Friday, August 29, 2008

My friend, Jenn.

I wanted to repost this comment my friend, Jenn, made on my myspace. It's funny, because I was just paying my end of the month bills last night and thought of something I did that I could post on here.... which Jenn also mentions - when balancing my checkbook, I round up. I started this when an ex's grandmother's furnace went kablooey. She was able to pay for a brand new one (that's about two grand!) with all the little change she accumulated in her checking account by doing this. Awesome. Anyhoo, without further ado, I now repost Jenn's comment!

I hope you don't mind that I comment here instead of on Google.. I don't have a Google account and already have more user names and passwords than I have toes and fingers...Your blog is full of good information!! You are welcome to use any of this info on future frugal bunny blogs, if you would like...

For those who aren't ready to open all those accounts, there is also the change-saving method.. pay with paper money, do NOT give a cashier coins from your pocket or the bottom of your purse. EVERY DAY, take ALL the pocket change that has collected and dump it into a box or a jar that you won't be tempted to open (glue it shut if you have to). As often as you can, toss in some paper money too.. all the single dollars, or a ten/twenty once in a while.. this cash adds up SO fast, in a few short months you might have $300 (I have done this a few times in my life)

Hell you can even do that method by putting the money in the jar instead of making that daily Starbucks run, or that pack of cigarettes (helps you quit too lol), magazines or anything like that .. items that only cost a couple bucks, so we don't mind buying, when really we can buy a can of coffee and make our own for a fraction of the cost, or read the magazine online, etc. Small purchases are typically a HUGE portion of spent money; usually it results in thoughts like, "Where did all my money go?"

Also, if you are one to balance your checkbook, always round up.. if you spend $23.39 at the grocery store, note it in your bank register as $24.00 or even $25.00. These few pennies also add up fast and provide a cushion to your account.. no more worries about bouncing a check.

The cash method is especially great for saving if you are in a position where you earn tips. bank round up better when you have direct deposit.

Also, if there are special purchases that you want to make, simple pleasures or even daily necessities, try to hit a sale with a friend and split the cost on BOGO's or bulk items.. For instance, where I work, we're doing a Buy Three, Get Two Free sale.. well this will save a person about $20, but means they have to spend about $30. For customers who KNOW they would be buying the item next month at full price, it benefits them to buy it all now.. no reason friends can't go in on this sale together and each spend $10 or $20 for twice the amount of product.

A lot of people don't realise how much money goes into the simple packaging that something comes in.. for instance, individually portioned or wrapped foods for the single person are astronomically more expensive than a family pack of the same item. This is what freezers are for lol

ok those are just a few off the top suggestions that can certainly be written more effectively, just thought I'd throw in my few cents on the matter. It's funny.. or sad.. how many people don't realise how much they spend on crap they really don't need.. I have a friend who buys every DVD she sees on sale. The infamous ol' "oh It was only five bucks!!!" Three months later I ask, so how was that movie (knowing it was terrible), and hearing the response "oh, we haven't watched that yet".. This friend has over 300 DVDs.. most of them have not been watched, but they were all on sale for cheap.. to me, that's at least $2,500.00 collectively that were wasted on stuff that now clutters the home, and required spending more money on shelving to put them on, etc.. Personally, I will only buy a DVD if it is a movie I KNOW I will watch several times over, and let my friends borrow, so it gets used enough to make the cost worth it.

sorry to write a whole blog in your blog comments =(

Jenn, don't be sorry! THANK YOU for your contribution! I heart my friends! :D

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

10 No-Budget Budget Tips from the Frugal Bunny!

I don't have a budget. I've tried a few times, but it feels to hindering and I never follow through on it after a while. But knowing my own personality, I do things to help me save money, and then save money. This may not work for everyone, but hopefully this will help people with a similar personality as I do, and/or inspire others to look into their own personality and develop their own little frugal tricks!

NOTE: Because of my career as an independent contractor (I'm a tattoo artist), I have to handle my money a little differently than most people, so some of my habits have evolved through that. BUT I hope it still inspires others to make their own system...

1. No matter what, I always put 20% of my weekly paycheck into my savings account. No exceptions.
I developed this habit when I came out of my apprenticeship and became a full-blown professional tattoo artist (independent contractor). For the moment, I pay my taxes all at once, once a year. Most of you have the convenience of your tax money taken out of your paycheck for you. Because I don't have that luxury, I had to take care of it on my own, so I made this system. That way, when tax season comes, I won't be worried about having to fork out a huge chunk of money and not having it! After paying taxes, whatever I have left over, I split into 3 categories - fun money (a reward for 12 months of disciplined savings), Roth IRA money, and money to just keep in my savings account.

