Just incase you weren’t convinced that money is the root of all evil I thought I’d leave you with that little image burning into your skull if you dare to make eye contact with it. Which brings us to today’s popular New Year’s resolution: Spend Less Money. Somebody shoulda hooked these folks up with the ones who wanted to save money. But maybe it’s not about saving, maybe it’s they don’t have the money to spend to begin with, or maybe they have more than enough money but end up with a ton of crap they don’t want or need. Who knows. Spending less money will depend, of course, on what you’re already spending money on. So.
As with all bad habits the first step to breaking it is usually to keep a log or a journal, tracking just how your bad habit is occurring and playing out. In this case it would be a spending record detailing every individual item you buy (not every purchase total), how much it cost, and whether it was a need or a want. How much is it costing you to throw on that pack of gum every time you go to the gas station or grocery store?
Speaking of, when you do go to the gas station, are you topping off your tank by rounding up to the next dollar? Knock it off. It’s bad for your car, bad for the environment, and bad for your bank account. Don’t become too loyal to one gas station either. If, like most gas stations, there’s another one a block away from your usual fill up spot of choice, pick the one that’s lowest priced on the day you’re filling up, they’re selling the same product. Don’t drive out of your way across town to save a few cents, you’ll lose any benefit of it in the gas taken to get there and back. Do buy gas from reputable name brand stations. There’s one gas chain that as far as I know is local here to Colorado Springs or maybe the surrounding area, and they always have gas significantly cheaper than everyone else. The collectively understood reason for that is that they’re adding water to their gasoline. Whether that’s true or not I dunno, how people know, I dunno, is the lower pricing suspicious enough for me to pick chains that I trust? Yup.
Proper car maintenance is going to save you money on both repair work and on that gas bill too. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, experts recommend checking them weekly, and say that keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your gas mileage by up to 10 percent.
Cut out any and all fast food. You don’t need fast food and you pay too much for it. If you do find yourself ordering fast food or take out or delivery don’t get drinks to go with it. You have plenty to drink at home and it’s more expensive from restaurant establishments than it is in the grocery store if you absolutely have to drink something other than water. Don’t buy your groceries from the gas station or convenience store. Buy your groceries from a grocery store. They’re going to have better pricing.
When you go grocery shopping, shop with a list. Pick a day of the week to plan what you’re doing the rest of the week. It would be a great day to do your grocery shopping and cook for the whole week in advance refrigerating and freezing things until you need them, thereby making the most of your grocery budget and saving yourself time too. When you make that list planning out your meals, plan it around the sales ads you get in the mail or newspaper. Plan your produce around what’s in season instead of what has to be grown in a greenhouse or imported further and therefore is going to cost more.
When you grocery shop, plan on shopping the perimeter of the store and only entering aisles for necessities. Aisles are where they put the less healthy, more expensive, pre-processed foods that will hit you in the pocket book and in your health. The perimeter of the store is going to have your fresh foods, produce, baked goods, meats, dairy, eggs, bulk… You really can get everything you need to live off of from the perimeter, but you may want to make an occasional venture into an aisle for rice or flour or other dry good staples, just know what you’re after and stick to the plan and then escape back to the perimeter. Check out different parts of your grocery store to see what they may have stashed in different areas that might be significantly cheaper. Often that will be in the form of a bulk section, but you may also want to comparison shop the pricing of spices from the baking aisle with spices from the ethnic foods sections. My usual grocery store even has a weird almost hidden section of bagged spices shoved over in the corner by the lunchmeat. It’s cheaper than the baking aisle, but who would ever know to look for it if you didn’t get really familiar with the store? Saving on groceries wouldn’t be complete without this one… we all have heard it, but you need to actually follow it: Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Everything sounds good when you’re hungry. Everything is a necessity when you’re hungry. Eat a snack before going in, bring a water bottle with you if you need to, but whatever you do, don’t shop hungry. Stick to your list.
