Category Archives: Frugality

Bargain Food

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Bargain Food

One of the ways I stretch my dollars is by taking advantage of the fact that I work in a grocery store. Every single shift I look around for good deals and take advantage when I can. For instance, when my employer issued coupons for a free 24-pack of bottled water with a purchase a while back, I bought some groceries and squirreled away the water in our assigned area so I would have something to drink on my breaks–completely free.

One major way I save money is on milk. I wait until we mark down the ones that are nearing the expiration date to buy as much as possible. Since a gallon of milk costs $2.49 here that saves us quite a bit! I keep our refrigerator on the coldest setting so that the milk doesn’t spoil before we use it.

We do the same with eggs and other items. 

This is one reason why I am very thankful that my daughter and I work in grocery stores. We both do this routinely in order to save money. While I’ve not calculated exactly how much we save doing this, I’ve no doubt that we manage to pare down our expenses by a couple hour’s wage at the least. Over time that adds up.

Does your current situation allow you to save money on things you need and use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Evaluating my Decision to Stockpile

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Evaluating my Decision to Stockpile

I had a bit of a panic attack the other day while I was cleaning my house. As I was rearranging the stockpile of food and supplies I’ve acquired over the past few months I froze in shock over the sheer volume of what I had acquired. Oh, my goodness, I thought in dismay, have I become a mindless consumer?

I’ve preached against mindless buying for ages so the thought was more than a bit disturbing. I tore through my house, evaluating all of the purchases I’ve made over the past year to discover the truth of my actions.

I found:

  • Bathroom tissue
  • Paper towels
  • Soap
  • Vinegar
  • Pinalen (like Pine Sol, only cheaper and actually smells like pine)
  • Odoban (the best disinfectant and deodorizer I have ever found)
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (I don’t always use baking soda to wash my hair)
  • Toothbrushes
  • Pet supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Books
  • FoodfoodFOOD! My pantry is stocked and my chest freezer is full.

Those were my major acquisitions over the past year. Every single one of these items will get used in time. None of it will go bad before I use it.

I do need to curtail my spending on groceries but other than that I can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not mindlessly consuming things, I’m doing the exact same thing I did for years before I started my hard-core minimalism experiment.

I’m stocking up.

The primary way I’ve managed to survive during the hard times of my life was by stockpiling the things we use when money allowed. Since we don’t switch brands or products frequently (if at all), we don’t have to worry about switching brands before our supplies run out.

Fortunately I’m nearing the end of my stock-up phase. That means I’ll be able to save even more money towards my goal of building my savings account.

Even better, by stockpiling items that we use when I find a really good deal I’ve saved several weeks’ worth of wages that I would have otherwise been forced to spend on these items.

For the record, however, I’m kinda glad that the stockup phase is almost finished. I’m tired of spending so much money.

Do you ever evaluate your purchases to see how you’re doing financially? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Panic Attack

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Panic Attack

Earlier this month after paying expenses I decided to get a jump on my new goal. Instead of absorbing my current round of royalties into my life I decided to transfer the amount into my brokerage account instead. While I had planned to start next month, I was anxious to begin. I sat down at the computer and logged into my accounts. After calculating exactly how much royalties I had received last month, I started setting up the transfer.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart beat a staccato in my chest and I started shaking. What the hell? I stood up on wobbly legs and staggered out to the front porch. I needed to breathe, I needed to stop trembling, I needed to think, dammit–what in the world was wrong with me?

It took several moments of deliberate breathing for my mind to function again. It dawned on me that I was having a panic attack at the thought of saving the source of money I had relied on for several years. The reaction made no logical sense; I’ve ran the numbers so I know for a fact that I can afford to live exclusively on the income that my public job provides, especially now that I’ve gotten the bulk of my house sorted for the long haul. To make things worse, I’ve spent the past couple of decades relying on every single penny I could manage to earn.

I closed my eyes and just breathed. I knew that the reaction was illogical. I wasn’t blowing the money; I was simply shifting it into another account. I would have it available to use should a need actually arise. In the meantime, that money would earn a bit more money for the future.

Bit by bit I regained control of my body until, still trembling, I went back in the house, sat down at my computer, and finalized the transaction. Wiping away the tears from my weakness I finished getting dressed and headed to work.

My boss was confused when she saw my upset and promptly gave me a hug. We talked for a moment about how the mind can play games with us before I clocked in to work. I forced my emotions aside and focused on my duties.

