Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hook A Sister UP!

Living on my own since the age of 18 ( on my own meaning not with my parents ), I've definitely learned the value of a dollar and about saving money in any way you can. And sure, in my early 20s, I would have rather eaten cheap shit and been able go to the bar nightly to party with my friends than to worry about a "budget". But I still had those core money-saving values. Values that I still use to this day.

Each dollar saved counts. It's money you can use towards something more expensive you may want, or maybe just a little extra to tuck away into savings. It's always a way to balance your debt-to-income ratio and, of course, your weekly/bi-weekly/monthly budgeting. 

In this blog post, I want to just review a few helpful tips when it comes to saving money that have personally helped me in the past ( and present/future )

Seriously...GO TO CONSIGNMENT STORES
Goodwill and Salvation Army still have that horrible stigma that it's for "poor people". And sure, back when I was younger, I probably thought that, too. Growing up, my grandparents would take us to Gabriel Brothers EVERY YEAR to get school clothes. I never really knew what Gabe's was until I became older and could appreciate the sales. While consignment stores are full of clothing that has already been worn, Gabe's is more like a Ross; it's either overstock, out-of-season or slightly irregular, thus being deemed "damaged" by traditional chain stores. 

In either case, whether shopping consignment or lower-priced retail, it's a fantastic way to save money. You can find clothing, housewares, children's toys, etc at these types of stores...some of them in MINT condition. My favorite consignment store to shop at is Community Aid in Mechanicsburg, PA. I've found authentic Coach and Vera Bradley purses, nurse scrubs, NY&C brand tops, American Eagle/Hollister/Abercrombie sweatshirts and jeans...all in EXCELLENT used condition or even new. People can donate gently-used items or even items that were never taken out of the package. You have no idea the things you can find when you walk into a second-hand shop. It's sort-of like a treasure hunt in a way. Now of course, you must have the time and the patience to really search for the perfect-for-you items, but sometimes it can be WELL worth it. 

Consignment isn't just for the less fortunate anymore. It's for those trying to save a buck and budgeting wisely.

Use apps like Craigslist, Offer Up and local yardsale pages
I've found ( and also sold ) some great bargains by using these sites. Actually this week, I've made $75 selling old junk online that I would've made half that if I'd had a conventional yardsale. And I found a great bargain for a new, solid wood entertainment center ( the one I was deciding on at Walmart was almost $300 and probably not solid wood )...$100 for this: 


I purchased it from someone on the Offer Up app so, actually, I could have offered less and taken a chance. But it seemed like such an awesome deal that I did not want to pass it up and offered their full asking price. The Offer Up app is more like an "auctioning" page where people will bid for most things, even with an asking price. So if someone wants $75 for something but no one is willing to pay that much, it will most likely go to the highest "offer". It is very much like Craigslist but with a very user-friendly app and also, you can message through the site instead of having to give personal information like your phone number or email address. 

I'm a big believer that "one man's trash is another man's treasure", especially when it comes to big-ticket household items. I would much rather spend $100 on a quality piece of furniture that a previous owner took amazing care of than to go to a chain store and purchase a half-assed, particle-board piece of shit entertainment center for $300. 

It's not always necessary to buy name-brand foods
I'm not gonna lie: NOTHING beats Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. BUT...it is not always top priority to buy name brand foods constantly. I remember as a kid, my sister and I would be embarrassed if we couldn't have name brand food around our friends because we didn't want them to think we were poor. But as an adult, I'm constantly looking for the best deal possible on my food items. There are only certain stores I will go to for meat. I buy off-brand foods 9/10 times. One of my favorite stores to shop is Aldi! They carry a few name brand items, but their store is mostly their own store brand food. And I like that. When you aren't selling an overabundance of Kelloggs or Stouffers, you are able to cut costs on food for the consumers. And technically, if you do your research, you'll find that most Aldi brand food is manufactured by Trader Joe's! Soooo how about DEM apple's ( that are probably FROM Trader Joe's?? ) 

Don't be afraid to ask your friends or family
When I say this, I mean...if you move into a place by yourself and you have, like, nothing: no bed, no couch, no dishes, etc...do not be afraid to ask your loved ones if they have anything that they are not using just "laying around". 99% of the time, they do. The very first apartment I had on my own, I had my old bed from when I was younger, a couch that my sister's boyfriend gave me, a TV another friend gave me, a desk that was left by the previous tenant, and I was almost SET. Going from being taken care of by your parents to living on your own is a big adjustment but, with that, you need to realize that you do not need the best-of-the-best of everything immediately. Do you want to go broke trying to furnish your apartment, so much that you can't make your next month's rent? That's fucking stupid. Second-hand merchandise from people who want to help you is the intelligent way to go. Don't expect any of them to go buy you brand-new rugs and paintings and televisions and computers, but every little bit helps.

Always look for sales, coupons and free shipping
Last one for today; never purchase things at full-price! The mark-up value is insane. We all know that it didn't cost that much to manufacture whatever-it-is in their big fancy warehouse where they pay their workers crap wages. Eventually, everything goes on sale. 

Look at Kohl's, for instance. Do you ever really LOOK at the MSRP?? It's very rare that the retail price at Kohl's is ever paid. Of course, this is to make you think that you're getting an amazing discount, which ALSO is not always the case. But when you take into account 15/20/30% off coupons on an already "marked down" item...maybe you have some Kohl's cash...maybe you have a Kohl's Charge that can get you an additional percentage off...maybe the item is on the clearance rack and marked down even more...well, that's the best time to buy. And that dress you may have fallen in love with 3 months ago.....it's now out of season, and probably sitting on a clearance rack where you'll be able to pay 70% less than what you would have when you originally saw it. Be conscientious of things like this when shopping. 

Coupons are wonderful. I use the Retail Me Not app for clothes and accessories and the ibotta app for food ( ibotta is more like a rebate page, though...it's not instant savings but you earn cash back ) 

And also, a rule of thumb for ME anyway, is that I rarely purchase things online unless they are running a 'free shipping' special. You're paying extra for the luxury of purchasing online--purchasing things you could easily drive 10 minutes to your local mall to get. A good thing about this is that when it comes to major holidays coming about, most sites will offer free shipping. I like to go to American Eagles website around Christmas to get gifts because they run a lot of free shipping weekends. So just check out your favorite store's websites periodically...sometimes you may be surprised by a free shipping day!

Money doesn't grow on trees, guys. Eventually, it DOES run out. No one likes living paycheck to paycheck, so you have to spend wisely to avoid it. And it's truly not that hard.

Try to make a few minor adjustments to your budget. Don't go HAM but a little tweak here and there. See what works and doesn't work for you. Every little bit counts!