Category Archives: Saving Money

Five Fun Ways To Save Money

September 26, 2011

Five Fun Ways To Save Money

Too often we think that trying to save money must mean denying ourselves of things we like. Not only does this make life more stressful, but it actually makes it harder to save money as you have to exert a lot of mental effort to do so. Once life catches up with you and other stresses arise you won’t be able to expend that extra effort and you’ll be likely to slip back into those old not-so frugal habits.  Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be the case; here are some low-stress and even fun ways to save money.

Your frugal friend the pig.#1 – The Power of the Pig

You probably have not used a piggy bank in ages, but consider channeling your inner child in order to save money. Place a few dollar bills into a piggy bank a couple times a week and you will see the amount grow at a surprising rate over the course of several months. This is one of the more fun ways to save money because you can physically see your savings increasing. If you have children, this is also a great activity to teach them about the value of money and saving.

#2 -Use Your Skills

You’re awesome cooking skills (or computer know-how, or just about any talent that you have) might not be  enough to land you a high-paying, glamorous position as a world-renowned chef, but that doesn’t mean that your talent is worthless. Chances are one of your friends, family members or casual acquaintances would love for you to share your knowledge or ability. You can trade your skill with someone who needs your expertise and receive something valuable in return. You won’t have to purchase as many items and services, plus you get to do something that you love.

#3 – Second Hand Prices, First Class Style 

Few things can match the thrill of finding a stylish item on sale. Just because an item is not brand-new does not mean it cannot be new to you. Check out consignment and second-hand clothing stores for great deals on hot items. If you can find a beautiful jacket at 1/3 of the new price, you can afford to splurge occasionally. Plus, if you later decide that it is not as awesome as you thought, simply sell it to recoup some of the expense of your purchase.

Image credit: Λ W Λ, Flickr.com

#4 – Clear The Clutter

Ok, this one is really more of a way to make money, but it is still fun; hold a yard sale to sell the many items you do not need anymore. It will be embarrassing, but fun to go through your old clothes and other items and think to yourself “Why did I ever buy these bright pink high-tops? I hope there isn’t any photographic evidence of me actually wearing them.” Just remember that you will probably never use these things again, and you can get even earn some money for them. In fact, many old items are back in style now so you can earn decent money from selling them. As a bonus, you’ll gain some extra space in your closet and attic.

#5 – Entertainment Book

Many people love trying out new restaurants, but as hobbies go, this one can be quite expensive. This is where the Entertainment Book can make all the difference. The initial investment is $25 but it is going to pay for itself once you use it a few times. Most large US cities are represented the Entertainment Book and inside you will find coupons for fun restaurants and shops. There are also regional coupon books that have specials for all of your favorite local hotspots. Our favorite out here in the Pacific NW is the Chinook Book, (also available in a few a few other metropolitan areas) which tends to focus on local, “green” businesses.

These are just a few of our favorite fun ways to save money. There are plenty more out there. What do you do to have fun and save money?

7 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries

September 9, 2011

Groceries: few people like shopping for them and even fewer enjoy paying for them. While there isn’t a way to get your groceries for free (short of dumpster diving), you do have options. Check out these tips on how to save money on groceries.

Save Money on Groceries

Save money on groceries with these easy tips. Image credit: cooksaid.com

Tip #1 – Plan your meals in advance

One recent study showed that 20% of grocery store purchases are unplanned, impulse buys. You can avoid this trap by planning your meals in advance and sticking to your list. Not only will you save money on groceries, but you’ll waste far less food.

Tip #2 – There is nothing wrong with generic 

Most people don’t end up buying generic brands because of perceptions of lower quality. However, you might be surprised to learn that blind taste tests have shown that some customers actually prefer the taste of generic brands. Make a point of giving generic or store brands an honest chance. If you don’t like them, it’s not like you spent an arm and a leg and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Tip #3 – Prepared foods cost extra

If you’re in a hurry, prepared foods are admittedly a great way to save time. However, as prepared foods are generally more costly, a better alternative if you’re short on time is to cook meals in advance and freeze them. While preparing a meal, it’s easy to double a recipe and freeze the leftovers for a later date. As an added bonus, homemade meals are generally healthier than prepared foods. If you need some freezer friendly recipe ideas, a great place to start is Life’s A Mom or Martha Stewart’s Freezer Friendly Foods.

