27 October 2009

How I've Tried To Save Money

I've been talking about saving money a lot recently, and I figured I'd share some of the ways I have managed to do that. The biggest savings I have seen in recent months has been in school supplies. I searched high and low for an inexpensive binder for all of the materials my professor has been giving us, but ended up going with something at Target that was functional—I was looking at the start of the school year, of course, so I was left with the bare bones. A day later, while we were at the recycling center, J pointed me towards a whole box full of binders! They were basically brand new, and after cleaning them off, they were even better than the cheapo one I'd picked up at Target for nearly $4 (after taxes)! So here are some of the ways I've been saving:
  • Getting binder from recycling center ($4)
  • Finding my T-square at Goodwill. They usually run around $20, and the wood ones can be even more expensive, but we'll just say that after paying $7 for this barely used wood T-Square at Goodwill, I saved ($13)
  • Getting my textbook from the library. I did end up purchasing it after reading it, deciding I'd use it long after the class was over, and getting a 25% off coupon from Borders.com. I also had it shipped to the store to save on shipping costs (they were out of stock at all of my local stores and amazon, so shipping was necessary). I ended up getting a $21 (at brick and mortar stores) $17 (online) book for $13 ($8 if for some reason I had needed to buy it Right Now at the store, $4 if I could have waited for shipping, but not a coupon).
  • I use cereal boxes to ship things that I sell on half.com and ebay. They're sturdy, and we're going to recycle them, anyway. If I cut them correctly, I don't use that much tape, so the cost of supplies I might have to buy is negligible. To pad them, I use newspaper or packing materials from things we've had shipped. I doubt I've saved much (since you can usually get packing materials on the cheap with very little effort), but it also saves me a trip to the post office/store, and thins our recycling pile, which brings me to the next item:
  • Buying my postage online. You can get free priority boxes delivered to your address (I usually only use cereal boxes when my stuff doesn't fit in these boxes). If you purchase priority shipping on usps.com and print it out yourself, you save 10¢, and you get free delivery confirmation, which is a savings of about 85¢ per box shipped. I still have to go to the post office if the package is too big for a mailbox drop, but it's a faster trip. (I've saved $4.25 in the past month)
  • I downgraded my cell phone plan. I'm lucky enough not to be under contract, so I have some options that I can easily change on a month-to-month basis. I'm contemplating a change in carrier in the near future, but for now I determined I could save $5/month by downgrading my daytime minutes. I rarely use my phone at the moment, anyway. ($10 so far)
  • Taking reusable bags to the grocery store. I usually need two bags, which gets us a 10¢ discount (5¢/bag). Since we've started cooking more, I've gone to this store about once a week, sometimes less sometimes more, but I'd say it averages once a week. It's kind of insignificant at 5¢ a bag, but over a year we end up getting $5 for doing something we are already doing. Our local Target has now implemented the same policy, which I think is a great reward for a habit we already have. (~$5 this year)
  • Buying generic milk. We both drink different kinds of milk, but I buy half-gallons for us every week. The generic is not only 50¢ cheaper, it's equally sustainable as the name brand we used to buy. This will save us up to $52 in a year. ($4 so far)

So, $50 later, I thought it was worth documenting. There are lots of little things I do these days that don't take much of my time, but because I do have the time (and not the money) it's worth the extra effort to save a few dollars. I could further calculate things like making our own pizza, which I know for a fact saves a ton of money (as often as we eat pizza!), but I thought I'd stick to things I've consciously done in the last two months.

Even though I can't fathom the time when I can start markedly saving up again, I have some significant financial goals I'd like to reach sometime in the next five years. If I can learn to live like this when I have a more appreciable income, it will be so much easier.

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