money, reading, shopping

Spending with Calypso

In his latest book Calypso, David Sedaris has a quote that stuck with me.

Disclaimer: David Sedaris is probably my favorite author. Top three if not number one. So much of Calypso made me laugh, and think, and compare to my own life. He is humorous, but he is also very thoughtful and reflective.

The quote that got me isn’t really funny, and it has probably been said by countless other people, but I had never heard it and it struck a chord with me.

“I’m not just a vehicle for my wallet!”

He says this in a short piece about how people, especially retail clerks, airline workers, hotel staff, etc, ask the same generic questions to everyone all day long, and don’t really listen to the answer.

Of course this is necessary – you want to seem friendly to your customers but you do it all day every day and can’t push yourself to get to know someone, nor do you have time to have more than a limited interaction. But Sedaris talks about the random questions he asks to start a conversation, and how they usually fall flat with these people.

He is quite quirky.

This quote made me think about buying things in person. You can still be upsold online, with ads like “Based on your viewing history, you might like:” or “People who bought what you just bought also bought:”. But it’s impersonal online anyway. In a store, especially drugstores, clerks try to sell you whatever little trinket they have next to the cash register, or ask you to donate to the charity of the week. (Not knocking charities, but I like to donate directly to them and don’t like being guilted about being stingy with my dollar at the drugstore.) Bigger stores ask you to sign up for their membership card or buy a warranty. Whether you do or not is your business, but the Sedaris quote made me think of all that differently. Honestly, I’m still thinking about it… I know spending your money is a way to “vote” so to speak, and that idea really tangles with this quote in my mind. I like it.

(All that being said, this was shortly after a piece where Sedaris describes buying countless ill-fitting, ugly, overpriced clothes just because he likes going shopping and buying things, so I guess we can take the quote with a grain of salt! I just like pulling it out to think over on its own.)

fun, home life, money, shopping

Tax Refund!

Before we even did our taxes, my husband asked what I wanted to spend our tax refund on. He wanted a new grill, and probably some other things. I, of course, wanted to put it into savings. And probably still will. But it made me daydream about…

An upgraded camera body

A macro lens

A home studio setup

New books to read

A trip to somewhere relax

A camping trip

New tattoos

A fancy, delicious dinner out

A fun evening bowling, snacking, drinking, eating

 

Did you get a tax refund this year?

money

21 Ways You’re Throwing Away Money and What To Do About It

You’re looking at your expenses and can’t find a single way to save money. You’ve already cut out everything that’s not a necessity, but your bills still eat up your paycheck every month. This list will show you way you’ve been throwing away money without even realizing it, and offer simple solutions to help you save more.

1. Not Planning Your Meals

It’s too easy to go out to eat on your lunch break, or to pick up fast food on your way home from work. These are unhealthy and expensive options.

How You Can Fix It

Make weekly meal plans and write them down. Look around your kitchen and see what meals you can make from what you already have. Use the meal plan when you make your grocery list so you only buy what you need. Pack your lunch the night before work, or make a big batch of something you can take for lunch all week. Keep your meal plan posted to the fridge so you’ll be more likely to stick to it.

2. Impulse Buying

How many times have you seen something in the store and realized you needed that item, it would change your life, and it would pay for itself in no time? How many times have you been right?

How You Can Fix It

Impulse buying can range from buying something big just because you see it on sale, to buying candy or a magazine that catches your eye at the register. Stop impulse shopping by making a list and sticking to it. Don’t let yourself buy anything else. Then try the 72 hour test: if you keep thinking about something 72 hours after you see it, and you can’t live without it or find a better deal somewhere else, then you can go back and buy it.

3. Buying New

Buying new isn’t always better. Especially in the case of cars, you’re mostly paying for bragging rights. But buying new electronics isn’t necessary either. And why would you buy new clothes that are just going to be out of style next season?

How You Can Fix It

Research options for buying used cars in your area to keep from buying an overpriced new car at the dealership. Shop around for refurbished electronics — these have been professionally cleaned and repaired, but cost a small portion of what the same electronic would be new. Shopping at thrift stores is trendy anyway, so why buy expensive new clothes when you can find gently used clothes when you’re thrifting? Plus, nothing can beat the thrill you feel when you find an item with new tags still on it, for a percentage of the original price!

4. Paying Full Price

These days it’s easy to find a deal anywhere you go, so why would you pay full price for anything? This can range from shopping around, both in stores and online, to finding what benefits certain stores will offer you.

How You Can Fix It

Some gas stations give you a discount if you sign up for a free membership at their store, and some offer a discount if you pay in cash. You can find something you like in stores, and then find it online for a discounted price. You can shop at a store that honors coupons from its competitors.

5. Paying for Cable

You used to have to be a cable subscriber to get access to the best shows on the best channels, even if that meant paying a hefty monthly bill for a lot of channels you never even flipped past.

