Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sharing My Frugality

With how tight money is for so many people, I thought I would try and share some of my money saving tips.

First of all, we don't have cable in the Aberlich household. We never have, and probably never will. We watch too much tv as it is with the few free channels we get. So, we definitely do not need extra channels.

If you can get by without internet there's a big savings too. We have spent more of our married life without internet than with. We currently have it but we started having it on a regular basis as a way to stay in contact with Jeremiah and his commanders after he enlisted. Comcast and WOW! charge WAY too much for internet. My suggestion is to check into AT&T. Yes, our internet isn't the fastest speed in the world, but it is more than fast enough for Facebook, blogging, email, and all the minutia we use it for. The best part about AT&T is the price. We only pay $19.95 a month for our wireless DSL. And for those wondering, no, it is not an introductory price. But honestly, if you can get by without it, save the money. But, if you really need it (which is kind of how I feel now) than go the cheapest route. It's all the same internet. So, why pay more to access it?

Keep in mind these tips are for those really trying to cut costs. If you have the money for all these extravagances then YAY! for you, but we really don't. And we are so accustomed to trying to cut costs I don't know how much these things would change even if we did have the extra money.

Another service we don't use is Netflix or Blockbuster online. That's not to say we haven't tried free memberships, but we honestly don't use it enough to even justify the cheapest plans they offer. My suggestion for renting movies is the local library, Family Video, or the Redbox. If you can find it at the library it's usually free as long as you return it on time. Family Video is far cheaper than Blockbuster, and if you are going during the week they have a rent a new release get an older movie free. Plus, Family Video offers free children's movies. The Redbox is good because they allow you to get new releases for a buck. That sure beats Blockbusters over $5 new release rentals. And if you spend money on video game rentals, keep in mind some libraries also loan video games for no cost. I know for a fact that ours does.

This next one isn't for everyone. I am blessed to be able to stay home full time. Since Joseph isn't in school we are fortunate enough to get by using one vehicle. That means a savings of a car payment, car maintenance, and car insurance. I usually run my errands in the evening or on my husband's days off. It takes some getting used to and every once in a while a little juggling, but this has really saved us a lot of money. Some people just assume we can't afford to have two vehicles, but honestly it was a choice we spent a lot of time thinking about and it's worked out pretty well for us. Now, that will change when Jeremiah leaves for his next training because he'll be taking one of our vehicles (yes, we have two even though we only use one) to Georgia with him. So, of course we will have both vehicles on the road (one in Michigan and one in Georgia). But, that will more than likely only be temporary while he completes his next phase of training.

Kudos to you if you use cloth diapers! Cloth diapers just aren't for me. I know they offer an amazing amount of savings, but since we live in an apartment I don't have a washer and dryer at my beck and call. In addition to that, I really like the convenience of the disposable diaper. So, for those of you who use disposable diapers I have found (through trial, error, and leaks) that the cheapest brand you can count on is Luvs. I've tried multiple store brands, and also Pampers and Huggies. And it's my opinion that Luvs provides the least amount of leaks. So many store brands I tried just leaked like crazy. Don't get me wrong, Pampers and Huggies are great too, but I believe Luvs are just as good and they're half (at least) of the price. The only store brand diaper I was ever impressed with was Kirkland brand. I'm not sure if that's Sam's Club or Costco. Someone had given them to us. So, I don't really know the cost ratio on them. But, after using Huggies and then using Kirkland, I am completely covinced that Huggies makes Kirkland. Yes, there's a Kangaroo instead of Mickey Mouse, but seriously it looks, feels, smells, and is made the same way. So, I'm certain Huggies dispenses these under the Kirkland name.

Anyways, back to the Luvs. I've recently found the cheapest way to purchase diapers is through Amazon. They offer the big three (Pampers, Luvs, and Huggies). If you set up to have them delivered automatically (and you can change the frequency of the deliveries all the time) and sign up for their free Mom's Club, you will save 30% off of their price for diapers. I believe their diapers are approximately the same price as buying them in a retail store. So, imagine getting your diapers for 30% off retail. Oh, and don't worry about shipping. If you sign up for the Mom's Club and the automatic delivery there is no shipping cost. Also keep your eyes out in your email and also when you're flipping through your magazines. Amazon is constantly sending me coupons for 10-20% off my diapers. And yes you can use those coupons on top of your already 30% of savings. I just ordered a box a few days ago and got 60% off. Plus, (at least for Luvs) Amazon carries a box with more diapers than I can purchase at the store.