 

Hungry Man!

Don't go shopping while hungry. Otherwise you might try something like this. Image credit: funnypicture.in.

Tip #4 – Avoid shopping hungry

This is an oldie but goodie. If you’re hungry while you shop, you will buy more. Everything looks appetizing when you’re ravenous. Make sure you eat a meal (or at least a snack) before shopping and you will find that a lot less ends up in your cart.

Tip #5 – Bend down or tippy toe

Grocery stores and supermarkets usually place the items with the highest markups around chest level. This makes these higher cost items easier to see and more accessible to shoppers. Resist the temptation to reach for what is nearest to you and kneel down or reach up for to find cheaper alternatives.

Tip #6 – Put a little effort into it

Did you know that there are plenty of supermarket chains that offer coupons if you visit their website? Not just that, but if you clip coupons and pay attention to the weekly deals that supermarkets have, you can’t help but save money. A smart shopper saves money on groceries simply by going where the deals are. There are also entire websites dedicated to the art of couponing. Check out Money Saving Mom or Frugal Living NW for daily sale and coupon updates.

Tip #7 – Price match

If you read about a particularly good deal in a store that’s far away, see if one of their local competitors will match the price. This not only saves you money on groceries, but also reduces gas consumption.

These are just seven of the best ways to save money on groceries that we have found, but of course we want to learn about what ways you have found that worked for you. Whether you saved ONE dollar, or twenty bucks, we want to know!

7 Easy Tips to Lower the Cost to Move – Part 3

September 6, 2011

Find more tip in Part 1 and Part 2.

 Tip #4 – Used Moving Supplies. Your friends, family and acquaintances most likely have many moving supplies that they can lend or give to you.  Ask them for boxes, pens, packing tape, and blankets

Get packing supplies from someone who just moved.

that they don’t need.  Blankets and sheets are a must for protecting furniture and easy to come by at Goodwill or yard sales.  Post a flier at nearby apartment complexes asking anyone who has recently moved to let you salvage their gently-used packing paper and bubble wrap. Not only do used moving supplies lower the cost to move, but it also is a “green” best practice as your move will consume fewer resources.

Tip #5 – The Off-season.  The highest demand for moving equipment, vans, and workers is during the summer and at the start and end of the month.  This means that prices are inflated at these times.  Work with the seller or landlord at your new home to choose an off-peak move date.

Tip #6 – Get an estimate and negotiate.  Not all movers are the same.  Begin the process of selecting a mover by asking friends referrals. Facebook is a great way to do this.

Once you have the names of a few movers, schedule in-home price quotes so that a consultant can perform a visual inventory.  Show them absolutely everything you have from top to bottom and ask what the price estimate includes. Ensure there are no extra fees after the move.   Tell each you are comparing companies and selecting the highest quality for the best price. Finally, make sure that your get the quote in writing.

Tip #7 – DIY!  Get strong boxes and more packing material than you think you will need, including permanent markers to write contents on the boxes.  Line up trusted friends well in advance and verify a few days prior to the move they will be there.  Stage or number your items to be placed in the van in order to make it easier and faster for the movers.  There are sites that offer efficiency tips on packing boxes and loading a truck to minimize space. If you’re driving long distance, you can even pack some pack some low-cost meals.

The bottom line:  the more stuff you hoard and the less you prepare, the more expensive and stressful it is to move. If you follow some of the preceding tips, you can significantly lower the cost to move.  Anyone with a moving story – and, by all means, share yours with us in the comments below  will agree that making a game plan and paring down possessions well in advance are key to saving money and finding Zen.

7 Easy Tips to Lower the Cost to Move – Part 2

September 1, 2011

Continued from Part 1.

Tip #2 – Lose weight, lower the cost to move.

You need to be honest about what you really need to keep.  Whether you are paying a professional, hiring two guys and a truck, renting a U-Haul, or using your friend’s van, more weight means more a more expensive move.

These 13 books, scanned with the Cash4Books.net iPhone app, fetched $27.11

There are many easy ways to slim down.  A great first step is to evaluate your bookshelves.

