Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How I Save Money - Clothing

So here is another post about saving moola, being fabulously dressed on a dime.

I'm just telling you how I roll here, and maybe it won't be applicable in all situations, but perhaps you can be inspired!

Over-arching rule. I never, ever, EVER pay full price for clothing. Ever. No matter what. This is rule #1 and all other rules follow in it's footsteps!

1. When shopping for used clothing, check your attitude at the door.
I always hear people whining about used clothing stores, "They never have anything good. They smell. They're only for tiny/large people." I can debunk those one at a time (okay maybe not the smell one, but one must suffer for fashion in about a million senses, so why not an odd-smelling store?), but I won't bother. If you make up your mind to try, you will find something awesome at least some of the time. Maybe a thrift store isn't your thing no matter what I say. Maybe you should try consignment shops! More on those later.

2. Know your brands and know your size.
There is much time and frustration to be saved this way. For instance, I know that I am a size (nevermind, I'm not telling you the number) in either short, ankle, or petite, depending on what item of clothing I'm buying and from where. (There is a pretty cool app for iPhone called What's My Size? where you enter your measurements and it is supposed to tell you what size you wear in a whole bunch of brands based on their individual published sizing charts.) For another instance, I know that GAP jeans look good on me, but Old Navy skirts will always be unfathomably huge on my frame. I also know that American Eagle Outfitters makes good pants for petites. This sort of knowledge serves me well. I can spot a pair of GAP jeans in a full rack from across the store, almost! Go into a thrift or consignment store and simply shop brands you love! As a side note, this could serve you well if you wish to gamble and shop for used or vintage clothes online. It is again invaluable to know your sizes and measurements.

3. Sale days, coupons, free shipping, and clearance racks are all my dear, close friends.
You might argue, 'Sometimes clearance racks are full of horrible, stained, returned crap that no one in their right mind would buy!' Very true, but c'est la vie! Try again another day. Here's a tip about saving money while clothes shopping...you don't have to buy something just because you've "gone shopping"! Also, when shopping online, be careful of "FREE SHIPPING" in bold print and "with $100 purchase" very tiny trailing behind. Unless you were already planning on spending $100...this is not a deal! (I still get sucked into this one once in awhile...sigh)

4. Do a lap.
I walk around the store probably twice with my potential purchases in my hands. If I haven't changed my cheap little mind by convincing myself I don't need these items by the time the second lap is over, then its game on! I allow myself time to build up buyer's remorse but without the actual buying!

5. Just because it's on sale or clearance does not make it a good buy!
For one thing, any sale of less than 30% is stupid. The store marks up items by at least that much right off the bat, so you're really not "saving" anything, in my mind.

Secondly, and more importantly, you're not going to save money if you just buy a bunch of cheap crap that you don't love and then never wear. There is therefore an inverse to this rule...

Okay, confession time...
I have broken my over-arching rule a few times in my thrifty little life. Once was on a dress for a wedding, which I then proceeded to wear to many other weddings and events, including to my best friend's wedding as her maid of honor. In my opinion, that dress has paid for itself at least twice over. Maybe there is a coat or a bag or a pair of boots that transcend trendiness and pass into the realm of classic. Maybe you've found yourself in a department store by some odd twist of fate and there is no sale tag in sight. After following rule #4, I would say go for it. Because there's a difference between being thrifty and being just plain cheap: thriftiness understands the value of quality. If you're going to wear it and love it until it's threadbare and then you'll get it repaired and wear it and love it some more, then, well, you can't argue with love!

6. Pay it forward or sell it back.
There are a few places in my town that buy used clothing as well as sell it. Therefore, you can be doubly frugal by selling things you have no more use or love for, and using that money to buy discounted items again. The trick with these places is that the items you are trying to sell have to be in really good condition, and they still have to be in fashion. You can't just go buy a bunch of mom jeans from the Salvation Army and expect to upsell them back to a consignment place. These stores nearly always have a really good eye for quality, styling and trends, so you have to go with their flow in order to make any money. The upside of this is that the items in this store require less pawing through to find quality...you are more shopping for your style in a consignment store than attempting to find something without holes or pit stains, which can be the case in some yuckier thrift stores. You again save time and hassle this way.

