Posts filed under ‘save money’

One Reason It Pays Not to Be Size 6

mannequins

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is a perfect size 6. You know the cute little sizes all the store mannequins wear? Yup, a size 6. She can walk into any store and find a plethora of shirts, dresses and sweaters that mold perfectly to her build. When we went wedding dress shopping she tried on half the gowns in the store and found they all fit like a glove, almost no alterations needed. You know the cute, little shoes that sit on top of the displays in department stores, yup, those all fit her too.

I always thought those size 6 women were so lucky. How amazing would it feel to walk into a store and walk out with bags full of clothes that fit so perfectly? The same is never true for me. I am rather impossible to fit. Although the fashion industry employs models with super long legs, there are actually few stores that make clothing for tall women. For years I shopped in the men’s department at the gap. It was the only place I could find pants that would fit a 36 inch inseam.

Needless to say shopping has never been fun for me. I’m not the kind of girl who owns fifty pairs of shoes or wears a different outfit for every day of the year. It’s not necessarily that I didn’t want to own a lot of clothes, but rather that I could never find any to fit me. I can walk into a dressing room with 50 articles of clothing and not find a single item that fits. I can’t tell you how often I leave a store empty handed.

In the past I dreamed of being a perfect size 6!

These days I have a different outlook on things. A medical crisis transformed my notion of what’s important in life and fitting into everything I try on is certainly not high on my list.  I now try to lead a minimalist lifestyle and I’m happy that my dressers are moderately empty. Although it’s probably not a good sign when your husband comments on the fact that you wear the same five shirts week after week.

In fact, as I look at my friend’s closets I see a bunch of stuff. Stuff that she couldn’t resist buying. Stuff that she is literally running out of space to store. Stuff that she spent a lot of money on. Perhaps it’s good not to be a size 6 after all. If nothing else my lack of clothing options has saved me a significant amount of money over the long haul.

*Photo Credit: Eran Bendheim

October 4, 2013 at 5:03 PM Leave a comment

How Decadent Chocolates Are Helping Me

Chocolate

Photo Credit: Godiva.com

I lost all of my baby weight after my son was born, but over time an extra five to ten pounds has crept back onto my body. According to the height-weight projections I could easily stand to lose at least fifteen pounds, possibly twenty. It turns out I had a little extra junk in the trunk before I got pregnant.

I’ve been focusing on removing needless calories from my diet. I started juicing in the morning and fixing myself some form of protein, typically scrambled eggs. I also place vegetables on the top shelf of the refrigerator and clean all of my produce when I come home. That way it’s staring at me, clean and ready to be eaten. I literally have to move them out of the way to get through the rest of the fridge.

Overall I think I’m eating really well. I’ve cleared the cupboards of processed, packaged foods. I don’t feed these to my son so I decided not to feed them to myself either. I’m not perfect. I indulged in a bag of chips at Subway this weekend and still cook recipes on occasion that require heavy cream. It’s all about moderation not deprivation anyway.

My biggest downfall right now is my love of sweets. I think I inherited that trait from my mom who can’t seem to make a bag of candy last longer than a couple of days. I crave those tasty, sweet morsels of pleasure. My favorite indulgence is a bowl of dutch chocolate ice-cream smothered in chocolate syrup, whipped cream and sprinkled with M&Ms. Oh yeah that’s where that extra ten pounds probably came from.

In an effort to cut back on sweets I did something quite counter-intuitive. I bought an expensive bag of dark chocolate covered cashews. At first I was worried that I would eat the entire bag in one sitting, but for some reason I’m able to eat just one or two and feel completely satisfied. Okay, if they are really tiny nuts I might need three or four. The deeper grade of chocolate makes the experience seem much more rich and decadent. I savor the pieces because I know they are expensive, but they are also so tasty they make me want to savor them more.

