Let’s be real, y’all. Financial times are hard. Being a twenty-something in a damaged (read: destroyed) economy is really, really difficult. Most of us have extreme debt due to loans, credit cards or both, and getting a job is harder than ever. Whether you live at home, with roommates, with your spouse or on your own, we could all use some everyday, and more important, realistic money saving tips. We’ve all read the blogs, articles and pinterest tips that tell you crazy, “totally not happening” ways to save money. Using fabric instead of toilet paper? Sharing your ONE BEDROOM with a total stranger? Replacing AC with fans? Come on, guys. It’s time we find some actually doable ways to fill up the piggy bank, because honestly, getting rid of Internet just isn’t an option.
Shave with baby oil. Seriously. The store brand is way cheaper than shaving cream and it lasts way longer. Bonus: You’ll get a way closer shave. Think so close that it will double the days you go between shaves. Really. And it’s really moisturizing.
Make your own makeup remover. S/O to baby oil again. Or you can use olive oil. Mix it with a bit of water and a bit of baby shampoo and bam, you’ve got makeup remover. Just dab it on a cotton ball and swipe away. The ingredients you have to use take forever to use up and save you tons of money in the long run.
Paint your own nails. Honestly, getting your nails done is one of the most expensive habits to have. However, having great-looking nails is wonderful. They complement every outfit and always make you look put together.
Pluck your eyebrows between waxes. Obviously waxing is the best way to get a good shape on your brows. Once that’s done, be diligent about tweezing the strays as they grow in. You can stretch your wax to monthly or every other month if you keep up with it.
Use water in dark eye shadow to create liner. Get more bang for your buck out of that black eyeshadow you rarely use, but have to keep for that one day you decide to try a smoky eye. Using a flat tipped brush, mix a little of the black shadow with water and BOOM, instant liquid liner.
Take your medication. It can be easy to say that meds are so expensive you should avoid taking them. But darlings, your health needs to be the TOP priority. Yes, medication and birth control can be expensive, but you know what’s more expensive? Hospital visits and babies.
Get a Neti Pot. If you are a chronic allergy sufferer, try using a Neti Pot or other saline rinse twice daily. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after a few weeks. It is inexpensive and some have said that the Neti Pot actually eliminates the need for a daily allergy medication, which can save bucks during allergy season.
Go to drugstore clinics instead of primary care docs. For things like strep, sinus infections and smaller ailments, visiting a Walgreens Clinic or CVS Minute Clinic can be way cheaper than the office visit your regular physician charges. This is especially a deal if you are uninsured.
For minor emergencies, avoid any after hours/weekend clinic with the word “Emergency” in the title. You’ve probably seen them in strip malls everywhere, and while it may seem like there is no difference between an “Urgent Care Center” and a “Minor Emergency Clinic,” the bill definitely says otherwise. If the clinic’s name contains the word “Emergency” in it, insurance companies classify it as a fully functional ER, which means they can charge you far more for the visit and the treatment. Studies show that an ER can cost six times more than urgent care for the same service.
Banfield. If you’ve made the choice to get an animal, you’ve probably already expected an increase in your monthly living costs. Vet bills are something that should be seriously included in your budget. Banfield Pet Hospital is by FAR the best veterinary option, cost and convenience wise. They offer monthly plans that give you unlimited office visits for free, special discounts on treatments/medications and includes all the required vaccinations and yearly check-ups/testing.
Shop the dollar store and clearance section for toys. Pets destroy things faster than you can say “cha-ching!” So there is no reason to spend more than necessary on toys that will become shredded in 15 minutes.
Crate-train your pup. What does crate training have to do with your finances? Well, the first time you leave your dog unattended and come home to a couch ripped apart beyond recognition, you won’t be asking that question.
Socialize with your friends and family. Make sure your crew loves your animal as much as you do. That way, when you are going out of town, you have a lot of pet-sitter options to choose from. Boarding is expensive!
Use spray cleaners + rags, rather than Clorox Wipes. I know, I know. Clorox Wipes are just so damn convenient. But for the price you’ll pay for one cannister of Clorox Wipes (even the store brand), you can scoop up a value-size spray cleaner. Get some cheap washrags in the cleaning/home/bath section and just reuse them for your weekly cleaning. It’s way cheaper.
Buy in bulk. If you have the space to store the extras, buying the bulk pack of paper towels, toilet paper and cleaners can be cheaper in the long run.
Maintain your vacuum. This might sound silly, but good vacuums aren’t cheap. Make sure you empty the bin/bag and replace the filters regularly before your vacuum goes kaput and you are forced to shell out the cash for a new one.
If you shampoo your carpet regularly, buy a shampooer instead of renting. People with pets especially know the importance of a good carpet shampooing. However, the units for rent at your local grocery store are grossly overpriced. Save your cash, buy a hand-held shampooer or a full size bargain machine.
Hand-clean the drain before resorting to Draino. Draino and products like it are really expensive for what they do. Only use them if you absolutely can NOT get the clog out yourself. Tip: use a wire clothes hanger’s hook end to grab debris and hair.
Shop at the dollar store. You can get a lot of things at the dollar store for between $1 and $3. Including household items.
Dilute Febreeze. This is really penny pinching, but Febreeze is a really strong AND expensive product. So you can dilute it down to half-Febreeze, half-water and the freshness/lovely scent you enjoy is still there and you don’t have to buy it as often!
