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Money doesn’t buy happiness….but it sure helps

Okay, so remember when you were younger and your parents or any adult for that matter said “money doesn’t grow on trees”?  Well, once you enter into adulthood, that expression makes a whole lot of sense.

In today’s day and time, it can be hard to make ends meet.  With stagnant salaries and ever increasing costs of living, especially in big cities such as New York and San Francisco, along with school loans, kids, etc., your pockets might take a hit each paycheck.  Sometimes, we don’t even notice when we get paid because it is all accounted for already.

I asked my friends what they do to save a little extra and thought I might share them with you.  A couple of them are also my own and have made a difference in how much I spend each paycheck.  Please feel free to comment with any suggestions you have found to be helpful as well.

  1. Pack your lunch

This one is something that I started doing within the past six months and let me tell you, it makes a big difference.  Sometimes, when we take on a new expense, we have to make sacrifices in other areas.  Once I took on a car note, which came along with a slightly higher insurance quote, I took this suggestion seriously.  Buying lunch can cost anywhere from $5 to $15, however, working within NYC, it will probably be on the higher end.  When my office orders, which was several times per week, I was spending $10 to $12 on Thai, Panera, Chipotle, etc.  Multiply that by 3-4 times a week times two weeks and you are looking at 80 bucks a check.  Between the meal, tax and tip, it can be steep.  I haven’t ordered out in a long time at work and it actually feels pretty good.  I bring leftovers from the previous night’s dinner or I make a sandwich.  I go grocery shopping every Sunday at the supermarket, so I make sure to buy enough cold cuts for both me and my son.  I also stock up each week on some easy, microwaveable foods for the days when I perhaps didn’t have enough for leftovers or am not in the mood for a sandwich.  I bought pre-packaged sweet potatoes that can be microwaved in the container it’s sold in.  They come four in a pack.  I brought that along with some butter from home and voila, a very filling plate.  They sell rice packets that you just squeeze when you are ready to make and then microwave for several minutes. They come in a variety of choices, including quinoa.  Skipping on ordering out does not have mean Cup of Noodles.  I buy vegetables and make a big bowl consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon, salt and pepper and divide it into several containers.  Then treat yourself to take out on the weekend!

2.  Make coffee at home

This is another personal suggestion.  I make my coffee every morning.  Two cups.  If I don’t have time to drink both, I take one in a travel mug.  There is no need to spend $5 every day or twice a day at Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks when you can make it at home yourself.  In the summer, have fun with it and make iced coffee.  You can make your regularly brewed coffee, then put in a cup with ice.  Add sugar and even spice it up with a Hazelnut or French Vanilla creamer.  Then put some whipped cream on top and you’ve got your very own iced coffee.  Trust me, you can do it!

3.  Use Groupon/Amazon

I have to be honest.  I have not used Groupon more than once, although, many people have told me that I should jump on the bandwagon.  I think sometimes it just slips my mind to check Groupon before buying something or going somewhere.  I did use it once, to buy a Barnes and Nobles gift card. They happened to e mail me with the offer right before I was about to buy one at the bookstore (the internet does have a creepy way of knowing your next move 😉  Anyhoo, I bought a $20 gift card for $10!  Who can say no to an offer like that.  I know people that have went for massages and facials off of Groupon deals.  It is definitely worth exploring. Amazon is also a great place to shop for a good price online. They offer many items that you would purchase in store but for much cheaper.

4.  Shop at the dollar store.

You would be amazed at what you could get at the dollar store.  I have bought Tylenol at the dollar store. The catch with buying medicine there is that it expires sooner than a drug you would buy at a CVS.  Hence, why it is cheaper.  But if you need Tylenol and you are okay with it expiring within the next year as opposed to two years, then why not?  The dollar store also has many holiday and birthday decorations.  The dollar store has helium balloons.  They have gift bags, gift wrap and tissue paper.  I can’t even remember the last time I bought a gift bag at a regularly priced store. Why spend $4.00 on a gift bag when you can get the same size at the dollar store or a discount store?  There are discount stores such as Five Below where everything is…..you guessed it, under $5.00.  I bought half of my son’s school supply list there.  I had originally went to Staples and then realized that each binder was 10 bucks, and he needed like four binders.  Not to mention the other 19 items on the list.  I actually ended up leaving and going to Five Below, where I got binders, looseleaf paper, pens, pencils, etc for half the price.  When I lived upstate, I used to go to National Wholesale Liquidators for school supplies.