How You Can Fix It

Cable TV is going the way of the landline, because you can only watch it on your TV instead of watching online from any device via providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more. These sites not only stream classic shows and movies, but they are creating their own high-quality content with increasing frequency. See which provider fits your budget and offers the shows you love, so you’ll be paying a lower price for content you really want to watch.

6. Being Loyal To Your Brand

Sometimes being loyal to a provider or brand means you’re rewarded with coupons or discounts, but sometimes there’s no reason to keep using a company or brand unless you really love it. If your priority is saving money, start looking around.

How You Can Fix It

A lot of businesses and products offer a discount to new customers. You can try a class for free at your gym, or find a new local business that is giving heavily discounted hair cuts in exchange for word of mouth marketing. You can start a free trial with a new TV streaming provider — just remember to cancel your account before the trial period ends and your card is charged for the next month’s service. Some banks invite you to open an account by guaranteeing they will make the first deposit of $10-50 for you.

7. Not Redeeming Gift Cards

Gift cards are so easy to give as gifts, because you know the person will get something they like. You probably have a few burning a hole in your wallet right now, because you forget about them or are waiting to spend them for some random reason.

How You Can Fix It

Keep your gift cards where you keep your credit card, so when you’re reaching to pay, you’ll grab the gift card instead of your own card. When you use a portion of your card, see if you can get what’s left back in cash — the limit on cash back depends on the store, but it never hurts to ask. If you have just a small amount left on a card, give it to someone who will use it, or sell it online.

8. Paying for Shipping

Have you ever found a great deal online, then clicked through checkout just to find the shipping is more than the item? So many companies offer free shipping that it doesn’t make sense to pay for it.

How You Can Fix It

Find sites that ship for free and bookmark them. If your favorite site offers free shipping for orders over a certain amount, add things to your cart as you need them, and wait to check out all at once so you get free shipping while only buying what you need.

9. Being a Member

You can get a membership for pretty much everything these days: gyms, playplaces for your kids, big box stores, even some local stores. But have you ever figured out if the membership is really worth it?

How You Can Fix It

Be honest — do you go to the gym? If so, do you go often enough to justify the membership? If not, consider finding a community gym that allows you to pay when you visit, or better yet, gives out a few free visit passes. Do you shop at the big box store enough to justify paying for the privilege? Some local store memberships make you feel good because you’re supporting your community, but if the only perks are getting 20% each purchase, it might not make sense financially.

10. Buying Unnecessary Insurance and Warranties

When you buy new electronics or high price items, you will be asked if you want to add on insurance or purchase a warranty. Sometimes this is important, when you consider that your last three phone screens have cracked beyond recognition and insurance saved you from paying to fix the glass. But it’s not always mandatory.

How You Can Fix It

Think about what you’re buying and what the manufacturer already offers. A $20 coffee pot doesn’t need a $15 warranty when you know that the manufacturer offers a one year warranty. And if the coffee pot stops working after a year, will the additional protection even cover that? Most major purchases include a one to three year warranty, and some warranties cover only limited problems; research this before you buy to make sure you pick the right product for you.

11. Spending Too Much Eating Out

The advice on saving money on eating out is usually to just not do it. And sure, it’s cheaper to buy groceries and cook at home. But it’s fun to eat out, and you can save a bundle if you do it right.

How You Can Fix It

Save a few bucks by drinking water instead of a soda. Split big platters of food with your dining companions. Going out for lunch is always cheaper than going out for dinner, especially if you eat from the specials or set menu. Go out during happy hour — you can buy a drink, and get one free, but restaurants often have great food specials during this time, too, so you can treat yourself to an early dinner.

12. Not Using Cashback Options

Do you know how much money your credit card gives you back on each purchase? Do you know how much you can get if you send in that rebate card that came with your latest purchase? Do you have some free space on your phone to download apps that will save you money?

How You Can Fix It

Find out what benefit your credit card offers and take advantage of them by buying everything with your credit card so you can redeem points. If your credit card company doesn’t offer good benefits, find one that does and switch. When your purchase comes with a rebate card, take a few minutes to fill it in and mail it back, or fill it out online. You’ll have a bit of money coming your way very soon! Download apps like Ibotta so you can scan your receipts and get money back on things you’ve already purchased.

13. Not Using Coupons

Some days your mailbox is stuffed full of junk mail, and that’s your real and online inboxes! Those coupon bundles always catch your eye, but cutting out coupons seems like such a hassle.

How You Can Fix It

Honestly, it’s worth the time to cut out a few coupons you’ll actually use. Keep them in your wallet with your cash or credit card so you remember to use them at checkout, or clip them to your grocery list. If you don’t get paper coupons, check online. Many large stores have apps that include digital coupons. If you’re buying online, search the web for coupon codes related to the store you’re buying from, or the product you’re buying. It’s worth the extra time, online or with scissors in hand, to save a big chunk off your purchase.