Whether it comes to groceries or paper goods or cleaning products or virtually anything disposable, don’t get too loyal to one brand. Get loyal to the cheapest acceptable option, which may be whatever is on sale when you do go shopping. Sometimes that’s not even going to be name brand. Try out some store brands and see how it goes. I’ve never found a store brand peanut butter I didn’t hate, but it didn’t kill me to suffer through that jar and then resume buying the cheapest acceptable peanut butter I could find (Skippy. It’s always Skippy.) Different people have different tastes and different priorities. I’m really particular about textures. I might hate store brand peanut butter but it might all taste the same to you. I love store brand canned or frozen vegetables more often than not. I’m pretty okay with store brand cheese. You might think it’s revolting. I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that store brand cereal tastes just like its cartoon character toted counterparts. The only way to know is to try things, so try them. When the cheaper generic brand works for you then stick with it. In the end most products are created equally and you’re just paying for the name.
When you have coupons that make something cheaper than your usual give it a shot. But ONLY use coupons for things you were going to buy anyway. Don’t buy something you don’t really need or want just because you got it cheap with a coupon. If you’re going to get serious about couponing, get yourself a coupon organizer wallet so you always have them on hand when you make that grocery store run and can find them easily, and go crazy on online couponing sites to find things that will save you money on the products you do already use regularly.
Do not watch infomercials. Do not window shop. Do not browse at the mall. Do not check out online stores. If you need to buy something then go and buy what you need and get out. Stores like to fill up their fronts with non-essentials and displays and impulse buy types of things because they know you’re going to see them on your way to what you really need. Don’t look around, walk quickly, with a purpose, and if you can help it don’t use a cart, you buy less when you only buy what you can carry. Do not browse clearance racks or sales items unless you specifically need something that’s likely to be in those places, like shopping clearance racks for baby clothes. They’re babies. They care very little which clothes they spit up on. Don’t buy something you don’t need just because it’s a bargain.
We talked about savings accounts, but I don’t think we even touched on checking accounts. Are you using the one that’s right for you? Your checking account should be free. The only fees you should have for a checking account are overdraft fees, and you shouldn’t be spending in a way that encounters them. Is your bank close enough to home to avoid excessive gas on bank trips and to be able to use your own bank’s ATM without having to encounter fees to use an out of network competitor’s machine? If you live in a state with a TCF Bank they get my endorsement happily. They have got a slightly “low class” kind of reputation because of their policy of doing business with anyone who hasn’t written bad checks with them before, even if they’ve written bad checks from other financial institutions, but don’t worry about their class reputation. People are going to judge you for what smart phone you have, not for what bank you use, and personally I think it’s great that there’s a bank that’s willing to give people a second chance so people aren’t forever paying fees to check cashing companies. I got my first checking account with them when I was 16 and allowed to work and have never had anything but great service. This was after using a bigger more national bank that was charging me all sorts of fees I didn’t understand and they couldn’t explain and were claiming I overdrafted when math showed I clearly didn’t so I finally said give me my money, I’m going somewhere else. TCF was close by and a very nice change with no fees and tellers who didn’t pull anything over on me for being young. When I was 18 and moved to Missouri we didn’t have TCF Bank and I used Guarantee Federal the entire time I lived there and had the same experience. Great service, no account problems, no fees, no minimum balance, even earned interest for having direct deposit set up. That’s the way things should be, you should be able to trust your bank. When I moved back to Colorado in 2005 I made the mistake of choosing a local bank near my work that was forever airing commercials about their great personal service and how nice it was to support local businesses. Fantastic concept, except they never told me I was getting charged a fee any time I called to check my balance, and their service really wasn’t so pleasant or quick and I had to be on that side of town to use the ATM because there were no other branches. I eventually figured out the mysterious fees, found a nearby TCF Bank, moved everything over, and never looked back. So I’ve been back to being a happy TCF Bank customer since circa 2007. Still no minimum balance, still no fees unless I overdraft (which I don’t), free replacement cards when mine have been lost or stolen or they thought my account could have potentially been subject to a data breach (if it was I was never affected beyond getting a new card), they’re friendly and they’re fast and they have locations all through town and surrounding cities, so I can use my account without ATM fees. Going back to overdraft fees, my bank offers “Overdraft Protection” on my debit card where if I go over they offer to cover it, but I get charged a fee if they do. I’ve opted out of that overdraft protection. I don’t need snowballing fees, and if I have to go an extra day or two living on ramen or not driving fun places when I feel like it, then so be it. It’s worth it to live in discomfort for a few days than to dig myself a hole I can’t get out of.
