Adventures in Resale

IMG_2745When I was in high school I never felt that pull to conform to what other people were doing, wearing or listening to. I went to a rural area public school, and we basically all had the same background. For me that came later, my third year of college.

I started nursing school at a small private college, smack dab in the middle of a good sized city. Suddenly I felt like my rural, poverty line upbringing was something to be ashamed of, and I started shopping to fit in. To make a long story short, it ended badly. I specifically remember one day when I was handed back not one, but two maxed out credit cards. I’d like to say I stopped there but I didn’t. After the two maxed out cards, I opened a card I forgot about which ended up going to collections and I later settled.

My dysfunctional relationship with credit was short and I’m glad I stopped when I did. But it’s something I frequently think about and regret. I have a jewelry box full of costume jewelry, bins of shoes and clothes, all we’ve moved three times and have been storing, and none of which I wear. My own personal tell-tale heart, reminding me of the havoc I wrought upon my finances.

But I think I finally figured a remedy; resale.

I frequently consign the kid’s old clothes and toys for either cash or store credit. I wish selling adult clothing was that easy.  So this is a run-down of all the different ways I’ve used/ am using to try to sell some of the stuff I sunk myself on, and hopefully make some money back.

IMG_2717Children’s Orchard- My weakness is always buying things for the kids, and apparently this is the same for other people too. Every birthday and holiday (even minor ones) my kids get toys, heaps of gifts and new clothes. While we’re blessed to have so many people who love our kids, we need to be able to put clothes in drawers and toys in toy boxes.
Before we moved into this house, we lived pretty close to a kid’s consignment shop called the Children’s Orchard. I went in to shop one day soon after we resolved to cut back on spending (but kids still need clothes). The woman at the register said they were looking for toys and clothes to buy, so I made an appointment and brought a few things in. I dropped them off and a buyer went through everything and offered me a price for cash payout, and then 20% more if I took the payout as store credit. Of course I took store credit since the kids needed a few things.
IMG_2718So basically I shopped for free after trading in some old stuff, AND the drawers and closets were cleaned out!
Earlier this month I did my spring drawer clean out, and a basement cleanup of some toys the kids had gotten for Christmas that literally could not fit in the house. Most of them were new in boxes. The plan was to donate them to Toys for Tots, which is something we’ve been doing for years. I was going to bring in some clothes anyways so I though I’d try selling some toys too, and then what didn’t sell would be saved to donate this year. Well. They took everything and offered me over $80 in store credit!! Plus I found some adorable summer dresses for Abby, a pair of shoes for Sam and a playsuit for Ben. So from just bringing a couple of things to the consignment shop I got:

  1. Cleaned out and organized dressers,
  2. Closer to having the clean and organized basement that I’ve been dreaming about,
  3. Two dresses, Converse summer sneakers and a baby playsuit that costed nothing!

This is why I call it “shopping for free.” Always so much win.

Ebay- Judging by my Instagram feed, there are a lot of people who do extremely well reselling things on Ebay. I’m not one of those people. Ebay was the first platform I tried and I haven’t sold a single thing. Not only that, but I’m pretty sure I sent someone foot fetish porn. For free.
Back story- I listed two pairs of platform heels that I spent way too much money on and never wore. I was so excited when I got a message asking me to send “a few pictures with the shoes on” so the buyer can see them better. And I fell for it. Needless to say I didn’t sell the shoes. Nor did I sell them the second time when the original listing expired and I resisted them, only to be met with THE EXACT SAME MESSAGE. Nice try buddy.

I still haven’t sold either pair, if you’re interested.

Brick and Mortar Consignment Store- A flower shop in my town closed and all the women were very excited when an upscale consignment shop opened in it’s place. I brought a small box of shoes, handbags and accessories down, and they actually sold quite a bit of it. However, I still wouldn’t say this is my most successful method of selling things.
First of all, the shop takes a huge bite of what they sell the item for. Their cut is usually 40-60%, and they set the price. Secondly, you don’t get any money upfront, and you have to wait until after the item sells to get paid out. Lastly, the shop starts reducing the price of the item if it doesn’t sell after 30 days, then again after 60 days, and finally after 90 days, you can either come get your things or they are donated. Of course all of this depends on your shop’s policies. But at least I sold some things, and made a couple of bucks.