I have moved boxes upon boxes of new and used books from Oregon to New York (plus the three cities in between). I now shudder to add up the true price of each book, many of which I am guilty of never reading.  An online price quote tool estimated an average move to cost $1.40 per pound.

One book can easily weigh one pound;  a textbook or reference book often weighs more than 5 pounds.  Now consider that the average household has between 100 and 400 books. You are potentially paying hundreds of dollars to move those books.

Cash4Books.net is referenced by many bloggers as a smart way to de-clutter for extra cash.  This is a double-whammy win because not only do you keep from dishing out cash to move them, but by selling your books you also walk away with extra money to tip your mover, buy your friends pizza, or buy new books at your new location!

Also consider the storage fees and the valuable hours spent unpacking and finding nooks, shelves, and closets to hide or display your books that you may never read again.

For other items like used electronics, clothes and furniture there’s a plethora of re-selling used goods to be done online and it’s not difficult.

Finally, measure your furniture and tape off the areas in your new home where you envision placing each piece. Host your own going-away party and let friends make offers on the items you can’t take. You’ll be able to visit anything to which you are emotionally connected later! I love propping my feet up on “my” coffee table in Brooklyn when I visit.

Tip #3 –  Yard Sale!

Energizing your yard sale will get big spenders.

Energize your yard sale. Host it on the sunniest possible weekend that isn’t a holiday to get the most foot traffic. Post colorful “moving sale” signs on at least 10 corners within a one-mile radius; using PowerPoint slides printed on card stock and stapled to a garden stake is an easy way to accomplish this.

Include neighbors in the sale so that there is a lot of inventory. Also invite your friends to drop by and create buzz. Consider serving cheap lemonade, iced tea or inexpensive snacks to entice people to take a look. You can put a “free box” right out front so people driving by can see it. Slashing prices on the spot is a great way to keep visitors engaged and in the shopping mood. The effort will pay off; we banked $2,000 at a one-day yard sale and it felt more like a party than work!

The final installment of the lower the cost to move series is now available.

Five Ways to Save Money on Food in College

August 30, 2011

Let’s face it, college can be very expensive. However, there are alternatives to save money on food in college besides eating Ramen Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Tip #1 –  Campus meal plans

Image credit: Flickr.com, dougww

When students live off campus they sometimes believe they are not eligible to sign up for campus meal plans. This is not the case with every university. The initial investment may seem daunting at first, but remember that it often covers three meals a day, six or seven days a week. Ultimately, it should not be surprising that a large university buying in bulk can prepare meals for less money than an individual can. Granted, the food may not be exactly what you’re hungry for at the time, but the long term savings can be significant. You can also see if your college offers a partial meal plan, which will reduce the upfront costs and still save you money in the long-run.

 

Tip #2 – Shop on a full stomach and make a list before you go

This is not just good advice for college, but a trick that can save you money for a lifetime. If you make a list before you go to the store (and stick to it), you’ll avoid impulse buying. The same goes for eating before heading to the store; when you walk past donuts while hungry they start looking mighty tasty, but if you’ve just eaten you can stroll right past them.

 

Image credit: Flickr.com, gruntzooki

Tip #3 – The vending machine is not your friend

One of the luxuries of college is that most dorms and campus buildings have vending machines. However, the same snacks, candy or drinks that you buy through a vending machine can cost upwards of 70% less at the grocery store. These extra costs are going to add up quickly and can easily be avoided. Save money by getting your food, drinks, and snacks in advance and not giving in to temptation.

 

Tip #4 – Be a smart shopper

Yes, there are more exciting ways to spend your Sunday afternoon than reading through the Sunday paper for coupons and advertisements, but the savings you gain from comparing food prices at different grocery stores is astounding. If you combine this tip with tip #2 and plan ahead, finding a grocery store with many of your list items on sale can save you a lot of money.

 

Tip #5 – Watch the campus calendar

It can really pay off to watch bulletin boards and campus calendars for events where free food is served. There is absolutely nothing wrong with free food. You can get some great bites and save money just by dropping by stopping by a few of these events.

Image credit: Flickr.com, o5com

With so many other costs such as tuition, books, and an active social life, it’s important to try to save as much as you possibly can with small changes. With a little bit of planning ahead you too can save yourself some money and still eat great food. What tricks have you found to save money on food in college?