Thursday, February 5, 2009

5 Easy Ways To Save Money NOW!!!

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Let's face it.  Times are tough and things aren't going to get much better any time soon.  I have definitely tightened my budget quite a bit over the past 6 months and tried not to spend on unnecessary things.  My last post about my recent sneaker purchases probably wouldn't make it seem like I was being conservative but don't forget that I spent $50 for two pairs of nice kicks!  If you are going to buy stuff, that's how you do it.

I'm not saying I am the best at saving money (my savings account would definitely tell you otherwise) but I do know how to stretch a dollar when needed.  I figured a lot of you might be interested in some of my strategies and ideas since they can help you save money immediately.  There's nothing too outrageous or very difficult to do in my list below but it does take a little effort and discipline on you're part.  You can save money in so many different ways if you just think about your spending habits and then create a strategy to do something about it.

Please let me know your thoughts and feel free to add any of your own strategies and ideas.  It's all about getting by these days so let's all help each other out for once!

1) Make Your Own Coffee/Tea at Home - I don't drink coffee but I do enjoy a Iced Tea from Dunkin' Donuts every morning to help wake me up and get my mind right.  I usually get a Large which is almost $3.  I decided to start making iced tea at home and this is my savings:

$3 x 7 days a week = $21 
$21 x 4 weeks = $84 per month
$84 per month x 12 months = $1,008!!!

I usually spend about $20 for the loose tea every month or maybe even a little longer.  Let's just say it's $20 per month to make things easy multiplied by 12 months and you get $240.  That's a total savings of $768 per year.  Not bad.

2) Make Lunch At Home or Work Instead of Buying:  This one seems kind of obvious but it's hard to follow through with on a regular basis.  I always forget to buy the stuff I need for the week so I will go a few days here and there where I have to buy my "Hot Lunch" but even just a few days a week will give you some huge savings.  Don't forget that you will be eating a little healthier and probably less food which is good for your waistline.  Here is the breakdown:

Lunch every day at Rebecca's Cafe, Fast Food joints, Mall Food Court, etc. = $7-10 per day
Let's use a number that's in the middle so that we are being conservative with the potential savings.
$8 per day for lunch x 5 days per week = $40 (or more)
$40 per week x 4 weeks = $160 per month
$160 per month x 12 months = $1,920 a year for lunch at work!!!

You can break down this equation various ways because it all depends what you like to eat but I will just use sandwich meat, bread and snacks as my example since that is usually what I do.  I also drink free water at work since I don't like soda or other drinks and that's another way to save money.  Your equation may vary slightly.

$4 for lunch meat for the week; $4 for bread (2 weeks or so); $5 for Chips, crackers, etc. (2 weeks or so)
$16 per month for lunch meat
$8 per month for bread
$10 per month for snacks
$34 per month for homemade lunch
$408 per year for homemade lunch
SAVINGS = $1,920 for paid lunch per year - $408 for homemade lunch = $1,512 per year SAVED!!!

3) Marshall's/TJ Maxx/Other Discount Stores - Just see my previous post about getting two pairs of nice sneakers (Adidas and New Balance) for $50 to get an idea of the savings.  These stores used to have a negative connotation towards them because they were always behind on the styles and their selection/sizes were always random.  Now, they are legit shopping venues, at least for me.  I go there FIRST most of the time now because they get styles while they are still popular and they have great selections.  Stores are always sending their overstock to the TJX companies who then pass the savings on to the consumer.  It's a sweet deal.
You can get a ton of shirts, pants and shoes for work or casual wear.  It doesn't make a difference what you are looking for because they will most likely have something that is comparable if not the exact brand or style you are looking to buy.  Marshall's is by far my favorite store by far and I have probably saved thousands of dollars over the years.  I can't tell you how many Polo shirts I have grabbed for about $20 (MSRP: $40-$50+ depending on the style), name brand jeans for $25 (MSRP $50-$80) and nice dress shoes or sneakers for $40 or less (MSRP $80-$120+!!!).  It's not about having the coolest and newest things anymore, although you can still pull it off it you look hard enough.  It's about getting by, saving money and still looking nice.  It can be done.  You can always splurge once in awhile and buy that new trendy shirt or jeans in a department store for full price but I would rather buy something similar and get 2 or 3 other things for the same damn price.

4) Shop on Sale Racks Only - If you must shop in a full price department or retail store be sure to hit the Sale Rack first!  Stores like Banana Republic, J. Crew, Gap, Old Navy, etc. all turn over their inventory ridiculously fast these days.  They usually put out their spring/summer lines in the freakin' winter so they are always looking to get rid of last season's styles.  You are ultimately buying clothes that are still in style and you are most likely buying them in season so it's not like you have to wait a year to wear them.  I don't understand this concept for the stores because it seems like they are missing out on full priced sales in season.  I am still buying winter clothes right now in February because it's cold as hell out but all of the stores are already flipping their stores to spring styles.  I don't get it. 

I just bought two new button down shirts from Banana Republic a few weeks ago and they were $20 each but original retail was $69 each.  Not only are they really nice shirts but they are the "new style" that everyone is starting to rock these days.  I think the pattern is called Gingham or something?  My boy from NY who is all about the trends these days even complimented me on one of the shirts and ended up wearing one himself the next day.  I guarantee he probably spent even more than $69 for his in some trendy NY store.  Have some patiience and do some digging!  It's ridiculous what you can find on the sales racks.
5) Buy Generic Versions of Products (CVS, Stop & Shop, Rite Aid, etc) - For some reason, this country is obsessed with buying name brand products.  I undertand the addiction because I do it myself and you go with what you know or have used for years but if you make the switch to generic you can achieve big savings.

There is absolutely NO REASON to buy products like Advil, Tylenol, or other drugstore products when you can buy the same damn thing with the store brand version.  If you compare the ingredients, they are virtually the same if not the EXACT same thing.  Most of these products are even made in the same exact factories by the same people too.  It's just a matter of the label they put on it at the end of the day.  Why pay for the brand name when all they are doing is inflating the price to cover their ridiculous advertising costs?  You can get a bottle of fake Tylenol for like $4-$5 while the Tylenol version is about $10.  That's insane!!!

You can also do the same thing while food shopping.  Almost every product available has a generic, store brand equivalent.  Although this is a little harder to do because there are some taste differences between store brand and name brand foods, it's not so much that you can't get used to it.  If saving money is what it's all about, you shouldn't really care.  I would say if you normally spend $100 food shopping per trip and you switched at least half of your items (if possible) to the store brand, you could probably save at least $20.  I am just estimating of the top of my head based on past experience but it may be a little more or less.  Either way, you are saving money, right?  

These are just 5 ideas I came up with real quick but I have a ton more lined up for another post in the near future.  This post was obviously focused on ways to save money on things you already buy but I'll have some tips on ways to save money by getting rid of things you don't need to buy.  Stay Tuned...
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