Saturday, September 29, 2007

It's Nice to Know Even Experts Get Frugal Frustration

How much is too much frugality? Like living a green lifestyle its not a one size fits all. Each of us needs to evaluate what we are willing to do to reach our goals in saving money, getting out of debt, or becoming more earth conscious.

Laura Rowley over at Yahoo!Finance struggles with her husband on whether or not to take a brown bag to work in this week's article "Some Thoughts for Your Pennies." While assessing what is important and what isn't important her husband believes that buying his lunch during the week is not only an important part of building relationships with clients, but is also a big networking tool on the days he doesn't have a client lunch. Laura Rowley points out that at $8 per day this is a waste of resources, but much of our choices are based on priorities. She has finally conceded not to bother him about the subject. (btw, for anyone wondering what the big deal is for spending only $8 per day... that's $2,080 per year that could be directed towards debt or savings.)

Laura Rowley advises not to underestimate the power of the penny. Little changes throughout our budgets can reap big rewards. If you can save $.28/day that is a little over $100 per year. If you calculate David Bach's Latte factor, going without one $4.50 Latte per day is equivalent to saving $1642.50 per year. In my case, going without one $.50 can of Coke per day is equivalent to $182.50 per year.

Are you asking yourself yet why I included becoming more earth conscious in evaluating what we are willing to do to increase our savings and eliminate debt? The answer is simple. On many levels taking a bit of advice on being earth friendly will also be budget friendly. Changing out normal incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs will save money every month as will changing out shower heads to water saving, low flow heads and placing a plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank. Each of these steps will save you a few cents with each use, but the savings adds up in no time. For more information on saving money and being earth conscious, check out the New American Dream website.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saving Money On Prescriptions

While I was picking up my prescription for allergy medication, I was behind a guy who was probably about 20 years old. He's obviously one of those lucky souls that hasn't had to budget for prescriptions before because he got three months of refills and balked at the cost of about $100.00. After he left, I made a smart comment to the pharmacy assistant that he was lucky not to know what some prescriptions cost. I then paid the nice man $40 for the co-pay for one month of my prescription. Medication is about as exciting to purchase as a vacuum cleaner. You know you have to pay for it, but you really don't want to.

The following is a list of suggestions for keeping those medical costs to a minimum:
  • Use ExpressScripts. You can get 3 months of refills for the cost of only 2 co-pays and its delivered to your door. (Its also a publicly traded company and no, I don't own it.)
  • If you can, consider generics. Just like everything else, do you really need to pay for the name?
  • Take care of yourself. Eating right, drinking water, getting plenty of exercise, keeping control of stress, and having regular check-ups will help save money it the long run.
  • Many over the counter medications were once prescriptions. I try to keep my costs down by supplementing with these over the counter medications for part of the year. Make sure you check with your doctor before changing any medications.
  • If your company offers a Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses, take advantage of it and budget in your co-pays. This will save you taxes that add up over the year.

Goal Progress

I did it! I avoided temptation. I may have offended a friend, but I stuck to my goals and ate the lunch I brought to work. Today was almost a successful no expense day except that I refilled by prescription for allergy medicine. Tomorrow is another day. Unfortunately, I wasn't successful in adding any snowflakes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Earning Extra Change

If you're looking for snowflakes to add towards your debt, don't overlook the smaller dollars and cents. The following is a list of ideas to consider to increase your income without committing to a 2nd job yet...
  • Returning cans and bottles for a refund ~ Many states offer a deposit program to help support recycling. I discovered awhile ago that no one was eager to take the pop cans back from work. This has brought in an extra $5 per month. Not an incredible amount, but it does add up.
  • Selling back used books, CDs, and DVDs ~ Get to know your local used book or music store. Often if you know what they are looking for, you can keep an eye out at garage sales and make a profit.
  • Volunteer for focus groups ~ Research firms are always looking for focus group participants and often pay anywhere between $20 and $75 for a couple of hours. Many times they also bribe you with food.
  • Garage Sale ~ The trend towards simplifying your life is not only good for the psyche, but also for the pocket book. Go through your house and see what kinds of things are just taking up space. Figure out what is really important to you and what is just clutter. Consider combining efforts with friends and family to really draw buyers in.
  • Consign clothes you don't wear ~ Many consignment stores are currently looking for good quality used fall and winter clothing. While you are switching between your pulling your fall clothing out of storage and storing your summer clothing, check to see which pieces still fit and which you are not going to wear anymore. Take them into a consignment store to see if they would better serve you as additional cash towards your debt.

