Since I’ve been trying to cut back on my expenses and save more, (Remember my New Year’s resolutions?) I started thinking about the things that I overspend on that I might just be able to live without. So here’s my top 10 list of things my friends and I overspend on.
1. Going out to eat When my friends and I make plans to see each other, it seems like the natural thing to do is meet at a restaurant – but that gets expensive! If for some reason inviting friends over is not an option and you want to keep seeing your friends, keep in mind that lunch is always cheaper than dinner. A nice outing could also be going out for a cup of coffee. Both McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts serve affordable coffee, so you can still go out on less than $3. For those Starbucks lovers like me, don’t despair, I read very recently that they are coming out with their own value menu! And what about the park? Will a little fresh air kill us?
2. Supermarket Many young women have the wrong perception that coupons are made for old retired cat ladies who have nothing better to do than to sit clipping newspapers for hours. In fact, there are many easy ways of finding coupons online – a quick Google search will yield about 40 million results! If you are very brand loyal, visit the product’s Web site regularly and subscribe, they’ll email you with promotions and discounts all the time. But be careful of coupons’ hidden danger: Don’t get sucked up into using coupons on products you wouldn’t otherwise buy.
3. Dry cleaning The number one solution for overspending on dry cleaning is to not buy dry-clean only clothes, but if you just can’t resist buying an item or already have some dry-clean only clothes, there’s Dryel. The starter kit comes with a spot treatment, bag and dry cleaning pads. You just place your clothes and a pad in the reusable bag, steam it in your dryer and get dry cleaning results guaranteed. They say you’ll clean 10 garments for the cost of one dry cleaning. If you go to their Web site (www.dryel.com) you can even get $3 off. And let me just add, that I’ve seen the inner workings of a dry cleaning operation and trust me when I say, your clothes are not getting as clean as you think in that process.
4. Gym memberships This is one of the most expensive things a girl can do to stay in shape. True, you get to use especial work out equipment and have a trainer watching in case you need help, but the yearly bill is just outrageous. So if you can’t afford it anymore, or never really could, why not try running at a park nearby, walking your dog or going to a community center with access to a pool. If you feel like it’s too cold for outdoor activities, how about purchasing a work-out video from a dollar store? And don’t forget to check out “Just What You Need” at the end of this e-zine for one of our top fitness-related resource recommendations for young women.
5. Renting movies I am a self-declared movie junkie. I love to rent them or go to the theater but both of these are a budget breakers for me. If I go to the movies, for sure I’ll spend $10 on the ticket alone. And if I get a craving for popcorn? So then I decide to stay home and watch a movie instead. Well renting it will mean spending quite a bit too, especially because when I’m at the store I find three movies I want to rent, so there goes another $10, and if you are like me and do this every weekend then it really becomes a burden. My solution is subscribing to Netflix. They have really affordable plans that start at $4.99 a month and not only will you save on the actual movie, but you don’t have to spend gas for renting it or returning it either. Another great option is the dollar rental kiosks that are now in the fronts of many Wal-Marts. The one problem there is it requires going to Wal-Mart two days in a row and that in itself is dangerous to a budget.
6. Manicures I dare you to multiply by 12 your monthly manicure bill. Surprised you spend all that money on your nails? I suggest you purchase a manicure kit at a local store instead and do it yourself. Hey! But here’s where you want to purchase something that will last, I’m not sending you to the dollar store for this item. If you don’t have a clue how to give yourself a first-rate manicure, visit www.sallyhansen.com and click on the Learn tab, then Master Manicure Class. It has four manicure tutorials that guarantee great looking nails, “even if you’re all thumbs.” Something I learned on that site is that light colors last longer because you can’t see little chips or imperfections easily and you won’t have to reapply nail polish so often.
7. Birthday presents Do you like to spoil your girlfriends on their birthdays, but then you get to the store and SURPRISE! the top/bag/accessory combo you had in mind for her is just not happening. In fact the top alone is looking quite pricey… so what’s a girl to do? You don’t want to just forget about your friends altogether because you’re on a tight budget. Now you’re going to think I’m your grandmother or something with this piece of advice, but it works. Take advantage of sales and stock up for the year. I love the five Secret Garden items for $30 deal at Victoria’s Secret. These are a one time investment and for $30 a year you just bought 5 different presents to give out.
8. Gas The number one rookie mistake when it comes to saving money on gas is driving around to try to find the lowest price. By the time you find it, you’ve blown all your savings by, you guessed it, driving around! Instead, what you need to do is go online to sites like www.gasbuddy.com, enter your zip code and it’ll give you a list of the prices the stations in your town are charging and that way you can drive straight to it.
9. Taxes Many people prefer to have more money deducted from their paycheck so that at tax time they’ll get a refund. If this is the only way you can save up for big purchase, well OK. But otherwise, this is a mistake because what you’re doing is loaning the government money at zero percent interest. Instead, if you always get money back at tax time, adjust your exemptions with a revised W-4 form through your employer and deposit that extra money into a money market checking account or a savings account until you’ve accumulated enough to open a money market account. Both options earn you interest on the money you have been loaning the government for free.
10. ATM fees I admit that driving around, or in my case walking around, to find your bank’s ATM sometimes feels like such a drag. Especially, if you have another bank’s ATM in front of you. But stop and think about it, the $2 fee, or more, you are paying adds up. And even if you only do it once, wouldn’t it be better to spend that money on a coffee to share with a friend, a couple of apples to have a healthier lifestyle, a book at the used book shop, nearly half of your Netflix subscription, a couple of exercise videos, a candle for a friend’s b-day…anyway, you get the point.
I know none of these seem like bank breakers, but do this little exercise before you dismiss my list entirely. Sit down and add up how much you spend on each of these items each month. Now ask yourself, what if I took Paola’s advice – used coupons, did my own manicure, rented a dollar video, and gave up my gym membership? I think you will be surprised at how much you could be saving. Don’t let your everyday expenses rob you of being where you want to be financially. There are plenty of ways to enjoy life without nickeling and diming away your paycheck.