I can’t say whether or not this technique will work in the long run, but for now it’s helping to fulfill the need for something sweet. I’m not foregoing ice-cream all together but I am limiting the number of times per week that I allow myself a bowl.

I’m also spending a lot less money on sweets. While the organic, dark chocolate covered cashews are expensive I’m eating very few of them. In fact, this bag has lasted me three weeks already.

Do you have tricks for avoiding the foods you shouldn’t eat but love?

September 24, 2013 at 6:42 PM 4 comments

How I Bought a Car Below the Invoice Price

Highlander

This weekend my husband and I purchased our first new car in over thirteen years. We bought a brand new 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited. I spent a lot of time researching the best ways to ensure a good price, so I thought I’d share my experience in case it helps anyone else looking to buy a new car.

We weren’t sure if we should buy a new car or focus on a slightly used one, preferably one that was only a year or two old. One sunny Sunday afternoon my husband and I visited CarMax where we wandered through the lot looking at various SUVs and Crossovers. It was there that we narrowed down our vehicles of choice to a Toyota Highlander and a Toyota 4Runner.

We asked to test drive each vehicle. While we both liked the 4Runner a little bit more we decided that the Highlander had much more comfortable seating in both the front seats and the second row. We also liked that the car could fit up to seven if necessary. We’re still not sure if our family will expand any further, but we wanted the option for more space if it was needed. If nothing else it will allow me to transport my son’s friends as he gets older.

I highly suggest test driving a couple of different vehicles before choosing one. I wish I had done this in 1999 when I bought my Honda Civic. I didn’t realize how small and uncomfortable the car until it was too late.

After narrowing down our vehicle of choice I researched prices and found that used cars weren’t that much cheaper than new ones. Plus many of the older cars had lots of options that we didn’t necessarily want or need.

Once we decided to buy a new car I began searching for the best possible price. I went onto Edmunds.com and ran a query to determine the True Market Value. I wrote down the invoice price of each option I wanted as well as the true market value, which indicates what other people in my area paid for the same car.

Next I started my inquiries online. I am fortunate enough to live in an area with a lot of different showrooms, so I pulled up the websites of various dealerships and searched for cars that met my criteria.

Next I weeded out any vehicle that included extra options I didn’t need. There is no sense in paying for items in a car that you don’t want. They will add unnecessarily to the bottom line. I ruled out any car that contained features that weren’t on my original options list. In essence, I ended up with the basic model of a car with nothing more than optional floor mats or floor mats and cargo cross bars.

If I found a car that met my criteria I reached out to the dealership via their online query form and asked for their lowest price. I ended up sending inquiries to four dealerships in my area.  Three of the dealerships in our area didn’t haggle, so I knew that there price was the absolute lowest I could receive.

I compared the numbers of each dealership on the base price of the vehicle and then started asking follow up questions. Toyota is currently offering a promotion that includes a $500 cash back rebate or 0% financing. Three of the four salesmen didn’t tell me that their lowest price included the rebate until I asked them. If I wanted the 0% financing I had to add $500 back to their lowest price. I found that kind of shady, but clearly a lot of places do that so it’s definitely something to be aware of when checking prices.

Once I narrowed down the lowest prices I asked each salesman how much it would cost to add extra options that were not included in the vehicle they had for sale. These included items like a tow hitch as well as remote engine starting capabilities. The prices of these add-ons varied greatly among the dealers.

For instance one dealership told me it would cost over $1000 for the tow hitch while another quoted me less than $700. While one place offered the base vehicle for less it was also the dealership with the most expensive add-ons.

My husband and I decided to try our hand at negotiating and visited the one dealership that didn’t take the no-haggle approach. We walked in with an email from the dealership offering the lowest price and asked if the salesman could do any better. It was the same person that had responded to my email inquiries and when he pointed out why his prices were valid I referenced the detailed information I previously found online.  I think I could have haggled a little more with him, but I felt good with the price we were offered.