So, there you go. If you're into numbers and proof, perhaps you'll take my advice as someone who walked out of my last shopping trip with four pairs of jeans (yes, 3 of them were GAP, ha!), a dress, a GAP jacket, a bangle, three pairs of shoes (flats, kitten heels and stilettos) and a book and sweater for my kid all for the low, low price of $55USD.

Deals are everywhere...you just have to hunt them down!

How do YOU save money on clothing or fashion?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

How I Save Money - Groceries

[This will be the first in a series of blog posts that were inspired by my friend Samantha.]

I have much to learn, but I am a pretty thrifty little gal when you get right down to it, so I have been invited share some of my "secrets" to saving money. I will start in a very obvious place...the grocery store!

1. Choose a store with the lowest prices overall. Shopping around and driving all over town just mostly drives me crazy and takes a lot of time and energy for not much return. After shopping at Mi Pueblo, Safeway, Target and Trader Joe's, we've finally decided that Trader Joe's all on it's own, while not perfect, is the best store for us. No coupon clipping, mostly healthy stuff, low prices.

2. Caveat to rule #1 - if you have a collection of stores like a bakery, deli, and fruit and veg stand close together in your city or town, disregard rule #1 and shop specialty. Something happened to me during uni in Australia...I realized that I actually couldn't afford to shop at a grocery store...it was TOO EXPENSIVE! Totally crazy to think about now, but what could I do instead? On the way home from uni (walking...the bus was too expensive too...I'm serious), I would stop at the bakery, deli and fruit and veg stand and get all the things I needed for much cheaper.

3. This is a little bit neurotic, but I try never to spend over $3 on any one item. Try it sometime! (You'll always have a few items over, but try it anyway.)

4. Plan your meals. This is invaluable. I subscribe to one or more cooking magazines, but you don't need to pay for that, actually, since there are so many cooking websites out there. I plan three or four meals per week and then eat leftovers for lunches. I like to use Rachael Ray recipes (www.rachaelraymag.com) because they are usually simple and quick. Not the fanciest, but you do what works for you!

5. Speaking of cooking websites, www.allrecipes.com has become a new favorite. This is not only because of its extensive collection of recipes of all kinds, but because of a special feature they have where you can type in ingredients that you have on hand and search for recipes that way! The reason this is so awesome for me is that this is the way I can stretch the ingredients I have on hand to make quick weeknight dinners in the interim between shopping trips.

6. Again dove-tailing into the above is using similar ingredients in multiple recipes so that you don't have to buy such a wide variety of individualized ingredients. This doesn't have to be boring (chicken again??) unless you let it. It doesn't have to be the main ingredient that is similar...something I do often is using the same fresh herbs in multiple recipes. Buying fresh herbs can be pricey and I find that you never, ever use the whole thing that you buy in just the one recipe!! However, you can put fresh thyme on a zucchini pizza and fresh thyme in chicken and wine and not get bored.

7. This one may upset some people (my husband included), but a surefire way to save BIG money on groceries? Skip the meat. Sorry, carnivores. However, you can save a bit of money by doing one or two meatless meals a week and see how that goes. Maybe the savings will taste good enough to continue the practice!

8. Shop and eat in-season and local produce as much as possible. You'll save money and it's better for the environment, etc, etc... Though something in human nature may crave a juicy fresh mango in the middle of winter, you're really gonna pay for it. Try to resist.

9. Similarly, try to resist a lot of fun, colorful packaged and processed products. It is so, so expensive for what it is! It's like paying someone to increase your doctor bills. As an example, your kid doesn't need fruit roll-ups in their lunch box...in-season fruit will be much cheaper and healthier. Another example is microwave popcorn. That stuff is SUPER bad for you (weird chemicals in the bag, amazing amounts of sodium and fat), but not only that, you can buy a half pound bag of popcorn kernels for a quarter the price of a box of the "fake" stuff. So easy to make at home and takes pretty much the same amount of time!

10. Buy from bulk bins whenever possible. Flour, beans, oatmeal, nuts and much more can be bought for amazing prices when they are not pre-packaged for you. Bulk bins are not found just anywhere anymore, disappointingly, but if you can find a place that has this option, you're golden.

These are my top ten that I can think of off the top of my head.
Hopefully this is helpful! Think smart, get disciplined, develop good shopping habits. You'll be lining your pockets with extra cash in no time!

Any more tips? Leave me a comment!