IMG_2723Poshmark- This is the most recent thing I’ve been doing and it’s going really well. Postmark is like a big yard sale app. Its actually fancier than that but we established before that I’m a little country so my mind goes right to the swap meet. Its actually pretty funny to me that I’m even on it, considering there has never been a moment in my entire life when I felt “posh.”
You make a profile and add your listings and people can buy them at price, make you an offer or bundle your items together for a discount if you chose to have that. Everything is high end brand names or designer and is in excellent condition. I do everything with my phone and after an item sells, you print out a shipping label directly from the app, and you don’t pay a thing. Postmark takes (I think) 20% of what you sell the item for (unlike Etsy that charges you to list an item and takes a portion when you sell it). I really like this platform. I have all my jewelry, shoes and a few other things up there and I’ve made around $60 just in these past few weeks.

ThredUp- I didn’t try ThredUp myself; I was all ready to until I saw some negative reviews online and then found out a friend had just sent in two huge bags stuffed with her things and stuff from her two daughters. I held off to see what her experience was. And I’m glad I did because it wasn’t good. She pretty much reiterated what the people in the reviews were saying. Processing time takes forever and they pay out pennies for the clothing they keep. Not only that but they charge $9 for the bags they send you to submit your items in, and then deduct your earnings from that. So my friend from her two huge stuffed bags was paid $2.30. …
That’s ridiculous. Its less than pennies per item. After that they ended up keeping the measly $2 because she still owed $18 for the two bags. In my opinion, not worth it. I would rather donate my items and feel like maybe I was helping someone, rather than feeling swindled by a big company that is still going to profit of of my things somehow, whether its selling them for a small profit or writing off a huge amount of donated items at the end of the year as a tax deduction.

Facebook Yard Sale Groups- I know a lot of people who have sold things on these usually closed and regional Facebook groups. Right now I have those two same pairs of shoes listed that I attempted to sell on Ebay. Fingers crossed.
The process is fairly simple, you just add a few pictures and your price and then arrange to meet the person once you have a seller. You don’t have to pay to list and Facebook doesn’t take any commission. This is good news, but there are definitely drawbacks. Dealing with strangers in person can be a little scary, especially when there’s money involved. The same friend from the ThredUp story has told me that she has had many people want to meet her at their address, and then when she suggests meeting in a common place, like the police station, they will agree and then never show up. Jeff’s uncle had attempted to sell his ATV in a group like this and was robbed! If you try to sell things in groups like this, please please please, always think of your safety over making the sale.

LetGo and Offer Up– These are both apps that are similar to Facebook groups. I had a few things listed and then ended up taking them off after I was majorly creeped out by some messages I received from a person on LetGo who initially said he was interested in my items and then proceeded to talk about “how we could meet up and talk about them since we didn’t live far.” No thanks buddy. Luckily other people can leave comments and reviews of their interactions with other users under their profiles, and another woman wrote that she had a similar experience with this same person. Final verdict: a little creepy and not worth it.

IMG_2724Decluttr- I had some pretty good success with this platform a few weeks ago. Decluttr has an app but you can also use the website, which is what I used. They buy DVD’s, CD’s, books and tech, like phones and game systems. You make your account, enter the barcode of what you’re trying to sell and they give you a price for the item. Then when you’re done you print a packing slip and a prepaid shipping label and send it in. Then a few days later, you get your pay out, either via check or PayPal.
Years ago (probably pre-kids) I mentioned to Jeff that I kind of liked a show on TV and for my birthday he bought me like six seasons of it on DVD because he couldn’t think of anything else to get me. Flash forward to now they’re still in the shrink wrap, and taking up room on the DVD shelf. I wanted to get rid of them for a while, but short of having a real yard sale at our house, I didn’t know how to do it. So there they sat.
I found Decluttr and thought it was at least worth a shot. I got a quote for those DVDs, plus a few others and a couple of books. I put them in an old Amazon box with the packing list, printed out my shipping label and dropped it off at a shipping center. About a week later I had $16 in my PayPal.  It was so easy I’m planning (hopefully this week) to make another box with some more DVD’s and the Wii that me and Jeff bought when we first moved in together in like 2008, and has been sitting in the basement since probably 2011.
The amount they offer isn’t a ton, some DVD’s were only a few cents. But I didn’t know what else to do with these, I didn’t want to put too much effort into selling them and I didn’t want them cluttering up my living room anymore, so having a couple dollars was much better than throwing them out in the garbage.

The goal in resale is obviously to make money, but know that your time, effort and safety are also valuable, not to mention the state of your living space. Always consider these when selling your items, and know when its time to let go and donate, or trash.

