Categories
Finances self-improvement

Operation: Katie

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 8am by the phone. Katie had finished the train part of her journey and wanted to call while she awaited her first bus.

She shared with me how she’d decided not to spend the money on a taxi in Chicago; she had gotten turned around and had to ask for help to reach the train station as a result.

Of all times for that child to develop my cheapskate tendencies, it just had to be while she was wandering around Chicago on a fractured leg!

Anxious about her arrival, I puttered around the house, keeping busy. I ordered Katie a pair of crutches (doctor’s orders), did laundry, cleaned on my house, and even made the stock purchase I’d planned to make this week.

I was so distracted at the thought of Katie coming home it barely registered. I didn’t realize until much later that I hadn’t even stopped to savor that tiny step taken towards my financial freedom.

My friend Kes came over in the afternoon and we spent an hour or so painting a large Welcome Home sign. Once that was completed, she went back to her house around the corner to finish preparing for the trip while I took a brief nap.

At 6pm Katie called from the bus station in Louisville, Ky. When I asked what time her bus left for Lexington she looked at her ticket and reported that the bus was scheduled to leave at 5:50pm.

I frowned, then realized that there was most likely a time zone difference between us. “Just in case, will you check and see with the clerk what time your bus leaves?” I requested.

Five minutes later she called me back. “I missed my bus,” she reported sadly. “It was pulling out just as my bus was arriving since mine was a bit late. Can you pick me up from here?”

My friend and I dropped everything and headed out.

We were 54 minutes away from the bus station when traffic on I64 came to a complete halt. An accident ahead of us had completely stopped traffic.

This mom transformed into a basket case after I called the bus station numerous times and could NOT get anyone there to pick up the phone so that I could get a message to her. I even tried to call the payphone back that she’d called me from with no success.

“My baby is alone in Louisville, stuck at a bus station with a broken leg!” I wailed numerous times. “She doesn’t have her phone, and I have no way of letting her know what’s going on! She’s scared, I know she’s scared. They may have closed the bus station for the night and kicked her out in the cold on the streets where there’s criminals and everything!”

I was more than a bit annoying during that hour or so we were stuck in traffic but my mother’s instincts were in full swing. I would have gotten out of that truck and started walking if I’d thought it would get me there any faster.

My friend’s old Ford was running on fumes by the time they cleared the traffic jam. We rushed to a gas station, topped it off (it only takes about $10 worth of gas at a time due to an issue with the fuel tank), and took off again.

We arrived at the bus station around 11:00 pm.

“Katie!” I raced into that bus station, holding the little sign I’d printed up as my friend waited in the truck. Considering the neighborhood she was afraid to leave it alone.

Katie stood up and began limping to meet me part-way. We fell into each other’s arms sobbing as I explained what had happened.

We had to do a round of “thank-yous” to the wonderful travelers who had kept my baby company while she had waited for me to arrive.

One gentleman in particular, a man who was traveling cross-country to see what he could do to help his own daughter out of a bit of trouble stands out in my mind. That poor man took time away from his own problems to comfort my Katie, enough so that she spoke with him for several moments in gratitude before we left.

I didn’t catch your name, but your face will be forever engraved in my mind. Thank you so much for looking out for my little girl.

We stopped for food and fuel at the Hurstbourne Parkway exit. We saw a Steak and Shake and pulled in.

Leo the waiter greeted us with open arms. He seated us, took our orders, and was incredibly nice and helpful.

Shortly after our food arrived I looked out the window to see patrons tugging at the door. It had been locked. Had we committed the Cardinal Sin of visiting a restaurant only minutes before close?  I sweated.

I nervously stood up and approached Leo.

“Oh honey, you’re fine!” he reassured us. “The dining room closes at midnight but I’ve still got my cleaning to do so you take your time; I can tell you’re exhausted!”

We watched him hum and sing as he did his work; his cheerfulness helped ease the stress of the evening. I made sure we left him a generous tip to thank him for his kindness along with a brief note to let him know just how much his treatment of us meant before we drove away.

If you are ever around the Steak and Shake on 2717 Hurstbourne Parkway in Louisville, KY, I highly recommend you stop in for a bite.

And please say hi to Leo for me.

We arrived home around 2:40am completely exhausted. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow!

