Sunday, June 03, 2007

How to be Poor and Happy

In honor of my little sis' who is getting hitched this summer, I thought I'd post my best "how to be poor and happy" tips for her. There are many ways to be cheap and still have fun - here are the ones that work for me:

* No need for cable TV. Buy a set of rabbit ears for the TV if you must. ($35 saved each month) Public television has some fascinating shows that you would miss if you were watching TLC.

* "Rent" movies from the library. Your local library is a rich source of cheap fun. They have free internet. Free books. Free audio books. and Free movies. ($15 netflix savings each month, and endless free books!) It's also one of my favorite cheap dates - all of the fun of shopping with none of the expense!

* Cell phones are money suckers. No matter what plan you have you will be wasting money. If you feel you must have one, consider limiting yourself to just one phone, or limited minutes or even a Trac Phone plan. (monthly savings of $50-$100)

* Stay away from the mall. There is something about walking into the mall (or Target or Walmart) that makes me spend money. And it turns out there is rarely, if ever, a time that I really NEED something from the mall. I can buy lotion and t-shirts cheaper somewhere else.

* Share a car. You will save in parking. You will save in gas. You will save in insurance. Poor Nathan rode his bike to work and school for a couple of years. And I don't even remember really feeling sorry for him. He even had this rather attractive green rainsuit - a jacket and pants - to wear in the winter. (Sorry Nathan) AND we didn't even live that close to school! We are back to one car in Hawaii, and though sometimes it's tricky, it can work (to be totally honest, Nathan did recently buy a motorcycle)

* Hand me downs can be fun! Goodwill, garage sales, and friendly neighbors are a great source for furniture and other interesting items. I am typing this from my neighbor's old desk. It's not the one I would have picked out, but I loved the price!

* Do laundry at Mom and Dad's. Try to go one day a week and get it all washed and folded at the same time. A bonus to washing clothes at mom and dad's house is getting to use their laundry soap and eat their snacks. But be nice while you are there and thank them by vacuuming or weeding or doing the dishes!

* Take advantage of all the free/cheap fun at BYU

* Have Sunday Dinner at mom and dad's. They are going to miss you, and you are going to enjoy that roast! Just offer to set the table, make the juice, and do the dishes, 'kay? And maybe you'll be really lucky and you'll get to take home some fudge with you.

* Don't join a gym. You live in a beautiful place with a lot of great paths and trails. Start walking. Go hiking together. Ride bikes in Provo Canyon. (Monthly savings $35-$65)

* Pack a lunch. I know it's not as fun as a taco bell bean burrito with no onions, but it will save you about $5 a day for each of you. Here's what Nathan takes: 2 turkey sandwiches (on whole wheat with mayo (blech), mustard, and pickles) a baggie of chips or pretzels, an apple, a refillable water bottle of water or juice, and sometimes a treat.

* Don't buy water. Get a nice refillable waterbottle and take it with you. Do you know how much a waterbottle costs? Anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars! Bring your own, and think about how good you are to the environment by not adding plastic to the dump. Also, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge along with a few of those refillable water bottles. Mmm. Cold water...

* Don't move to Hawaii. Even the $1 menu at Wendy's is $1.29 over here. Ouch!

I want to hear your best money saving tip? Do you rinse out and reuse plastic baggies? Do you save the rubberbands off of the newspaper for your hair? Do you sew all of your own clothes? Do you only vacation if you can stay with relatives (come, stay with us)? Do you keep the heater set at 55 degrees in the winter? Do you pump the water from your kitchen disposal directly to your garden?

Give me your best, I'd could use more of these myself!


mom said...

Unfortunately, sewing your own clothes doesn't seem to be economical any more. It always makes me feel bad when students come in to buy their fabric for their school project and it ends up costing $25 for a skirt or $45 for a dress. But you can shop around for fabric too. The Cotton Shop does sell bulk fabrics or you can go to Walmart for fabric.

I have always loved that you use the library so well. I need to go check out our community's new library. Mom

JoyceMcB said...

What good advice and good ideas. Mom

orchard_girl said...

Don't buy magazines, just read them while in the waiting room at your doctors office.

Read funny cards at the bookstore for cheap laughs.
I'll have to think of more for you.

Tori :) said...

I remember when I 1st got married and moved into an apartment. I hadn't bought a trashcan yet. My little brother was probably 9 or 10 and he said, "Where's your trashcan? Man, y'all are poor!!!!!" I still tease him about it to this day.

Your advice is wonderful. If I think of anything I'll come back to comment.