Amazon- It’s been a while since I sold anything on Amazon so the process and policies may be a little different now. I posted the other day on my Instagram about a baby blanket that I had bought for Abby when I was still pregnant with her. This was just the tip of the over spending iceberg I struck during that pregnancy.
I was following this woman’s blog who had been recently pregnant and would talk almost weekly about how certain products were “can’t live without must have to die for!!” and I totally fell for it. I craved that light and bright, glittery fabulous mom lifestyle she as portraying. At one point I had like four different types of bottles, a diaper sprayer, wet bag, all types of things that cost a fortune and I never was going to use. Luckily I realized this pretty soon after buying them and was able to sell them new in package on Amazon. I actually ended up selling everything that I put on there, plus some old text books from nursing school that were still relatively current.

Barnes and Noble- I thought I would mention Barnes and Noble here since it was the very first experience I had with resale when I was still in college. Instead of stashing my textbooks in the basement, I found out you could sell them back to B&N even if you didn’t buy them there. I thought I was a financial whizz at the time.
Anyways, looking at the site I see that you can still do this and I definitely recommend trying by any means for college students to make back some money they spend on astronomically priced text books.

You are allowed to make mistakes sometimes. Someone once told me something that I still have to remind myself of every day: Just because you bought it, does’t mean you have to keep it forever. Don’t be discouraged by past mistakes with money, and try to recover and grow from them. Back when I was growing up buying second hand was something poor people did and was “embarrassing.” Now its a trend. Who knew? Millennials are learning to be smarter with our money, and scoring a nice quality item at a resale price is something to be proud of, and making money back from inappropriate spending is just as awesome.

Ben’s 1st Birthday; and How to Save on Kids’ Parties

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My baby turned one last month and I can’t believe it. It feels like last week we were bringing him home from the hospital in the middle of a blizzard. Now he’s walking, he has a few words and word sounds, and is sleeping through the night in his own crib! That last part is pretty much a miracle compared to when Sam and Abby were his same age.

His party was an adorable lumberjack theme that I stole from Pinterest. We kept it simple; home made treats and cake at our house with only our family on the guest list, though that still totals about 30-40 people. I made all of the decorations or used what we already had.

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Treats included chocolate dipped pretzel rods made to look like birch logs, marshmallows on sticks dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed graham crackers like s’mores and chocolate birthday cake. I also had pancake shooters (mini pancakes in shot glasses with syrup and butter curls), but they really didn’t go how I planned and were kind of a flop. We actually ended up having even more food than planned because family members brought a couple of dips and baked treats and things. IMG_1283

As far as decorations, I made a ONE banner out of some scraps of fabric and twine. Jeff made a log cake stand out of a firewood log from the basement and a flat slice of natural edge wood I bought at Michael’s, AND the marshmallow stick stand by drilling holes in another firewood log. The tablecloth, lanterns and copper cups we already had, and we clipped some green branches off of last year’s Christmas tree in the yard.

He already had his shirt, boots and jeans, but I did sew buttons on to add suspenders.

All in all, his party was pretty consistent with all the kids parties I’ve thrown in my six years of birthdays.

I never understood the desire to throw these huge ridiculous parties for kids. We’ve been invited to parties for children of friend’s and family that were big elaborate affairs. Rented halls, hired performers, centerpieces and commercial decorations, catered food, dozens and dozens on the guest list.

IMG_1295And why? Kids have fun at parties whether there’s a magician or just cousins to play with.
Don’t feel obligated to spend your week’s paycheck (or worse, put it on a credit card) on a 2 year olds birthday because you think they’ll see other parties and feel bad. They won’t. They aren’t going to remember it in a month either so stop parent shamming yourself into debt. Realize that setting a budget and sticking by it is a small sacrifice that is going to pay off in the long run.

Setting realistic expectations to live by, and explaining to children how to use money responsibly makes you just as good of a parent as those that break the bank making sure there are enough mini horses for pony rides at a first birthday, but can’t pay the electric bill. 

That being said, here are my tips in how to have a great birthday party without going completely overboard:

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Set a budget and stick with it. Make sure it is realistic and do this with cash if you have to.  For Ben’s party it was about $150. I planned ahead and budgeted a month in advance for what I thought we would need so I wasn’t pulling from other resources when the day came.

