We’ve all been there, living on Ramen and a prayer until pay day. Broke is a place we’ve all been, so don’t be ashamed, just keep moving forward and hopefully broke will be a place you’re just passing through, instead of where you put down roots. Last week, I talked about ten ways to make ends meet when you’re scraping by and here are ten more.
11. Pack It From Home – If you’re leaving the house for work, recreation, church or wherever you’re going whether it’s solo or with the family, pack your food and drinks from home. It’s going to save you a lot of money. It takes some foresight sometimes, but if I even suspect we’re going to be out of the house near a meal time I pack sandwiches, snacks and water bottles. It’s tempting especially when the kids are whining to hit up the drive thru, but trust me that your wallet and waistline will thank you if you just pack it from home before hitting the road. The same goes for coffee.
12. REWARDS, REWARDS, REWARDS – If there is a loyalty program out there for a store you shop at, sign up. If your credit cards offer points for cash back or rewards sign up (IF, and only IF you can and will pay off the balance quickly). I got a great tip from that Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union and Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union offer rewards based on transactions you make with your debit card. I just saved $15 on my recent K-Mart purchase using their Shop Your Way points, making each pair of pajamas I bought for my son’s birthday about $5 each.
13. Use Less/Use It Up – My husband has been known to nearly empty a bottle of dish soap onto a sponge before washing a single pot. It makes my frugal-self cringe to watch it, fortunately/unfortunately for me it’s not something I have to worry about often. To me it’s simple, use less = stuff lasts longer = don’t need to pay full retail just because we ran out of something. Stock up on items when on they are on sale, but also don’t waste what you’ve got just because it was cheap or free. The same goes for using something up. Just because something is almost empty doesn’t mean toss it. I will confess that I’ve been known to cut up the tube of toothpaste when you can no longer squeeze any out and scrape it into a small Tupperware container. Sounds extreme maybe, but if you’re scraping by, you really can’t afford to throw out what actually is weeks worth of a product just because it seems empty. I’ve been known to rise out bottles of shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap etc. to use every last bit. You think that’s not going to help much? Well you know the saying – watch the ounces and the pounds take care of themselves.
14. Prepaid Phone – My husband has a smart phone with prepaid minutes through tracfone and it works just fine. It costs us a little less than $50 a month and I don’t even have a cell phone. I know what you’re thinking – how does she even survive without a phone, but rest assured I’m alive and well and I can be reached by (shutter) landline. For anyone who still has a landline check out phonepower which is a voice over internet provider. We prepay ours once a year, but it works out to roughly $8 a month. You just need to make sure your internet is fast enough or you’ll have to upgrade your internet service to accommodate it.
15. Go Green/Save Green – Look around your house. If you regularly buy something for the simple purpose of using it and throwing it out, find a reusable alternative. I’ll give you a pass on toilet paper and diapers, because even this frugal mama has to draw the line at washing human feces. Cloth diapering can save you money if you have the special washer and detergent required and of course the stomach to clean it. Kudos to you cloth diapering Mamas! I considered it, but my husband drew the line in the sand on this one. We use dish towels and rags, cloth napkins, and homemade cleaners (despite my husband complaining that my all-purpose cleaner made of water and white vinegar smells like pickles). I hang our laundry out to dry as many months of the year the weather permits. Become an avid recycler and you may even be able to cut down on trash pickups saving you money.
16. Don’t Keep Up With The Joneses – If you want to live richer, pretend you are BROKE. Don’t worry about what other people have and don’t be ashamed of what you don’t. Chances are the Joneses have high mortgage and car payments and are really burdened by living beyond their means. Just because you can afford the payments, doesn’t mean you own something or that you should try to own it. I always tout the fact that my (now three bedroom) townhouse is what kept us out of the poor house when I started staying at home. Do everything in your power to live below your means. Often times we think that if we just had more money we’d be fine, but the more you make, the more you will spend if you don’t make a conscious effort not to. The other day I wanted to make a recipe, but didn’t have buttermilk. I thought about running to the store, but after a quick google search I found out I could make my own using milk and vinegar. The internet is chock full of hacks, tricks, and secrets to saving money, but you have to be willing to forget what that might look like to the outside world. Sometimes we go to great lengths to make ourselves appear wealthier than we are, and this is precisely what is making us broke.
17. Gift Giving For Less – Gifts don’t have to be from a retail store, purchased full price or be frivolous. Gifts can be found at yard sales, consignment shops, on craigslist, or Facebook swap sites. They can be homemade or for things that are needed vs. wanted. I’ve gotten into the habit of giving my kids book bags for Christmas when they’re on clearance and they have them ready to go for the following year (cross that off my back to school shopping list). My son is getting pajamas for his birthday because he really needs them. He’ll get a few toys from us and I’m sure from friends and family. Some moms on Facebook suggested following www.hip2save.com for their special deals on great gift items. You can also look for coupons in newspapers, sales flyers, online promotional codes, etc. I sign up for e-mails for stores and restaurants I like and they often send me coupons and alert me to great sales I might have otherwise missed.
18. Get Paid To Shop – Since I don’t have a cell phone, I can’t say I’ve ever used a lot of these aps that reward you for shopping, but there are plenty to choose from. There’s Ibotta, Saving Star, Checkout 51, Receipt Hog, the Walmart savings catcher and Ebates. The only one I’ve actually used is Ebates and while I don’t do a ton of online shopping, they do give you a free $10 gift card to either Kohl’s, Target, Walmart or Macy’s just for signing up. You simply go to Ebates first and then to the retail store of your choice through their site and you can earn anywhere from 3-14% cash back when you make a purchase. You can also go old school and clip coupons from the paper, check coupons.com, track your store’s price matchups on livingrichwithcoupons.com, and load coupons directly to your store loyalty cards. You can often use a paper coupon with a digital coupon for the same item making it cheap or completely free in some cases. New to couponing? Check out my couponing crash course posts – part 1 and 2 to learn how to get started.
19. Take A Defensive Driving Class – You can take a defensive driving class entirely online for under $25 and you can easily save 10% on your car insurance.
20. Barter/Swap/Negotiate – Sometimes no cash needs to exchange hands at all in order to get what you need. There are online swap sites for things like clothes, toys and household items. You can also set up swaps of kids’ toys and clothes with your friends. You could also try bartering for goods or services. A mom on Facebook shared that her husband does snow plowing for someone in exchange for auto repair work. You can also set up babysitting swaps with friends. If you have to pay for big ticket items like purchasing a house or buying a car ALWAYS try to negotiate. I’ve gotten every used car we’ve ever purchased for $500 off the asking price just by negotiating. If you have cash in hand it definitely gives you an edge. Most people will take less than asking price for the guarantee of money in hand. They know if they turn you down they may get full asking price from someone else, but they also might not get anything at all. A common tactic for negotiating lower prices at yard sales is a bundling technique. If you find multiple items you can offer a lower price for all items than what each one cost individually. Most people would rather get rid of more stuff at once then haggle with you over each individual item. BUT, don’t be that rude person who low balls every offer.
I hope these posts help you move through the land of broke more quickly. Have some stellar money saving tips? Share them here or on my Facebook page.