Monday, November 30, 2009

7 Money Saving Tips That Put Over $4100 Back in My Pocket

Thanksgiving week was a great reminder of how truly blessed we are. Our family has grown smaller as loved ones have passed on, but their spirits filled the festivities as if they were still with us. The older I become the more simplicity stands out as a necessity. There are so many things to distract us from noticing the everyday touches of grace. Cell phones, email, TV, video games and even blogs seek to build barriers from experiencing that gentle divine voice from within (:

Economic times have also brought simplicity closer. Not only is it good for the spirit, but also for the pocketbook! I have to admit I'm a bit of a frugal gal. I'd rather create it, paint it, build it or sew it myself than spend the extra cash on something already put together. Over the years that frugal nature has come in handy, especially during financially challenging times. Here are some money saving tips that put over $4100 back in my pocket and hope they might help you as well.

1. Change Your Mobile Service
Is a Blackberry REALLY necessary? Switching my Verizon mobile service over to Straight Talk (a no-contract service of TracFone Wireless that operates on the Verizon network) was a no brainer! The same service for less! It includes unlimited minutes, messages and data for only $45 a month. With two phones it's brought down my cell phone bill from $135 to $90. This also affords me the opportunity to get rid of the home phone since the new mobile service is unlimited. Another $36 saved bringing the total to $81 so far! (Straight Talk also has a $30/mo plan including 1000 minutes, 1000 texts and 30MB of data making this option even more economical).

If you do still want a home phone, try Magic Jack. It works great and only costs $20 a year (or $70 for 5 years) and comes with free voicemail, free caller ID, free directory assistance and free call waiting. They even have a 30 day free trial right now. Try it before you buy it! I use 2 for business lines and am very happy with the results!

2. Negotiate Your Lease
If you're a renter and the lease renewal is coming up, see if they might be willing to come down in price. I asked for $50 less a month and agreed to sign a new lease for 18 months. To keep a good tenant they gladly accepted, especially due to the high volume of available rentals on the market.

3. Letting Go of Cable and Internet
Depending on your service, this could save you anywhere from $40 to $135 per month. Now, I know this may sound drastic to some, but I have a friend who did this and hasn't missed it at all. She hits the WiFi spots when she needs to go online (she uses this time to watch some of her favorite TV shows she just can't miss by watching them online), catches up on her reading and listens to the radio instead of watching hours of TV.

Personally this was a tough one. Working from home means high speed internet is a must and the only TV shows I watch are on cable channels. So instead of cancelling I called the cable company in hopes of negotiating a lower price, mentioning that the preference would be to lower the cost instead of cancelling service. They immediately offered a deal to lower my bill by $35 on the condition that a 2 year contract was accepted to lock in the price. Well, of course! This might be a concern if the cost would lower in the next few years, but our services are actually increasing in price so the contract worked in my favor.

4. Cut Out the Non-Essentials
Last year I rented a storage unit to hold my father's items after he passed away. Because his death was unexpected, I wasn't ready to go through his belongings. The plan was to gradually sort things week by week, but the weeks turned into months. That year gifted perspective and the time to grieve which in turn gave the strength to sort cherished mementoes. Closing the storage rental saved $50 a month.

5. Eat at Home
This is a simple common sense tip, but one that can sneak up on you. These days it's so easy to meet friends for dinner or to pick up something on the way home from work. Plan ahead. On the weekends prepare and freeze meals that can be heated up during the week on busy family nights. These same meals can also work for an impromptu dinner party for unexpected guests. Lasagna and garlic bread are favorites in our freezer! Add a salad, wine, good music and voila! Instant dinner party! I used to eat out around 3 times a month. By inviting friends over and eating at home I save $30 a month!

6. Declutter and Make Money
Clutter not only takes up physical space, but it takes up mental space as well. Purge, purge, purge and let Craigslist be your best friend. As you open your living areas you'll be bringing in the green! Go through closets and get rid of pieces you haven't worn in over a year. Search through decorative items and loose what no longer represents the person you are now. Are your library shelves overloaded with books you no longer need? Add them to the list of items to sell. What about pots, pans and baking sets you never use? Free up that space! Once you've collected everything for sale, take good photos and describe the items in detail. Include the color, size, name brand, and any imperfections. I never used Craigslist before and was a little skeptical, but I sold clothes, accessories, furniture, books, magazines, craft items, kitchen pot sets, home decor and so far it's added up to over $800. Not bad for stuff just sitting around the house (:

And the purging never ends. The "1-in, 1-out" rule has served me well. If a new item comes in the house I look for something that can leave. Each week I reevaluate my surroundings and continue to post listings as new items are found. If they don't sell after one month then the items are donated to a local charity.

7. Shop at Goodwill
Why would you pay full price for a perfectly good designer suit when the same suit could be purchased at Goodwill for under $15? Now is not the time to be snobbish. Much of the clothing donated to Goodwill has never been worn and many times tags are still on the garments. My mother lost a lot of weight and purchased quite a few new pieces from her favorite clothing store only to loose more weight. The new pants and shirts she just purchased no longer fit. Mom didn't want to spend even more money after the first investment so, off to Goodwill we go! We were able to purchase 1 fitted blazer, 3 pairs of dress pants, 1 pair of jeans, 2 cardigan sets, 4 sweaters and 4 blouses for under $70 and almost all of the items were designer names. She would have easily spent over $500 for the same items had she gotten them from the original stores. Set a budget, look for basic key pieces, build a wardrobe that suits your lifestyle and spend some of the money you've saved on great shoes that will last. Not only are you spending less, but the money made at Goodwill is going to a good cause and helping the community.

That makes $246 saved each month by lowering my monthly bills equaling $2952 for the year, plus the $800 earned by selling things just sitting around the house and then saving $430 on a new wardrobe. That brings the total to $4180 back in the pocket at the end of the year!!

Those tips didn't dramatically alter my lifestyle, but by tweaking just a few things I was able to save in a big way. Can you imagine what might happen if you tweaked your food budget or your purchasing practices? More to come on those so check back!


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