Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Confessions of a Penny Pincher (AKA Tips To Save Money)

I'm broke. There. That's my first confession. But if anyone reads this blog regularly or knows me personally, you should already know that. It's not new news. But to anyone newly reading this blog (as you should because it's awesome... sometimes), now you know.

My husband and I are living on an INCREDIBLY tight budget. Basically we live off his tip money from being a pizza delivery driver (so don't forget to tip your drivers) and both our paychecks just go to rent and bills (we're currently trying to find a cheaper place to get out of this situation... and new jobs).

We are forced to be penny-pinchers, or "cheapskates" if you will (but not in the extreme way). It's not exactly by choice, but it's necessary and it works well for us. So I'm here to share my favorite money saving tips (and don't worry, they don't include sharing a toothbrush). So basically these aren't confessions... well sort of... you decide.

Tip #1: The Dollar Store

Okay, I could write a whole post about how wonderful the Dollar Store is. I kind of did with my Halloween decorating post but I have so much more to say about it! I always call it the Dollar Store, my mother-in-law calls it All-A-Dollar but for both of us it's really Dollar Tree, and it's amazing. Here is just a sampling of things that are better to get for a dollar than at other stores:

  • Holiday Decorations: It can all add up if you get a lot, but they have great quality stuff that looks great. I've already seen their Christmas collection and am excited to write a Christmas decorating under $10 post! 
  • Soap (dish soap or hand soap): I don't see how dollar soap is any different than five dollar soap, except the price. It cleans the same no matter the price. I've even seen big sized dish soap containers and the dollar store so you can get a lot of use out of one dollar. 
  • Diswasher/Laundry Detergent: Same as soap, it's all the same to me. And they do have some good brands. 
  • Sponges or Cleaning Cloths: Why spend lots of money on something that just gets dirty? In fact, our absolute favorite dish cleaning brush is a Betty Crocker brush with a cool scraper thing on the end that you can get at the dollar store (we actually got it for our wedding so we paid nothing for it). 
  • Other Cleaning Supplies: They have so many wonderful things for just $1. They even have magic erasers!!! I'm going to get them and test them out to see if they are as good as the real Magic Erasers and I'll write a review on this blog. 
  • Toiletries: Shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion... they have it all! Sure we all have our favorites and we like spending more for certain items, but I currently don't have the money to do so. the dollar store is where it's at.
  • Party Supplies: Why spend $4 for a package of balloons at Walmart when you can buy it for $1? Same with table cloths, paper products, invitations and gift wrap. 
  • School and Office Supplies: As a college student and future teacher, I go through a lot of school supplies. It's so much easier to get them for $1 than to spend lots of money. I mean I already spend like $400 just for textbooks each semester, might as well get my supplies for cheap. 
  • Kids Toys: I don't have kids, but I know they're there, and they are awesome. Check out THIS LINK for some really great ideas for both parents and teachers. 
  • Things For The Home: They have baskets, vases, towels, dishes, storage supplies, mattress covers, pet supplies, satin flowers, picture frames, etc. It's definitely worth checking out. 
  • Food: DISCLAIMER!!! Don't always trust food at the dollar store! Frozen things are probably fine, candy is usually over priced except in bulk (but it's usually stale). Some have milk and eggs that could be good. Just be careful when buying food at the dollar store because it's probably so cheap for a reason. 
Keep in mind that NOT ALL DOLLAR STORES ARE CREATED EQUAL! Just because I love my dollar store and it has lots of great things for me doesn't mean that yours will be just as good, but I think it's always worth checking out. Visit your local dollar store and see what bargains you can find. 

Tip #2: Don't Buy Fast Food

Not only can it help you lose weight, but it can help you save money! The dollar menu may be tempting, but it can all add up, especially if you buy frequently. With my husband being a pizza delivery driver, we tend to get free or discounted pizza from his work, but other than that we don't eat out. We buy most our food at Walmart, which leads to my next tip...

Tip #3: Don't Shy Away From Generic Brands

The Walmart brand fruit snacks are my favorite! Their orange juice is also really good and their applesauce or saltine crackers. Some foods aren't so good in the generic brands, but they're usually cheaper so it's worth trying out. We always look for the cheapest brands, occasionally it's not the generic brand though. 

Tip #4: Coupons! 

I am not an extreme couponer, although I sometimes wish I was. But I look for coupons for things I need because if you can get a discount, you might as well! I know there are classes in Logan about couponing and I'm considering taking one because I would love to save more money on grocery shopping. 

