Saturday, June 29, 2013

How-to: Saving Money!

Oh, money.

The thing we all wish we had more of. Sadly, it really doesn't grow on trees and we must work to earn our keep. Expenses are constantly rising and ends can be tough to meet. Over the years of struggling, I have found ways to help myself stay out of the red and even now, I still do these even though I'm financially comfortable. I don't think any of these are "breakthrough" or "secret" but anything helps, right?

In addition to saving money, you can read this post on how to earn a little extra by doing what you already do on the internet (yes, really!)

Shop Online: Everyday Purchases

In this day and age, it's all too easy to buy all of your essentials from the comfort of home. Some online shops even give you a better rate than what you get at the store AND you don't have to waste gas or sit in traffic. The catch? Shipping cost. There is a catch to the catch, though! If you spend enough (usually $40-$50), you'll get free shipping. AND! Majority of online stores have promo codes that can be entered for more money saving goodness (bookmark RetailMeNot and thank me later - codes galore!). Ordering a pizza? Promo code. Buying shoes? Yep, promo code. Very seldom do I not have a code to use but it's okay because I love shopping online. And admit it, getting a package in the mail is exciting. To make ordering online worthwhile, I wait until I need a few things so I know that I will get the free shipping cost. If I have to fish for things to add to my order to raise the price for the free shipping, then i'm not really saving much or I'm buying something I didn't really need.

And to make shopping online an even greater experience, you can earn CA$H BACK! Oh yeah, I said it! Shopping through ebates or Shop at Home gives you a % back (usually between 5-12). If you're like me and shop for vitamins and natural beauty/home products, you can also earn %5 back on purchases through! So by shopping through the rebate site you earn their cashback, and then get cashback on the site (it will deduct from your total), it's super mega savings! Another site I shop through religiously for vitamins & such is Vitacost (click that link and you'll get a special discount because I <3 you). And of course, sites like eBay & Amazon - savings on tons of stuff and mostly free shipping!

Shop Online: Half-off Deals

I am by no means joking when I say I am pretty much addicted to buying half-off deals! What is it, exactly? Well it's basically what the name implies - you are getting something for half off. Let's take sites like Groupon & LivingSocial (I buy from these sites constantly!). For example - you pay $10 for $20 worth of 'goods' from a company. There is an abundance of restaurant deals like this and that's what I mainly go for. It makes date night inexpensive and opens up the door to try a place you've never been. In addition to restaurants, there are actual products that you can buy or activities around town. I live in Florida so there are tons of deals on kayaking, dolphin tours, sunset boat tours, etc etc. The choices are plentiful, seriously. I also want to note that some of the deals are even up to 80% off! As another tip, if you are going out of town for a few days or for vacation - check for deals in the city you are visiting! I took a handful of restaurant vouchers with me on my last vacation and it was totally worth it.

There are MANY more sites like this, you'll just have to search since many cities will have their own version. But in all honesty there is no beating Groupon (now they do concert ticket deals from Ticketmaster so its even better!). One thing I would watch for is museum memberships. Most museums have their own perks which would make it completely worthwhile to get a membership on the cheap. I did this about a year ago and got free admission to many other museums, zoos, aquariums - all for $40. Not bad, huh?

Shopping in Bulk

Let's face it - going to the store is a pain and your local grocery store is kind of pricey. So now then do we try to deal with Walmart? I say, hell no! If you have a local warehouse club store (Sam's, BJs Wholesale, Costco), I highly recommend getting into one! Basic membership varies at each store and is $40 - Sam's, $50 - BJs, $55 - Costco (I think). The fee is for a one year membership and a lot of these club stores also offer gas at .05-.10 less than the one down the road. I have one for Sam's and BJs and got both memberships discounted. The Sam's club membership I bought on LivingSocial for $45 but it came with a $20 gift card and about $15 worth in free product coupons, so my out of pocket was less than $10 (which is great because I NEVER shop there due to no organics or coupons). If you go here, you can get a free pass for a 2 month membership to BJs but there is a little secret to turn this pass into a discounted full membership! First of all, you can browse the store with no hassle because they don't card-check at the door. So if you like what you see, take the pass up to the membership counter and let them up-sell you into a full membership. I did this, and got a 14 month membership for $40 (versus 12mo/$50).

I've never been into Costco so I can't vouch for it, but I have heard good things about it. I also hear they have a lot of organic stuff and do coupons, which is a plus! I shop at BJs because they do both. They are constantly getting more organics and it's fantastic. I honestly do 90% of my shopping here because they don't make you buy mega tubs of peanut butter (meaning, majority of the package sizes are catered to normal households). Each month I get a coupon booklet AND they do manufacturer coupons (just no stacking).

For all warehouse clubs, you will spend more money up front and that can be scary. BUT! Once you start building up a stash of things, you'll spend less as time goes on. I haven't bought toothpaste, tp or paper towels in months. For whatever I can't get there, I hop across the street to Super Target and fill in the blanks and hit Whole Foods (or the local health food place) around once a month for my specialty items. Another bulk option is Amazon! They sometimes have cases of stuff for really cheap or just a good price in general. I recently bought a case of cereal for $40 shipped (retail product is roughly $65). Explore your options and shop! Only downfall is finding places to stash all of your stuff, though, so good luck!

Coupons & Clearance

This is a no-brainer. Use coupons and shop clearance as MUCH as possible! Personally, I print coupons pretty much before every shopping trip. I buy a lot of organic and healthy brands so the average newspaper coupons just don't cover those. I'm also not an extreme coupon crazy-lady, so I'd just rather print what I'll use. There is a handy site that shows you what coupons are coming out in the papers so you can know if you need to buy a paper that week - Sunday Coupon Preview. You can sign up for email alerts so you won't forget, too. There are also sites/blogs that show you price match-ups so you can get the best deals on stuff but I don't use those, so unfortunately you are on your own for finding them.

As for clearance, don't even think of buying things at full price again (or at least very often). Shop ONLY the clearance racks and you'll save so much money in the long run! For clothing, that's all I even look at UNLESS the store is having a sale PLUS a %-off coupon (like Kohl's - they stack clearance + sale + discount, so that = super savings). Be sure to sign up for your favorite stores email list and get notifications on sales & discount coupons and take advantage when stores do a %-off of what's on clearance (I've purchased shirts and other stuff for a buck at these sales). Score!

I'm also HUGE into the discount chain stores like Ross, Marshall's, TJ Maxx, etc for my kitchen gear and other home necessities. These places are seriously the go-to place to outfit your kitchen! Pots, pans, utensils and gadgets. And it's all name brand, so it's much better than buying the junky stuff at Walmart. These places also usually have food snacks, tea, bottled drinks, etc for cheap so there's plenty of goodies to be found for a reasonable price.

Ditch the TV

I know you probably just laughed, but really - paying for cable or satellite is crazy! It's expensive, and then they trick you into bundling to "save money" but don't tell you the rate rises after a year or two. No way, Jose! My cable internet connection is all I need. I'm not a big TV watcher anyhow, but just think about it - you can subscribe to both Netflix AND Hulu+ for $20 a month and have unlimited access to tons of tv series and movies. Better choice? I think so! And the best part is that you can stream from your computer, an app on your phone/tablet or through the Ps3, Xbox & Wii. Easy breezy.

Netflix updates their selection frequently but also takes things away (which can suck). I believe they only stream what is currently on DVD. Hulu makes you watch commercials even when you pay, but they have big network shows on about a week after they air (sometimes a day later, I think) so you can still stay fairly current on your shows.

This concludes my tips on saving money. When I can put together more, there will be a part II! If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share and I may include them next time!

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