Even if he hadn’t matched the price or offered us a lower number his prices were still the best after we factored in the add-ons we wanted. We came to an agreement on the pricing and were then sent to speak to someone else in the servicing department about the extra options. My husband was able to negotiate a little on those too.

Before the Internet individuals would spend hours negotiating prices. When they finally agreed on a price it was difficult to know whether or not they got a good deal on their vehicle. These days with the help of Edmunds.com and a little research from the comfort of your own home you can feel good about the price you pay.  You can start the ball rolling on negotiations before you even set foot in a showroom.

My best advice is to get the facts and start a bidding war through online inquiries. By the time you show up to buy the car you sit down, agree to the price and write a check. It took a lot of research and time to crunch numbers, but by the time we arrived at the dealership it couldn’t have been any easier.

May 12, 2013 at 10:51 PM 1 comment

Easy Ways to Keep Your Financial Goals in Mind

Do you find it difficult to stick to your financial goals? Do you find yourself tempted to buy things you want but don’t need? If so you might want to give these ideas a try. They seem a bit strange, but they have helped me curb unnecessary spending.

First, change the passwords on your online shopping accounts. If you are an avid online shopper you probably have accounts set up at all sorts of online stores. Log on to the sites that you frequent the most and update your account information with passwords that will remind you of your goal. If you want to avoid spending change your password to something like NoBuying2013. If you want to save for retirement make it NotTil401K.

Log on to as many sites as you can now, long before you get the urge to go shopping. While you are updating your password don’t poke around in search of the latest styles. Just log in, change your passwords and log back out.

Hopefully the next time you get an urge to spend you’ll change your mind after typing in your password. It’s an easy, in your face reminder of your long term goals.

If you find yourself spending money in stores take a picture of your goal, print it out and wrap it around your credit card or place it in the front of your wallet where you typically hold your driver’s license or other form of identification.

Do you want to buy a new home? Find a photograph of a house you’d love to own. Do you want to become a stay-at-home parent? Place a picture of your children in the fold in front of your credit cards.

Whatever your dream find a photograph that represents that image and place it among the dollar bills or credit cards, so that you have to move it out of the way in order to spend money.

When you reach the checkout counter the picture may help you to pause and review your upcoming purchases. As you look down at the image of the beach you wish to visit or the home you want to buy you may think twice about purchasing something you really don’t need.

It’s often difficult to focus on long term financial goals. Hopefully these gentle reminders will prevent you from unnecessary spending.

April 25, 2013 at 11:12 PM Leave a comment

A Child’s Interests Change Quickly: How to Save Money on Toys for Small Children

In the short time my son has been on this earth our home has been inundated with an overflowing number of toys. It is absolutely amazing how such a tiny little boy can attain so much. I’m a bit of a neat freak so I bought a storage unit to hold all of the toys in our living room, but that filled up quite quickly.

Book Shelves

While it was cold outside I moved a bunch of items into our  sun-room. It doesn’t have central heat so we rarely step foot in there in the wintertime. I began rotating his toys by moving a couple of things back onto the bookshelf and removing others so that he had new toys to play with every few days.

What I found is that my son’s interests change quickly. One week he is interested in blocks, the next he’d rather play with his toy kitchen or pretend to talk on the telephone. Some days he’ll pull out and complete all of the puzzles in the house and other days he won’t even look at them.

Even though he’s only eighteen months his interests are constantly changing. While I know children who play with the same toy day after day, my son becomes less interested the moment he masters one.

A few months after my son turned one I wrote about the financial lessons I learned from his first year. In that post I mentioned the importance of hand-me-downs. Six months later I now believe they are more valuable than ever. Ninety percent of the toys in our house were hand-me-downs, another 8% were gifts from friends and family and the remaining 2% were gifts from either my husband or myself.

I can’t imagine how much money we saved by accepting gently used items from friends and family. Many of the toys would’ve cost well over $20 to $25 new. It’s tough to buy a toy for that much money and than realize that your child will only play for it for a short period of time. At this age you never know what might interest a child. My son has played with toys for weeks that I never would have imagined he’d be interested in and ignored toys that I was sure he would love.

