What Does Saving Mean?

Blue Piggy Bank

So here I’ve been, blogging about my life and my somedays for the last year. As the calendar turned to 2011 quite a few friends (both in real life and online) began talking about getting a handle on their budgets so the could save money.

One of the first places people often start looking to save is on their grocery bill. But what does saving really mean? Does it mean putting money into a bank account or save a little each day in a piggy bank? Does it mean spending less so you have money for other things? Does it mean cutting out things and making due?

Saving means different things to different people. And my hope is that however you define it for you and your family that you find helpful and encouraging information here. I want people to know that however you define saving is all that matters.  If saving means spending less at the store, I’m thrilled if you’re able to use coupons and pair them with the weekly deals so you can walk out of the store with all you need for a fraction of the retail price.

If saving means being able to buy your child a new toy because there is a coupon code, that’s fantastic too! And so is buying groceries based on the sale and not dealing with cutting coupons but instead downloading eCoupons to your store loyalty card.

For me, saving is a little bit of all these things. I may need to buy a gift and can’t wait until some great super holiday day sale, so a coupon code giving me some savings (even if it’s just free shipping) is a welcome way to save a few dollars. Of course I head to the CVS and Grocery Stores weekly to take advantage of deals on items I normally use. Some weeks I know I’ll need those funds to go to lunch with a friend. Other weeks I keep the saved cash and use it for the next weeks budget. There are even times when BabyGirl gets a few dollars for being such a great shopping partner!

What does saving mean for you?

Sara

Saving A Little Each Day

Personal finance
photo credit: alancleaver_2000

Saving money isn’t as fun as spending it. Especially since watching your savings grow is probably as exciting as watching grass grow. But as with all other things that grow — babies, plants, animals — it takes time and nurturing and attention. Rarely do growing things prosper if left alone to its own devices.

Savings is no different. To grow your savings you need to nurture it, feed it and believe in its possibilities. Sure, it sounds hokey. But the reality of saving is that it’s more like the tortoise than the hare. Remember that story from childhood? The one where the rabbit thinks he’s all that and takes off and then thinks he has a sizable lead to lose it to the tortoise who moves slowly but focused and purposefully.

If you give your savings a little attention each day, it will grow. Did your dad have a jar he’d dump all his change in? Did your mom let you have all the coins she got as change from the grocery store?

I lived with my grandparents and they had this giant plastic container they’d put their coins into. It was about 3 feet tall and I have no idea where they got it. Probably in Europe somewhere because my mom said she remembered when she was a kid. Every night when they came home from work, my grandparents would put all their coins in this bottle.

The hollow sound of the coins plunking against the plastic when the bottle was empty seemed sad. How could this giant thing ever get filled up when coins were just so small. And, really, how much could this thing hold? And how long would it take? Probably years, I thought.

But it didn’t. Some days it was only 3 or 4 coins. Other days it was a hand full. Regardless of how much, there was always something to deposit. Each. Day. Every. Day.

It was a little at a time. But slowly it would fill up until it was so heavy my Grandpa would have to get the hand truck to move it. I remember it usually took about 5 or 6 months to fill the bottle up. And for days I’d sit at night helping my grandparents roll coins. My grandma worked at a bank so I had to be especially careful because I didn’t want her to get in trouble if I miscounted. To this day I’m a champion coin roller! If only there was Coinstar back then!!

The giant plastic bottle wasn’t just a place to collect coins. It was filled with my grandparent’s dreams. On the outside of the bottle they’d tape a picture of their vacation destination. My grandparents loved to travel and every 4 or 5 years they’d pick a new destination. Greece. China. Israel. Egypt. Russia.

My grandparents would go for 3 weeks on these amazing excursions. In the non-travel years they might visit relatives or friends, but nothing elaborate. They had a goal and they did what they needed to make sure they’d be able to get there.

