Monday, May 2, 2011

Money Saving Tips

I decided this time to just make this two separate posts instead of merging them, since they're so vastly different in topic. :)
Last week at the Dave Ramsey course, we had opportunity to bounce ideas around for ways to find bargains, and I was able to share some of the ideas I've found, as well as glean from others.
So here are a few resources I've found that may be of some help for you, too. Most of these could be entire blog posts in and of themselves, so I'll limit these just to the links and my comments on them.

To save money in the food department:
E-Mealz - E-Mealz is a great program and only $5.00/month. It provides a new menu each week with simple dishes for each dinner. Recipes are simple and varied (including some crockpot meals, others involve assembling prepared foods, and others involve simple food-prep). They offer plans for 2-person menus, family menus, menus for shopping at Walmart, or different stores, or for different diets (portion control, gluten free, low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian). I used the "2-person at Walmart" menu, and subscribed for a year. Most of that time I was a single, so would use left-overs for lunches, but still didn't go through the menus fast enough. So after a year I quit my subscription, and just go back to last years menus to get ideas for this year.

Menu Planning - Nothing takes the place of actually planning your menu. I use a weekly menu, which also has space for the grocery list on the side. Taking the menu AND the list with me helps me make any on-the-fly changes at the grocery store with ease.

Price Comparison List  - At LEAST take good MENTAL note of which stores have better prices on the things you regularly buy. I find it easier to keep them written down, and even have a file on my PDA that I can carry with me in the store for quick reference. I started with the printable resources in the organizer notebook (click here for another AWESOME resource on a notebook to centrally organize much of your household). Eventually I made my own Excel file on which to compare several stores conveniently. If you would like me to email that to you, let me know. This can be handy even to refer to when you get the coupons out of the Sunday paper. I saw today that Fred Meyers and Albertsons had fliers. If I'm wondering if their sales would make it worth it to shop there for even a few things, I can compare their sales prices to the regular prices at Sherms and Walmart where I usually shop before I ever walk out the door.

Grocery List - #1 Make a list. #2 stick to it. If you are prone to giving in to adding a bunch of stuff to your cart, here are some tips. #1. Give yourself permission to add only ONE item to the cart that isn't on your list (for me Gummy Worms often fall in this category unless I have the foresight to add Gummy Worms to my list!). #2. Don't go shopping when you're hungry. #3 If you really only have a few things on your list, carry a basket, instead of pushing a cart (your arm gets tired faster this way, and you make your way to checkout much faster!). #4 Know that stores have carefully planned what goes on the end-caps: If you see a good deal, find that item in the aisle where it's usually located to see if you find the variety that you like better, and compare to any store-brand supplies that might be cheaper still. #5 Keep your list handy through the week, so you can easily add to it as you think of things, or as you develop your menus to avoid unnecessary return trips to the store.

Household Stuff:
Coupons - Use the Sunday paper for a resource (see notes above). Use websites that sell coupons for just pennies, or even let you print coupons for free. If you're ordering something online, do a quick search for the item's name and the word "coupon code" or "special offer", and see what comes up. Often there will be some kind of referral code or special offer that may be applied. Be careful though: I've seen some offers come up that I couldn't use in good Christian conscience as it would involve saying/assuming that I had gotten the code with a purchase, when I hadn't, even though they wouldn't know the difference. I also know that in some areas, is a great resource, but we don't have one in Klamath Falls, so I can't recommend it from any personal experience. One IMPORTANT tip when using coupons: ONLY use coupons on items you were going to buy anyway. You don't need to spend $4 more than you were going to spend anyway, just because the item is $2 off! The exception to this (in MY mind) would be if it's something you were WANTING to buy/try ANYWAY, but didn't want to spend the regular price. For example, I've been interested in trying some tooth whitening stuff, but wasn't gonna spend $40 for the kit. I found a $10 coupon in the paper that I'm considering using. The things I'm asking myself include: Would I actually use it (Duane reminded me that I have some clearance rack special toothpaste stuff that I still haven't used in the 4 or 5 months that I've had it, so would I REALLY use it?)? and even with the coupon, is it actually a reasonable price now (ie, is this stuff really WORTH $30 to me anyway - with or withOUT the coupon!?).
Money-Saving Mom - Don't let the name fool you. I'm definitely not a mom, but I've found some GREAT deals on here that helped me be a wiser steward of the supplies God's given me. This gal sends out a daily email with links to deals, as well as blogs from her and others who have ideas for saving money. Using an offer she linked to, I made Duane's Christmas present - a photo book - and had it printed and shipped for the cost of shipping ($8) instead of $24 + shippping. Another time, I scored a coupon for a buy-one-get-one-free at Baskin Robbins, so Duane and I could afford a cheap date. I've also seen deals on movie tickets, all kinds of household supplies, and SO MUCH more. Also, they have plenty more money-saving ideas, coupon resources and codes, as well as heads-up on Facebook pages from companies that are giving things away. 

