Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

8 things you should never do to save money

I’ve tried a lot of weird things to save money. A journalist and finance vlogger by day, I’ve gone dumpster diving, emptied fast food ketchup packets into a bottle, tried DIY beauty treatments involving food items (and more hours of clean up than I’ll ever admit on the internet), and even shared library cards with friends in different states to expand our e-book selection.

Some of those activities could be considered a little strange, a couple might be frowned upon in some circles, and only a few worked at all.

But despite my willingness to try “extreme” money-saving tips, there are some things that I would never do… primarily things that aren’t ethical, hygienic or legal. These would absolutely save you money, but at a very different cost, one that I think crosses a line between being penny-wise and being a tightwad.

1. Stealing

Stealing takes more forms than hiding an item under your shirt and walking out of a store or lifting someone’s wallet.

Filling a bag with more than your share of complimentary items at a restaurant, smuggling home office supplies or toilet paper or even getting a water cup and filling it with soda are all stealing. No crime is victim-less and these are not viable ways to save money.

2. Using services meant for the needy

There is nothing wrong with taking help when you need it. Services like food stamps, soup kitchens, food libraries and the like are meant to be used. But taking those services when you don’t need them in an effort to save a little money robs someone else of that resource.

Consider volunteering instead, charity event organizers nearly always plan to feed volunteers as a thank you for their time. I helped out at a church-run food pantry a couple of times a month where the church provided dinner for volunteers.

It was a free meal for me, provided by people who wanted to help who couldn’t spare the time. It both helped my food budget a little and I was able to help people in the community who were truly in need. It was a win-win.

3. Lying

I’ve heard countless times about people “pulling one over” on big corporations by taking unfair advantage of “Love it or your money back” guarantees. If you honestly didn’t like the product or service, absolutely take the business up on their offer, but using 90% of something and returning it just because you can is dishonest and shameful.

The same goes for people who argue legitimate charges on their accounts or claim their food is bad at the end of the meal after they’ve eaten most of it.

I don’t care how big the business or corporation is, lying like that is stealing.

4. Not washing my clothes or body

I’ve read tips more than once saying to step into the shower in your day’s clothing and wash them with you. I’ve read about people only spraying their clothing with air freshener or never washing their clothing at all. I’ll wear clothing items that don’t get dirty (office work wear and the like) multiple times but clothing that gets sweaty, smelly or dirty always goes straight into the wash.

Cleanliness is one of the markers of a polite society. No one wants to work with or spend time with people who are stinky by choice. This will eventually affect how people treat you and your future opportunities.

Wash your clothes, wash your body. Take some pride in your appearance. It costs very little, but has a huge return on your investment.

5. Getting rid of pets

A pet is a big responsibility and should be treated as such. Dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters and moose (not judging), etc. all cost money for food, medicine, and care throughout their lives.

I’m always saddened and a little shocked to see tip lists that recommend getting rid of the family animal to offset costs. Unless you own a very expensive animal, and are jeopardizing your own ability to survive by providing for it, I would never say to kick your pets to the curb.

Instead consider shopping for the most affordable pet food and medications (generic heart worm and flea pills can be found at websites like www.petshed.com for much less money than at the vet’s office), learn to groom your own animals, and write a line into your budget to pay for monthly and annual pet costs to always have the money there to feed Fido.

6. Stopping tipping

If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out.

As a former waitress myself, I know all too well how many people choose not to tip and the percentage is completely unacceptable. Whether or not you agree with the custom, we all know that wait staff are often paid well below minimum wage and their tips are expected to raise their salary to a reasonable level (aka more than $2 per hour which will nearly all go to taxes anyway.) When you don’t tip, the service worker isn’t getting paid for their services. It’s an unfair system, but until it’s changed, don’t punish the person serving you.

If you don’t want to tip, feel free to take your food to go, park your own car, do your own beauty services and make your own drink.

7. Mooching

“Forget your wallet” at a group lunch often enough, and you won’t get invited to them anymore.

Friends and family should be joyous parts of your life, not vehicles to save a buck.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with letting your relatives buy dinner when you’re visiting for the weekend, but consider returning the favor the next time they visit you. Relationships shouldn’t be about who owes who and is soured when people take advantage of people.

If you’re often invited to expensive dinners or events by more affluent friends, consider suggesting more frugal outings where everyone can have fun and not jeopardize their individual money goals. Also don’t forget that everyone loves a welcoming invitation over for a home-cooked meal. Friendship doesn’t have to be expensive.

