Monday, December 12, 2011

Saving Series Part Two: Non Food Purchases

Welcome to part two of my saving series :). These are some of the ways we try to save when it comes to everything BUT food.

We are also frugal in our forms of entertainment. We got to the $2 theater almost every Tuesday because they have Stimulus Tuesday where you get a $1 drink and $1 popcorn. Our date night costs $8! Steven may go to a few first run movies in the summer (he loves the comic book based movies), but we generally wait to see everything in the cheap theater. I can't tell you the last time I saw a first run movie at actual cost, and I don't feel deprived because, not only do I get to still see them, I can also afford a treat when I go! Speaking of first run movies, I am signed up with which periodically offers us free screenings to yet-to-be-released movies. We've probably gone to about 5 of those (and there are at least 10 more I've been offered but we couldn't go or weren't interested), so I still occasionally get to enjoy stadium seating and a super clean theater.

This is our cheap date theater, which I lovingly referred to as "The Dollar Fifty" until about a month ago when we went on a Saturday, after having just been that Tuesday, and the prices had raised to $2 per show. I almost made Steven turn the car around. Then I realized that $2 was still better than $10+ and swallowed my pride. The line on Tuesdays can sometimes be twice as long! 

A big way we are frugal but still sufficiently entertained is that we take full advantage of the free things our city has to offer us. We are lucky to live somewhere with free museums (city museum, art, history, and natural science) and LOTS of free festivals. I would say every other month or so there is something going on downtown. Of course you can go and spend a lot of money, but you can also go and browse, enjoy free music, people watch, and enjoy the weather. We rarely buy anything when we go and have a blast. We also spend time checking out the parks in our area, which is good for exercise too! Obviously we don't do as much of that in the winter!

We don't pay for cable, but this apartment gives it to us for free. When I didn't used to have cable, I was plenty entertained by my dvd collection and netflix. I don't ever see buying cable again. It seems like a huge money sink for us, since we watch more netflix now than cable when it's free. We internet shop for the cheapest rates. I'm not above changing every year if we are saving lots of money. We're currently getting AT&T DSL (I think the 2nd to best one) for $20 a month. Can't beat it! We will probably only ever have a wall phone for 911 purposes but not an actual calling plan to call people since we have cell phones.

This is an area I have to work on, but I try not to buy super affordable household items. You might be thinking that goes against being frugal BUT I would get sucked in so quickly and be buying lots of affordable (read: cheap, low quality, will fall apart) household items. So for now I'm resisting and either we save up for something that is good quality and we'll get many years from or we buy it secondhand (that's not always an option, say if we were buying a mattress). For now, we have some nice stuff and some cheap stuff. After the wedding, I think I want my first project to be nice bookshelves, instead of the two pressed board, crappy ones we have. But I will avoid my urge to go out and buy something right away (and spending lots of money on something nice or not much money on something that will fall apart in a year) by going to thrift shops every now and again to see if there's something I like.

Personal care items are something that I have room to grow in. I don't use regular toothpaste because I get canker sores SO easily from the sodium lauryl sulfate in it (also working to avoid this in other bath products- so far I have a SLS free body wash and will eventually work to avoid it in my hair products as well... welcome to the 'crunchy' part of my blog :). I have to buy a more expensive brand that doesn't have SLS or fluoride, but it lasts me quite a while, about 2-3 times as long as a regular tube of toothpaste so the expense doesn't bother me much. But where someone could get a tube of toothpaste for free, or almost, I won't ever be able to do that since there aren't yet coupons for some of the natural products. I usually luck out with razors that there's a coupon and a buy 2 get 1 free or buy 2 get a $5 gift card all at once, and then I stock up big time. I go through make up very infrequently as I wear just a little bit, and usually either use coupons or buy on sale (I need to work to do both at once, though). Obviously this isn't an all inclusive list of toiletry items, but it gives you an idea. Again, this is an area that can definitely use improvement on my part.
If I could have a toiletry for a best friend, this just might be it! A light taste, fresh feeling, and no more wanting to die when I eat/talk/laugh/drink/move! It's a good thing it can't be my best friend, because I may be disloyal on my next purchase if I find something cheaper that meets the same criteria. 

Vacations are a bit tricky because, let's face it, they are expensive. I forsee a lifetime of sharing vacation expenses by my family going to the beach with my parents. We can split wherever we are staying, which would be more affordable than us doing it on our own. Plus, what an awesome time to spend with our parents/kids' grandparents every year! I can't wait for those memories to be made! When Steven and I vacation, we stay in places that some people might turn their nose up at. For example, last summer we stayed at a Mom n Pop type place one block from the beach. It was clean, but old. You know what, we saved SO much money by staying there, and we could still walk to the beach in under 5 minutes. AND we were supporting a married couple, not a huge corporation. When I first saw it, I thought "Oh gosh, what did we do?" and by the end we were talking about coming back there next year! We also pack meals for long road trips. When we went to my sister's wedding in CT this summer, we packed everything we'd eat for the whole way up and snacks for the way back, so the only thing we purchased was lunch and dinner on the way back (since we didn't trust those two meals surviving in a cooler in August for 4 days). It made it much cheaper than buying meals/snacks all the way up and back. We also avoided tolls on our GPS which saved us hours on our travel time AND money!

