Did you pick out your new year’s resolution yet? Its 5 days into the year already. Hopefully you started an emergency fund and emailed the human resource manager about increasing your 401k match like I suggested last week.
Whatever your new year’s resolution is I hope it includes getting financially fit this year. Each new year’s resolution I suggested last week would take you a step closer to becoming better in tune with your money in 2011.
Over the course of this previous week I reflected on my last article and wondered if I had missed something. Don’t get me wrong I still stand behind my suggestions, but I wonder if I left you wanting more.
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Each of those money moves I suggested you make in 2011 requires one thing-money. What happens if you just don’t have any to spare at this point? Most people’s credit card bills are higher than usual this month because of Christmas and the holidays. So this week’s letter is about how to be frugal so you can drum up a bit more cash.
Buy At the Right Time
Timing is everything. Knowing the best times to buy items can make a difference of a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars in savings. The best time to buy something is when it’s not in demand. Think about it, holiday decorations are cheapest right after the holiday passes. December 26th came and now every Christmas decoration and accessory is marked 50-90% off. That’s the time to swoop in and buy.
This principle applies to every category of product out there. The best time to buy a boat? In the winter months. Cheapest months to visit my neck of the woods (South Florida)? July and August. You’ve got to know the best (read: cheapest) times to buy things to save yourself the most money. Here’s a quick list of the best times to buy items:
• Furniture. New models and styles come out twice a year, in February and August. Retailers slash prices of current models just ahead of those times in January and July in anticipation of new inventory.
• Men’s suits. “Suit up” in the months of January and July. Buy classic styles in fall colors and textures in January. In July you’ll find the best value on spring styles and patterns.
• Electronics. Retailers slash prices on last year’s models to make room for new inventory in April and May. Japanese electronics retailers release new models in March which is the end of their fiscal year.
• A mattress. This is one you can save quite a bit on if you buy in May. New models are on their way to showrooms at this time and manufacturers allow retailers to cut prices to make room for it.
• Airline tickets. Buy tickets on a Wednesday at least 21 days before you want to travel for the best price. The more in advance you buy, the better the deal. Airlines also drop prices on fares 2-3 days before the flight so last minute shoppers can get good rates too!
Plan out Purchases
Impulse buying is what we are trying to avoid. When you buy things as soon as you see them you are most certainly not getting the best deal. Plan in advance all major purchases at the beginning of the year so you can space them out. This will reduce the number of frustrating shopping trips you must make as well as help out your wallet.
Studies show people tend to spend less when they pay cash instead of using a charge card. This means you must be prepared with cash in hand when making purchases. You can control your spending by only taking along with you what you can afford to spend. Once the fiat money is gone, you’re done shopping.
When you need to purchase big ticket items check online before heading out to find out which retailers are offering the best deal. You can do this fairly quickly by using websites that pull sales information from multiple retailers at once. Pricegrabber.com and pricewatch.com are two of my favorites.
You should also check out EBay and Craigslist before you pay full price for an item. Buy second hand to get the best deals. Garage sales and other second hand retailers are great places to buy furniture, kitchen items, clothing and toys.
Frugal Entertainment Finds
Mr. Patterson and I paid $40 last month at the movie theater to see a movie we only half liked. Ticket prices have ratcheted up in the last few years driving movie goers away from theaters. Sales have slumped 5.4 percent from 2009. That’s the biggest percentage drop year over year since 2005. Making 2010 the second lowest attended year of the decade for movie theaters.
It’s just too darn expensive to see a movie or go out on the town anymore. And usually the first thing to get reduced after the holidays is the entertainment budget for families. This year make it a point to find more free entertainment choices.
Consider hosting a poker night at your house. Invite over your family and friends just after the dinner hour and tell them to bring their own booze. If poker isn’t your thing or if it’s a school night, throw a board game party. You’ll get to bond with your children or closest friends while having a cheap night in.
You could also opt to spend a few hours at the library instead of Starbucks. This will save you from indulging in calories you don’t need and save you money. Plus you won’t find a quieter place to work or read at.
Take a look at your linen closet or underneath your sink to see all of the products you hardly ever use. If you can find a second use for these household products it will reduce the amount of new purchases you need to make, saving you money.
There are hundreds of household items that you can reuse. For instance take baking soda. Not only is it necessary for baking cookies and breads, it can be used for deodorizing and cleaning. An open box in the refrigerator or freezer will take away bad smells for up to 30 days. Use it to eliminate odors from waste receptacles and furniture by sprinkling a little bit wherever you need it. Pour a one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of hot vinegar. Let it foam up for five minutes before flushing it out with hot water. It’s much cheaper than buying Drain-O or other expensive cleaners.
Old toothbrushes are another household item you can give a second life too. Use them for cleaning around faucets. They are great at removing hard water spots and soap build-up. They are also useful on computer keyboards instead of buying that expensive “canned air”, though you may want to clean the toothbrush first for that.
While you might have made a new year’s resolution to live more frugally this year it can seem overwhelming at first. Instead of going all out frugal right from the start, pick one or two habits to change each month. In January try to reduce your entertainment budget. Next month search EBay and Craigslist before buying any big purchases. It takes 21 days to form a new habit so go slow! By December 2011 you’ll be able to look back over the year and see how many changes you have made. Plus your wallet should be a great deal fatter!
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Keeping Money In Your Pocket,