I am not a cheap person. I like to indulge, oh boy, can I indulge. My love for indulging has forced me to realize that if I want to indulge, I have to be frugal. One of the top lessons I have learned as an adult is that I have to prioritize my expenses. Would I rather have a new Louis Vuitton purse or go on a second vacation in a year? Would I rather have a new fence installed in my backyard or go out to a grand dinner at a new hotspot? You know you are an old person when your answer is: Fence!! I want the fence!
Here are some of my favorite lessons on how to be frugal without being a cheap ass:
1. Energy Saving = Money Saving. Duh, right. I remember when I was in elementary school they did this whole "energy awareness" thing where they handed out books about a girl whose parents got mad at her because she always left lights on and left the water running when she was brushing her teeth. What a bitch! Now that I pay my own energy bills, I have converted all of my lights to CFL bulbs and try to keep lights off as much as possible. Candlelight is so much more soothing. I also turn the heat and air conditioning temps down (or up) at night and during the day while we are gone. Right now, our heat goes down to 62 degrees at night and during the day and up to 68 degrees when we are at home in the evening and on weekends. During the winter, this saves us about $50 per month. Another thing that I try to do is unplug appliances when not in use. This is one of those things that I often forget about, but apparently it can make a difference in your energy bill. I've never noticed a huge difference when I've done this, though.
2. Desk lunch. Bringing a lunch to work can be a real drag. Sometimes I just don't feel like packing anything up and other days I just don't want to eat anything that we have in the house. When I started wedding planning, I knew that I had to save money somehow and I resolved to only go out for lunch once a week. I've stuck to this for at least a year and have to say that I can see the difference in my savings account. It's still a struggle some days. Eating at your desk can be lonely. I live for that one day when I get to go to a restaurant and socialize.
3. Credit Card Rewards. There are lots of credit card rewards programs that offer shoppers little incentives. My credit card allows you to earn points towards travel vouchers or restaurant/clothing store/gas station gift certificates. There are the famous airline credit cards for frequent fliers. My husband's credit card has an amazing reward that for every $2500 you spend and pay off you get a $25 gift card. We usually use these gift cards on our grocery bills and the combination of those gift cards and our wedding gift cards, we have paid maybe $20/week for groceries for the past three months. It's definitely worth investigating all of the different reward programs to see if one will work for you.
4. Pre-gift buying. I start thinking about gift-giving way in advance of the celebration day. For Christmas, I keep a list of people I need to buy for and ideas. I usually start looking at this list in September and try to have ideas for everyone by October 1. That way I can try to find the items on sale or take advantage of coupons. I usually can get really great gifts on a limited budget. I also utilize websites such as Rue La La and Groupon to stock up on gifts for birthdays or other occasions. Having a stockpile of fun gifts for people makes my life a lot easier.
5. Ebates. If you don't use ebates, you are selling yourself short. Har har. Seriously, though, ebates is amazing. Go to ebates.com and sign up if you don't have an account with them. There are hundreds of retail websites that use ebates and they each have a different percentage off. So, if I want to buy something at JCrew, I got to ebates first, search for JCrew and go to the JCrew website through the ebates site. Currently the JCrew website gets 3.0% cash back. After you make your purchase, your ebates account is credited. Every four months, a check is sent to your home with the total of your cash back. After Christmas this year, I received $85 cash back because I did all of my shopping online. It really pays off, as long as you don't forget to go to the ebates website first before you start your online shopping. I have forgotten this dozens of times!
6. Track your spending. I don't really budget, but I have a set dollar amount that I want to save each month. I then track every penny spent on a spreadsheet so that I can make sure I can save my goal. For me, this makes me think about each purchase that I make. Before I splurge on something, or even before I buy a $10 frame at Target, I have to stop and think about whether I really want it or whether I'd rather see an extra $10 saved that month.
7. Big box stores. When Mike and I moved in together, we talked about getting a Sam's Club membership. One of the big arguments against it was that why do two people need to buy things in bulk? Eventually we got a membership and it has saved us a lot of money. We buy all of our cleaning supplies, household necessities and more packaged foods (like oatmeal, granola bars, nuts, spices) at Sam's. They are ridiculously cheaper than at other stores. Plus, it saves me from a lot of extra trips to Target. I used to have to go to Target at least once a week for some household item, now I go to Sam's maybe once a month.
8. Spare change. Mike and I have a central spot where we dump our spare change. It's a big tupperware bowl in our spare bedroom. Once that sucker gets full we take it to the bank and cash it in. Usually it's about $70+ and we maybe take it to the bank twice a year. What we've done in the past is take it in right before we go on a vacation and use it as spending money.
Those are my (not so) original ways that I save my pennies. The only thing I love more than watching my bank account grow is a chocolate frosted donut.