Its very tempting to over spend and then justify to yourself that its “for the child” and “mothers make sacrifices for their children’s happiness” and blah blah blah. Thats a cop out to make yourself feel better. Real talk, stop making excuses for bad financial habits.

IMG_0131Tone it down. Themes and guest lists and decorations and entertainers make a birthday spiral out of control. My second tip is chill out your expectations.

If you have to rent a hall, its too much. If you can’t fit all the guests in your house, pare down the guest list or change venue. Lately we’ve reduced the number of people we invite to things because our house is just too small. And guess what? Every one has survived. Instead of inviting the whole class, have the honoree pick one or two best friends to invite. If your house or apartment is too tight, move the whole thing outside or to a local park. However, I did have a birthday for my brother’s 21st for about 20 people in our old 650 sqft apartment. So, it can be done.

You can execute an adorable theme without buying a cart full of commercial decorations at a big box party store. Let’s be honest, guests go home and immediately throw out the goody bags and party hats you spent your hard earned money on.

Also on the chopping block, entertainers like musicians, face painters and magicians. Instead: set up a kid’s area with puzzles and games and toys your child already has. I find that when you clean up and organize something, and lay it all out on a table top, an old toy or activity becomes brand new. What about a Coloring Station with free birthday coloring pages printed offline?

Skip the party aisle. Instead of hitting up the party aisle or store for paper goods, go to the  paper products lane. A pack of color coordinated paper cups at the party store is $8.99 (!!!!!!!!). I know because I was just there looking and almost had a cardiac event.

Solo cups from the paper towel aisle serve the exact same purpose for less than half the price, AND they have different colors and designs. The same thing applies for plates, cutlery and napkins. Do adults need a My Little Pony plate, cup and napkin? No. If you’re having a lot of kids, pick one paper item and get a small package just for the kids.

IMG_1270Bake your own cake. You can do it I promise. I’ve baked many a cake over the past 6 years of birthday throwing; some were hits and some not so much. I can say now, I’m pretty good at it. Do they look like store bought? Probably not. But the kids really enjoy picking out what style they want, helping to bake it and decorate. It’s a fun memory and activity for them.

Grocery stores are chock full of every type of cake mix, frosting, flavor, color and decorating item you could ever want. Even some stuff I’ve only seen on Cake Boss like fondant and gum paste and sugar sheets, and every type of decorating tool you could imagine.

Get creative. If you don’t have a Pinterest account, make one immediately. It’s full of tips and tricks and ideas and its FREE. YouTube can teach you anything you need to know.

Seriously a kitchen novice? Find a cake decorating class on the basics. They have them at IMG_0126most craft stores. They’re affordably priced, and I feel like they’re justifiable to pay to take because you’ll be learning a new skill that you can use over and over for yourself, or to help someone else out. You can even make yourself a small side business out of your new hobby.

If you’re not a group class type of person, go to craftsy.com. They have video tutorials on everything under the sun, and some mini classes are free.

 

 

 

So that’s how I keep my budget under control when I throw a birthday party. Even the new pared down guest list in our family is around 30 people, so it still takes some determination. I think my best tip though, is to know that your child loves you and you love your child. You’re amazing and doing a wonderful job. No house full of over priced decorations or catered food or rented venue is going to change that. ❤

Little Things

I’ve been working on this post for a few months trying to collect all of the ideas I incorporate into our daily life that have minimal effort but can save you some money.

It’s not all about big huge sacrifices that can effect you financially. There’s a million little things you can do everyday that don’t seem like much but can add up over the course of a month or a year. Not to mention that starting off with the mindset of reducing your bills and saving money can have way further reaching effects in your finances than the immediately apparent numbers as listed below.

Line Drying Clothes

The Saving Energy website estimates that the average dryer uses 3.3 kWh, and that one kWh costs about 11 cents. So counting that out, line drying a load of laundry saves 36 cents. Seems like nothing, so let’s march it out.

I do four loads of laundry a week. Line drying in the northeast is really only feasible from mid-April to September. So we’ll say 24 weeks.

24 weeks x (36 cents per load x 4 loads per week)= $34.56

Cool right? That’s like a free tank of gas a year. In warm sunny places where it’s hot and sunny year rounds, it’s more like $75.

Turn Down (or Up) the Heat

According to the I Will Teach You to be Rich blog, turning the thermostat down one degree takes 3% off your heating bill. So if you drop even 3-4 degrees, thats approximately $10-20 per month depending on where you live.