I cannot thank my best friend enough for having my back last night, so here’s a shout-out:

You are awesome, Kes!

A Tale of Gratitude

I have no idea how much money I spent last night. To my immense gratitude, I had more than enough.

This is why I’m doing this. This is why I am busting my ass, scrimping and saving as I invest my pennies. Just a few short years ago this adventure would have ruined my finances. Just a few short years ago I would have been nervously counting every penny, praying that I had enough to make the trip.

But I don’t have to do that now.

While I can’t afford to do this often, the fact that I was able to spend freely during the chaos of last night is proof positive that I am heading in the right direction.

It is proof that living cheaply has its limits; there is absolutely no benefit to cutting your expenses unless you actually keep the money that you saved. Until you learn how to make your money work for you frugality is pointless because all you will end up doing is lingering at the bottom of the Food Chain.

Unless you learn to invest the money that you saved you will never be able to achieve true peace of mind.

I am so very thankful that I finally figured it out. I am so grateful that I decided to leave my comfort zone of poverty and start heading in the opposite direction.

And this should be a lesson to you. If an old woman with a high-school education who brings in less than $700 a month can not only manage to invest over $2,000 in under a year and build up her emergency fund to the point where she can safely afford to spend her way through a crisis, you can too.

Don’t ever let them tell you that you can’t.

Categories
Finances

How to Start Saving Money

Habits rule our daily lives. From what we do when we first awaken to the last thing we complete as we crawl into bed, we are controlled by habit.

Habits allow our brain to take a break from the mundane, to power down for rest, or even to focus on other things.

Tweak those habits, and you tweak your life.

Try it.

Place a single penny into your change jar, then check off that day on your calendar every single day for a month.

Just one penny. When you drop that penny into the jar tell yourself “I’m saving money; I’m living beneath my means.”

See how long you can keep the chain going. If you want to drop more change into the jar do it, but the goal every single day is to deposit one penny into your little savings account.

You are not to touch that money. That money is your savings. Every time you deposit a penny, you are that much closer to financial freedom. Don’t worry about the details right now; just get into the habit of depositing at least a single penny into your savings jar.

I dare you.

Categories
Finances Frugality Investments

Frugality is Essential for Success

Everywhere you turn these days one can find ads touting this investment or that business as the way to “get rich quick.” Just buy this course or whatever and money will flow into your life like a raging river.

Bull crap. There’s no such thing as “get rich quick.” It’s all a scam to part us with our hard-earned money.  Study the success stories of others and you will discover the truth: it can take years for one to achieve success.

After doing a lot of research I decided to invest in the stock market in order to increase my wealth and financial freedom. This avenue appealed to me because it doesn’t care about your race, your gender, your education–or even how much money you have to spend.

You can literally start from anywhere in the stock market.

The hardest part to any type of investing is acquiring the money to invest. This is especially hard for those of use who live on minimum wage. How can you save up any money to invest if you’re living at your financial limit?

The truth is that you can’t. If you want to buy a house, invest in the stock market, or just save up for a rainy day you must live beneath your means.

Frugality is essential if you want to improve your financial status. You need seed money in order to save or invest; the only way to get that is to live on less.

You can save money no matter what your income level. So far I’ve managed to invest around $1,200 into the stock market and I make less than $800 a month between my royalties and my day job. If I can do it, you can too. I managed this by watching my expenses like a hawk and making savings my primary goal because I know that, in time, I’ll be able to loosen the purse strings a bit as my investments start to pay off.

In summary, know that you don’t have to be wealthy in order to save and invest. You can start right now with what you have. Financial Freedom is accessible to all of us if we learn how to play the game.

If you want to learn how I personally save money read the older posts on this website or buy my book The Shoestring Girl.  I don’t want to bore you here by repeating myself.

Categories
Finances Frugality

How I Made an 82.82% Investment Return on $7.56

One of the smartest decisions I have ever made was to take business classes in high school. I learned how businesses save a fortune simply by buying the items they use in larger quantities instead of as they use them. Unfortunately, this teaching runs counter to how many people manage their finances. They only have so much money until payday that they need to spend on A, B, and C. While they’re at it, they also want to eat out a time or two so instead of stockpiling something they use every day (like bathroom tissue) they purchase just enough to last until their next paycheck arrives.

This is why so many people stay broke. They think short-term instead of long-term in regards to their purchases.