Baby steps. Nurturing their growing mound of coins. They’d also put away larger sums of money, kind of like a Christmas Club account. But it was this giant plastic bottle of coins that left an impression with me.  Over a 4 year period of time my grandparents were able to save several thousand dollars just in extra coins. This was long before credit cards. And debit cards were unheard of. Your choice was cash, check or store credit.

So what to do now in the days of plastic money? Is it really worth it to use cash. I know many people feel that if they have cash it’s as good as spent. But, give it a try. Now, while it’s not as exciting as plinking coins into a giant plastic bottle, there are online options. You can set up an account with ING or your bank or credit union and have a specific amount transferred every week.

Just a little bit, consistently, will make a difference! If you save it, it will grow!

Will you join me in saving a little each day?

This post is linked to Robin’s Mingle Monday at Our Homeschool Home. Every Monday 20+ bloggers link up to share posts and friendship. Check out Mingle Monday.

Our Homeschool Home

Sara

Get Ready For Holiday Shopping

Christmas Shop
photo credit: Brian Forbes

Evidently, the holiday shopping season has begun even though it’s the middle of September. Stores by me are already stocking ornaments  and decorative items. And, just as in years past Christmas will be on December 25th. No surprise there! Although, when I’ve been foolish enough to go to the mall on December 24th the last two years (don’t laugh, remember, I’m Jewish and I forget these things!) I’m fairly certain that there are people out shopping who are surprised that Christmas is on the 25th. As if it’s Hanukkah!  Right!

This year Hanukkah begin December 1st, so all my Jewish friends you need to get going! Unfortunately, we’ll miss out on a lot of the deals in the two weeks leading up to Christmas since Hanukkah will be over. However, I’m here to tell you that with just a little planning right now you can take advantage of both time and money savers.

Here are my 10 Tips To Get Ready for Holiday Shopping

1. Get your Holiday Card list in order now. This will allow you know how many cards you’ll need.  Boxed cards will start to appear in stores soon, so if you want the best selection get there early. If you’re doing a picture card you should select that picture or convince your family to dress in their holiday best now so you can get the picture you want so it’s all ready to go.

2. Watch here for holiday card printing deals. They should be starting soon.  But look out for deals on Daily Deal sites like Zulily where from now until 9/17 you can get a gift certificate for $50 worth of personalized cards from Tiny Prints for only $25!

3. Go buy your stamps. There aren’t many options for money savers here but if you belong to a warehouse club like Sams or Costco they often sell stamps for a teensy weensy discount.

4. Put together your shopping list and include the dollar amount you plan to spend. If you know what you want to buy, include that too. The goal here is to plan your shopping budget so that you know how much you’ll need to save or allocate.

5. Start watching the ads and websites for the things you want. You don’t have to buy now unless you know it’s a great price. Just be aware of what the prices are so you can plan. My friend Mara, she blogs at Kosher on a Budget, wrote about stockpiling gifts. She has some great tips!

6. If you’re planning on doing a cookie exchange or making crafty gifts, get your list ready and watch the sales. Craft stores routinely have discount coupons so make sure you take advantage of those money saver items. Grocery stores know that holiday baking will be under way, so get those coupon printed and clipped for butter and shortening and sugar and chocolate morsels. You should be able to get most of your baking needs on sale.

7. If you are traveling for the holidays, make note of those dates on your calendar and mark a ‘STOP’ date so you know you need to have all your shopping done by a certain date. If you don’t have until the last minute, then just adjust your planning calendar.

8. Teacher gifts. I know this is a controversial subject for many but, yes, you do need to get a gift for the teachers. Skip the mugs and the shower gel and just opt for a gift card and a pretty card. If you watch the CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Target  deals you may likely find discounts on these too. Worst case scenario is you grab a Starbucks gift card. Even a $5 card is appreciated. If you can not afford a gift, and your child is in elementary school, have your child make a special card of thanks.