Guess what? I lived. I not only lived, I arranged for the transfer to be as automatic as I could make it in the future. While I’ll have to manually transfer the money some of my distributors pay (since they only pay by PayPal), the bulk of my royalties will be automatically deposited into my brokerage account each and every month. In the meantime I am growing accustomed to having a lower balance in my checking account.

Sometimes you have to face your fears head-on in order to grow.

What fears have you faced lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Getting Serious About Finances

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on Getting Serious About Finances

While many of the so-called experts are crying, I’ve discovered that my decision to enter the stock market could not have come at a better time. The US Government has decided that inflation is out of control so they’ve started to raise interest rates to “cool off” the economy.

According to my research, every single time the Fed raises rates, stock prices take a hit as emotional investors panic and others move out of the stock market into safer investments like government bonds.

This is very good news for me, because it means that I’ll be able to buy stocks at bargain basement prices.

In order to maximize my long-term profit, I need to take advantage of this dip. The more I can invest now, the better off I’ll be in the future. That means I have to get really serious about my finances.

I picked up a copy of Your Money of Your Life in hopes of some pointers. The book is filled to the brim with helpful information, but one thing I gleaned from the text was the fact that I need to account for every single penny I spend in order to learn where I stand financially and keep track of the progress that I am making.

I tried to do this on the computer at first, using my knowledge of Excel, and I fell flat on my face. I spent more time trying to use the darned program than actually entering information. I switched around to several free finance applications, only to run into the same issue. I ended up being so frustrated that I was ready to toss my computer against the wall!

So I went back to what I know. I understand the basics of paper accounting. I used that method to keep track of my budget for years during the early days, until my budget became so low I didn’t need to bother. I invested in a ledger and got to work.

Every single penny I spend is documented accordingly. It’s a bit of a chore, but it has made me more conscious of how I spend money. For the first time in my life I’m actually documenting how much I spend on food, books, and other items. I intend to use that knowledge to target areas where I can save in order to maximize the amount I have to invest while the market is in this slump.

Once I have a few months’ of numbers available, I’ll even go into parts of my budget that I’ve never discussed before–like groceries. Perhaps that will help you learn a bit more about controlling your finances, as well as show you a bit more about how I spend my money on a daily basis.

If you’re interested, that is.

Have you ever kept track of every penny you spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

It Doesn’t Cost a Fortune to Look Nice

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Doesn’t Cost a Fortune to Look Nice

The older I get the worse I look. My hair has started greying and things have started sagging that never sagged before. I’ve never really been self-conscious about the effects of aging but over time I noticed a difference; not in me, but in my customers.

While some of my customers appear to be ageless, others appear considerably older than they are simply due to the lack of care they give their appearance before they go out in public. Looking back on some of my older photos I realized with dismay that I was just as bad and resolved to find a way to improve myself.

But how? I’m not exactly a beauty guru and I didn’t want to spend a fortune either. I continued watching my customers as I searched for answers.

I quickly realized that regardless of social class, females my age can carry off a variety of simple wardrobe choices. Even an old, faded tee shirt can look nice when presented a certain way. While an old tee shirt and messy bun can scream slovenly, if you add a bit of cosmetics and a touch of bling that same outfit is elevated to a completely different level.

I had cosmetics already so that wasn’t an issue but bling? I hadn’t purchased jewelry for myself in years! I stopped wearing dangly things when my kids were babies since they liked to tug on them, then passed my collection along to friends so the items wouldn’t go to waste.

Undaunted, I started wearing cosmetics when I went out as I began searching for some budget-friendly bling. I wanted something cheap, timeless, and a bit dangly since I wear my hair up frequently. I eventually stumbled across some costume jewelry that had been placed on clearance. The simple hoops and studs met my needs without destroying my budget.

I’ve now clipped my nose hair, plucked my stray eyebrows, donned a bit of cosmetics, and added a bit of bling to my everyday wardrobe of jeans and tee shirts. Now, to my delighted surprise, I actually receive the occasional compliment as opposed to the indifference I’m accustomed to receiving so my self-confidence has received a boost as well.

Not a bad haul for the cost of a dollar and a little time!

What little things do you do to improve your appearance? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Clearance and Coupons

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Clearance and Coupons

The other day my daughter and I decided to visit a local store and search for bargains. While many times we don’t find anything that we need, occasionally we come across a really good deal.