Also under this heading is air conditioning, which according to How Stuff Works, consumes 2,000 kWh per year on average, or about $220 using the same 11 cents per kWh.

We have a super old (about 200 years old) house that’s drafty and has high ceilings. We keep our thermostat at 65 in the winter. When we were renting a utilities included apartment… it was more like 72-75. It was an adjustment to cool it off at first, but this is way easier for me than losing the AC. I hate being hot. I’d rather put on a sweater then sweat even a little bit.

Turn Off the Lights

I feel like I spend half my day walking around my house shutting lights off. Its a habit left over from my childhood when my parents (especially my dad) would freak out if a light was left on when you aren’t in the room or if there were too many on in the house at once.

I also hate the yellow glow of incandescent bulbs. I just don’t get why lights have to be on in the daytime when we have perfectly good sunlight for free.

Using the number we’ve been using at 11 cents per kWh, running a 60 watt bulb for five hours a day can cost over $12 per year. Typing that out I just got up and turned out four lights burning in the house. In rooms I’m not even sitting in. FOUR. Two were in the same room. And its 9:30 am on a perfectly bright although overcast day.

So working the math backwards from how much something costs to how much I can save with my efforts (because I’m all about that), if my daily light killing walk throughs can prevent all four of those lights from being on for not as much as 5 hours a day, because that seems like a lot, but lets say one hour per day, I’d save about $10 in one year. For really nothing. Would you use a $10 coupon off your grocery bill? Of course you would. You can play with energy usage math here, at energyusecalculator.com.

$10 is $10 all day.

Get the Last Drop of Detergent

This is another one I remember from growing up. Having poor parents can really pay off later in life lol. My mom used to get so mad at how much detergent was left in the jug that wouldn’t pour out on its own and refused to throw it away. And when you really think about it, look down into the bottle next time you do laundry. There’s no way to get ALL the liquid you paid for, and according to ConsumerReport.org, 7-16% of what you bought can be trapped in the bottle to be thrown out!

So the brand used to calculate this difference was Tide, lets do some math. I get tide at Walmart (one of the few things I still buy there), and a 64 load jug costs $11.97. 7% of that is 83 cents, 16% is $1.92! I typically go through a bottle a month, sometimes more. But lets say that at 1 bottle per month, with the max of 16% lost in the bottle at the tail end, I’d be losing $22.98 a year. That’s two whole jugs of detergent!

Would you grab up a deal for 2 FREE bottles of Tide? Of course you would. How do you get it? Just rinse out your jug when you think its gone. Thats it. Fill it with hot water and you’re good for another 1-2 loads.

Let’s add up all of our (minimal efforts) for an entire year: So if we line dry our clothes for 24 weeks in Massachusetts ($34.56), turn our thermostat down 3 degrees ($10), our off our lights for an hour per day in rooms we’re not even in ($10), and make sure to use up all the detergent trapped int he bottle ($22.98), we’ve saved $77.54.

$77 bucks for doing basically nothing, right back in your pocket. Whats better than that?

Our (Stupid) Boiler.

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I hate this thing.

Aside from the fact that it’s way down in the dark dirty basement, the thing is a relic.

Recently, looking to maybe buy some replacement parts and patch the thing up before we replace it, we discovered that it was most likely made in the 20’s (yes the 1920’s) and the company that manufactured them has been out of business since the 60’s. So in reality, its nothing short of a miracle that it even works at all. And though I don’t have any cold hard numbers, I imagine its not super green or efficient.

Note: The structure of our house was built in 1832 (as far as we can guess based upon the earliest paperwork we can find on it), but because it didn’t have plumbing, it wasn’t considered a proper dwelling and deeded until 1850.

Periodically it coughs itself awake for long enough to heat up enough water for a 7 minute shower (in the heart of winter its more like 3 minutes) or to fill up a bath for the kids. All other times, we get to treat ourselves to a room temperature shower or to a half an hour process of boiling water on the stove top and dumping it into the tub to wash the children.

For four. Long. Years.

Personally, I’ve had enough. Mama likes a hot shower in the winter.

Every year on New Years Eve we set financial goals for the year. This year we put “replace boiler” on the list. Obviously we could have done this at any point. We could have thrown it on the credit cards years ago. Or maybe taken out a small loan, used home equity. But that’s not what we’re all about anymore. Three years ago we resolved that all major purchases would be done with cash. Hence the budget etc etc.