4.  Look at and re-evaluate your bills

My co-worker told me that every year, she calls her credit cards and asks them to lower her balance or interest rate and they do this.  Sometimes you have to be patient and speak to multiple agents to get this done.  Some agents will tell you no without discussion.  You can then hang up and call back and have better luck with the next agent.  Switching companies on car insurance and cable can get you new customer offers and prices.  Cable companies offer different packages depending on what you like to watch.  Do you really need 2000 channels?  Have you looked at your package to see if you could downgrade to less channels?  Let’s be honest, we don’t watch half of the channels on cable, right?  Many people nowadays have cut cable completely. With so many streaming options available, cable isn’t really a need anymore. Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix are ways of viewing tv shows and movies. Sometimes you can’t view the episode until a few hours later or the next day, however, Hulu has teamed with multiple networks to provide real time viewing. As far as car insurance, make sure to take the five hour defensive driving course.  This will save you an automatic 10% on your bill.  Once they mail you the certificate of completion, you send to your car insurance company and get the discount! Call different insurance companies to ask for a quote to ensure you are getting the best rate.

5.  Try using only cash/debit.

If you didn’t have your credit card on you, would you buy that mocha choco-latte with the unicorn glitter and that blueberry muffin to go with it?  Do you have the money to buy it but you just figure it would be better to charge it so that you have an extra five bucks in your account?  If so, don’t buy it or use your debit card to pay for it.  Obviously, there are bigger items like vacations and electronics that you would need credit for, but I am talking about small, everyday, non necessity purchases.

6.  Save a little each time.

I am the first person to tell someone that suggests saving money each paycheck, “how can I save money when I have hardly any money left after paying bills!”  But honestly, most of us probably have $5 that we can toss in the empty coffee can.  If we have an extra $5 for gum or coffees or Slurpeers, then certainly we have that $5 to put to the side.  If you have 10 to spare, then go ahead witcho’ bad self!

7.  Give up something or decrease the amount of times you pay for something that regularly costs you money.

I gave up getting my nails done.  I was getting my gel tips filled in every two weeks.  This is $31-33 after tip.  Combine that with the times I had to take my son with me and then he asks for a pedicure because he likes the foot massager and mini bubble bath.  That’s now $50.  I just stopped cold turkey, took off my tips and now polish my own nails.  I do buy Essie nail polish which is a little pricey compared to other polishes ($10). however, that $10 lasts for months.  Buy several different colors and you can change it up every week.  Essie is very good quality.  I actually like polishing my natural nails better now as the tips break, get caught and one time my pinky nail tip got struck by something that feel in my house and the tip bent off, taking my ENTIRE natural nail with it.  ( I can’t even explain how bad it hurt to have my whole, real nail ripped off and it took forever to grow back).  Anyway, I am getting off topic.  Point is, there is probably an expense (otherwise known as a luxury to others), that you can do without or at least decrease the frequency in which you do it.

8.  Use coupons and smart phone apps

I have to be honest when I say that I do not clip coupons each week for grocery shopping.  I do, however, use coupons to fast food restaurants that come in the Marketeer every week.  I used to throw away the Marketeer.  That annoying plastic bag filled with papers that gets thrown on your lawn every week or stuffed in your fence.  Then one day my co-worker gave me Dunkin Donuts coupons.  At this time, I was going to Dunkin Donuts regularly and she knew I would use them.  She told me she got them in the Marketeer.  I didn’t even know that the Marketeer contained coupons, I though it was just supermarket and pharmacy circulars.  Needless, to say, I now take in the Marketeer every week.  It isn’t always a hit, sometimes they have coupons to places I don’t go, such as Tim Hortons.  Many times, however, they have coupons to Subways which my son is slightly addicted to.  You can get a 6 inch for $3.49 or sometimes they have coupons in which you buy a footlong and get one free.  Why wouldn’t you take up an offer to get one of your sandwiches free?

Then there are apps.  Almost every store has an app.  McDonalds app gives you deals every day, including buy one get one McCafe free (even if you are just getting for yourself, get the other one free and heat it up the next morning).  They offer $3 off $10 purchases.  Sometimes they offer free fries or soda.  Regal Cinemas has an app that allows you to upgrade to the next size soda or popcorn.  Make sure to let them scan your Regal app every time you purchase a ticket or concession.  7-11 has their own app in which you scan the phone barcode every time you buy a coffee, tea or slushie.  Every 7th cup is free and at random times it is free coffee day (any size) for anyone with the app.  T-Mobile has an app in which you can claim rewards every Tuesday.  I got a free Redbox movie twice in the last two weeks which is great because I always rent from Redbox.  They offer free pretzels from Auntie Ann’s and then there are some offers to places that do not exist in my area but might exist in yours!