The truth is this: when you purchase items in bulk you can save a small fortune. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do this, either. All you have to do is select a single item that you use regularly and purchase a larger quantity when you run low. Eventually you will amass a stockpile that will save you a LOT of money in the long run.

For instance, I am a big fan of melamine sponges (magic erasers). Add a little water to these beauties and you can clean almost anything without a lot of scrubbing or unhealthy chemicals. Despite the fact that they tear up easily, these little sponges are an essential part of my cleaning arsenal since my time is limited these days due to working a public job, volunteering, and writing.

A two-pack of these sponges costs $1 if you purchase the generic brand at my local Family Dollar so I usually stock up whenever I make it to WalMart since they cost 88 cents for a two-pack there. I realized that I might be able to apply the bulk buying principle to these erasers. I went online and discovered that I could purchase 100 of these sponges at Amazon for $7.59 with free shipping.

I saved almost a day’s wage just by buying them in bulk! If I were to purchase 100 of these sponges at my local Family Dollar I would have spent $50 before tax. If I had bought them at WalMart I would have spent $44. I saved $42.44 and $36.44 respectively as a result.

I don’t know about you but I love having an extra forty dollars in my pocket. I would rather have that money to spend on other items instead of spending it on a single item. This one purchase earned a whopping 82.82% return on my initial investment. Considering that you’re lucky to receive 1% interest on a savings account these days I consider this a major win!

While it might take several years for me to use up that supply of sponges they neither eat nor drink so they will cost nothing to store on my shelf. Even better, I won’t have to worry about the cost of these sponges going up for some time in the future.

Today I have a challenge for you. Instead of spending seven bucks at your local fast food dive for a bunch of unhealthy junk food, why not invest that money by buying something in bulk that you use on a regular basis instead? Shop around for a good deal on an item you use regularly and stock up to maximize your savings. When you’re done, calculate how much money you saved and share it in the comments below.

You will save a fortune.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

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.

Categories
Finances Frugality

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.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Counting Change

I spent this afternoon rolling change. While I do occasionally add money to my online savings account normally my change just gets stashed or added to the checking account.

I’ve decided to stop that practice and open a passport savings account at my local bank. I can link the account to my checking account for the emergency occasion of an overdraft while still earning money on my change.

Anyhow, I gathered up my change and started rolling.  Ended up with $35.97—an amount I am delighted with.  It takes $25 to open a passport savings account so I have that and some to spare!

I plan to allow my change to accumulate there and when it gets too large I will swap it over into my online savings account so that it can accrue more interest.  It may not be a simple method but it works for me. It is definitely easier than hiding money from myself in my checking account—too much of a temptation when it is in there!

When I looked at all of that change I thought about taking it to the CoinStar machine at my local Wal-Mart.  Fortunately I googled the device before I did.  Those devices charge you 9.8 cents for every single dollar they count—that is like a 10% fee just for counting the stupid stuff! Had I went to the machine I would have been forced to pay $3.53 cents just so that machine could count my money! I like that $3.53 just fine in my pocket, thank you very much, so I rolled the coins myself! 

My bank gives out the coin wrappers as a courtesy to customers so they cost absolutely nothing.. and time is cheap compared to money!

We have become so lazy that we will give a whopping 9.8% to a machine just to count our change!  We are paying almost $10.00 ($9.80) out for every hundred dollars that machine counts!

What pisses me off is that I almost didn’t consider the fact that there would be a fee! I’m sorry, but for a lot of people ten bucks is an hour’s wage and for a restaurant worker making minimum wage that is almost an hour at time and a half!

Sigh.

I placed my teapot back in its’ place leaving some change and a couple of dollar bills within for seed. When I was a child my father taught me to never completely empty a piggy bank cause you needed “seed” to make the money “grow.” Silly perhaps but I never completely empty the thing—in honor of Father’s memory.

Other than that I paid the tags on the van and renewed my drivers license, which means I’m good to go for another year on that front. Tomorrow bright and early I will be at the bank making some poor teller miserable as she verifies all of this rolled change and sets up that savings account!

What do you do with YOUR change?  Do you spend it? Occasionally I spend the quarters but rarely touch the rest.  Until tomorrow it was added to the slush fund in my checking account for lack of a better place to deposit it. I like the thought of it making money muchbetter!