This occasion we struck pay dirt. The store had clearanced four boxes of Alka Seltzer Night Time Cold Medicine for $3 a box.

This is one of our staples in the winter when we don’t feel well. We typically spend $6 or more a box during cold season since local stores occasionally raise the price in winter. The normal price at that store was $6 a box so we knew we would save at least $12 on the purchase. We grabbed all four boxes and headed to the checkout.

My kid happened to have an app on her phone that will apply any available coupons to purchases made at that store. She did her thing on the two I purchased (we split the expense in half since we both use the stuff) and to our surprise saved another dollar per box!

We ended up purchasing four boxes of our favorite cold medicine for $2 a box instead of the regular $6. That ends up being a savings of $16.96 once we add in the sales tax we would have had to pay on the higher price. We saved 2.32 hours of income (more if you calculate taxes) simply by watching for bargains, buying in bulk, and applying available coupon discounts.

Two hours’ of wages, folks! That’s two hours of our lives we won’t have to spend working to purchase something we need and use. Since we split the cost we both saved over an hour’s wage each.

We’re rather chuffed about that. Even better, we now have the supplies on hand for the upcoming winter so we won’t have to walk to the store while ill to purchase what we need.

Have you scored any real good deals lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

What I Really Want

Published / by Annie / 13 Comments on What I Really Want

I’ve done a lot of thinking as my Katie’s graduation approached and even more now that I know she will leave the nest in a few short months. What next? What do I want to do now that I know I’ll be on my own?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I want to remain here, relocate, or do something entirely different. I mull over the possibilities and I come up blank.

I do know one thing, however. I don’t want to ever struggle financially again. While I enjoy my simple, frugal lifestyle, I want to build up a larger margin of safety than I’ve had in the past. I want to know that I’ll be okay whether I work a public job in the future or not.

I could do this by marketing my books more aggressively but to do so would compromise my morals. How can I in good conscience market to a group of people who are already struggling financially? I started writing to help people, not rob them blind!

The answer is I can’t. Not if I want to sleep at night.

So I’m going to have to do some research. I want to build up another source of passive income that is unrelated to this website or my book sales. I want to build it to the point where it can not only support this website in the event my book sales completely tank, but to the point where it can support me whether I work a public job or not.

Now, there are a lot of scams out there that promise to do that. I want to avoid them, so instead of following the crowd I’m instead going to study those who have managed to do what I want to do. Since the Average Joe doesn’t get much press, I’m going to research wealthy people, those who started with very little and ended up rich enough that someone wrote a book about them.

Hopefully I can figure out how to apply what I learn to my own life and develop a system that will allow me to not only build a better nest egg for myself but to give you an idea of something you can do to improve your own financial picture.

To start, I know that Chris Gardner was homeless and somehow managed to get a job in the stock market to build his wealth. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others started their own businesses. Robert Kiyosaki made his fortune in real estate as did many of the people who were featured in the “Millionaire Next Door” books written by Thomas Stanley. At the moment I don’t have the resources to even consider real estate as an option so I’ll have to read, and keep reading, until I figure out something that I can start from where I currently stand.

Any suggestions you have concerning research would be extremely welcome. Thank you.

No Regrets

Published / by Annie / 11 Comments on No Regrets

Now that the kid has graduated from high school, what do I do now? My whole focus these past decades has been caring for her.

So now that she’s engaged, that her life is heading in a direction different from mine, it is time to start thinking hard about my next step. Do I want to continue as I am? If not, what do I want to change?

I know I prefer a simpler life, but I also know that I don’t want to take a chance on history repeating itself. Those lean years continue to haunt me. I don’t ever want to experience that again!

It is time to hit the drawing board, to figure out my next big goal in life. Before I do that, however, I want to share something with my haters.

For those who told me that I was lazy, who complained that the only reason I wanted to live on less was to avoid working, you can kiss my lily white ass. I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as possible but in order to do that I had to stretch my money as far as it could go. It’s kinda hard to spend time with your kids when you’re working your ass off.

I lived on less, worked less, simply so that I could enjoy the fleeting time I had with my daughter, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about that. I also shared my skills to help others make ends meet easier, regardless of their personal reasons.

I have no regrets.

How to Start Buying in Bulk

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on How to Start Buying in Bulk

It can be a challenge to switch from only purchasing what you need to buying in bulk. Not only do you have to figure out where to put the items you purchase you need to save up money so you can start buying.