As far as wipes go, I still purchase them in the store. After using multiple brands, scents, and thicknesses, I've found my favorite wipes are Target store brand wipes. They are much cheaper than the big names and work just as well. I think they may even be a little softer than the Pampers and Huggies.

In the Aberlich house we have "dumb" phones. Our phones cannot connect to the internet or do anything fancy. Our phones can make calls and text which is really all we need. I don't want to pay for internet on my phone when I already have internet at home. This means that our phone bill (which is for 2 cellphones) ranges from $67-71 a month. I know people that spend more than that on one phone every month.

I also save a lot of money on grocery shopping. When we were first married I would go "major" grocery shopping and spend several hundred dollars every few weeks. I don't do that anymore. What I do is this: At the beginning of each week I look at the ad for the grocery store and get an idea of what's on sale. Then I take an index card and write down the days of the week and what meals I want to have on each day. (Be sure to have a least one day in there for your leftovers). I take into account what I already have in the house and then I go through each meal and write down only what I will need to still get to complete that meal. Then I make my shopping list for what I will need for that week. I find this helps me to not overspend and also not get food that winds up going bad. So, yes I go shopping every week but I'm seriously saving more than 1/2 of what I used to spend on groceries.

I'm an avid Target shopper. I always have been and always will be. The only problem I've had with Target is that they are notorious for their items ringing up incorrectly at checkout. If it's on sale just be sure to make them change the price. If the item is not on sale but is marked for let's say, $1.99 and it rings up for $2.49 be sure to go to the customer service desk after checkout and ask for the Michigan Scan Law. In Michigan if this happens they have to credit you back the difference to the original price (so they give you your 50 cents back) then they have to give you 10 times the difference (in this case 50 cents) up to $5. So, in this case 50 cents times ten is $5. So, you paid $2.49 for the product but they have to give you $5.50 back (50 cents for the difference and then the $5 scan law). Which if you give this any thought means you just got paid $3.01 to take that product home with you. Like I said Target is notorious for this, so just keep your eyes open during checkout.

Target's clearance is also awesome. Some places clearance things out that are damaged, but that's not how Target's clearance works. There is nothing wrong with the products they are discounting. It usually means that product is discontinued, or they just got a new version (one with newer packaging). You can get awesome deals on shampoo, baby products, pet products, etc. Just be sure to check the end caps when you go. I don't mind paying 75% less for my shampoo just because the bottle is a little bit different than the new one. Seriously, check it out.

Another one of my favorite things from Target is there 'buy this and that and get a $5 gift card'. I've seen them do this on diapers, wipes, formula, paper towel, shampoos (large bottles), toilet paper, cat litter and cat food. Let me give you an example, the other day they had these packages of my shave gel. I usually pay $1.97 for one bottle of my shave gel. They had a package with 3 of my shave gels (same size, brand, scent) for $5 (buying those 3 bottles seperately would have cost $5.91). If I bought 3 of these packages (a total of 9 shave gels) they would give you a $5 gift card. It worked out to nearly an $8 savings compared to if I had bought them one at a time. So, of course I got them to save my $8, and now I won't need shave gel for a long time. This can really work out to your advantage. Just keep your eyes open and be willing to stock up to save some major money.

My last piece of advice is to get a credit card that offers cash back rewards without an annual fee. The one I use is a Chase Freedom Mastercard. If you are consistent and careful you can use the card for all of your purchases, pay off the balance when you get the bill (so, no interest) and then reap the benefits of cash back. Our card gives us 5% on most things. Which if I use it for groceries, gas, necessities works out to a $20 reward check every couple of months. What I do to be sure I have enough money to pay the balance when the bill comes is this: Say I go to Target and spent 43.97 on some necessities (TP, shampoo, wipes, cat food, etc.) even though I didn't use my debit card, I write it in my checkbook register -- Pay to Mastercard (Target) debit $43.97. So, I've already allotted for that money so I'll be sure I have it to pay the bill when it comes. So I just do that with all the purchases and then send in check to pay the full bill when it comes.

Last but not least, if you feel like you couldn't keep up with my last bit of advice, at least choose a debit card that provides benefits. Most banks offer at least one debit card with rewards for free (they offer tons with an annual fee too). Add the rewards to your card, you might as well be earning something for spending your money.

I hope that my advice can help your family save some money!

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