9. Start saving money. Christmas and Hanukkah gifts are not an emergency. But just like an emergency fund, you can easily save for these gifts a little at a time. It’s as easy as putting a few bucks a week in an envelope in your dresser drawer. If you skip you daily drink of choice, put those few bucks in the envelope. If you take lunch instead of going out set that aside too. If you have water instead of soda at the restaurant, add that in. These are all small amounts but they can easily add up to a few hundred dollars by mid December. If date night is usually $100 and you find a way to only spend $50 then make the savings real. Same with using coupons. If you would have bought something without using a coupon, if you find a coupon then same that money. It works for online deals too. If you find a code for free shipping then make that ‘free’ part of your savings. Be mindful of what you need to achieve and you can make choices with knowledge!

10. Don’t stress! The holidays are a joyous time. If you can’t spend any money then just enjoy being with friends and family. No matter how crazy or stressed out you get, the holidays will come and go. Make the most of it and create lasting memories. It shouldn’t be about the money and the gifts and the things. Celebrate the reason for the season.

Now, are you ready to take on the holidays?

Sara

Consequences Of Our Choices

Vibrato II
photo credit: fdecomite

Newton’s law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That works great in physics but when it comes to real life it doesn’t always work that way in real life. Or in money management.

In real life the reaction of our action isn’t always equal nor opposite. We get curve balls, underhanded pitches, things way over our heads and of course those things that blindside us. Ugh! And in money management and budgeting, how many times have you had to outlay more money than what seemed reasonable?

But one thing that is consistent is that for every choice there is a consequence. Some consequences are better than others. For others, well, we’d like to call a do-over. Hindsight is the most awesome thing ever invented! I wish there was some way to make hindsight foresight. Except then I’d be clairvoyant and that could be freaky.

So back to this whole idea of our choices having consequences. If you’re a parent you talk about this all the time with the kids. You probably remember being asked ‘are you sure?’. This is code for ‘if you make this choice something is going to happen that you might not like but you’ll be stuck with it so you might want to really, really, really think about your choice and whatever you are going to choose then you should choose the opposite’.

I’m constantly teaching this concept to BabyGirl. I want her to know that if she decides to do something that it will have an effect on something else. Because rarely is a choice without consequence. I want her to think about making choices and know that they don’t exist in a vacuum.  Things like if you don’t brush your teeth then you’ll have bad breath or yucky teeth or dental problems. I don’t want her making some cosmic leap like, if I don’t brush my teeth all my teeth will have to be pulled out and I’ll have no teeth’. But I do want to teach her to think beyond the NOW.

I read so many blogs and posts about how people are trying to get out of debt. The current economic problems came about because many felt that they needed stuff NOW or because professionals failed to outline the real consequences of the choices being made. We are consumers with conspicuous consumption. And we don’t like to wait and we’ve been told for years that we can have all these things for just dollars a day. Our friends buy stuff and go on fabulous trips and drive great cars. And we want that too!

And we want it without having to think about the consequences. We don’t want to be reminded that the credit card bill will be here next month. Who cares if that great skirt needs to be dry cleaned to the tune of $10+ each wear. And really, it would be best not to be reminded that we don’t really need 296 channels plus HD when it costs more than we can really afford.

The reality of life, though, is that there are consequences for our choices. Some will be small or even insignificant. But it’s those more significant consequences that should make us think twice. Except who really wants to think about consequences when something seems so perfect.

What are the consequences of my choices?

1. Do I need this or do I want this?

2. Can I afford this now or will I need to finance it? Is financing this a good option?

3. Is there a more practical (financially or otherwise) option?

4. Are there better alternatives?

5. Do I want this because it will make people like me more?

6. Am I teaching my child a good lesson?

7. What would really happen if I buy it/don’t buy it?

8. Am I buying/getting this for emotional reasons? Am I trying to satisfy some other need?

9. Why do I want this?

10. If I don’t get/do this, what will happen?

We’ve all made decisions that have proven not to be the best. Emotions often drive us to make decisions without thinking it through. Maybe in the future, we’ll stop and think twice. Or three time or even four. We can’t be paralyzed by the various consequences, but we can be informed. Right?

