1. If you are expecting a tax refund do not earmark it for anything. Interest-free loans to the government aside, put any surplus funds in a savings account and resist the urge to touch it. Stat!
2. Place any change left from each one dollar bill that you use during a purchase into a large glass jar. If there’s any change in your pocket, drop it in the jar….no exceptions! When it’s full, take it to your local Coinstar machine (usually found in grocery stores) or its equivalent and deposit the bills that you get in trade into your savings account.
3. Do side jobs in your spare time. Cut grass, do a friends hair, mani-pedi, type resumes, etc. If you have a specialized talent or skill, use it to your advantage. I paid a twelve year old $5 for wearing a shirt with my website address on it for five consecutive days by using the Fiverr site. Quirky job, but he’s that much closer to realizing his dream of going on a class trip to Australia.
4. Cliched, but so true! Forgo the beverage god, Starbucks. I bristle at the thought of paying $4.00 for a pound of coffee, so I’m downright apoplectic when it comes to the price of a cup of Starbucks! No offense, but I like the cappuccino at the local Quiktrip or RaceTrac gas stations better than the big ‘S’ and it only sets me back a little over a buck. Even better drink the coffee that your employer (may) provide for free at work! Don’t even think about it….just put the money that you would have spent in that jar!
5. Start using coupons religiously. Whether it’s through your grocery store’s loyalty program, coupons clipped from the newspapers or coupon deals from sites like Groupon or Half Off Depot are growing exponentially by the day. So if you must reach into the wallet and part with some cash, try to find discounts and bargains that will lessen the pain. The trick is that whatever you happen to save must go directly into the glass jar.
6. Be willing to make small sacrifices like brown bagging your lunch so that you won’t have to eat out so often. But if you must see # 5, or try Entertainment Books which offer so much more than restaurant deals for a specific city. Right now, they are on sale for 9.99 and the coupons don’t expire until November 2011. You can get great restaurant deals from your area at Restaurant.com too. Try to keep a safe distance from co-workers who love to go out for lunch everyday. Don’t give into peer pressure, just focus on your travel goals. Trying to keep up with the Joneses’ is a great way to stay broke, so go straight to the company fridge and get the food you brought from home and imagine yourself sitting on the beach one day because of it.
7. If you are into extracurricular activities, there is a distinct possibility that you may have to give up some of your favorite (and possibly expensive) hobbies in order to sock away money for that big trip you’ve been planning. If you already own a game system like the Wii, use it instead of going out bowling. Or see what activities your community may offer to its residents for free. There are several programs my local county provides that costs me not one cent. Sure, it’s probably not what you’re used to, but you will have to be willing to give up things that you may really enjoy and think about what you’ll gain in the end. Better yet, if it’s not free to do, don’t.
8. Get rid of cable and/or satellite television. A few months ago, I was paying $160.00 for an internet, phone and satellite tv service bundle. I had 285 more television channels that I actually watched! For my television needs, I purchased a Roku, which allows me to stream tv from the internet via services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. I pay $16.00 per month for both services. The Roku unit looks like a cable box and costs between $59.00 – $79.00 depending on the type that you want. Apple tv does the same thing, but I hear that they do not offer as many channels. I don’t have first hand experience, so I won’t comment on it.
There are no other costs associated with operating the unit. Roku offers unique programming as well. You can find those channels with a simple google search. Added bonus: You can save on movie theater tickets by being patient and watching them when they come out on DVD via Netflix! If there is a particular show that you can’t find on those services, check out that show’s website. You can usually find full episodes the day after, that you can watch online for free. I’m also able to catch up on programming that I may have missed like a particular season of ’24’.
9. I was paying way too much for an internet service that wasn’t all that great. Now, I am paying $29.00 per month for AT&T U-verse internet service that is twice as fast (when the contract ends in a year, I plan to re-negotiate so that I can keep that rate; always try that….companies general like to retain good paying customers). Shop around, seek out the best deal because there are plenty out there you just have to ask what is their best offer if you decide to go with them. If you love your service, call them and ask to speak to their customer retention agent and tell them that you are thinking about switching and wanted to know what deals they had to offer in order to keep you. Don’t try this is you are behind on your bill or they will think you’re nuts!
10. Seek out cheaper alternatives for cell phone service. I decided to try cell phones again after a decade of not using them, as my primary phone instead of a land line. Besides, I was paying too much for a phone that I rarely used; at least this way, the phone would be portable and more convenient. I love the $25.00 per month plan from Virgin Mobile. I get unlimited data/text/web and 300 minutes per month; more than enough for me since I’m not much of a phone person anyway. There is no contract, you can cancel whenever you want. But, if you’re a talker, there are other tiers available. I am a recent convert to MagicJack. It is a small piece of hardware that you attach one end to your mac or pc and the other end is attached to a landline phone via a cord. You will be able to make local and long distance calls for $20.00 per YEAR. The unit costs between 25.00 – 40.00 depending on where you purchase it.
11. If you are in the market for any big ticket item, search the thrift stores first. You will be amazed at the things that you can find there that are in perfect condition. There is a bit of a twist to this method though. Go to the thrift stores in the more affluent areas. They will most likely have the best selections and more of it. Or you can try something that is really unique like the Unclaimed Baggage Center! Before you go to the big box stores and pay an arm and a leg for furniture, electronics, etc., see if you can find a gently used item first before you pay a mint for something new. Alternatively, see what you can score for free via Freecycle, but be aware that you are expected to offer an item first, in most cases.
12. If you love to read, don’t buy any books. Instead, go to your local library and check them out. If you happen to own a kindle like me (if you don’t, download the free kindle software so that you can read books from your computer) sign up with Jungle Search to get an email list of kindle books that you can download for free! In the meantime, you can scroll to the bottom of Jungle’s homepage to get a list of books from various genres.
So, how do you save money for your trips? What unique ways have you earned that extra cash for your dream vacation?