Cut out cable TV. If you find yourself wasting time watching a lot of TV, or need to save about $20 or so bucks a month, just cut back to Internet-only service and get a Netflix subscription. You’ll find yourself saving a lot of money and time, but you’ll still have entertainment while you eat dinner.
Change your provider. You might think you’re getting the best deal because you’ve had the same cable/internet/cell provider for years, but when your contract is up, shop around. Often there are “new customer” deals that last for up to 2 years, so sometimes you can really save some cash by switching.
Get on a family plan. Consider asking your parents/family if you can stay on or, if you have already been kicked off, get back on their cell phone plan. Agree that you will pay them your portion of the statement the same as you would pay your monthly bill. You can usually cut your bill in half if you are on a group plan. This way, you are still responsible for your portion AND you’re saving cash.
Use family & friends’ Netflix. Okay, so this is a little on the moocher side, but when things are hard, sucking up your pride and asking your bestie or your parents if you can use their Netflix account is a far better alternative than no Netflix at all. I know it’s a cheap service, but every penny you can save is worth it if you can.
Food & Drinks
If you live alone, freeze anything you aren’t going to use in the next few days. I’ve spent so much money on bread, tortillas and meat that I open, use a little and then goes bad before I get to it again. You can freeze these items in Ziploc bags and when you’re ready they are as fresh as the day you bought them. No more tossing money in the trash.
Fast food is not, in fact, cheaper. I know it may seem like going through the drive through is cheaper than grocery shopping, but I urge you to take a look at your last three months of bank statements. Add up all the times you’ve eaten at a fast food restaurant. Likely, the number will surprise you. Most of us don’t actually order from the dollar menu, so meals average anywhere from $6 to $12 apiece.
Go out for alcohol during happy hour. Happy hour is happy for a reason. You don’t have to be a shut-in to save money. You just have to be smart. Planning drinks with friends? Scope out the happy hour menus of local places before heading out and set yourself a drink limit. Or create your own happy hour by buying alcohol and hosting it at home!
Avoid pre-cut, pre-packaged fruit and veggies when possible. It’s so annoying to cut pineapple, peel garlic or make guacamole sometimes. I get it, the convenience of pre-packaged fresh items is so sweet. But let’s be real, it’s not so hard that it’s worth paying twice as much.
Get used to generic brands. Sure, the glamour of buying Kraft Shredded Cheese is appealing, but check out the ingredients. The store brand is usually the exact same and 10-percent or more cheaper.
Make a shopping list and stick to it. This keeps you on budget and away from the impulse purchase dollar section at Target.
Franzia. Carlo Rossi. Cheap Wine. A girl needs her wine at the end of the day. I know it’s fun to be fancy, but when it really comes down to it—at our age and income level… quantity > quality.
Shop at a grocery store that gives gas reward points. Why shop at HEB when the Randall’s right across the street gives you 10 cents off per gallon for every 100 points earned? Enough said.
If your car is new, only get it serviced at the dealership. Companies like loyalty, and getting to know your dealership’s service department from the start can get you massive discounts. Learn the service staff’s names, talk to them about what you need to do to keep the car in warranty, and always ask about deals they might have. I have gotten a totally free oil change and tire rotation just for being patient and not complaining during a long wait.
Wash it yourself. Why pay $20 or more for a full wash when you can jump in a swimsuit, grab a hose and do it yourself? Save that cash for a margarita afterward.
Buy new tires at Discount Tire Co. Discount is by far the best tire place, because they have great prices plus a lifetime guarantee on every tire they sell. Meaning, if you get a nail in your tire or it becomes flat for any reason, bring it by Discount and they will fix it or completely replace it… for free.
Sell Your Stuff
Use the two-month rule. If you haven’t touched it, needed it, or used it in two months, give it away or sell it. You’d be surprised how much it adds up when you compile all the game systems, stereos, books, movies, electronics and furniture you are saving for “one day.” For books, DVDs and music check out Half Price Books. Gold and other metals can be sold at scrap shops, pawn shops or gold shops. Pro tip: Pawn shops will basically pay you for anything. It may not always be top dollar, but if you’re never going to use an item you might as well get something out of it. Craigslist is the best option for quick cash and selling your items at the best price, and yes, you can use it without getting axe murdered.
General Saving Tips
Literally get a piggy bank. With all of our money being digital now (online banking, mobile banking, etc.) it’s easy to see money as just a number on a screen. Get a little old school, make a shoebox your new “piggy bank” and fill it up. Seeing money physically and hiding it away from your daily mobile bank check, it becomes out of sight, out of mind. You are less likely to spend it if it’s hidden away in your closet and inaccessible from your debit card. Drop in your coin and cash change when you have it, get $10 cash back from the store every now and then to put in the box, put in money you’ve earned from selling things you never use. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up.
Pay in cash. Whenever possible, withdraw the money you need for a specific thing (groceries, entertainment, shopping) in cash and leave your cards at home. You are forced to only spend what you have.
Don’t buy anything you can’t afford. If you have to finance it, charge it or get a loan for it, take one month (up to six months for huge purchases like houses, cars, etc.) to REALLY decide if it’s absolutely necessary. Make a point to save up for splurge items and pay for them in full. You’re young, so getting in the habit of telling yourself, “I don’t have the cash for it, so I can’t buy it right now” is a great idea. Plus, there is something so fulfilling about paying for that big ticket item and knowing it is 100-percent yours, paid in full. You’ll thank yourself later.
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