Tweeting about cupcakes and other social networks.

If you have been reading this column for awhile you probably noticed there has been a change in Spare Change. Paola has cashed in and now I’m going to be providing tips for thrifty living, sharing my experiences as I pinch pennies and manage money and hopefully bringing out the fun in frugal. By way of introduction, I would like to share the top three money-saving tricks I use, along with some examples to help you discover who I am.

One of the first things you should know about me is that I am obsessed with Twitter. Yes, it’s true that most tweets are 140 characters of complete worthlessness. I’ll admit that I have been guilty of “TwitPic-ing” strawberry waffles I was about eat and clouds that look like shapes. However, I have found that if you follow the right people or companies you can score some pretty good deals. For example, I’m a huge Christian rock music fan and I “follow” a lot of artists I like. One of those artists is Jeremy Camp. Last fall he was coming to my town for a show and since I go to every show I can within a 200 mile radius, I wasn’t about to miss this. One day Jeremy Tweeted a special Labor Day promotion for half-price tickets if ordered over the holiday weekend. The night of the concert I felt pretty good standing in line with my half-price tickets. That’s just one instance but I’ve gotten quite a few notices of special sales and discount codes from Twitter. Just last week I scored a download of an entire album for free. Follow me on Twitter (kalana1338) and I’ll be sure to re-tweet any deals that come my way and I’ll try not tweet 15 times in a row on how much I love cupcakes.

Speaking of cupcakes reminds me of another great social network deal I got in on. Maybe you aren’t into Twitter, but do the Facebook thing instead. If that’s the case, consider becoming a fan of people, companies or products you use. I’m a huge Little Debbie snack cake fan. I’ve had to create a rule for myself that I can only eat them when traveling lest I become a literally huge fan. A few months ago, Little Debbie had a contest to give away a million boxes of cupcakes. So of course I signed up because, hey, free cupcakes are the best cupcakes. Needless to say I was super excited when I was one of the (million) winners. Yes, I even tweeted about it and my co-workers were grateful when I brought my box to work to share. I’ve probably saved a couple hundred dollars from connecting with people, companies and products on social networks.

Obviously, from my social networking habits, I’m online quite a bit and do a lot of online shopping. When ordering, I always try to find a site that offers free shipping or another discount of some sort. Sometimes I actually spend significant time writing down product prices and shipping costs and then doing the math to find the best deal. When ordering online I always run a search for coupon codes before I place my order. For example, one of my favorite online stores is c28.com, which sells edgy Christian t-shirts, accessories, music and more. Before placing my order I pull up a search engine and input “C28 coupon codes.” For C28 about 42,000 links come up, but you should find results within the top ten. Most sites will provide a success rate based on feedback from other users who tried the code. Currently, for a C28 purchase I could use codes to save a percentage or dollar amount depending on the purchase total. Once you find a coupon code site that provides good results, add it to your “Favorites” to save time in the future. And remember, there comes a point when it becomes counter-productive to keep searching without results, so set a time limit or only check out a certain number of links.

The final thing that I do is kind of a small thing, but it definitely adds up over time and has greater benefit than just saving money: I never drink my money or my calories. The money we spend on beverages can add up in a hurry when we are shelling out four bucks for gourmet coffee here, a buck fifty for a restaurant soft drink there and a few dollars for bottled water. I save the gourmet chain coffee for an occasional treat and I order water at restaurants except for special occasions. I also haul my own water (filtered through a pitcher in my refrigerator) to the gym and to work in a reusable bottle (extra bonus for being green!) Cutting down on fancy drinks also saves me a ton of calories, and being the big Little Debbie fan that I am, I can use all the calorie cuts I can get! Decide what beverages you can live without and cut them, learn how to make your own fancy coffee at home and ditch the expensive bottled water for filtered tap in a reusable bottle. Figure out how much money (and calories) you are saving in a week and you’ll be shocked. It’s the small things that make the biggest difference over time.

These are just a few of the things I do to save money and I’ll share more as time goes on. My challenge for you today is to take a look at what your spending habits say about you. You might be surprised at how much you learn. I know I have been.

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