I enountered that issue when I resolved to return to my old stockpiling habits here. Money was tight since I was still recovering financially from my injury. I’d also repurposed my old stockpile storage to maximize my living space but with a little shifting of both possessions and finances I made it work.

Create a storage space

You will need to designate a place to store your stockpile. The area will need to be clean, dry, and protected from vermin. A metal shelf in an out of the way spot is ideal if you don’t have a convenient closet or pantry. Try not to store your supplies around water sources in the winter. A broken pipe can destroy a fortune in paper supplies really fast. I learned that the hard way many years ago. I stored my bathroom tissue stockpile beneath my bathroom sink. When the pipes burst I lost a small fortune. Mice and rats can also be a threat to your supplies so make sure you have traps, poison, or other deterrents near your storage areas. I keep the majority of my stockpile on a wire shelf that is kept far enough off of the floor and away from walls to prevent them from climbing onto it. My cats like to help guard my supplies as well.

Start small

Unless you decide to devote part of your income tax refund to the investment your funds will be limited at first. You can overcome this by selecting one or two items at a time to stock up on. I started out by buying a stockpile of bathroom tissue on my first payday. The next payday I laid in a supply of paper towels. Over time as those needs were met I expanded to other items like soap, shampoo, feminine hygeine products, pet food and the like as money allowed.

At first it will seem as if you are spending more (which you actually will be in the beginning) but over time you will begin to reap the savings. As it is, we are now able to make a large purchase once a month or so to keep plenty of supplies on hand.

Take advantage of windfalls

Instead of splurging on treats when a windfall comes, use part of it to increase your stockpile. I use my income tax refund to stock up on all sorts of items and try to purchase enough of certain things to last us the entire year or longer. This increases our money savings as prices tend to rise over time.

Watch for sales

When something you use goes on sale, purchase extra when you can even if you already have a supply on hand. I had recently purchased a large package of paper towels a few weeks before my store offered them on sale but I still purchased some because I knew it would save money in the long run.

Consider online purchases

Online stores will frequently offer closeouts and bargains to online shoppers that aren’t available locally while some offer significant discounts to first-time customers. My daughter stocked up on leggings the other day with this method. She discovered that an online store offered her favorite leggings at a 50% discount to new customers. She purchased several pairs and saved a week’s wage as a result. That was like getting an extra paycheck, especially since the leggings in question will last her for several years.

The savings can really add up, even if you only work for minimum wage like we do.

Use social media

It is becoming common for extreme couponers to offer items for sale in social media groups at a significant discount. Joining these groups can save you a small fortune on your favorite brands.

Keep extra money available

Always keep money in your account to take advantage of unexpected sales. You never know when a local store will decide to go out of business and sell their remaining stock at a HUGE discount. I’ve seen some places decide to sell everything in their store for 90% off or simply have a crazy low price for everything. It is also common for stores to stock up on a bargain that they’ve found and pass the savings on to their customers. Keeping money on hand for these unexpected bargains can save you a small fortune.

What other tips do you know that will help people learn how to stockpile and save money? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on The Art of Buying in Bulk

I was taught as a child that buying items in bulk not only saved money when you purchased the items on sale or at a discount, it made life considerably easier because you didn’t have to worry about running out of stuff constantly.

I must confess that over the past few years I questioned that teaching. Minimalist gurus preach expansively against the practice and encourage you to buy only what you need when you need it. I watched my friends purchase just enough supplies to last until their next pay periods and questioned them extensively about the practice, hoping for some tips. While some of them touted the benefit of having the ability to switch brands on a whim and keep up with changing needs, I noticed that they all shared a common refrain: they only purchased what they needed at the time because that was all they could afford.

Despite the fact that this raised alarms in my head I decided to try it. I used up my stockpiles and followed the practice for several years. While it does make shifting brands easier and allow you to avoid large stockpiles of items that you stop using as your needs change, I discovered the hard way that it costs a significant amount more than my old method of stocking up. I also discovered that, on many items such as bathroom tissue and basic cleaning supplies, I didn’t switch brands near as often as some claimed to do. In fact, I realized that the primary reason many of my friends switched brands so frequently was due to cost. They would buy what they could afford at the time even if it wasn’t the brand they preferred.

More importantly, I discovered that it’s a pain in the ass to go shopping every single payday, especially when you don’t own a vehicle.