Statistically, people spend at least 30% more if they’re using a credit card, debit card, or checkbook, than they would if they were paying with cash. Cash buyers are less impulsive because they physically see their money going. That is only a statistic, it doesn’t apply to me personally because for me once I break a twenty, the rest of that bill disappears on little buys of things I don’t need. But if you haven’t tried the cash spending habit, see how it works with you. Maybe you’ll even find yourself spending less online because there’s less in your bank account if it’s in your wallet.
Do NOT use payday loans. Just don’t. I can’t in any way stress that enough. Payday loan practices should be illegal, if an individual lent you money and charged those kinds of interest rates they’d be called a loan-shark and they’d be prosecuted. I have more than a couple of friends who have made young impulsive decisions that they HAD to buy the newest cellphone to replace their 3 month old model or they HAD to buy their girlfriend a wedding band and ring set that they couldn’t afford and didn’t need yet, and they are still trying to pay those bills off as they’re approaching their 30s. It’s worse than a credit card. Don’t do it.
Speaking of credit cards… it’s okay to have one for emergencies. Don’t use it to buy food, especially not fast food, or any of your normal every day bills, use it for when your radiator cracks and you need a new one and don’t have enough in savings to cover it but legitimately need a car to be able to get back and forth to work so you have to do something, and pay it off as quickly as you can, or for the unexpected vet bill that you need you pet to be okay but didn’t know to budget for. Don’t get store brand cards. Just don’t. They exist entirely because the store knows you WILL spend more money there because you have a card to do it on and may be racking up some minimal reward points to use towards spending even more there. No store brand cards. Only reputable independent credit cards, with the lowest fees and interest rates your credit score will allow for. And truly only use it for emergencies. It’s 2 in the morning and the bar just let out and you need tacos is not an emergency.
Be mindful of your every month bills like your home utility bills. If your water heater’s thermostat is up high enough that your water is ever scalding, turn it down. You don’t ever need it that hot, and you’re paying more to keep it at that temperature. Something I learned when my water heater was out of commission and I was waiting for the replacement parts I ordered to repair it with is that my dishwasher, just a normal, standard, actually smaller than most dishwasher, heats water on its own. I dunno the mechanics behind how it does that, but if you think you need scalding water to get your dishes clean, your dishwasher is totally taking care of that for you. Only run it when you have enough dishes to fill it, and choose the air dry option. Or if you really want to save some money wash your dishes by hand. You only need to buy a drainboard to dry them on once, and it will save you loads on both your electric and water bills (no pun intended.) If you think you need scalding water to get your clothes clean, well, surprise! you actually don’t even need hot water to get most of your clothes clean. Most of your clothes are going to be slightly dirty at best and modern detergents are going to clean them just as well in cold water while making your colors last longer too. Save the hot wash cycles for the truly dirty clothes that you wore to the gym or on a long hike or on your latest archaeological dig. Clean out your lint traps. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time laundry comes up. It saves you on energy by drying your clothes faster, and not cleaning your lint trap is a fire hazard. Clean it every single load. Change out your furnace/air circulation filters every 6 months at a minimum. They get full of crud and your system has to work harder to push through the dust and pet hair and dander and lord knows what else they’ve been collecting. Install some ceiling fans in your most used rooms that you can use in place of the air conditioner on days that aren’t in the triple digits. Most homes here in Colorado don’t even have air conditioning and we get plenty hot in the summer. Windows and fans can do wonders. Keep tabs on the thermostat for your heater too. Most people prefer it colder at night. Either program your thermostat to make that change at a certain time, or just manually move it down at bedtime. Your energy bill will thank you. Even during the day do you really need your whole house at 73 degrees? Or can you keep the house at 68 and use a space heater or a fireplace for the rooms you’re actively using? Don’t forget that cooking at home is going to make the house warmer too. One more reason to get used to cooking instead of so much take out.