Goal Progress

Today I made $4.00 selling back a DVD. That makes it a grand total of $6.50 so far this week. I did spend money today because a group of friends and I went out to dinner. Before you give me too hard of a time, I only spent $11.00 for the entire dinner and I took home leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Luckily, my friends are trying to save money as well. Tomorrow night the Food Bank has teamed up with Regal Cinemas for the "Cans Film Festival." For three cans of food you can support the food bank, get free admission to a movie and a free popcorn. Now that's a good deal!

Have you put together your list of free activities in your community yet?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't Be Afraid To Ask

Today I had a discussion with the bank. The check from the insurance company for my car was returned because it didn't have a signature endorsement. (Mental Note: Make sure you personally sign an insurance pay off check!) Because it went into an account that I rarely use, I didn't notice that it had been returned for awhile. We all know bank's like to make as much money as they can and mine was no exception. Not only was there a returned check fee, but there was also a daily fee.

I went into the bank to point out that it was their teller that endorsed the check not me. They knocked off half of the fees for me. Now, I admit that I'm not quite done. Some people may be happy with that and suck it up paying the rest of the fees. I am going to ask again and see what we can do by taking it another level.

If we are afraid to ask for things, we don't lose anything... unfortunately, we never gain anything either. On my to do list for this week is calling my credit cards and asking them to lower my interest rates. I've done this before with success, but it has been a couple of months. It's time for another try. The worst they can say is no.

A little HR secret... there are many articles out there proving that men are paid more than women. (It is catching up and I'm not here to start a sexism argument.) I would say that in my experience, men will ask where women tend to assume someone will notice. Lesson: Speak Up and Ask!

Goal Progress

I didn't earn any extra money today unless you want to count the $5.25 I will get for being a witness in a trial. I was successful in making it a no expense day. I brought my lunch and breakfast. I made dinner at home. I rode public transportation in the "free" zone to get to the courthouse from work.

Holiday Season Challenge - Start Shopping Sales, Clearence, and Overstock

Ideally, you should start shopping for the bargains right after the holidays to take advantage of all the great sales. Unfortunately, most people (me included) put it off. There are two months to go until the December rush is on. Stick to the goal of paying as you go and purchase a couple items with each paycheck.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Goal Progress

I was proactive today! I turned in receipts for FSA reimbursement which will bring me $30 and I returned pop cans earning $5.60. (Confession, I spent $3.00 of it on a pint of Ben and Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Dough Ice Cream!) I won't count the $30 until I actually receive it, but the $2.60 will. That's $17.40 left to earn for the week.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekly Round Up

Reviewing my goals I set for the week, I realized that I am moving in the right direction, but I still need to improve on my follow through. To recap, my goals were:
  • Limit my meals out to $25 including lunches and nights out (Closer, but I still spent $45 on meals. $20 more than my budget.)
  • Sort through and find three items to sell on ebay (I'm working on earning Christmas money.) (Okay, that was a no-go.)
  • Send $50 to Roth IRA (Strike two.)
  • Earn and snowflake $25 from "other" projects including taking back pop cans, selling on ebay, focus group, or selling back books (Strike three. Not a successful week.)

Going into the next week, I am going to use the same goals as last week. I no longer have the excuse of dealing with my car, but I will also need to sit down with a serious to-do list to complete all of the tasks.

Keep Focus On Goals

Focus. That's the topic for No Credit Needed's Day of 33 Days and 33 Ways to Saving Money and Reducing Debt. I admit that I've been struggling with my focus lately. Having to buy a new car was not in my plans and it really put a crimp in my debt reduction schedule, but I have a confession... I really like my new car. So as long as I'm in this place, I may as well make it work for me.

Coming up in the next month, I'm going to challenge myself with bringing in an extra $20 per week to go towards my debt. I've managed to pay off 3 debts which will not snowball into the other debts like I had planned, but rather it will now go towards my car payment. I will be paying off one more debt in October. That will snowball into the larger debts.

I will also evaluate my progress on my goals for this month. I know I didn't succeed at all of my goals, but that doesn't mean I need to abandoned them. Now is the time to push forward and remind myself of why I'm doing this.