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Before a month ago, I never went out of my way to budget in my entire life. Sure, if I saw something worthwhile on sale at grocery store or at the mall, I would seize the opportunity, but my so-called “budgeting” then was probably just a series of impulse purchases. Before now, I was a student getting several months of loan money to live off of in one lump sum. On top of that, I had a side job waitressing for extra cash. Monetary issues were never extreme. Now, being in the real word and living paycheck to paycheck, I have made an active choice to put effort into saving money wherever possible.
As a beginner, there was no way I was about to plot out a monthly budget of each estimated expense down to the dollar. I find that stressful and a lot of work. I give props to the people that can do that, but right now that is not me. Therefore, the purpose of this post is to provide simple tips from a beginner for a beginner.
Save money at the grocery store
Develop a sense of how much the products you buy regularly cost. One store is not the cheapest for everything, and some places are more expensive for almost everything. The groceries stores I frequented as a child I won’t even walk into now except to pick up a couple needed items because I find them to be so overpriced.
Clip coupons. I just started using coupons a few weeks ago, and the savings add up really fast. Coupons.com is the most user friendly site that I have found for this. You are welcome to see what other coupon sites are out there, but I will say there is no need to sign up with your e-mail to access coupons. Also, check your grocery store’s website as they usually have their own coupons. Target has great coupons on their website. If you are having trouble finding a coupon for a specific product, check out their website or Facebook page. A number of brands with give you regular coupons if you “like” them. This is how I get all of my Silk coupons.
Check the sales papers. See if any of your manufacturer or store coupons are the same as what is on sale to ensure the greatest savings on that item. Also, some stores have coupon “double days.” Mariano’s Fresh Market has coupon double days every Wednesday where you can give them 5 coupons for up to a dollar off and they will double the amount for up to $1 each (total must be $25 before the coupons are scanned). This past Wednesday while I was shopping, I noticed that Cascadian Farms cereal was on sale for $2.69. I also happened to have a $1 off coupon and with the double day, I walked out of the store paying only 69 cents pre-tax. I also got I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray for 30 cents.
Buy a newspaper. The Sunday newspaper is filled with ads and coupons. I personally like the Chicago Tribune for this purpose, which does run $1.99 but pays for itself. For the price, you get reading material, comics, crosswords, Sudoku, and plenty of sale ads and coupons. Last week there was a coupon for a free Cherry Berry Chiller from McDonald’s with no purchase necessary. Also, when you buy the newspaper, there are usually cards in there that allow you order the newspaper for 50 cents - $1 per week. Just make sure you see how many weeks that rate is locked in for. You can cancel at any time. If you want to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune for their Sunday paper, go to their website and type in the code X277 and you will get it for 50 cents/week for 13 weeks… and it comes right to your door!
Carry your coupons. Whenever you go to the store, bring all of your coupons with. While I am shopping, I look around to see what I consider a good deal and then see if I have a coupon for it to make it an even better deal. You never know what is going to be cheap at which store which is why I recommend bringing the whole stack with. Just store your coupons in your purse or pocket so you can readily flip through them while you are shopping.
Bring a bag. Canvas bag can hold more than the regular plastic and you usually get a 5 cent discount per bag you bring and fill up. I love not having to deal with having a million plastic bags and the guilt that comes with throwing them in the garbage. If you can dig up a canvas bag from your closet or get one for 1-2 dollars, it will also eventually pay for itself.
Explore the dollar store
The dollar store is an excellent place for select things. I will say that not absolutely everything at the dollar store is a deal or great quality, but there are certain items they knock out of the park. Products I have been impressed with include LA’s Totally Awesome cleaning products and Sun detergent and dish soap. The dollar store also has various office supplies and medications. My friend recently tried their version of Pepto-Bismol and said that it worked great. Just be sure to check the expiration dates. Another huge savings at the dollar store is gift wrap. I recently attended my friend’s baby shower and was forced to go to Walgreens since it was the only thing on the way (I may have slacked a little on wrapping ahead of time). I could not find a bag and tissue paper for less than $6 combined. For Mother’s Day, I made sure to buy my gift bag and tissue paper at the dollar store for, you guess it, $1 each. Obviously you can also buy a card there for $1 or, better yet, make one!
Products that didn’t work from the dollar store include garbage bags (we ended up buy the Up&Up Target brand (with a $1 off coupon) after that fiasco and dog poop bags which were just too thin to want to pick anything up with them.
There are also several DIY projects to do with items from the dollar store which you can find on my Pinterest site or by going to www.dollarstorecrafts.com.
Cut down on your utility bills
I personally won’t turn on the air conditioning until I am being smothered to the point where a fan will not even dent the mugginess. That style of living is not for everyone, so here are some smaller changes to save on your utility cost.
• If the air or heat is on, ask yourself if you can have it 1-2 degrees warmer or cooler, respectively.
• Unplug everything that you do not use regularly. Anything that is plugged into an electrical socket will use some amount of electricity whether or not it is even on. Make a trip around your house and unplug whatever you can and do not forget to unplug your chargers when they aren’t in use!
• Turn off the lights before you leave a room. I routinely ask myself, do I need all of these lights on? I usually turn off one or two switches each time. Also, turn off your computer when it is not in use. Not only are you wasting electricity but you are making the room hotter wand translates to more air conditioning usage! Using “sleep mode” if you are just stepping away for a little bit will also reduce electricity usage.
• Keep your house cool by closing the shades whenever sun is beaming in.
• Use the smallest appliance you can to cook. A toaster oven, George Forman, and microwave all use up to 50% less energy than a conventional oven.
To view 101 tips on how to save money on your electric bill, visit: http://www.powerhousetv.com/Energy-EfficientLiving/Energy-savingsTips/027471
Become in touch with the world of on-line freebies
Birthday freebies are quite abundant in the on-line word. All you need to do is sign up and check your e-mail around your birthday! Some of the best deals include:
• Auntie Anne’s - free pretzel
• Baskin Robbin’s - free ice cream cone
• Ben & Jerry’s - free ice cream
• Steak N’ Shake - free double steakburger with cheese ‘n fries
• Sonic - choice between a free regular creamslush, tator tots, or medium drink
• Moe’s Southwest Grill - one free entrée
• Dairy Queen - Buy one, get one free blizzard
The above freebies plus more with links can be found here: http://www.heyitsfree.net/birthday-freebies/
My favorite non-birthday freebies include:
• Godiva rewards - Sign up for a free card and you get 1 free piece of chocolate every month without purchase (although I always buy an extra).
• Corner Bakery - Sign up for the eCafé and they will e-mail you a coupon for a free cookie (no purchase needed!). I just got mine and printed it out.
• Redbox – Sign up for their text club by texting the word SIGNUP to 727272 and you will get one free movie every month. You can also text TRYUS to that same number and get a free one night game rental.
Visit the following link for more fun freebies: http://www.budgetsavvydiva.com/category/freebies/
Starting a small business? SCORE.org provides free business mentoring! Before going to their legitimate website, here is the official Wikipedia link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCORE_Association
The images depicted above and their links can be found on my Pinterest page www.pinterest.com/NicoleST in the “All About Books” section.