14. Not Paying Your Credit Card Balance

The last tip said you should pay for everything with your credit card so you earn more points. That being said, many credit cards have high interest rates, and may penalize you for not paying off your balance.

How You Can Fix It

Treat your credit card as cash, and only buy what you can afford. This means you will be able to pay off the whole balance every month, which saves you from astronomical interest fees and other penalties the company may tack on. Paying off your credit card every month also helps your credit score, so it’s win-win.

15. Paying Bank Fees

While you’re looking into your credit card benefits, look at your bank. Are you charged a fee for getting money from an ATM? Are you penalized for overdrafts on connected accounts? Do they fine you if your balance goes below a certain amount?

How You Can Fix It

You shouldn’t have to pay a bank to hang onto your money for you. In fact, they should be paying you with decent interest rates. Find a bank that not only doesn’t have unnecessary fees, but they might reimburse you for ATM charges, or don’t require a minimum amount in your account.

16. Missing a Bill Payment

Some months, you might just scrape by after you pay everything off. Some months, you might not be able to pay a bill if you want to be able to go out with your friends next weekend. It’s okay to treat yourself, right?

How You Can Fix It

Always choose to pay your bills. Skipping out on this month’s bill might save you a hundred or more dollars now, but next month, your bill will be even higher. You’ll have two months to pay off, plus any late fees and penalties the company charges. Once you skip a bill, it’s hard to catch up without breaking the bank.

17. Not Taking Advantage of Employee Benefits

Are you signed up for your company’s insurance plan? What about life insurance? Are they adding money to your 401k? Are you?

How You Can Fix It

Look at your company’s manual, or contact HR to see what benefits are offered to you. You probably already have health insurance through them, but what about dental and vision? These are usually a small fee every month, but pay off when you actual visit the providers. Make sure you go to doctor and dentist appointments regularly — you may think it’s cheaper to skip them and not pay a copay, but it’s better than paying a lot for a procedure that could have been prevented. Most employers also match employee’s 401k input. You can put a percentage of your check into retirement, and your company will match it. That’s free money!

18. Buying Name Brands

Most people think generic products are just watered down versions of the real thing, but when you buy, you’re paying for the brand’s name, label, and reputation.

How You Can Fix It

Always ask for generic medication when you’re getting your prescription filled; they are much cheaper, and just as effective. Instead of going to your favorite big box store, go to the nearby dollar store. They have quality glassware and ceramic plates for just a dollar. They have kitchen utensils for just a dollar. They have school supplies, party supplies, and cleaning supplies for just a dollar. Pick some up and give them a try. If you don’t like what you get, you just spent a dollar, but most likely you will be impressed with what you found.

19. Driving Up Your Utility Bill

Leaving your phone charger plugged in next to your bed all day is convenient, but it’s draining electricity when when not in use. Taking a long, hot shower may be relaxing, but it’s expensive. Old appliances are fine because they still work, so it’s cheaper than buying new, but they’re not as efficient as newer models.

How You Can Fix It

Be conscious of what you use and when. Does your laptop need to be on the charger all of the time? Can you unplug the coffee machine after you drink the last cup? Check out how much energy you’re wasting with the Energy Vampire Calculator, and then challenge yourself to make your next utility bill less than it’s ever been before.

20. Buying As You Need It

Isn’t the whole point of saving money buying only what you need, as you need it? Yes and no. You’d rather have money in your wallet than unnecessary products cluttering your house, right? But sometimes buying something right when you need it means you’re paying an astronomical mark-up. Think: holiday goods.

How You Can Fix It

Everyone is excited the day after Valentine’s Day and Halloween because candy is so cheap. Wait and satisfy your sweet tooth when you can save 50%! Christmas decorations are heavily discounted after the special day, so buy your ornaments, lights, and gift wrap when they’re dirt cheap. Store them until you need them next year, and save yourself the stress and expenses of buying right before the holiday.

21. Paying For Things That Are Free

Having a Netflix subscription is great because you can watch movies whenever you want. Buying coffee from Starbucks is a pretty tasty treat, and getting tickets to the hottest concert of the year might hurt your bank account, but it will be fun.

How You Can Fix It

Take advantage of things that are free. Fill up your own water bottle instead of buying bottled water. (Buying a filter for your sink will be worth it in the long run, considering all the plastic bottle waste you’ll be saving.) Make cheaper coffee at home and pour it into a travel mug, or get your fix at work if your office brews a pot every morning. Look for free papers specific to your city, and look at the list of events going on in the area. Free events can be farmers markets, parades, special public events, and more, and they can be plenty of fun without breaking you.