Tip #5: Make A Grocery List and Stick To It

By making a list, you are less likely to buy unnecessary items or be tempted by samples. Also, learn the tips. Watch THIS VIDEO to learn some great tips about the tricks grocery stores try to pull on us. There are a lot more videos like this on Youtube, don't be afraid to do your research before you shop

Tip #6: Pay Your Bills On Time

Don't get caught up in late fees or bank fees! Trust me when I say, it's the worst! Don't let it happen to you, keep up with all your bills 

Tip #7: Use Cash

Debit and credit cards seem to have no limit and it's easy to just get caught up in spending that you don't realize how much you've spent. With cash, it's much easier to know exactly what you have and to set your limit. If you only have $20 in cash and hide away your cards, you can only spend $20 and no more. It's a great tool when you're on a serious budget. My husband and I never use our cards anymore, only cash, and it's working really well for us (especially considering that since our bank account is current in over-draft, we get fees if we use our cards). 

Tip #8: Save Your Change

But don't use grocery store Coin Stars to get cash, they often charge you. Most banks have the same thing and can put the money straight into your bank account. Our bank has it and we love it! We currently have a jar for all our change. It works really well for us especially since we're on a cash only basis. 

Tip #9: Avoid Driving

For my husband, this isn't possible with his job. But gas prices are ridiculous now-a-days so it's better to carpool, walk, or bike to get where you need to be. If you're in Logan, like I am, this city has the world's best bus system. Use it! Check out your own city's bus system to see if it will work for you. Save gas money and don't drive. Also, try finding gas point systems, like using a Smith's Fuel Program. Find something in your community to help you save money on gas.  

Tip #10: Be Creative to Make Money

I was recently an alternate crossing guard to make extra cash (until they realized I could rarely sub for them because of class, so I quit). I use websites like Inbox Dollars and Swag Bucks to make a few extra dollars a day (which can all add up, especially if you and your spouse each do it). I blog (but this blog has yet to make me money) and use Google Ad Sense and am an Amazon Affiliate in the attempt to make some extra money (again, hasn't happened yet, but maybe someday). Sell your clothes online or to Plato's Closet to make some extra cash (but keep in mind that are incredibly stingy with girl's clothes). Sell other items you're done with online. Do odd jobs with a temp agency. My husband donates plasma for money. There are so many ways to make a little extra cash. I learned a lot from THIS BLOG about making extra money from home. It's worth the read. 

Tip #11: Don't Waste Money on Things You Can Change

This tip is very vague and I don't know if I can explain it well. Perhaps as a college student you shouldn't take the PE class "for fun" because it cost an extra $50. Maybe you have to move somewhere cheaper to save money. Don't pay for apps or software, use the free versions (at least until you can afford it). Maybe you should stop buying a new pack of gum everyday (because gum is gross). Little things like that can add up and you end up spending much more than you would like. Make necessary changes to keep things cheap.

Tip #12: Don't Be Wasteful

I'm the worst at this! We almost never go through all our milk or bread before it goes bad and that's just money thrown away! Don't buy in bulk if you know it will go bad. On the other hand, sometimes buying in bulk is incredibly useful, for snacks especially. Be sure to check prices though to make sure you're getting a deal and not getting ripped off.

Tip #13: FAFSA!!!

This tip is specifically for college students. To be completely honest, it irritates me when people won't apply for FAFSA just because the think they won't get anything. Trust me, it's worth trying! Only one year did I not receive financial aid, but even then I was offered a loan. You'll always get offered a loan. While loans can be scary, just understand what you're getting yourself into and set goals to pay off those loans. If you're above 24 or married or poor, you will most likely get grants, which you don't have to pay back. This year, Chris and I both had our semester paid for just through grants. It's fabulous! Even if you think you won't qualify, at least try, because you never know if you'll get something good. Apply early to get more money (in theory, I don't really know if that's true). You can find their website by CLICKING HERE. It doesn't take as long to apply as people think as long as you have all your tax stuff (and sometimes your parent's tax stuff) ready to go.

Tip #14: Don't Use Credit Cards

I'm currently struggling to pay off my credit card and I'm ticked off about it. I used to be so good about it! I would never use it unless I knew I had the money to pay it off immediately. And I did pay it off immediately! Usually the day after! That was before I went broke though... Anyways, just don't use a credit card. Yes it can build credit, but it's too big of a temptation to risk sometimes. When you are financially sound and have set goals about your spending, then you can feel free to use a credit card.

Tip #15: Keep Track of Spending

Keep receipts, check online bank statements, use Mint.com (please do, it's awesome), keep a spreadsheet, do whatever you need to in order to know where all your money is going. There is nothing worse than wondering where all your money went. Keep track of everything so you know exactly where all your money is going. After a month look over all your spending and see where you can change things. Maybe you got too much fast food or bought a daily snack on campus, seeing how these things add up can help you change your spending habits for the better.

Last Sort of Tip: Check Out These Websites

Here are a bunch of websites I found off Pinterest with great tips to save money. I'm obviously not an expert, but some of these sites seem to be.

Wow, that's a lot. See, I'm not the expert and there are a ton more tips out there that I may not know about. This post is basically the things my husband and I do to make our budget work. Thank you for reading and I hope that this helps you in your situation! 

Do you have an incredible money saving tip? Leave a comment below to let me know! THANKS! 

Read my follow up post: Further Confessions of a Penny Pincher

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