With hand-me-downs you don’t have to pay any money. (A win.) You don’t add any more trash to the landfill. (A win.) And if your child gets bored of a toy easily you simply pass it on to another child without feeling guilty. (A win.)

If you do have someone in your life willing to hand down toys make sure you profusely thank them for their generosity. Send pictures of your child playing with the toys and if they provide you with a lot of stuff make sure consider giving them a small gift to show your appreciation.

Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have friends and family members with toys to pass on. If this isn’t an option for you try visiting local consignment shops, online auctions and co-ops for good deals. Remember that at this age your child doesn’t know that a toy isn’t shiny and new.

If you have friends and family who want to buy your child gifts tell them to consider buying used too. Remind them that children outgrow toys quickly at this age and that you’d rather have them save the money. Of course, if you can convince them to avoid toys and provide a monetary gift towards your child’s education or savings all the better.

If they do want to buy a gift try to encourage them to buy something other than stuffed animals. Unlike plastic toys that can be wiped down and disinfected stuffed animals are often difficult to launder. Once your child outgrows these it is difficult to pass them on to another child. This doesn’t mean children shouldn’t have any stuffed animals, but rather that you might want to keep the amount to a reasonable number. Once my son filled a small box I began asking close friends and family members not to buy him anymore.

Lastly remember that kids don’t always need or want to play with toys. Children often make toys and games out of the items around them. There are lots of every day items that can amuse them. My son has just as much fun with real pots and pans, toilet paper rolls and cups filled with water then he does with the mechanical toys that eventually bore him.

April 19, 2013 at 10:00 PM 6 comments

The ‘One Day’ Fund – Saving for Long Term Goals

Every so often my husband and I sit down to discuss our finances. Among our favorite topics is what to do with the money we saved.

Sometimes we save with a specific goal in mind. We may want to remodel our bathroom, save for a larger car or take a much needed vacation. Other times we save with absolutely no purpose other than to set money aside.

A year and a half ago we decided to forgo the bathroom upgrades and new-to-us car so I could stay home with my son. With money in the bank we thought that the transition to a one income household would be slightly less scary. It was nice to know we had money in the bank if we needed it to fall back on.

As time passes our priorities shift, but no matter how our day-to-day decisions change over the years we still keep ‘one day’ goals in the back of our mind. ‘One day’ goals are those aspirations that are too distant to focus on day in and day out. They are dreams that won’t come to fruition for at least ten or twenty years. You hope that they will happen one day, but there is no telling when that day will come.

Our one day goals sound so simple, yet seem so hard to achieve. They are as follows:

  • Pay off the mortgages of our two homes in less than 10 years
  • Build a waterfront property. (This will probably involve selling the vacation property we currently own and using the money to build a new one.)
  • Work fewer hours each week at a rewarding and interesting job. (This involves my husband working less, but also includes the understanding that I will return to work at some point in the next five years.)

In my dream scenario we would meet at all of these goals in the next ten years. By the ripe old age of 45 I would be mortgage free, living in a cozy house by the shore, working less and enjoying my job.

In reality I’m not sure what will happen, but regardless of how things play out it sure feels nice to dream about those ‘one day’ goals.

How about you? Do you set long term goals? If so, what are they?

March 8, 2013 at 7:15 AM 5 comments

Unsubscribed: So Long Bargain Blogs

I recently cleaned out my inbox. I unsubscribed from just about every newsletter I receive and removed myself from a ton of unwanted junk that seems to wander across my path each day. I also unsubscribed from a huge number of RSS feeds to bargain blogs.

A lot of these blogs post multiple times throughout the day and my RSS reader quickly fills up with images of deeply discounted toys, clothing and other household items. While it’s great to get a bargain, it’s certainly not a bargain if you spend money on stuff you don’t need. After feeling tempted to buy things one too many times I decided to give the majority of those blogs the old heave-ho. (I did the same thing with magazines and catalogs a long time ago.)

