Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dollar Saving Brainstorm

Free fun at the kitchen table!  

That's me, about 35 years ago!

Okay, so I'm back on one of my favorite topics - being frugal!  Remember I asked for your unique ideas for not being in debt and saving dollars?  I continually research this topic, hoping for something new and earth shattering to implement and share.  Cuz sharing information is one of my other favorite hobbies!

Disclaimer:  Sometimes I hesitate before writing a certain post, wondering if readers will see me as thinking I have whatever all figured out.  (Echoes of "You think you're so smart!" from 11 year old peers, perhaps?)  If you know me well, you also know that's not the case!

I thought you might enjoy some of my research results occasionally combined with what has worked for us. Probably these aren't news to you, but maybe a reminder, or a starting point for your own brainstorm. Which you ARE going to share, right??

Money Saving Brainstorm Starters:

1. Making tea or coffee at home and carrying it with you in a travel mug vs. the coffee drive through.  Even if you buy high quality or specialty beans or leaves to brew, you're still money ahead.  (My stainless steel Thermos mug was $1.99 at Value Village.)

2. Shop consignment or thrift stores, but only AFTER you have purged and simplified your closet. Do you know the sales cycle of your favorite Goodwill Boutique?  They almost all have regular discount sales.  Personal experience:  don't take three kids shopping with you on sale days; trade babysitting with a friend.  Otherwise you are likely going to skip the dressing room lineup, and that's a (relatively) costly mistake, believe me.

3.  Can your family survive with one vehicle?  Are you sure?  If you had to rent an additional car once a month, would that make the difference?  Somewhere I read that if you need to make car payments, each additional vehicle in a household costs you $9,000 annually.  A monthly bus pass in our city is $89.  Would a half hour or 45 minutes of extra reading while you bus it home feel better than sitting in your car for that long in slow traffic?  It depends on your work and school situation.

4.  Use the library for free books, audio and movies.  Even occasional overdue fees are very little compared to buying just one book new.  If you have to own the book, consider a used bookstore or used off Amazon.

5.  How often do you really use your landline?  If you do keep it, call the phone provider and ask if there's a way to slash your bill.  The loyalty departments really want to keep you.  Make sure they make it worth your while!

6.  Are you tired of constantly flipping through cable channels because there's just nothing worth watching?  How much would you save per year by cancelling and getting movies from the library, watching shows via internet or Netflix?  Do the math.  Is cable worth it for your family?

7.  Would cutting glossy magazines from your reading diet make you more content with what you have?  Think about it.  Is this magazine's purpose to make you spend money or to inspire you?  Lots of people feel the same way about Pinterest.  For the most part, when I see something gorgeous it makes me wonder how I can DIY it!  Although I have to get even more selective about the projects I take on due to crafty clutter and time issues.  So yes, it can be a distraction or inspiration depending on a person's mindset and even the particular boards you choose to follow.

8.  Don't use a credit card unless you can pay it off every single month in full.  Those could get to be expensive airmiles!

9.  I am (occasionally obsessively) a tracker.  I like to know where the dollars are disappearing to!  I used Quicken for a long time but now I prefer the free app to stay on top of our accounts.  With Mint I keep track of bank balances, bill due dates, and know when we're veering off track in one of the budget categories.  It's very colorful and visual, which is right up my alley.

10.  Personal note:  I learned very early in marriage that husbands rarely feel valued and respected when they have to account for every dollar that leaves their pocket.  For the sake of family harmony, we decided on a personal spending amount for each of us that does not need to be accounted for to the other person.  It doesn't need to be a lot, but it keeps the non-tracker from feeling like a kid who has to justify to mom or dad for money every time they need something.

11.  Since I buy a fair amount of our household necessities online, I always go through the website when possible, and earn a few cents or dollars on most online purchases.  Each participating company has a different cash back rate.  I booked tickets and a hotel for a business trip through Expedia the other day, and the 8% cash back will be a nice little contribution back into the bank account.

12.  Make sure there's a little wiggle room for something everybody in the family enjoys.  Decide on the amount you can afford and then don't feel guilty about living it up!  What's it for you?  An hour sipping a cup of joe on the Starbucks patio and people watching?  A bar of dark chocolate?  A therapeutic massage? Now don't get me started on whether that last one is a luxury or medical necessity!

13.  Snacks and lunches out really add up.  This is a tough one for me, and I'm working on it. How often are you out running errands and you or your kids suddenly realize you're STARVING hungry, and it's so much easier to drive through a pit stop and buy everybody a burger than it would to go home and make a real meal?  I know, happens to me all the time!  My plan of attack is to have the bagels in bulk, buy the cream cheese, and make those snacks and lunches up at home ahead of time.  Or make some nutty granola bars or something, to keep in the van for such occasions.  Except my brain doesn't seem to work in forward motion that way.  Only hindsight!  Work in progress.

14.  Although I'm generally the family shopper and thrifter and money tracker, J mostly does the grocery shopping.  You know that brain freeze I mention in the point above?  He is just so much better at planning out the food we need for the week, and making it all stay within our parameters.  And much faster than I am, too, since I get distracted by all the pretty things in the store!  Cut flowers?  Oooh, so pretty!  Oh look at the sale on summer tops.  Hmmm, I wonder which toothpaste is the healthiest, but also offers the best value per penny... Yep, he's in and out of the store in no time!  So my suggestion is to let the person who is better at it do the grocery shopping.  And cooking too, though that's a story for another time!

15.  Related to #2, above, trade kids' clothes with friends and acquaintances.  I'm so pleased when we're offered a big old black bag of hand me downs to go through, because it's that much less we need to buy on Value Village sale day.  I don't mind picking up the occasional kids' clothing item that's needed or just really pretty and inexpensive, but it's so nice that the bulk of their clothing is gifted.  So I keep a box in each kids' closet of clothes for them to grow into.  Right now Ry is at such an awkward dress shoe size.  Too big for youth (at age 10!) and finding a men's dress shoe in size 5 or 6 is quite a challenge!  So whenever I run across shoe sizes he'll be fitting within the next year or two, I snag them and put them in the too-big box for later.  My stash starts at about men's size 8 right now, so soon he'll catch up.  Each closet also has a give-away box for items that have gotten too small and are ready to be passed on to the cousins or other friends.  And the great circle of clothing continues!  I'm guessing that homeschooling has delayed the desire for brand new or name brand clothing in my kids, but hopefully their frugal roots will win out in the end.

I hope you had fun brainstorming with me!  I'm sure we'll be back on this topic again before long.  Please, send your ideas in the comments.  Don't be shy!