By: Kristen Petriches
Since we are on the topic of getting stuff “for free” here are a few extra tips, for free!
Get into the habit of really thinking strategically about what and when you spend money on. If you know you are in the market for a certain product, and practice patience, you can keep an eye out for (legit) sales and find the best purchasing option. I try not to ever buy something that I want right away unless I really need it. I found a great purse at LL Bean and even though I decided for sure I would be purchasing it I told myself I would wait a few weeks to see if any sales or coupons came through. Sure enough, a few days later LL Bean was doing a 25% off sale and I saved $50 off the purse simply because I was patient.
It’s also important to get in the habit of finding “real” deals so you don’t fall for fake sales or promotions. A few years ago I bought a kitchen appliance set on Black Friday that I had been watching for months. It was typically $6,000 and on Black Friday I saw it listed for $3,000. I made the purchase because I knew, for sure, it was a great deal. The very next day it went back up to $6,000. I, essentially, got $3,000 of "free money."
Try not to spend money on shipping if you don’t need to. More often than not, free shipping is offered when you spend a certain amount of money or if you don’t need the product right away. I have gotten into the habit of keeping a running list of smaller items that I “need’ eventually so that when I find myself needing to spend $15 more dollars to get free shipping I can add something that I know I will actually use instead of just buying something I didn’t need. Another shipping tip: always keep an eye out for shipping minimums and how close you are to them. There have been several times in which free shipping was offered at $50 and I had only spend $40. The shipping charge was about $8 which would bring my total to $48. I figure I might as well spend $50 ($2 more) and get some sort of product for it – even if it’s not something I necessarily need.
Along with shipping, really think through the advantages of fee-based subscriptions and programs. Sure, Netflix may only cost you $10 per month, but if you aren’t really using it, you might as well pocket that extra money each month. Also keep in mind those smaller subscriptions do add up. If you are paying for Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and Netflix – you are likely paying about $40 month. I’m not proposing you don’t pay for any of these services, but rather, just make sure you actually use them.
By: Urvi Patel
Bank account: $1000.00
Me: *goes out with friends one weekend*
Bank account: $3.62
Money slips through our fingers like sand. One day, we’re living large, and the next, we’re eating ramen for dinner. To live a financially balanced life, what expenses can we cut down on in our everyday life? Let’s find out!
Use cash. We live in a time of credit cards and debit cards. There are definite advantages, like convenience and safety, but there is no escaping the biggest drawback when it pertains to how we spend money: when we don’t see physical money leaving our wallets, our minds convince us that we’re not actually spending that much.
How do we combat the cycle of spending, overspending, cringing at the sight of our bank account, and repeating? For a week, or even just a couple of days, monitor what you swipe your card for, how often you swipe, and the amount you swipe for. The next week, go to your bank or ATM and withdraw the amount of cash that you used in the previous period. Here’s an additional tip: withdraw money from your bank’s ATM to avoid fees from other ATMs! Over time you will grow aware of how much you have and how much you want to spend. I can’t remember the last time I consistently had cash in my wallet, so I’ll give it a try with you!
Make coffee. Purchasing coffee isn’t always about the coffee; sometimes, it’s about the experience and the comfortable feeling of walking into work with a disposable coffee cup in hand. What isn’t comforting is spending $720 a year or about $3 a day if we purchase coffee every weekday. That average doesn’t represent the cost of fancy coffee either. Think about how you could spend that $720 in one year or $3,600 in five years.
Now, if this relates to you, no need to drastically change who you are! However, I encourage you to reevaluate your routine. Ease yourself into a beneficial change. Wake up early and make a pot of coffee before you start the day and then walk into work with a reusable coffee mug like the confident and eco-friendly adult that you are. It’s a different routine with the same comfort and less cost. Set a practical goal for yourself and before you know it, this positive change will become your routine. Give it a go and share your story with us.
Cook meals. “Dining out is convenient and fun!” Yes, it is. It is also more expensive. According to Time, the price gap between preparing meals at home and dining out is getting bigger, meaning it is certain that we save money by limiting how often we dine out. Let’s say that during the weekdays, you spend around $10 for lunch. That’s $50 a week and $200 a month. I’ll let you do the math for how much you’d be spending per year. Let’s think about the alternative. Could you make a similar meal at home with the right groceries? Yes, you definitely could! What’s stopping you?
“I like the experience of dining out.” Well, pursue a new experience of learning recipes or inviting friends to cook with you!