Butterfly Wife said...

with my husband deployed and the doggies not caring, I did not turn the heater on until it was 54 degrees inside this winter. I kept it set at 58 during the day while I was gone and at night. When I was home during the day on weekends and I was super cold out, I bumped it all the way up to 65.
Now that it is warm out, I am doing the same thing. It has already gotten to 82 inside (and humid) but I am still waiting to turn on the AC. Maybe later this week. It looks like summer weather will start to arrive for good. I love having 6+ months of gas and electric bill each below $40. L-O-V-E IT! Just more $$ for me to spend on Pilates!

ev said...

Yea Nate!
I'm stoked he has a scooter to putt around the island on. No helmet laws out there right?...but pleantly of wet weather riding.

Food is our biggest expense. I like to eat out as a treat - since I am the one who cooks at home - but with some planning and a healthy appreciation for potatoes, oatmeal, and green veggies. I can keep our food cost very low.

However, all the "required" trips back and forth to the store on on a motorcycle may defeat the cost savings. Thats the problem with scooters, they really like to be ridden.

Oh, and making your own baby food, if you have one of those little bits, is a huge savings - tastey too.

wendy said...

Mom - Fabric IS expensive - I wonder why...

Heather - I love to grab a magazine and read it during story time (at the library)

Tori - when we first moved here we used white grocery bags for our garbage - no can. I was feeling poor, but I knew ours were coming...

Butterflywife - brrrr! Thats what my mom does, too. We have no heater or AC in Hawaii. paradise... (actually, it is a bit warm and sweaty some days)

Ev - There are Helmet (and glove and boot and reflector) laws on post. But there is a little gang of them at work that like to go out for a ride on their way to lunch. Food is our #1 expense, too.

Carrotjello said...

You might want to make sure Mom wants her over there all the time once she gets her married off. ;)

Elizabeth-W said...

I wish I had some good tips--I'm just glad to read yours!

Toni said...

Hand me downs can be fun! Bologna! Not if you grew up with them!

Amber said...

Hmmmm...TARGET. The venue of the majority of our bank statements. :-)

And here, here on Provo Canyon. Some of my favorite memories of Provo are roller-blading there every day. I haven't found a place that even remotely compares.

Randy C said...

I see you are as set in your ways as Mary with your shared hatred of onions on taco bell burritos and that white awesomeness known as Mayo on a turkey sandwich. She copies you! You probably wouldn't enjoy my fruit smoothies either because of the "texture"!

My money saving tip is to track everything and where it goes, that way you know what areas can use a little more scrutiny as far as spending goes.

I'm not a phone talker, so $10 prepaid cell phone is more than enough (100 minutes a month). We also use voice over IP at about $8.33 /mo (unlimited calling to US & CAN), if you can tolerate occasional outages when your internet goes down. (I actually really enjoy not being able to be contacted for some reason).

Mary said...

Wowee! My Randy beat me to the comments on this post! I'm impressed and jealous since he hardly comments on my bloggie. But, saving money is his favorite topic - it's like his hobby!

It's funny you wrote this because I sent almost an identical email to Erin not too long ago. I haven't heard back from her and worried she thought I was being crazy, but now your post is backing me up on all my cool money-saving ideas.

We have done of the things on your list (packing your own lunch, read magazines and check out all my books at the library, no gym membership, 1 car, only vacation where there's family, etc.) and in fact, even though we are no longer poor college students, we still do most of those things.

Make grocery lists and stick to them.

If you make a casserole that fills up a 9x13 pan, cook half and freeze half for later so you don't waste any. And so on that day when you don't feel like cooking, you have a good, ready-made meal just waiting for you to pop in the oven.

Hand-me-downs and yard-sale finds are pretty much all Lindsey wore until recently and she looks as cute as can be.

Our power company just raised rates 50% starting June 1, so we have kept lights off, used the A/C as little as possible and all that. A window fan in Provo is a great thing since you don't have humidity and the nights cool off nicely.

Ah, being young and newly married and poor is so fun and exciting!

Anna said...

Some of my favorite money saving ideas: Use washed out sour cream and cottage cheese containers for tuberware (label the top with paper and tape so you know what is in them,) use worn out clothes as rags for cleaning (instead of paper towels,) cut dryer sheets in half, use cloth napkins, dry clothes on a clothes line (in the winter you can put things on hangers to dry inside(this saves on electric and your clothes will last longer) dry whites outside instead of using bleach, rent movies instead of going to a movie theater, grocery shop once a week (otherwise when you go in for "one" thing, you end up spending more than you meant to) buy cheap diapers and wipes, go to a discount grocery store for canned goods, freeze leftovers for another week instead of "planning" to eat it later, at night use a lamp instead of a ceiling light that has a lot of bulbs in it, garage sale, garage sale, sweet garage sales hmm, that's all I can think of now...