So now that it’s almost October, the pressure is on to get this thing in. Its getting colder up here and I don’t know if I can do the whole take-a-bath-like-Laura-Ingalls-Wilder thing for another year.

But luckily, I have a plan. I call it Operation October. Mostly because Sam’s “favorite month” is October and he’s been talking about it for weeks.

Basically it entails zero spending. Nothing. Tightening up the belt so that nothing additional is spent all month, just the basic necessities. Utilities, mortgage, groceries. No take out, no special trips, no tokens or toys for the kids. I do plan on visiting Old Sturbridge Village this month because I take pictures of the kids there every year, but luckily its free admission for us because Jeff is a military veteran.

All month I plan on posting about how we’re doing, everything we’ve spent and tips to avoid spending, as some of us (this family included) might benefit immensely from using this “button down” technique for a month or more to help turn our finances around. Let’s go!

But First, Coffee

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I love coffee. So much. Especially now that it’s fall in New England, a delicious hot pumpkin spice Great One with skim and sugar from Dunk’s would be an ideal start to my morning.

It’s not even really for the caffeine (ok maybe a little bit). I just love how it tastes. It’s nice and warm. Perfect way to wake up.

But its SOOOoooo expensive! I just can’t justify spending a couple of bucks every day on coffee. Plus, with that delicious coffee always comes a beautiful muffin… or an egg white flatbread.. donut for the kids… It ends up being $5-7 every. Day. Thats $35 a week.. $140 a month? Think of what you could do with that. I’ve written before about how I gave up drive-through coffee and bought a new couch. What Do You NEED Really?

Thankfully there’s a way to have your coffee AND meet your financial goals.

Most major coffee house chains have a take-home version that cost $6-10 a bag. My favorite is Boston’s Best, which at around $4 is so reasonable. A bag lasts me about 2 weeks and according to the lines on my pot, that’s 5 cups (I know, FIVE) per day.

There’s also a million different kinds of creamers in every flavor under the sun. Seasonal ones, classic ones, Dunkin Donuts even has a line out that mimics how you order at the window. International Delight is $3.19 a bottle and I get 2 for 2 weeks.

So I can have my coffee every day, a 5 cup large size, flavored exactly like or better than the window, for 74 cents per day. CENTS. A commercial cup is over $2.

Not convinced? This may be the one time you ever hear me say this but: Treat Yourself.

Buy a cute mug. A new coffee maker. A mug cozy. If you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself you’ll be less likely to give up. I pour my iced coffee in a big mason jar all summer and drink it with a reusable straw. Frugal doesn’t have to be boring.

In this one instance, you’ll save so much money, that any new mug cup or cozy will be paid for in a week or so. Even if you buy a new mug every month, that pales in comparison to how much you’re used to paying at the counter or window.

Like a fancy drink? Get inspired with all these copy cat recipes on Pinterest. So tempting.

7 Things You Can Do to Save Money This Week!

Paying off debt and taking over your finances is a lot of work and sometimes, it can take a while to see a payoff. But a lot of us are short on cash NOW and need to make changes right away to even survive the month. Others need instant gratification to get motivated.

Here’s a couple of things you can do right NOW to stretch this week’s paycheck.

Cut Your Cable Bill

Utilities are a killer, but if you rank them from most to least important, cable is on the bottom in my opinion.

As long as you’re not locked into a “bundle” plan where it will cost an arm and a leg to change your package, call your provider and drop your package by a tier or two.

Check out the differences in package price from Comcast:

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Dropping your package by even one tier could save $10/month ($1200/year). Dropping to the lowest package could save you up to $54!

Cancel a Subscription

After my first two babies I used Weight Watchers to lose the extra weight. The app on my phone was so convenient, but also $20 a month. Now that Ben is six months old, I’m back on Weight Watchers, but I’m using an old school book and slider system that an old friend gave me and still losing weight just as fast.

There are a million subscription services now. TV ones like Hulu, food delivery ones Like HelloFresh, product ones like Birch Box, Bark Box, the list goes on and on. Nothing against any of these services, I even used to subscribe to Citrus Lane in my more frivolous days, but if you’re seriously strapped for cash, using savings or credit cards to pay for necessities, this is something you can easily cut without a huge change in lifestyle.

Picture a bucket full of holes and you trying to keep as much water in as possible. The holes are your bills and debts and the water is your hard earned money. The object is to plug as many holes in the bucket as possible. You do this by cutting unnecessary spending and using this extra money to pay off debts.

