I am a self-made woman. Or at least I’d like to think so. My parents paid for very specific things growing up and I paid for everything else. My parents paid for the private high school I went to (not a boarding school, just a normal private parochial school) and they paid for things that I needed. Apparently, it was necessary for me to have a TV in my room or the latest i-anything or those amazing new shoes I had to have-a very disappointing idea to a teenage kid. But I did need uniforms and food to eat at dinner time and they paid for that. That was pretty much the extent of my parent’s financial responsibility to me. Ever since I was able to babysit (mother’s helper at age 10 to nannying as a teenager) and I was old enough to work a legit job, my parents carefully backed off the money pump. As a kid, I paid for my school books (in HS we had to buy our own books, too), my car insurance, my clothes, my cell phone, and anything else I wanted. Nothing changed in college, though occasionally they would send me back to school with a grocery trip on them (thanks guys!). I paid for school, books, and everything else I’ve already mentioned. I’m not complaining, I am just trying to give you a background.
Skip ahead a few years. I am currently a fresh 26, I have no credit card debt, and I only have my mortgage, a car payment, and student loans as my debt. I paid for a good chunk of my wedding (again, thanks guys for picking up the remainder!) and I own a bunch of nice things. Also a little background: I bought a house and got married while my husband made 45k a year and I was bringing home a mere 12.50 (then got a raise to 13.50!) an hour at my full time job. And we STILL got out of debt and got ourselves in control. Totally do-able.
I know everyone is different, but here is what has worked for me. This whole not being broke thing? YOU can do it.
- Don’t live above your means. Just starting out, keeping up with the Joneses is not only stupid, it shouldn’t even be an option. Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford just to look “cool” because you’re in the real world now and no one gives a shit about you.
- Pay your bills on time. I can understand if the reason you aren’t paying your bills is you don’t actually have the money (in this case call the company and see if there is something you can work out) but if you forget? Come on! Most companies charge upward of $35 for a late fee… that is a pair of shoes, ladies! Set a reminder on your phone, sticky note on the calendar, or sign up for automatic payment so you don’t get slapped with these. I have any recurring bill on automatic payment and it is so nice not to have to worry about that! (plus you save in stamps!)
- Credit cards aren’t the problem, you are. I think credit cards give people the false sense that they should buy something just because they can. Just because I can eat a pound of candy doesn’t mean I should! Same principle.
- Borrow from yourself. I have a couple of different savings accounts. I have my “Oh Shit Account” (literally-that is what it is called) and my “Big Girl Savings”. Oh Shit is for emergencies and Big Girl is for money that I may need in the future. Instead of using my credit card to buy a new fridge and racking up interest, I will use the credit card (for points or rewards) and pay it off in a month or within a few months from this account. That way I get my rewards and I don’t have to worry about a credit card payment. I just pay back the account instead, making the interest charges from the bank non-existent.
- Coupon clipping isn’t crazy. Over the summer, I went out to eat with my sister and a new boyfriend at the time. Now, the new boyfriend wouldn’t be caught dead using coupons and even though I printed some coupons off for this place, he refused to use them. Needless to say, all he had to do was handover a piece of paper (which the restaurant would gladly accept) and he would have gotten $30.00 off the bill. Don’t be that guy.
- Upromise. Upromise is an awesome website. So far this year I have saved almost $300.00! All you have to do is log on and use that as a home base to go to the website you were going to buy something off of to begin with. Most stores give you 5% back towards your student loan or you can get a check if you don’t have a loan through Sallie Mae. I have one and $300 is $300! Ebates works similarly and they automatically send you a check in the mail. Most stores give more on Upromise, but I check beforehand and just go through the website with more cash back.
- Sign up for rewards. I used to never give out my personal email to stores but I do it all the time. If you don’t like this idea, make up a new email account specifically for stores so you can get their emails. They send you deals, coupons, and sometimes promotional gifts just for signing up. Then you can plan to go and get that sweater you’ve been eyeing from Express on SALE because you know when the sale is going to be and you don’t just happen upon a sale… it isn’t like the lottery. You don’t just win a sale!
- Stack those savings. My sister wanted a new (expensive) camera for her photography business. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind going through my Upromise. She used her credit card for the miles, I went through Upromise, and signed into my Best Buy rewards program. The outcome? Miles for her, $80 towards my student loan, and $30 from Best Buy. Um. Thanks?? ($110 FREE money!!)
- Every little bit counts: save save save! I automatically save about 30% of my paycheck monthly into savings. However, I split it up into smaller increments ($50 is a lot easier to swallow at a time than $270) and I have it going into separate savings (see Big Girl and Oh Shit accounts). This is taken out weekly so I don’t even miss it. I have saved a LOT of money this year. Down payment on our next home? I think so!
- Gift Card Granny that shit! In case you aren’t familiar with it, Giftcardgranny.com is a website that is like a central hub for a bunch of companies that buy and sell gift cards. You can get cards from anywhere between 2%-28% (Walmart and Michael’s respectively) to just about any store you could imagine. They can send you actual cards in the mail (usually free shipping) or an eCode almost immediately to your computer. I use these when I know I am going to buy something. Plus with gift cards it isn’t a promo code so you can use this saving on top of your 20% off or whatever you get sent to you in your email 😉
Let the savings begin!! Remember, every little bit counts so keep this up and you could be like me. This year I have literally saved THOUSANDS. Stay tuned for the snowball effect method I have been using to get to get us out of debt quicker!