Deanne said...

All those ideas are great! I may have to employ a few of those myself. I love saving moolah! Here are a few more ideas....

a fun way to get out or away for the day is to find a local spot that is having a free festival or art show of some kind.

the beach is free!

roller blading in a new park or spot is fun too!

don't have roller blades???....try Play It Again Sports!

Prepaid rechargeable phone cards rock! We got ours at Costco and can reload it at any time. The rate we pay is about 2.99 cents! That is our long distance plan, we don't use the one that comes with our local phone coverage.

Love, love, love Target! Great place to get name brand stuff (for the most part) for cheap. The dollar store isn't so bad for some stuff either.

Ah to be young and newly married. The chance to be together with little responsibility (like kids or mortgage etc). Renting isn't so bad, if something goes wrong just call the landlord! (plumbing issues excluded, unless a pipe breaks).

texasblu said...

Sounds like you pretty much covered it. :)

compulsive writer said...

Don't have kids.

Oops! Did I write that out loud?

Suzanne said...

What a fun post, Wendy! I love having cheap fun! Congrats to your sister getting married!

We don't have that great of a selection of movies in our library, but we go find a Redbox (in many grocery stores) and get New Releases for only $1! :)

I save money by cutting dryer sheets in half. 1/2 seems to work the same as 1 whole.

I plan my menus about what's on sale at the grocery store that week.

I never pay more than $2/pound for chicken or $2.50/lb. for beef. When it goes on sale, I buy 5-10 pounds of it, freeze it in meal portioned freezer bags, then try not to buy it again until it's on sale again.

Hmm...I probably have more, but I can't think of them right now. :)

Annie said...

What a great post!

"No onions, please." That is one more thing we have in common.

Hmm, advice for the lean years...I think I have blocked them out.
Wait. I've got one.

Make a list and stick to it. It's so tempting to overbuy when you go to Walmart, especially because you think you are getting off cheap.

Cheapskate Beaneater said...

This is a really great post! Here's what I'd add:

Learn to love cheap sources of protein, like peanut butter, eggs, beans, so you can cut down on your meat budget. Meat and cheese take a HUGE part of the grocery money.

Play games for dates.

Make friends with people who are also poor, so there won't be any "Well, they did it and now I want to" happening.

orchard_girl said...

Ahh, Sunday dinners at Mom and Dad's. Good idea! I still miss those, Rick does too!

Take a calcaulator with you when you shop. Sometimes the item on sale is more expensive than the larger size.

Amanda said...

Great list of ideas! Congrats to your sister on getting married. Can't think of any more ideas right off.

Don't tell Scott that Nathan got a motorcyle. He'll want one.

muse said...

great post and ideas
I don't buy books, just borrow from friends. Some get returned; others I'm told to just pass around.
I never go to the movies. I prefer videos and dvd's. Even buying one dvd and seeing can be a savings. OK, no loss if it's old. I love old movies and I love seeing them over and over.

wendy said...

I love all your additional comments - especially the "be friends with other poor people". I think that is key - it's no fun if your friends are all going away for ski weekends and little trips to cabo when you think Taco Bell is a hot date.

I also use half a dryer sheet. I liked to lined dry clothes in SD, but I don't even know if it would work here.

I like the "freeze half a casserole" tip, too. That still works for our family.

One more thing that I remember is: I always thought I should shop at Costco/Sams to get more for cheaper. But now that I'm far from costco, I have found I seriously overspent on stuff that we didn't really need. It started to be impossible to leave the store for less than $100...

If we ever move off base and have to start paying our own electric bills I will have to ask for your savings ideas again.

Donna Boucher said...

You are a wonderful big sister...even if you are a little teeny bit bossy :o)
he he he

You remind me of my sister Sue.

She isn't a bargain shopper,
but she knows stuff.
Like you.

By the way. I adore my Irish twin.
And she would kill me for calling her bossy.

wendy said...

Bossy? Moi?


wendy said...

ps - Hi Randy! Nice to have you stop by! found any hot deals lately?

Butterfly Wife said...

I thought of another one this morning in the shower. Use ALL of the contents of the conditioner and shampoo bottle. When it is getting close to the end, I add a little water and shake up and get more out. Works great and I can usually get 2 more hair washes out of the bottle.