8. Miss out on life

The easiest and most effective way to save money is to not spend it. Saving money is important to me. It’s a key strategy in my long-term money goals. But I won’t decline every invite to do something fun with friends in order to save every possible cent.

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. There are tons of free and frugal things to do and it’s also okay to spend a little more on occasion to have life-enriching experiences.

Your Turn!

  • What “frugal actions” are too far for you?
  • What will you do to save money?

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Minimalism Tips for Beginners

Minimalism has changed my life in so many positive ways. There are so many aspects of your life that can benefit from minimalism, I recommend getting started as soon as possible. These are four minimalism tips for those looking to live a more minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalism Tips

Declutter Instead of Organize

I used to be a big fan of organized. Having everything in it’s designated place made me so happy. Though I was relatively organized and tidy, I still had kitchen drawers overflowing with stuff and clothes that I never wore folded perfectly into my dresser. When I chose to declutter instead of continuous organizing, my drawers became emptier and easier to work with. Getting dressed in the morning was so much quicker when I didn’t have to sort through clothes I didn’t usually wear.

Question Everything You Bring In

I used to buy things on impulse much more often than I like to confess. It was a regular habit for me to pick up a new shirt or pair of cheap earrings when I’d go out for soap or paper towels at Target. But once I started questioning why I was buying something and if I really needed it, my impulse shopping slowed way down. When I started asking for how long I’d use it and how often I’d wear it, the impulse purchases stopped almost completely.

Want Versus Need

Minimalist TipsDetermining the difference between things you want (because it’s cute, you like it, or it looks good on you) versus what you actually need can make all the difference in living a minimalist lifestyle. Though you may need a dress for a special event, you don’t necessarily need a new one. Using what I have and being conscious with my decisions to purchase new items helped me keep my closet minimal and clean.

 

One in, One Out Rule

The one in, one out rule means that every time you purchase something and bring it in to your space, you must get rid of one thing. This helps keep clutter to a minimum, and is especially useful after you’ve done a few rounds of decluttering. This rule helps prevent me from replacing items that I already have, which haven’t seen their fair share of use. It also means that if you decide that you need a wardrobe overhaul, you can do that by replacing the same amount of items that you already have, guilt free. I do recommend buying clothing from thrift stores for budgeting and environmental reasons.

These four simple rules have helped me to maintain my minimalism and keep my closet clean, clear, and clutter-free. Minimalism not only helps me maintain a clear closet, but it helps me maintain a clear mind and simple, happy life.

Your Turn!

  • Do you use any of the tips I mentioned?
  • Which tip will you try first?

 

4 Rules to Curb Impulse Spending

Impulse spending was my biggest money mistake, to the tune of thousands upon thousands of dollars. Aside from our student loan debt, 85% of our debt was because of impulse spending and not planning ahead.

In order to break the cycle and change our spending habits, we had to learn the rules to curbing our impulse spending. I wished I had known about these strategies years ago, but they are still rules that we follow today.

Only leave with the cash amount that you are willing to spend

When you go out shopping with a limit to how much you’re willing to spend in mind, take only that amount in cash. Leave your debit and credit cards behind. If you leave any access to extra funds at home, you guarantee that you will not blow the budget and pick up $100 worth of items from Target when you only went there for paper towels.

Avoid the places where you know you tend to overspend

When we did our spending analysis, I saw just how much of a weakness I had for the cosmetics counter and Target. Those are two places where I can easily find myself overspending and making impulsive purchases.

My husband on the other hand would rarely walk away from our local hardware store with just the one item that he went there to pick up. We acknowledged our impulsiveness and agreed to avoid those places as much as we could.

Shop with a list

I not only shop with a list when doing my grocery shopping, but I also make a list when it’s time to do any type of shopping. My lists are made up of the items that we need by doing an inventory of what we already have, and nothing else goes into the cart.

As I prepare my Christmas shopping list, I come up with four items for each of my children. Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. Aside from the stocking stuffers, I know that with my list I’m protecting myself and my budget from going overboard.

Unsubscribe from those store email lists

Every morning I would be greeted with a long list of emails from some of my favorite stores letting me know about the great sale that they’re having (they seem to be having a different one each week), or a coupon code. I found myself all of a sudden in a mood to go shopping and take advantage of all these great deals.

This past January I decided to end the temptation once and for all. I unsubscribed to all of the email lists. No longer am I bombarded by sales ads, I’m no longer tempted to take advantage of the sale or coupon code on items that I didn’t really need anyway. After all, if you don’t need the item, you’re not really saving any money, no matter how much it’s marked down.