“I can’t cook.” I understand. However, I won’t take a self-proclaimed lack of abilities as an excuse. Check out these 26 Cheap-and-Easy Meals that you can try. If you have other recipes or have tried these meals by yourself or with friends, share your experiences with us!
Take inventory. We don’t all live a minimalistic life and that’s okay. However, for those of us with closets full of stuff, we forget what we already have, and end up buying more than we need. Spend a Saturday taking inventory of your clothes, shoes, books, appliances, and everything in your space. From there, set aside what you haven’t used in the past year, and donate it to your local nonprofit or thrift store. Who said you couldn’t be a helpful member of the community by cleaning? Now, next time you find yourself shopping, you won’t buy what you already have, saving you money and space.
Wait 20 minutes. We see the word “sale” and excitement shines in our eyes making us eager to find out more. Challenge yourself by practicing self-control: Before you pull out your cash for the 30% off jacket or the newest gadget that society convinces you that you must have, wait 20 minutes. If, by the end of the 20 minutes, you still believe it is a worthy and practical purchase, by all means, go forward and accept the outcomes. I guarantee you though, the 20-minute rule will help you save more in the long run.
At the end of the day, we want to be financially balanced adults and every day, we can take simple steps to work towards this goal:
Give these a try and let us know in the comments how they impact your daily life!
By: Rachel Semple
Bills can be quite the nuisance each month. Between remembering to pay them and figuring out what they should be for your budget, it’s complicated when you first move to a new place and are trying to get settled so you know what to expect.
The standard bills that most people have are usually the same: Rent, utilities (think: water, sewer, electric, gas), cable/TV, internet, cell phone and insurance.
Rental and mortgage prices vary drastically depending on the city in which you live. The median monthly rent in the U.S. is currently at about $934 per month, while the average monthly mortgage payment is around $1,061. Make sure to budget your monthly finances to cover your rent or mortgage payments accordingly.
Utilities can vary, depending on where you live and what the policies are. For example, it’s common for some apartment complexes to roll water, trash and/or sewer fees into monthly rent and coordinate those services for you. Those fees are usually relatively low, around $50 per month or less.
Also depending on where you live, you may pay a monthly utility bill for electricity and/or gas. This will typically be your largest bill each month (next to your rent or mortgage payment, of course) because it’s how you heat or cool your place, how the lights are powered, how the dishwasher operates, how the stove runs, and how your washer and dryer get their energy too. These expenses can vary widely, depending on a bunch of factors:
A first floor apartment is more expensive to heat and less expensive to cool–because heat rises–and vice versa for a higher level apartment. And, electric tends to be a bit more expensive than gas. During especially warm or cool months, your utility bill could be up to $200 or more if you are using the heating/air conditioning a lot.
Cable / TV
Cable is one of the more widely debated monthly utility bills, due to “cord-cutting Millennials” who prefer Netflix, Hulu, nothing, or some combination of streaming services to a traditional cable provider.
But, if you do choose to be a rebel and keep the TV, there are some options. Sling TV, a service similar to regular television that relies on internet streaming, is available for as little as $20 a month, according to a great breakdown by CNET. Traditional cable providers offer a few different plans that can cost you around $100 per month, or more if you want specific channels. There are also options to pair this bill with your internet in most plans. So, your monthly bill could be as little as $20 or even way more than $100.
There’s no denying that the internet is now one of the utilities that most households can’t live without. Depending on the speed you’re looking for, the purpose your internet will serve and whether you choose to buy or rent your router, your monthly internet bill could be around $50 to $100. A good service for streaming and basic use, but not heaving videogaming, tends to run about $60 a month for the first year, and may increase after that. Comcast also charges $10 a month to rent a router, if you choose not to buy one upfront.
If you’re on your own plan, this expense can vary quite a bit depending on your needs. But, it’s safe to say that if you could pay anywhere from $45 - $100 each month for a plan of one, depending on the amount of data in the plan.
Insurance (Rental, Home, & Car)
Rental Insurance: Don’t try to go without this one. It seems like a sneaky way to not have to shell out some extra money every month, but if something bad happens you WILL regret it. What does renter’s insurance cover? Here’s a handy guide on the basics. Your average renter’s insurance will cost you $200 a year, or less than $20 a month.
Homeowners Insurance: Similar to rental insurance, just if you own instead of rent your house. Usually costs a little over $100 a month, depending on the state.
Car Insurance: If you have a car, you need to have car insurance. Here is the minimum car insurance requirements by state. The average car insurance monthly cost is between $100 - $200 per month.
Questions compiled by: Elisabeth Huber