I buy a lot of things online to save money. I'm a big fan of Amazon. Sometimes I feel guilty for these purchases but I do try to do my part by also purchasing from Etsy, support Catholic talent, local stores, etc. But I'm not perfect and never will claim to be so yeah, I neglect my local bookstore sometimes and order from Amazon when it's $5 cheaper. Well, actually, I wait for books to be given to me as gifts and only buy when the yearly library sale comes around, but you get the point! Also, I search for coupon codes on google before I place ANY online order. It pays off about 70% of the time. It's a really fun challenge to me to find them. I almost never pay shipping for anything, because then I could have gone out and gotten it (unless it's an item, like my wedding shoes, that couldn't be purchased at any local store). We use groupon and living social but try to only use them for things we'd already be doing or for special occasions like anniversaries- otherwise you aren't really saving money.

For clothing, I only buy on sale or clearance, and I like JC Penney because they always give me a coupon to use so it makes stuff sooo cheap. I love getting shirts I can wear to work for like $6-8!  It's easy these days to find that as even the department stores have huge sections of clearance; I just have to go in a good mood or I will get frustrated easily by sifting through racks. I also layer in the winter so I can wear my spring/summer clothes all year long. This is partially due to the fact that I'm weird about shirt sleeves. Long sleeve shirts give me the heebie jeebies (but jackets/cardigans don't... I'm weird). So I wear my short sleeve shirts all year round and just have a couple 3/4 length and full length cardigans/sweaters to mix and match the shirts with, rather than an entire new wardrobe. I also wear alot of my summer work shoes (not sandals) in the winter with a pair of knee highs underneath instead of buying actual winter shoes. Living in NC, I can do this for the most part. I did break down this year and buy one pair of cheap boots for those super cold days. Yes, I was a boot virgin until about 2 months ago.

So on to the last part of today's post.... the budget! I won't divulge every single line item and amount because then you'd know exactly how poor I am how much I make and what my expenses are which seems a bit creepy, no? But for an example, here are some of my expenditures. I give myself $100 for gas. I actually use more than that because I use my car for work, but I get 50 cents a mile, so if I get an extra tank, I know I'm getting paid back. My student loan, car insurance, cell phone, and rent always stay the same so they are sort of moot (though I'll be glad when my car insurance goes back down from a wreck a year and a half ago... it went up by 50% and that hurt the budget!). I give myself $40 for the cat's needs which usually I don't spend that much and can use for another area where I've gone over, which is usually petty cash ($129). I have to buy Buttercup a certain type of dry food because, like her mommy, she is super high maintenance and has tummy issues. I used to feed her Trader Joe's cat food which is SO high quality, yet affordable, but now I have to feed her Science Diet for sensitive stomach. It has less than pleasing ingredients, but it's the only thing I've found that doesn't leave me scrubbing the carpets for days and having to give her medicine every night! Her canned food I only buy with coupons, and I wait until they go on sale PLUS you get gift card for stocking up, which I'd do anyway. Win win!

Petty cash is sometimes used for fun but, more often, used for unseen expenses like Christmas gifts, household items that didn't fit in the budget that month, a prescription or dr copay- those types of things. I give myself a $125 budget for groceries, but haven't been spending that much, which is nice (because Steven also has a separate budget for groceries and we split them). I have $60 allotted for eating out, which I sometimes use all of and sometimes don't. We usually get 4 meals out off of that (sometimes 5), which I think is pretty good since, when I pay, I'm feeding two people! I put *cringe* $430 a month into our wedding fund (which will turn into a house fund after the wedding). That's what makes our budget so tight now, but it's awesome when I think about it because,  before I was strict on a budget, I felt tight on money without having that much go into savings every month. It feels good to feel the same way (that money is a bit tight) but I'm saving that much! That means we can save somewhat less after the wedding and breathe a lot easier if we are still strict on the budget. Steven is also doing $430 but we are thinking of putting a combined $700 in savings a month to give us a little more wiggle room money wise. I give myself $50 for car maintenance which sometimes I use, sometimes not. When I don't, it's usually used up by some other category that went over. I also try to save it when I can so that if I have a $300 repair, the money is already there. So that's not my whole budget, but a glimpse into some of my categories, amounts, and how it's done.

I forgot to mention in the last post that I don't use credit cards. I will sometimes buy something on credit, but only something big that we need and that we've already done the math on and know we can afford to pay off while it's interest free (such as the washer and dryer we bought in October). I won't ever pay interest on anything because then it cancels out any savings you might have had on the item. If we don't have the cash for it, we don't buy it, for the most part. This is why my savings is so important to me and my checking account 'padding'- where some people might just use their credit card in an emergency, I would be using that money. I don't own a credit card (and want to keep it that way) so it's not an option for me. As much as the Duggars get razzed on, one thing I have always admired about them is that they have a 21 person family and they buy NOTHING on credit, nor use credit cards. I know that, if we are smart and have self control, we can do that on a family of say 5 if they can do it for their family!

What are some of your cost saving tips for the areas covered today? Is there anything I'm obviously missing?

Do you check online for any current Promotional Codes before you go out?

1 comment:

  1. Love these tips! I'm going to sign up on that movie site. One thing I started doing was I've found different sites where I can buy AMC theatre tickets for $6 (which is a bargain) I just have to wait till the movie has been out for at least 10 days (which I do anyway).

    I cringe when it comes time for me to get married. I keep telling people we're going to be eating PB&J at the local park LOL GL!