My current job allows me to see the differences between those who buy in bulk and those who refrain. I noticed that the ones who purchase large amounts of items on sale tend to be wealthier than those who do not. It breaks my heart to see a customer forced to count their pennies in order to purchase a single roll of bathroom tissue, especially when I know from my research that they would save money in the long run if they had simply purchased larger packages to begin with. While I know from experience that financial challenges strike all of us from time to time, buying in bulk when money allows simply makes sense.

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Stock up when money is plentiful. Income tax season is an ideal time to purchase stockpiles of things that you know you will use. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, feminine hygeine products, and cleaning supplies won’t go bad just sitting on a shelf so stock up on these items whenever you can take advantage of sales. I make it a habit to take advantage of back to school season to stock up on notebooks, office supplies, panties, socks, and other items that are offered at a discount then.

Keep money in reserve to take advantage of sales. You never know when you will stumble upon a good bargain so it pays to keep some money available to take advantage of these opportunities. For instance, just the other day the store I work at offered a 16-pack of paper towels for a dollar less than the regular price on two 8-packs of the same brand. While we don’t use a lot of paper towels (one roll typically lasts us a couple of months), the dollar I saved is a dollar (or more, if prices go up) I won’t have to worry about earning in the future.

Know what you need and use. Keep an eye on your stash so that you will know when you are getting low on something. This allows you to start looking for sales before the need is urgent. Few things are more annoying than to discover that you’re on your last roll of bathroom tissue or your last sanitary napkin while you’re sitting on the commode. Last minute purchases can eliminate your money savings.

Use caution when stockpiling perishable items. It isn’t a bargain if most of it will go bad before you use it. Watch your expiration dates carefully. For instance, it saves us money to purchase milk in gallon containers as opposed to half-gallon but there are times when we don’t drink it all before it goes bad. To combat this we buy the containers with the longest expiration date and never purchase more than a gallon at a time regardless of price. We also refuse to purchase milk on clearance since we know it will go bad long before we can drink it all. While canned goods can last for years past the expiration date, items like flour, milk, crackers, and cereal have a limited shelf life.

Stock up during clearance sales. My daughter enjoys giving gifts so after Christmas we stocked up on wrapping paper and related supplies when they were placed on clearance for half price. We focused on items that could be used for any occasion but also selected a few things specifically for the Christmas holiday season. We saved the equivalent of several hours’ wages by doing that.

Check the per-unit price. On some items it is actually cheaper to purchase several small containers of an item instead of a single larger one. For instance, the store I work at purchases four pound bags of sugar by the pallet to save money, passing the savings onto their customers. Since the demand is less, they actually spend more to purchase larger packages of sugar. The people I observe buying the larger packages don’t seem to realize that they aren’t saving any money in this case. While occasionally the larger packages can be offered at a savings, it pays to bring a calculator to verify.

Avoid stockpiling fads. Children are fickle creatures. While they may go through copious amounts of a certain item for a time, the day will come when they suddenly decide not to use it any longer. When my children were younger they would go crazy over a certain brand of cereal. I would stock up only to discover a few days or weeks later that they wanted to move on to something else. I ate a lot of super sweet garbage to avoid waste in those days!

Set aside a place to store your stockpile. It won’t save you any money if the items get destroyed before you can use them. I have spaces reserved in my cabinets and on a shelf to avoid this occurrence.

Never use credit to stockpile. The interest charges will eliminate any money you save.

That’s all there is to it. By taking advantage of sales and buying in bulk you will not only remove the need to purchase certain necessities constantly, you will be able to keep more of your paycheck in the end.

Do you buy in bulk? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Grocery Savings

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Grocery Savings

One of the things I have never done is factor the cost of food into my budget. Our spending varies too much based on bargains, bulk buying, and available finances for us to set aside a certain amount every month.

While some months we barely buy the basics like milk, other months we come across good deals to take advantage of or we use our available cash to stock up on staples. Our grocery store jobs have really benefited us in this area.

For instance, the grocery I work at had several cases of Manwich that were marked down to ten cents a can in order to liquidate their stock before the expiration date last year. Since I am well aware of the fact that canned goods can last for years, I bought a case of 24. I spent $2.40 as opposed to the $24.00 or more I would have normally paid (I can’t recall their everyday price but I know it was over a dollar a can the last time I purchased it).

