a DVD Deal. I am a HUGE fan of TV shows on DVD. But, it gets pricey to buy all the shows I like. Luckily, some friends and I have reached an unspoken understanding. I buy Weeds, Dexter, and Big Love (when it goes on sale. Damn HBO shows!). Becca and Justin buy How I Met Your Mother and Big Band Theory. Shelley buys The Tudors. We didn't sit down and discuss a plan, but it's nice that we share the wealth in this way. Also, I am going to rent Mad Men when I find the time, rather than buy it. And I save every month by not having cable. :)
3. Happy Hour at Home. Felisa started this one, but it's genius. Even with drink specials, happy hour can add up (especially when you go to Yard House). Last week, Greg hosted at his place. I brought a six pack and a bag of chips, spending $11. We hung out for a few hours and I can guarantee you that had I gone to Yard House I would have spent two to three times that amount. And, no waiting for a table or your next drink...it's all right there.
4. Drink Water. Okay, this one I just tried for the first time on Saturday, but I have high hopes for it. When you go out to a bar, make the first drink you order a glass of water. This not only has the benefit of keeping you hydrated, but if you drink it while you socialize that's one less drink you will buy that night, saving you some cash. I say do it first, because later in the night your judgment might not be as clear, and planning to only have two or three drinks gets trickier. But if you start slow you are less likely to drink as much (which is good for your health and your wallet.)
5. Take advantage of Gift With Purchase. Every six months (in October and April) Clinique does their bonus time. I wait to buy my usual products (eyebrow pencil is the staple. The others I mix up.) until it is gift time. That way, I get a free mini mascara (I haven't bought mascara in a few years now.) It's about a six month supply, which is perfect because that's how long you are supposed to keep it anyway. And there are always other goodies that I use and a few that I give away to friends who enjoy them as well. You also always get at least one cosmetics bag, which I use to store toiletries when I travel.
6. Which leads me to storing travel-sized items. You know how when you go on a trip you always visit the mini-sized aisle in Target and stock up? I realized that for most of my trips I don't use the whole amount. So, I have a stash in my cupboard of travel sized items. Now, when I go on a weekend trip I don't waste money buying more toothpaste or shower wash, I dig into my stash. It's also great for emergencies when you realize you are out of shampoo or conditioner.
7. Talk to your stylist. Recently I asked Ashley, my fabulous hair dresser, how I could make my visits to the salon a little less expensive. She worked some magic (only dying certain parts of my hair every other visit. I don't really remember the details now, but I can't tell the difference when I look in the mirror). Essentially, I am saving an average of $10 per visit. Score!
8. Make a no professional pedicures allowed rule. This one is difficult. I love getting my toes done. They last longer than when I do it myself and look better. BUT, doing them at home is essentially free, since I have a decent stockpile of nail polish and files, and I can touch up chipped polish without having to do them all over, since I own the colors. This one has to be a RULE, because otherwise I'd totally break it.
9. Order styling products on ebay. I got hooked on the fancy-pants styling products for my hair over the past few years, but I have a hard time justifying my twenty dollar bottle of shampoo. The solution: Ebay! I can find my shampoo and conditioner, blow-drying lotion, leave-in conditioner, and hairspray on Ebay for a good deal less than the salon price. It's not as cheap as drug store brands, but frankly, I can tell the difference in my hair, and these few luxuries make me happy. And I'm not getting pedicures anymore, so leave me alone.
Do It Yourself
10. Recycle for money. I know it's lovely that the city gives you bins to throw your recycling in, but I just started saving bottles and plastic containers for cash recycling. Cal State Long Beach runs a community recycling spot where you can take your items and they pay you cash for them. You pay the CRV on all of those items anyway, so you might as well get it back. Also, since my roommate throws her stuff in with mine that's essentially free money.
11. Make birthday cards. This is my new goal because cards are a freaking rip-off. Every time I make a card I am saving between two and four dollars. I am making three cards in the next month, and am thus saving up to $12 this month alone. And I think it's fun to make your own, even though I am far from a craft queen. At least my mom will like it.
12. Grocery Shop. I loathe going to the store. But, if I don't I end up eating out because I have no food in my house. So, I have made going to the grocery store each weekend part of my routine. I have to be careful to balance going with stuff that I have to prepare so that it's cheaper and going with pre-made stuff because I am lazy as hell. But, I am making it a concerted effort to eat at home unless it is a group eating out activity.
13. Ask a teacher friend if they get magazine discounts. Every year my school sells magazines and teachers get 40% off. I not only get my beloved Entertainment Weekly for less than $15 bucks a year, but I hook several of my friends up too, getting them a good deal. Ask around.
14. Keep a regift bag. I know, I know. It's tacky. But, I keep a bag in my closet of items that I can use as gifts. Most of them end up being stocking stuffers-small items. But recently I got a free bag of stuff when I spent money at a store I like. It came with a pair of fun socks by Burton. I threw them in the gift bag and they will go in someone's stocking for Christmas. Candles that my students give me go in there. Extra stuff from Clinique gift. Things like that. I don't try to pass it off as purchased goods, but it's a nice go-to when you need a gift or want to thank someone for something.
15. Gym membership. You can buy a two-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for $300 at Costco. As soon as the credit card debt is paid off, I am doing that and saving my $30 per month instead.
16. Tell your friends. Which is most of the reason I wrote this blog. If my friends know that I am saving and trying to spend less, they will get it when I decide not to go to dinner or cut back on shopping trips or whatever. And you can all come to my housewarming party in three years. Look forward to it.
So, if anyone is actually still reading, I want your ideas on how to save money! No idea is too small, I'm just tired of reading the same ideas on the internet. What's worked for you???