It felt good to give them the boot. A lot of these blogs make their money from referral links to Amazon and other affiliate companies. Every time I take advantage of a bargain I’m dropping anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars in their pocket.  There’s nothing wrong with this model. In fact, I belong to an affiliate company and make money whenever readers print coupons from my blog. From time to time I’ve also included affiliate links in posts, though this is a pretty rare occurrence.

I just think it’s important to remember that many bloggers do make money from listing these bargains and that the real way to save money is not to spend it. For me, it seemed easier to remove the RSS feeds from my reader then to continue the daily bombardment of items that were deeply discounted but ultimately not needed.

February 28, 2013 at 3:01 PM 11 comments

Another Example Where I Should Have Chosen Time Over Money

Yesterday after returning a few unwanted Christmas gifts to the store I bundled the baby in the back seat and drove to the gas station for a quick fill. Once we’re dressed and loaded into the car I tend to get the most bang for my buck by completing as many errands as possible.

It was really cold outside, (I think the weather man said it felt like 9 degrees), and there was a sharp wind that cut right through my coat. I hopped out of the car, entered my Giant rewards number at the pump, clicked a bunch more buttons, entered my zip code, pulled the nozzle out, selected a grade and planned to jump into the car to warm back up.  As soon as I pressed the handle to pump gas the pump beeped and told me my transaction was cancelled. Argh!

I locked the baby in the car and walked up to the external cashier window. (My car was only two or three feet away from the pump.) He asked me to try my transaction again. Double argh! I entered my Giant card number, etc, etc, etc. I stepped all the way through the process again and just as I pressed the nozzle to dispense gas the transaction was cancelled again. Triple argh!

I walked back up to the cashier. This time he told me they were having problems with that particular pump and asked that I back up and try a different one. I put the car in reverse, moved to the new pump, ran through all the steps again and wouldn’t you know it my transaction was cancelled for the third time.

I was frustrated, annoyed and to be honest quite furious. I decided to drive to another Shell station because my Giant rewards were set to expire in another day or two. Five minutes later I arrived at the next closest station entered my Giant number, followed all of the same steps and pumped gas without a single problem.

I saved 90 cents a gallon or roughly $13.00, but I spent nearly 30 minutes doing so. I wasted time driving to a gas station where the pumps didn’t work. I wasted time attempting to pump gas three times. I wasted time asking the cashier to help me and I wasted even more time driving to another gas station when the first one didn’t work. I think this is one of those examples where I should have chosen time over money. $13.00 is a decent chunk of change, but the whole sequence of events was terribly aggravating.

What do you think? Would you have tried to pump gas three times in the freezing cold and then driven to another gas station to save $13.00?

January 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM 7 comments

The Top 10 Ways I’ve Been Able to Grow My Net Worth

When I look back at my life so far I tend to think I saved money one dollar at a time. While that may true there are certainly some moments in life that helped me reach my savings goals faster. The list below contains most of the momentous events and decisions that helped me save along the way:

  1. My husband and I both worked in IT. As you know that industry comes with the potential for very high salaries. No matter how much weight one places on saving money, the key to accumulating a high net worth in a relatively short amount of time is earning a lot of dough. Of course you also have to bank that money, otherwise you’ll have lots of fun toys but little cash to show for it.
  2. No matter what you do for a living if you work hard let your boss know it. In my 12 years as a software developer I received a mediocre review only one time. When I questioned my boss’s decision he told me I made the work look too easy. If you are working hard let your boss know it. If you get too much done without pointing it out your boss may assume the work wasn’t very difficult to begin with and rate you accordingly.
  3. I began contributing to savings and retirement accounts immediately. A portion of my very first paycheck went into my 401(k). I started setting aside 6% of my salary and raised the contribution level every time I received a raise.
  4. My husband and I have no student loans. Our parents generously paid for our schooling, which gave us a HUGE advantage after graduation.
  5. We’ve never had credit card debt. Even though my starting salary was only $32,000 a year I never bought anything I couldn’t pay off within a month.
  6. After graduation I lived in a group house for $310 a month. Was it absolutely awful to share a bathroom with three other people? No doubt. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I saved a ton of money by living this way. An apartment of my own would’ve cost at least $900 a month.
  7. My parents let me drive their old bomber of a car, which meant I wasn’t immediately sacked with a car loan. The car loan came about a year later, but with no student loans and cheap rent I paid my car off within a year.
  8. I bought a house in 2001. Good timing to say the least. My property is worth nearly double what we originally paid for it.
  9. My job provided superior health benefits. For years I suffered from medical issues that interfered with my work and life. My health insurance covered the majority of my traditional medical bills.
  10. I can delay gratification for unbelievably long periods of time. I’m not an impulse buyer. I live with 1950s bathroom decor and cars built before 2000. I sometimes covet the shiny new toys of friends and coworkers but I rarely pull the trigger on buying them.
How about you? What moments and decisions have helped you save money?

 

September 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM 6 comments

Throwing Frugality Out the Window

I started One Frugal Girl back in 2006. Since that time I’ve written 1,215 posts, most of them detailing my relationship with money and my desire to maintain my frugal choices no matter how much I earn or save. I imagined being the kind of girl who would clip coupons long after reaching my savings goals and hitting my targeted net worth.

Lately I’ve been second-guessing my earlier intentions. I believe my desire to save is making me a little crazy. Take yesterday as an example. My husband is an avid Coke drinker. I hate the amount of soda that comes into our home, but over the years I’ve come to realize that I cannot control everything about my husband or his choices. If he wants to drink Diet Coke for breakfast then that’s exactly what he’ll do. Since he drinks so much soda I decided to start clipping the coke reward codes. For the most part the rewards kind of suck, but every once in awhile you can cash in points for gift cards. It only takes a minute or two to enter the codes so it certainly seemed worthwhile to do so.

Yesterday my husband clipped a coke reward and placed it on the kitchen table. Between all the hustle and bustle of daily life I lost track of that little piece of paper. Rather than saying “no big deal” and moving on with my day I spent the next fifteen minutes searching for that stupid thing. I keep a relatively organized house, but I picked up every item in just about every room in search of it.

Now there were two parts of crazy in this scenario. The first is that I do go a bit nuts when I lose things. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother. I cannot stand losing anything and typically throw an all out hissy fit whenever I do. Ask my husband about it and he’ll shake his head and roll his eyes. I’ve been known to bound out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning when I think I’ve misplaced my keys. The second piece of crazy is that I hated the idea of losing Coke reward points. I can’t believe I spent all that time and energy trying to find a tiny piece of paper worth 25 reward points. Seems pretty crazy, especially knowing that I usually need 1500 to 2000 points to earn a $25 gift card. That’s nuts!

There have been many examples of this nuttiness over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to kick myself for forgetting a coupon while I was out shopping, forgetting to hand a clipped coupon over to a cashier or even driving back to the store just to save a dollar or two. How many times have I stood in line at the customer service desk at the grocery store because an item was improperly rung up or waited for a manager override when the cashier forgot to deduct 5 cents for my reusable bags?

At the end of the day I don’t think any of this is a particularly good use of time. If I were in dire circumstances saving a dollar here or there would really matter. If I desperately needed the money then I would certainly continue to do all of the things I have been doing to save money throughout my lifetime. But right now I just don’t see much value in waiting around 10 minutes to save 50 cents or driving around to three different stores with a baby in tow to save $3. Right now I think I might need to change my thinking.

I think it’s time to throw some of my crazy, frugal ways out the window.

September 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM 2 comments

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