Speaking of cooking at home… rethink your entertainment budget and date night options. You don’t need to go to dinner and a movie. You can go to a matinee followed by coffee and pie at your local diner, or you can stay in with a homecooked meal, some stove popped popcorn (Jiffy Pop is fun and you know it) and Netflix or Redbox. If you like the ritual of getting dressed and primped and putting on your best manners for date night, you can still do that, there’s no reason you can’t be fabulous in the middle of the day or in your own home which is kind of extra cute. Also change things up sometimes, it doesn’t always need to be movie and food, you can exchange massages, read each other poetry out of library books, have a picnic in the park, go hiking, dance in your living room instead of at the club. If your date night is really about socializing with other couples start hosting game nights instead of going out. If you’re used to a night out with the girls start a book club or at home spa treatment days. If you’re used to a night out with the guys pick whoever has the most awesome HD TV to watch the big game or host a poker night. Check out what your city has to offer for free entertainment. There are community events ALL THE TIME that most people know nothing about. All it takes is a little googling.
If you have some awesome money saving tips to share, let us know in the comments!
Today’s list of tasks:
Time to deal with your leg hair. Ladies this especially means you, but it’s not uncommon for men to get on board with hair removal anymore either. If you like your leg hair and want to keep it, that’s your prerogative and you’re not alone, I’ve got friends who go “eh, it’s blonde anyway, no one sees it except this guy I’ve been with forever and he doesn’t care” so if that works for you then that’s awesome, just make sure that it’s clean and address any ingrown hair situations. If your leg hair is more of a byproduct of depression or “it’s not like anyone’s going to ever see me anyway” then get up and go grab your razor or waxing kit or hair removal cream. Maybe no one will see it with that attitude, but when you get more active (and you will) and when you’re feeling better about yourself (which taking care of grooming habits is a big step towards,) then you never know who’s going to turn up. But whether anyone else sees it or not, do it for you. I personally hate the feel of body hair of any kind, it makes me feel dirty and itchy and gross, and I think shaving is also an awesome way to get rid of dead skin, they seem to go well together. If you like the feeling of your silky smooth legs then who cares if anyone else is going to feel them. Do it for you. If you’ve been with that same guy for lots of years and just sort of take for granted that he’s okay with it, maybe surprise him with a pair or nice smooth legs and see if the extra effort doesn’t spark a little extra appreciation or effort of his own.
Clean your dining areas. Yup, we have cleaned them the past few weeks on an individual basis, today we’re going to do them all because you’ve already done the deep cleaning and can today do the spot cleaning and general upkeep and not have it be too much to fit into one day 🙂
Use some upper body weight machines at that gym I trust you’ve joined by now. There are a LOT of them to pick from, and you can use as many as you want to, but for today I’m going to ask you to keep an eye out forthe Cable Biceps Bar
the Chest Press
and the Lat Pull Down.
Do at least 15 reps on each machine, at whatever weight you feel comfortable with that isn’t TOO easy, but isn’t so much a challenge that you’ll hurt yourself or be unable to finish the 15 reps. Either before or after the weight machines, depending on your own personal preference, get in 15 minutes worth of cardio on a machine that’s going to work your arms. The best option for this is going to be the rowing machine, but you could also use the skiing machine or an elliptical and get SOME arm work out of it. As always, if you don’t have a gym membership, try to improvise the exercises as best you can at home. Grab that trusty broom or mop handle and go through the motions, it may not give you as much without the weights involved, but it will still increase your range of motion and your muscle toning. For the Cardio still do something that involves your arms. You can do jumping jacks, or lots of overhead reaches while you keep your legs moving even just stepping side to side or simulate that rowing motion while going for a jog or jogging in place in your living room.
That’s all I’m going to ask you to do for today 🙂 Be mindful of those spending habits, and I’ll see you on Facebook later for the question of the day!
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: Can’t Buy Me Love
Album: A Hard Day’s Night