Your Turn!

  • What is your spending weakness?
  • What do you do to curb impulse spending?

Minimalism and Shopping: Questions to Ask Before Buying

After the decluttering and the clearing out, I started to feel like such a pro minimalist. But soon the day will come when you need to buy something – and this sent me into a panic mode at first. Could I go to Target and buy only soap? It took a long process of trial and error, but these are the questions I now ask myself to consider with minimalism and shopping.

1. Is this a planned or spontaneous purchase?

I only buy things that I’ve been considering for some time. This means that I’ve thought about purchasing and already considered whether or not it was a necessary purchase. A lot of the time, I will think about buying something for a couple of weeks, and then at the end of this time, decide that it’s actually not something that I need. This process is super helpful for me, as I used to be a very spontaneous shopper (and addicted to Target). It also helped me learn how to start living a minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalism and Shopping

2. Is there something else I could use instead?

This question has actually prevented me from purchasing things that I’d wanted and thought about but didn’t actually need. I now buy primarily multi-use products, or turn my products into multi-use products. For example, I used to use separate products for my face and body. Now, I try to use the same soap for my face and body (preferably a bar soap as they last longer), and I use the same moisturizer all around as well. I have even moved into using products that can go further than this; I’m currently trying out oils as moisturizers, because they can also moisturize my hair (and knock out the need for a hair serum!).

3. Will I use this until it expires?

I’ve bought many a product that I had not planned to use to it’s fullest potential. Before minimalism, this was mostly fast fashion – cheap jewelry from forever 21 that would stain my fingers green after a week, tank tops that would fall apart after a couple of washes. But even after transitioning into minimalism, I would purchase things that I might only need for a short time.

Minimalism and Shopping

The best example here is the multiple types of coffee makers I (used to) own. I travel the world full time; I live out of a backpack. I definitely don’t need to be carrying around more than one coffee maker, but at one point I was carting around a French press, a cone filter (complete with a pack of 100 filters), and a plastic reusable Tupperware container full of coffee. I do love a good cup of coffee, but even to me, that is over the top. Since this ridiculous incident, I’ve removed all of these items from my backpack and now just use the coffee maker that is available to me (also trying to quit the daily coffee habit, so I don’t have to rely on anything).

These are the three questions that have helped me avoid lots of unnecessary purchases, and have assisted me so much in my journey to minimalist shopping.

Your Turn!

  • What secrets do you have for avoiding unnecessary purchases?

What to do if you go Overboard and Over Budget

It happens, even to those of us who have been budgeting for years. There are going to be those months where something (or many things) come up and blow your well-planned budget out of the water.

Knowing that it will eventually happen, it is best to prepare yourself for that month (or months) where things have gone overboard and over budget.

Step One: Stop and Breathe – It’s going to be OK

What you want to avoid doing when you know you’ve gone over budget is to throw your hands up in the air and forget the whole budgeting thing. When times get tough and the cash flow feels tight, you want to try your best to maintain a positive attitude.

Step Two: Go Into Your Budget

When I’m stressed out about the budget, the last thing I want to do is go in and check in with my budget since I know I’ve blown it. I know though that it is the one thing that I must do. Go into the budget, see where things are, and see what needs to be cut back on so that you can find a way to cash flow this latest life expense.budget binder

Take a look at your variable spending categories (food, clothing, gas, etc.) and see if there are any areas where you don’t need to spend as much. Can some of that money be used to help cover the unexpected expense?

If you can’t cut from your variable expenses, take a look at what you are setting aside in your sinking funds. Ask yourself if there are any sinking funds that you can stop contributing to this month so that you can free up extra money and not completely blow the budget.

Step Three: Take a Look Around Your House

Is there anything around your house that you could sell to recoup some fast cash to then cover the unexpected? With so many buy and sell sites available online, making some fast cash is never easier and having that cash in hand in exchange for those items that rarely get used anymore will help to limit the stress that you’re feeling right now.

Step Four: Tap into your Savings

If the extra income isn’t there or if there are no areas in the budget left to slash, then it’s time to look at your savings. Yes that money might be earmarked for something else, but if it means not having to go into debt to help cover the cost, it’s better to borrow the money from yourself..

When things are better and you averted this temporary crisis, you can always pay yourself back. And it’s much better to pay yourself back than paying back a bank who charges you interest.

Your Turn!

  • How do you get through those months where life has thrown you an unexpected expense?
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