Resources for selling/buying stuff:
One more way to save money is to MAKE money by selling things. I've started a list of good quality items that are worthy of being sold (everything from the air conditioner to my wedding dress - still deciding on that one!), and then I'm working my plan. I have made a chart with columns for the item, "asking price", store/site, date of listing the item, and a checkbox for when it's sold. There are a number of ways to actually sell it, so here we go. - This is a great place to find things in your own community (this link is to the one for Klamath Falls, but you can find other areas). There are a lot of free things here, and it's a great place to buy/sell everything from appliances to antiques, to game systems, to cars. This is like a free classifieds listing. The other day I sold a mattress set and the washer and dryer set in less than 24 hours. The key here: don't try to get back what you paid for it: offer it for a price that people can't pass up. Other washer and dryer sets were going for $200 and up, but I marked mine for $75. They were used, but they worked. However they were taking up space, and I was willing to part with them for $75 as long as I could part with them quickly! On that one, we actually made an extra $25 by delivering them.

ebay - this works as an online auction, so before you try to buy or sell, check out a tutorial on how it works. As with Craigslist and Amazon, you need to be aware of ways people might scam you, but common sense should prevent you from any problems. Don't let the horror stories rob you of some great opportunities!

Amazon -  if I have items in newer condition (books, electronics, etc) to sell, this is where I'll go. A lot of the items are already listed on the site, I just look for the item, click "Sell yours here", and follow the steps. There's a higher competition on this site though: make sure you price it low enough to sell, or be willing to sit on it for a while.

I haven't mentioned yard sales yet, but here's my theory. First, I want to sell as much as I can online. Yes, it's gonna be a pain to describe each item online, and then ship it, but shipping is paid for by the customer, and I'm much more likely to find someone willing to pay a higher price for an item (helps pay for the time to list it online!). Online, usually someone is specifically looking for the item you have, where in a yard sale, it's mostly browsers, or those just out to get a good deal on SOMETHING (it's a bonus to them if it's useful). So after I'm done online, here are a couple other options:

Yard sales - Pick a good weekend, advertise well, and maybe go in with someone else so you have lots to choose from (just don't go buying all your friend's stuff! lol).

Consignment stores (clothing, tools, etc), auctions, scrap metal yards, etc.

When you're done with your sales, and you still have stuff left over, don't let it just filter back into your other belongings. If you made it this long without using it, you probably don't need it that bad, and it's just adding to the clutter. Unless it's really worth something, and you're pretty sure it'll sell at a different time (and no, waiting 15 years til it's an antique doesn't count!), GIVE it away! The mission, Salvation Army, Goodwill, ReSale, etc. If it's really trash though, don't try to pawn it off on someone else. Do EVERYONE a favor, and recycle or throw it away! Don't waste anymore time or space on the items!

Okay, so this oughta be plenty to help get the creative juices flowing. Would you add your comments below, so others can glean from your experience and ideas too? Thanks so much!!!
Oh and does anyone want to buy an air conditioner? lol

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