My chest freezer has a tidy supply of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls–a treat in our house–that I purchased for a quarter apiece along with a nice stockpile of meat that was placed on clearance or on sale.

My most recent purchase was a case of Mac and Cheese. They were nearing their expiration date but since that stuff will last for ages past that I snagged it without hesitation. Katie loves the stuff so I routinely use it as a base to make other dishes when we have it available.

I paid $4.99 for a case of 24 boxes, which equals up to twenty cents a box. The current price for the stuff is 39 cents a box, meaning that I purchased it for roughly half-price. It will take us several months to use up this supply; I expect it to last us for most of the year. Even better I managed to save most of an hour’s wage by buying in bulk when I discovered the bargain.

Do you purchase food in bulk when you run across a good deal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Beauty of Old Things

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on The Beauty of Old Things

Several months ago my daughter surprised me with an odd request. She had noted that many of her friends and family were giving away their collections of old vinyl albums; could I help her select a record player so that she could play them?

While I am aware that vinyl is making a comeback, the last thing I expected was for my daughter, the Streaming Queen, to want to explore a technology that I abandoned decades ago. She has been so gung-ho when it comes to subscribing to this service or that, taking her music and stuff with her on her phone that I was taken aback.

When I finally managed to stop laughing I agreed to help her. I figured she would quickly get bored and pass the items on to me–and I would selfishly enjoy the nostalgia.

I helped her select a portable record player, get it set up, and showed her how to use it. I instructed her to keep a coin nearby to help with skips and even how to clean the records if they were dirty.

We’ve ended up with a new ritual as a result. When my daughter is at home she selects one of the albums from the ones she has managed to scavenge and plays it for both of us. She gets to expand her mind with older music while I get to savor the blast from the past.

Her friends are rather surprised when they come over for a visit. She likes to pull out her favorite Big Band album and use it as background music when they come over. Considering that most of her friends have never even seen a record player in real life, much less heard such old music, they are usually quite surprised.

Watching my daughter has made me realize the error of my ways. I eliminated my old stereo system along with a huge collection of vinyl, cassettes, and 8-tracks many years ago under the misguided notion that modern was better. While I see no logic in regret, I do see opportunity. No one wants to use older technology any longer. If it isn’t the latest and greatest it’s tossed out with the trash or practically given away at thrift stores.

While I don’t see myself actively shopping to replace my old stereo system in the future, I’ve decided that I won’t hesitate to fish one out of the trash or buy one if I stumble across a cheap offering at a thrift store. I’m always stumbling across interesting dumpster finds so it shouldn’t be an issue to locate a small music collection as I go about my daily life.

If anything, I’ll be saving something from the landfill while reducing my dependence upon the Internet. I will admire the beauty of the past as I carry it with me into the future.

We have been much too quick to discard the old, I’ve decided. For me, that stops now. Do you have any older items that you still use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Cash register

It Pays to Use Cash

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on It Pays to Use Cash

How do you handle your money? Do you deposit your check every payday and then swipe your card when you want to buy something?

Every time you swipe your card in public you place yourself in danger. Not only do you put yourself at risk of having your card information stolen by skimmers, you also run the risk of spending more money. Studies have shown that people who prefer cash over cards spend less money. Even worse, some banks charge you a fee every time you swipe your card. My personal bank charges me a dollar every time I use my bank card as a debit card at stores.

Carrying cash can eliminate this issue. If you withdraw the amount of cash you have budgeted for gas, groceries, lunch, and other extras during that pay period, you eliminate the danger of overspending. You know you have so much money for the week, so you need to be careful with your money.

Paying cash also eliminates any chance that you will fall prey to a skimmer. They can’t steal your card information if you don’t give them access to your card in the first place.

If you’re worried about being robbed of your cash, place your money in a place where thieves won’t look for it. My father kept his stash in his sock; I keep mine in an assortment of places aside from my wallet (no, I’m not going to tell you where). It also helps if you don’t attract attention by driving fancy vehicles or dressing in clothing that indicates you’ve got money. It makes little sense to rob someone who appears to be broke just to get a few pennies. Dressing simpler also comes in handy when haggling for a lower price. Some sellers tend to charge more if they think you can afford it.

While you can’t pay cash when shopping online, you can do this for the everyday purchases you make locally. Food, fuel, and other everyday purchases can be made just as easily with cash as with plastic.