Return Something

A month or so ago I bought three oval picture frames that I was *convinced* I was going to use. Whelp they sat on top of the dryer for weeks. This month I was going to cut it close on our grocery budget and had to drum up some extra funds. Good thing I remembered those frames! I returned them (without a receipt even), put $17 back in our account and two nights worth of suppers in the freezer.

Just because you’ve bought something doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever. If you have a relatively recent purchase and are running short on cash, return it!

If you don’t…

Sell or Consign Something

I do this all the time with old kids clothes and toys. Find a consignment shop or a pawn shop that pays cash up front (instead of waiting until they sell the item). My favorite is The Children’s Orchard. A lot of places will give you a cash offer on the item and offer you a certain percent more if you agree to take store credit instead. This is how you can walk into a store with a box of old clothes and walk out with new items without even opening your wallet! OR, how you walk out of a store with more cash than you had when you went in.

For other types of items, sell it directly to a cash buyer. This has gotten so easy in the world of Craig’s List and Facebook yard sale communities. Just always make sure to watch out for yourself and make the actual sale in a safe place. Find a Safe Deal Zone near you. None close? Arrange to meet in the parking lot of a local police station.

Sell a Service

Use your spare time for spare cash. My best friend drives for Uber at night or on weekends if she needs to make ends meet. Jeff helps people fix their websites on Coppermine. You even get paid to do people’s grocery shopping and deliver the groceries with Instacart. I make crochet items and sell them. You can babysit, walk dogs or do housework for other people on Care.com or privately for people you know. Play to your strengths and interests.

Fast Food Challenge

This is one of our favorites for really tightening the budget. The challenge is not to eat any food that isn’t groceries. No coffee drive through, no lunch in the caf at work, no vending machines, pizza delivery, restaurants. Nada. Framing it like a “Challenge” in your mind and getting your partner on board is more motivating than just saying “oh boy, bagged lunch all week.”

To help resist temptation, I leave my debit card at home when I leave the house. Its just too tempting to get an iced coffee on the way to work and then cruise down to the cafeteria if the morning is slow or the lunch I packed isn’t interesting enough.

Just Don’t

Just don’t go to Target if that’s your weakness (it’s mine). Just don’t go along to the mall with your friends if you KNOW you can’t resist. Don’t cruise the clearance section looking to justify spending with “but it’s on clearance!” Don’t check your favorite deal sites (mine is Zulily. Love it.).

Take a walk instead. Or go to the library and borrow the book you were going to buy (they lend movies and TV series too). Take your kids to the local playground instead of some place that charges admission like a zoo or themed park.

What Do You NEED Really?

So commonly we hear people say it. They can’t pay bills because they can’t afford it. They don’t fill their medications because they don’t have the money. This is such a cop out. And I used to use it all the time.  The truth is, almost any budget has some wiggle room.

pexels-photo-large

There’s a huge wage gap in this country which is such an injustice. As unfair as it is though, it’s still a fact we have to live with until changes are made nationwide to fix it.

The first thing we did as a family to start taking control of our finances was to identify things we definitely need and things we can live with out. This came with a healthy dose of was really hard to deal with at first.

What do you NEED?

Spoiler alert: it’s a lot less than you might think. You need (for real):

  • Nutritious food
  • Water
  • Housing
  • Power and water
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Toiletries
  • Communication

That’s basically it. When you really think about it, people need very little to survive and be relatively comfortable. Notice some things that are not on this list.

-Vices

I don’t know about you, but cigarettes in my state are outrageous. After high school, I worked at a convenience store with a gas station attached. Then, a pack of good cigarettes was $5.15. Now, they’re over $10. March that math out. If you smoke a pack a day, that’s $70 per week, $280 per month. That’s enough to buy a nice car, which is exactly what Jeff did when he quit his 2 pack a day habit a few years ago. Plus, smoking is TERRIBLE for you, even in the short term. No judgement here, just pure finance.

Need motivation? Get a free cigarette tracking app for your phone like Get Rich or Die Smoking so show yourself exactly how much you save buy cutting out even a few cigarettes per day at first.

-iPhone 27, Unlimited Data with a 3D Camera that HASNT EVEN COME OUT YET!

The list says communication. You need a way to communicate with friends and family, make kid’s doctors appointments, call for help in emergencies etc. You DON’T need Internet wherever you go. You DON’T need to be able to update Facebook at your every convenience. You DON’T need the best and newest device you can get your hands on. All of these things are status symbols created by people looking to make a lot of money.

