How to save money in small ways

In today’s economy, many people are struggling to get by, living by paycheck to paycheck and in a world of credit card debt.  Too many times, these decisions are because we Americans like to “keep up with the Jones'”.  Credit card debt can occur because you want that one thing, be it an iPhone, XBOX 360, or new grill and you just “can’t wait” until you can actually save the money.  Now I know this isn’t the case with many people (maybe a family member has a costly medical condition or you have school debt), but in my experience, it is the case with at least 50% of the people I encounter who have financial troubles.

For those of you who don’t want to live your life in debt or paycheck to paycheck, here are some simple ways you can save money each month.

1. Get rid of cable!  You DON’T need it!  Save yourself some money and sign up for Netflix (there are $7/month options).  If you are a big sports fan like I am, many sports have streaming options which are much more affordable than getting a whole cable package plus sports.  Even basic cable is often 60 bucks/month these days, which is 500 dollars/year.

2. Don’t get an iPhone.  Or even a smart phone. The data plans are expensive and the phone is as well especially if you buy it w/o contract.  You don’t have to get an iPhone 5 just because your friends did.  If you are currently in debt, you should not be purchasing the most expensive phone/data plan.  But if you just “have” to get a smartphone, at least try to join a family plan with another family in order to save money.

3. You don’t need an XBOX 360, Wii U, or PS3.  If you like gaming, try old school by getting a PS2 or N64, there are tons of games for cheap at goodwill or, and that way you aren’t spending 60 bucks per game, paying for an Xbox live (or equivalent) subscription.  Or wait until Black Friday where you can get incredible deals.  But don’t feel like you have to get these systems just so you can be cool like your friends and play Halo all the time.  If you are in debt, you should not go out and buy any new gaming system.  If you have already done that, then to save money, don’t renew your xbox live account and try to get used games on craigslist instead of buying full price.

4. Buy used cars and get a good and honest mechanic. Both these things can save your tons of money. I got my car on craigslist, it’s a 2000 Dodge Caravan and I love it.  We were able to pay cash, and now we’ve only had to spend basic maintenance on it.  If you aren’t in debt and want to buy a new car to have for 10-15 years, that’s a fantastic investment.  But don’t create more opportunities for debt by having more monthly payments that you have to deal with.

5. Buy your things at thrift stores.  I’m serious with this one.  At least where I live, you can get new and/or like new quality name brand items such as a Bodom French Press or brand new Nike shoes for a fraction of retail price.  If you do want to find new products but don’t live near a good thrift store, Ross also boasts name brands (Nike, Adidas, etc) for great prices.  By not paying retail for quality items, this can also save money in the long run.

These five things can help you to save money.  Some of them are simple (like getting rid of cable), and others are hard (buying used cars), but these steps can help you get out of debt or simply save money for emergencies, house mortgage or paying off school debt.

Some great resources I recommend:

YNAB (You need a budget) program:  Can help you to budget categories so you don’t accidentally overspend where you don’t need to.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University

How to Save Money when you don’t have any By Erik Wecks, available on amazon through kindle or paperback




Thirft Stores: Cheap or Smart?

Most people know I frequent thrift stores.  In high school, they were a great place for my friends and I to find random shirts and decorations for our bedrooms.  In college, it was perfect for finding all the Disney VHS tapes to get me through finals.  Now, as a married mom and homeowner, I peruse thrift stores for baby stuff, household items, and to sell unique things on ebay.

At least where I live, the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores boast good brands, sometimes new with tags.  I recently purchased a brand new adidas golf shirt for my husband, for 50 dollars less than retail.  I also have found numerous Nike or Adidas shoes in brand new condition.  Now some people would claim that I am just being cheap, that shopping at thrift stores are for those less fortunate or are for pack rats.  I’m here to refute that outright.

My husband works for one of the most successful companies in the world.  Yes, I could purchase my Nike things full price.  But is this financially wise?  Why should I buy shoes for 90 bucks when I can find them for 10 bucks?  It is very possible that I would rather use the money for other things, such as vacations with my family or paying extra on the home mortgage.

Not only can you find epic deals at thrift stores, but you can also find things to sell on ebay (if you are in to that sort of thing).  It’s extremely satisfying to buy an item at a great deal, and be able to double your money on it.  Another exciting thing shopping at thrift stores is finding the unique items that are impossible to find in a normal store (other than ebay for premium prices).  These can be European soccer jerseys, artwork, a vintage french press, and much more.

One thing I want to emphasize: shopping at thrift stores does not make oneself cheap.  It’s actually a very smart thing to do whether you are low on funds or just like a good deal.  As I have mentioned, you can find name brand things for like new or even new condition, so you can still dress cool (not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things…blog post on that later), and save money to do more relational things with your money.

Thrift stores are a smart thing to do.  Period.