If you are not paying cash for your everyday purchases, you need to start doing it now. Your budget will thank you.

 

How I Budget for Bills

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on How I Budget for Bills

No one enjoys paying bills. I for one hate them with a purple passion so I strive to have as few as possible.

When I moved out on my own decades ago, I really struggled. It never seemed to fail; a bill would come due before payday arrived or my check would be short and I wouldn’t have enough. I would sweat bullets every single month as I tried to juggle my finances.

Eventually I worked out a way to resolve the issue. I would pay all of my bills on the first of the month after saving the amount needed the month before. Since I didn’t want to be broke while I saved up the money, I would work out just how much I needed to save every single week on a spreadsheet.

Now that I’ve got a regular paycheck I’ve been able to build up a cushion in my checking account. Thanks to this cushion I no longer have to painstakingly account for every upcoming bill each payday.

Since I know I will be safe if I spend $25 a week on laundromat and extras, I pull that out of the bank and keep it in my pocket. When the money is gone, that’s it. No more little extras until the next payday. That prevents me from accidentally dipping into my bill money. The rest of my paycheck is left in my bank account until the first of the next month.

When the first of the month rolls around I pay all of my bills manually. Once that task is completed I look at the amount that is left. A portion of it (usually half) is sent to my online savings account while the rest is mine to spend or save as I please.

My financial cushion is kept untouched.

How do you budget to pay your bills every month? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Extra Paydays

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Extra Paydays

Several times a year I end up getting five paydays during a month instead of four. These are always good times; I have my finances budgeted for four paydays a month so the fifth is like getting extra cash.

When these months roll around my co-workers are always excited. They regale me with the ways that they plan to spend the extra cash. Some pay bills, some use the opportunity to reduce their debt, while others simply blow the cash.

I save half of it.

Every time that bonus payday rolls around I send half of the money to an online savings account. That allows me to build up my savings while also giving me a little money to splurge with.

We should all do that with the little windfalls in life. A large income tax refund, a bonus from work, or even those extra paychecks we get throughout the year can be set aside to build savings. Doing this allows us to painlessly save up for a rainy day or a large investment like a home or a vehicle.

This month just happens to be one of those months when I get an extra payday. I’m not only looking forward to having my savings account balance increase, I’m also looking forward to splurging on something special.

How do you handle extra paydays? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Why I Cancelled Netflix

Published / by Annie / 9 Comments on Why I Cancelled Netflix

It was the 1980’s. Dad and I were driving along when I spied a video rental store that had recently opened.

“Why don’t we rent a movie sometime?” I suggested.

“Makes no damn sense to pay to use something when you can spend a little bit more and actually own it,” Dad retorted.

“But you can watch more things for the same amount of money,” I argued.

“And have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end of the day,” Dad countered.

Over the years I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve rented movies, used subscription services…. What could be easier than just paying a few bucks to watch your favorite movies or listen to music?

The answer: actually owning the items in question. When you own the items you can watch them as often as you like. You don’t have to worry about the service you subscribe to removing your favorites or lose access to your whole collection because you happen to be low on money.

Even better, you can sell your copies if you decide you no longer want to keep them or need some extra cash.

Because of this revelation I have cancelled my movie and music subscriptions. I would rather own just a few items than pay to have access to a lot.

Instead of sending money to subscription services, I set that money aside for when I get a chance to look through the bargain bins. Some months I don’t add anything to my collection while others reveal so many hidden gems that I force myself to select only a few.

DVDs

My latest acquisitions.

Minimalism is a good thing but it gets ridiculous when you pay something for nothing. Since most of us don’t live out of backbacks there is no excuse for us to throw our money away when it comes to entertainment.

In short: If you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on entertainment, get something to show for it at least. You can always sell it on eBay when you’re done.

It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

In this disposable age most of us don’t think about the value in using items until they are completely worn out. Rather than keep the old, they buy new even when the item they already own still works.

It makes financial sense to keep things, however. The longer you use something the less it actually costs to own it. Here are a few examples from my personal life.

I purchased a small window air conditioner in 2010. I paid $105.99 for it ($99.99 plus tax). I’ve now used that little air conditioner to cool my home for eight seasons. When I averaged the cost over the eight summers I’ve used it I realized that I’ve only spent $13.25 a year to own an air conditioner. If I had upgraded to a newer, larger, fancier one, my costs would have went up exponentially but this one still works (it’s a bit noisy these days) so I plan to continue using it for as long as possible to reduce my cost of ownership even further.