Sara

How Confidence Saved Me $170

Phoenix water isn’t known to be the tastiest or best. It’s actually ranked #53 in a recent study of Best City Water. And if you live in Phoenix or have ever been here and tasted the water then you know full well why I have a drinking water purification system.

When CycleGuy and I bought our house almost 13 years ago one of the first things we did was call Kinetico and have them come out and install a reverse osmosis (R/O) drinking water system and a water softener. Nothing too crazy for most Phoenix homeowners. Most people I know have an R/O system.

About every two year we’ve had the filters replaced. I’d call up the Kinetico people and have them come out. When we had the system installed that’s what they said to do. And so I did.

Remember, that was long before the internet. Well before it was posible to shop around and find some other company to do this same thing. Also, there is only one Kinetico authorized company in Phoenix.

Fast forward to last month. When our filters need changing our system stops. It won’t allow for water to continue to flow through if the filters can not do their job. Sounds like a great plan, huh. I think so. I don’t want to drink nasty water.

I went to the files and grabbed the invoice from the last time, getting ready to call. Then I saw how much I paid for the tech to come out for what amounted to about 15 minutes – $212! (pick up your jaw from the ground!)

Yes, in my foolish state I paid $212 for water filters. I was incensed! The filters were actually only $75, but the  trip charge was $125! One Hundred and Twenty Five Dollars! To come out to my house, turn two holders, take out the spent filter cartridges and put in the new ones. All in about 15 minutes. That’s the equivalent of $500/hr! I’m a lawyer and I don’t charge that kind of money. I must be in the wrong business.

This time, though, I said NO WAY! I’m smart. I can figure this out. So I pulled out my owners manual to find out what filters I need. But that wasn’t helpful. I was going to have to open up the cartridge holders. After about 30 minutes and spraying myself, under the sink, and half the kitchen with water I got the cartridges. Phew! It was not as easy as I thought it would be.

Thankfully the internet is full of all kinds of companies.  I found Water Filters Online and searched for my cartridges. It took me about 20 minutes. I checked and double checked and triple checked that I was getting the right filters. There are two filters of different size so I didn’t want to get the wrong one and my system not work.

The filters arrived in about a week and my crazy idea would be put to the test. Could I do this myself? And in the process save myself money? I knew I could. I believed that I’m smart enough to put in two water filters!

It took me about 10 minutes to get the water filters in and then figure out what I’d done to turn off the R/O system so I could turn it back on. If I’d remembered what I’d done to turn that contraption off it probably would have taken all of 3 minutes. But no! I’m there with my head under the sink turning all these turny-things hoping not to spray myself.

I DID IT! Once the air cleared the system I had water. Black water, but water nonetheless. I wasn’t worried about the black water because it’s a carbon filter and that’s normal. I knew that would happen.

An hour later and having spent only $45 I had clean drinking water again!  I was so proud of myself for believing I could do this. I’m relatively handy around the house. But I’d read the owners manual and the directions for changing the filter and it’s very confusing. I had watched them do this many times that I knew if I could find the filters I could probably do it. And if I couldn’t then at least I’d have the filters and they could just come change them out.

It sounds hokey, but a little confidence sure helps. Now, I had $170 extra money that I could use toward something else.

Do you think you can tackle a project and save a few bucks instead of calling a service person? I bet you can!

Disclosure: I paid for my own water filters. WaterFiltersOnline.com has no clue I have this fantastic blog. Lucky for you, you do!
Sara

One Moms Trash Is Another Moms Treasure

Image stolen from eBay but I'll give it back if they ask

On Sunday I was going through BabyGirl’s closet to thin out all the clothes she doesn’t wear or are too small. In doing so we made two piles. Those clothes that will be given away to our favorite charity – Global Family Philanthropy – and those that I need to go through again and determine what to really do with them.