One of the first major things we eliminated from our swollen budget was our cell phone plans. Jeff still has his work phone at no cost to us, and I bought a $10 flip phone with prepaid minutes that I spend $20 on every three months. This was such a major savings, almost $2,500/ year. But also a major trauma. I loved my iPhone. The first month maybe was tough, but honestly now I don’t miss it. I kept my phone which can still text through apps like iMessage and Google Hangouts, and I can do everything but make phone calls in places that have wifi, which is pretty much everywhere now.

No matter how much you love your gadget, free yourself from the status symbols, because you don’t need them.

– A Brow Game on Fleek with Fresh Acrylics

I’m calling out the ladies here but the guys are just as bad.

Basic toiletries are necessary. Even a simple make up routine. But you DON’T need biweekly professional beauty services and a vanity full of designer make up. I’m not saying that if these things are extremely important to you that you should let your image go down the toilet, but you shouldnt be spending money on fingernails that needs to be going towards one of the essentials, like housing or paying off one of your credit cards.

There’s a bazillion hours worth of YouTube videos you can use to learn to do these things yourself. Not confident? Track down a technical school with a cosmo program that will only charge for products.

– 2018 Gas Guzzler with TV’s in the Seats

Everyone needs reliable transportation. This doesn’t mean a brand new SUV for a single person. New vehicles are another status symbol and a huge rip off. A pre-loved, slightly older, solid transportation vehicle may not be a parking lot stunner but can save you tons of cash, from insurance costs to excise tax and loan interest.

For some people who live in places where it’s available, transportation could mean a bus pass. Then think of everything you’d save on gas, maintenance and insurance. Oh the savings!

One more thing, if you live in a snowy area like we do, “it’s great in the snow” is no reason to blow $30G on a new SUV. I’ve driven in 13 years of Northeastern winters in a compact sedan and haven’t been stranded yet.

-Jam Packed Walk-Ins

This is coming from a girl that once had not one but two credit cards handed back to her for insufficient funds at the checkout at Marshalls.

Of course you need clothing that fits and is in good condition that you like. But you don’t need closets full of clothes and shoes you never wore. Go on Pinterest and search for “Capsule Wardrobe.” Need something new? Hit up a consignment shop for big discounts. Bonus points: gather up some of the clothes you’ve never worn and consign them for store credit to shop for free!

-1500+ Channels

This is our latest project. We’re currently exploring new more affordable TV options. Currently we have a satellite dish that costs $70/month even though we have the most limited package. Most likely we’ll be switching to a small antenna for PBS (mommy needs the kids to have Wild Kratts), and some new PlayStation tv thing they’re offering. Antenna has an upfront cost for the antenna only and the smallest PlayStation package is about $30/ month. I’ll post more info about this when we make the leap.

Too traumatic? Baby step: Reduce your current tv package by one tier.

-A Cookie Cutter Center Hall  Colonial with all Granite and Stainless

HGTV sure is great isnt it? With all of those totally unrealistic expectations it can forge in the imagination such as “even if we go over budget, it’s only a few more dollars a month, we can afford that!” No. You can’t. And honestly, you don’t even want to.

If you’re looking for new housing, be realistic about what you can afford and then reduce it even more. No one needs five bedrooms and six baths. Don’t shackle yourself to a mortgage  you’ll have to work your fanny off to even stay current on. There is such a thing as being “house poor.” Find comfortable and safe housing until you’ve accomplished all of your other financial goals.

-A Large Almond Joy Iced with Almond Milk

That’s my Dunkin’ Donuts order. And one of my major vices. Fast food, restaurants and pizza delivery will kill your financial goals. Don’t believe it? Look back in your bank statement and add up how much you spent last month on food other than groceries. It’s a lot right? To underscore this even more, last year I gave up ALL food items that weren’t groceries for two months (no iced coffee and a bagel, no Happy Meals for the kids, no lunch in the cafeteria at work) and bought a new couch for the living room with the money I saved.

I’m also working on a post about how to save on groceries that I’m really excited about. We went from $1000-1200/ month on groceries to $650.

Taking control of your finances means that you realize that financial freedom is not a credit card to pay for your new phone and handbag. So many things we think we need are dragging us down. Take some time and do the soul searching to see what you really NEED and what you can get rid of. And free yourself from the status symbols because you don’t need ’em. ✌🏼️