I purchased a van in 2007 for $500. It needed a new transmission but I was able to get it on the road for $2,000 (that includes the purchase price). I sold that van to a young man in 2014 so that I could write my book The Car Free Experiment. Not including annual taxes and insurance, that means it cost me $200 a year ($16.67 a month) to own that van. To calculate the cost I subtracted the amount I sold it for from the initial purchase expense and then divided by the years owned.

I purchased an iPad mini in January 2013. It cost $344.50 after tax. I’ve had it 60 months, or 5 years. So far it has cost me $68.88 a year, or $5.74 a month to own. It is still going strong so the longer I keep it the less it will cost me.

This is the reason why businesses try to keep their equipment working for many years before they replace it. They know that the longer they keep an item, the lower the costs of ownership.

I want you to think about that. Every time you replace an item that still works you increase your cost of ownership. For folks like myself, who used to replace items like computers every year or so, that money can add up but the longer that you keep an item, the inverse is true.

You can save a lot of money just by keeping your stuff.

Have you ever calculated the cost of owing the items in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below

Monitoring Energy Usage

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Monitoring Energy Usage

Every month my electric company sends me a letter concerning my energy usage. They keep track of your usage over a 12-month period. This letter covers details about how you compare to similar homes in your area, how your usage changes from month to month, and even how your usage compares to that of the previous year.

I must confess that I’ve not paid too much attention to all the information that the letter contains; I usually look at it to ensure that my usage is similar or lower than similar homes (it’s usually a bit lower) for the month and leave it at that.

This month I actually took the time to read more than the little comparison chart on the first page. I discovered that I’ve used 9% less electricity over the past 12 months than I did the previous year!

I had thought that we were actually using more. It seems as if the bills have been a bit higher, at any rate.

As a result of this I plan to start keeping copies of my electric bills so that I can take the time to review them periodically. I would like to see just how much electricity we use over a period of years in this house, and my electric company only keeps records for the previous 12 months. Since I plan to remain in this home for the long haul, that information would show me if I am slowly lowering my energy usage over time or if last year’s energy savings was a fluke.

Do you keep track of your energy use from month to month and year to year? Has the information benefited you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Delayed Gratification

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on The Art of Delayed Gratification

There comes a time when even the biggest cheapskate decides that it is time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I needed a new writing computer whether I liked it or not.

It isn’t easy to wait for something you need while you save up money for the purchase. Every time you see a sale pass you by it burns. I am not immune to that.

I’ve learned to cope by developing a ritual for the process. Every single payday when I set some money aside for my goal I write it down and take a moment to give myself a mental pat on the back. I remind myself that I’m a bit closer than I was the previous week.

When it seems like I’ll never make it I look at the money I have already saved along with a picture of the item in question. I close my eyes and imagine how wonderful it will be to see the item in my home and to use it for the very first time. I look back at the photos of previous purchases to remind myself that I felt the exact same way as I saved up for them as well. While it always feels like I’ll never make it, those photos are proof that I have in the past and will do it again.

When the moment arrives where I have saved up enough money I take a few moments to savor the sensation. Sometimes I will deliberately delay the purchase even longer to enjoy the fact that I actually have the money to purchase the item in question. By the time I sit down to place the order I feel truly rich.

Then I sit down at the computer, look at the item one last time, and ask myself the following questions:

* Do I really want to buy this?
* Will this item meet my needs?
* Have I shopped around enough to get the best deal that I can?

If the answers are yes then I complete the purchase. I schedule the delivery to arrive when someone will be home to sign for it when it comes. When that is done, I prepare a place in my tiny home for it while I wait. I make sure the area is spotless as I mentally plan the unboxing and initial setup.

I deliberately psyche myself up to a feverish pitch before every major purchase. I know that I won’t buy anything large for quite a while so I make the most of the experience. After it arrives I take a moment to just admire it in its packaging. I snap a few photos, take a deep breath, and slowly begin to upwrap it.

This is what I purchased this time: a refurbished desktop computer running Windows 10 with a set of specs that will more than meet my needs. Even better, the system can be upgraded at a reasonable price so that I can keep it in service even longer.

My total price was $325, including shipping. Not bad for a quad-core computer that has 16 GB of RAM. It even has a 2 TB hard drive.

How do you deal with delayed gratification? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.