And so with pile of things to go through again I was thinking of the various alternatives that are out there. Do I take them to the consignment or resale shop? They’re good brands. Most have only been worn once or twice. Do I just give them away? Will people think I’m pawning off my junk? Again, we’re talking nice brands like Oilily and April Cornell and Betsey Johnson and Mini Boden and Catimini. Definitely not crap. Maybe I put them on eBay?

Yes, eBay! I could potentially get money to once again buy more clothes for BabyGirl. Her closet is almost bare what with the now 55 hangers that have nothing on them. And I shop on eBay so maybe others will buy my stuff too.

And with my uploaded images of all these clothes and shoes I’ve started listing them on eBay. NWT. EUC. NWoT. All the acronyms and details of what I’m selling. In hopes that someone wants my trash.  Because I know I’ll be buying another mom’s trash in a little while.  With that click to make the listing live I take a deep breath and hope they sell. I want someone to like these clothes too and buy them so I can then buy stuff too.

Within minutes I had my first bids. Yay! Someone wants what I’m selling at my virtual garage sale. Another mom wants my trash! It’s a lot of work, I won’t lie. Taking pictures, filling in the listing, up loading, describing, including all kinds of details so that my junk will get top dollar.

Is it worth it? Maybe? Does it take time? Yes, yes it does. But here’s the thing. It’s great to share and give things away. I’m all for supporting other moms and charities by passing good clothing and shoes along. When I’ve spent as much money on these things as I’ve got tied up in them I want to try and recoup some of my ‘investment’. It’s the frugalista in me. I need to find a way to keep rolling the money from infant outfit all the way to prom dress.

Many of us frugal gals still want to dress nicely and buy nice things for our kids. Places like eBay and Craigslist and ThredUp are all great way for us to not only find good deals but also sell our ‘trash’.

Do you pass your kids’ clothing on to friends, family or charity? Or do you try and sell them? Do you believe that One Moms Trash is Another Moms Treasure?

Disclosure: I wrote this post because it is what I wanted to talk about. eBay doesn’t know who I am and probably doesn’t care. They didn’t pay me or even contact me for that matter. It’s just your lucky day to be reading about how I’m going to get rich selling my daughter’s clothes on eBay.
Sara

How To Get Free Shipping Every Time You Buy From Amazon.com

I love buying things from Amazon.com because they make shopping easy not only for the purchase but also if you have to return something.  But, if you’re like me you’ve put a few things in your cart only to realize that you’re a few cents short for the FREE Super Saver Shipping when you spend $25.  It’s annoying to have $24.99 in your cart knowing that if you just bought something for $0.01 you’d get free shipping.

So you do like most people and add something else, paying more than you really wanted to pay but glad you got the free shipping.  Afterall, by buying this other item you get free shipping which would have cost a few bucks so you feel like you actually ‘saved’ money by buying this other item.  But what if I told you that you didn’t have to buy something for a few bucks just so you can get free shipping?

Amazon Filler Item Finder to the rescue!  Using Amazon Filler Item Finder is easy!

1.  Click over to Amazon Filler Item

2.  Type in the amount you’re needing to get to $25 for the FREE Super Saver Shipping

3.  Select an item from the list presented.  You probably won’t need anything presented but for a few cents, it’s worth it!

4.  A new window will open.  Add the item to your Amazon.com shopping cart and proceed to check out.

5.  Check Out and Save Money!

Do you have other ways of saving? I’d love to know what tips you have!

Sara

Bubbe Says: Save For a Rainy Day

We’ve all heard the old adage that we have to save for a rainy day.  Most financial planners encourage you to have a rainy day fund.  And, well, no matter where you live you know that one day it is going to rain (both literally and figuratively!).

Whether you rent or own, live with a roommate, have your own car or ride the bus you know that something will always come up that you didn’t originally plan on having to pay for.  It could be a medical situation that requires hospitalization or even a few rounds of antibiotics that set you back a considerable amount of money.

My bubbe always told me that even emergencies can be planned for if you anticipate that some day something might just go wrong.  Bubbe comes from a time where being prepared was a way of life.  And she’s continued with a variety of different ways to keep that going in her life.

Now that many health care plans have high deductibles, we could be saving a small amount each month ‘just incase’. There are also doctor and prescription co-pays that need to be paid.  Sure, we never intend to use them but what if?  By saving a few dollars along the way, you can be a little more prepared if the unintended happens.

But how do you save for a rainy day?  Here are three ways to get you started and help you be prepared.

1.  Save all your change every evening – At the end of the day take all your coins – even if it’s just the pennies, nickels and dimes – and put it in a jar.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly change can add up.  No, it won’t magically multiply into thousands of dollars over night but you’d probably be surprised at what you’ll have at the end of a month.

2.  Set up an automatic transfer with your current account – Even transferring $5 a week can give you $20 at the end of each month (on average).  You can use an online bank such as ING or HSBC if you want to keep the money from your immediate temptation.  Of course you can open up an additional account at your local financial institution too.  Just make sure you set up a weekly or monthly automatic transfer or keep a reminder to make the transfer.

3. Pay with cash – if you normally charge routine purchases to your credit or debit card, you may be spending more than you really want.  If you allocate a set amount for the week, you are more likely to stay within that budget.  Anything left over at the end of the week can be put in your savings jar.

By taking small steps, you can give yourself peace of mind knowing that there is a rainy day fund ‘just incase’.  And, of course, Bubbe has insight about making your savings tangible.

Do you have other ways you save for a rainy day?  I’d love to know, and I’m sure others would too!

Sara

Costco – You Had Me at Hello

I’ve been a Costco member for 10 or so years. I’ve never really needed to buy mass quantities of randomness. I don’t take prescription medication so I don’t need the awesome deals at the pharmacy. Although, I did find out that you don’t have to be a member to buy prescription medication at Costco. You can read about that here.

Anyway, each year I pay the fee so I can have the privilege of buying stuff I may not really need. And, I pay for my grandma to have a membership so she can buy lots of stuff – since she’s 90 and eats like a bird.

About 8 months ago a new Costco was built near the mall and right across the street from my local library. Convenient! And it has a gas station, which I love! Gas is about 10 cents a gallon cheaper and basically the savings makes my membership for the year free. Gotta love that.

But when I walk in to the basic, giant, gray box of a store I’m tempted to buy everything. First, there is a super nice person at the door to greet and welcome you. Not just your average greeter, but genuinely nice people who remember you from week to week (not that I go there that often, we’re just memorable people. Yah, that’s it!) And when you go in, you have to get one of their super-sized carts. It’s more like a small car, and, actually, I think their carts might be the size of a Smart Car.

The stark warehouse is neatly plied with colorful goods and sparkly shiny things. Books are piled high and name brand clothes are enticing. Those little girl dresses look so pretty, and that less than $20 price makes me want to buy one in every color. Even if I don’t need it, I think that it’s probably a great deal and it’s as if the products are calling my name.

But why can’t I quit you, Costco?

Now I know! According to a recent study, there is scientific proof that my brain loves Costco. I trust Costco will sell quality goods. I believe that Costco has good prices and won’t rip me off. The store is set up very basically, without fancy signs and low ceilings. You walk in and feel like you’re already saving money!

Oh, and the free samples! Can’t forget the free samples. Everything from fresh juice to smoothies and chinese chicken, chocolate and soup. It’s so enticing and boy does BabyGirl love tasting all these samples. And I’m a sucker and buy the products. It’s science. And I’m paying warehouse prices, which my brain has been conditioned to believe are low. So when I put that 4 pound brick of cheese in my cart, along with my 25 pounds of potatoes and 10 pounds of apples, I’ll still have plenty of room for the gallon of orange chicken panda express sauce too!

Even writing about Costco makes me think I should go there tomorrow and get something. I know they’ll say Hello!

Do you shop at Costco? Do you feel drawn in and happy when you’re there? It’s not your fault. It’s scientifically proven that You Can’t Quit Costco!

Sara