2. Open an Orange Account with ING Direct.
Speaking of savings, this is something I JUST started. This gem of advice was given to me last week, by my friend/financial advisor/client, Ellen Coleman from Resource Horizons. This is a convenient way to put your savings into an account with a much higher interest rate. Right now, ING Direct's APR is at 3%. My bank only gives my like 0.01%. I earn about a dollar and some small change per month at the bank, while at ING, I earn about $16. That's a big difference, yo! So if you're going to sit on your money, you might as well earn a little more than what your stingy bank gives you, right? Check it out!

3. Open a Roth IRA.
Again, because of my job, I don't get a 401K like most people. I have to handle all that by myself. So for now, I figured a Roth IRA would be a good start to insuring my retirement will not put me into a cardboard box on the street. Depending on which kind you choose (let your friendly neighborhood financial advisor explain things and help you choose the kind that best fits your lifestyle), they can be tax-free or tax-deductible. Roth IRAs are less risky than playing stocks and bonds, and are the best kind for long-term savings/investments. I encourage all people, but especially young people, to open one.

4. Write down your monthly bills.
You'll see a pattern of seasonal ups and downs, and will help you prepare for what you need to fork out each month on essentials - like mortgage, utilities, cell phone bills, etc. Knowing what you need to pay for at what times of the year will help you lay out the rest of that no-budget budget. I also right down my weekly earnings, since it fluctuates seasonally in my kind of job. This also helps me lay out the my no-budget budget.

5.Give yourself a weekly allowance - and stick to it.
Each week when I get paid, I give myself an allowance in cash. This is money I use for the week (mainly my days off) for groceries and leisure activities. If there's something I need to buy, like a ladder or toilet paper, I also keep that in mind when I give myself the allowance. Anything left over from a usual week, I put the cash away for when I need to buy that ladder or toilet paper. I call this microsaving.

6.Only use a credit card if you know you can pay it off in X amount of time.
I use a credit card for when I purchase supplies for work, when I travel, or buy big things, like computer software. All these things I write off in my taxes, too. Anyway, only use it when I know I can pay it off when the bill comes in IN FULL. For larger purchases, I tell myself to pay it off in x amount of months, as a goal. This way, I won't get into credit card trouble! You must know yourself enough to do this. You have to be able to keep your own promises to yourself. If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?

7.Save your receipts!
Again, because I'm an independent contractor, I get to do business write-offs. Do some research and see what you can write off. And then DO IT! If you have lunch with a friend or a group, and you talk about your business once, it's a tax write-off. If there's a pair of jeans you only wear to work because you know you'll get ink stains on them, it's a tax write-off (as work uniform). If you get that Wacom tablet you've always wanted so you can use it make more artwork, it's a tax write-off. If you fly somewhere to do a guest spot at tattoo studio, your plane ticket and other expenses are a tax write-off. If you buy white-out, it's a tax write-off. Your mileage to work or work-related places is a tax write-off. That album you bought from iTunes, so you can listen to it at work - it's a tax write-off. Okay, so these examples are from my own job. But you get the drift - the amount of time and effort you take to find out what YOU can write off is worth every penny you save on taxes!!!!!

8.Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Spread your money out. That way, if one fund runs out for whatever reason, you have a backup or two or three. For example, I've kept my bank accounts from Minnesota, and I put a little in there for safe-keeping and emergencies. My main bank account here in Georgia, is the one I use to pay my mortgage and bills. Then I've got my ING account, my Roth account, a safe deposit box full of cash for other emergencies and/or savings goals for things I want, and my weekly allowance. Yes, it seems like I'm spreading myself too thin. But with patience and discipline, I do eventually get the things I want, and I can pay it in full, instead of going into debt like most Americans do.

9.Live Well Within - If Not Below - Your Means.
Too many Americans don't do this, which is why we're in such financial debt. If you live simply and cost-efficiently, you can still have style and comfort without having that debt. I hate seeing people who have these crazy expensive cars, but only have like two dollars in their bank accounts. They are living BEYOND their means, and are in horrible debt - all for what? To look cool? To impress the ladies? It's not worth it to me! I don't like buying STUFF. In fact, the less stuff I have, the more mentally happy I feel. I often go through my crap and always find things to give to Goodwill (ooh, another great tax write-off!). When digital TV starts next year and my rabbit ears will be useless, I'm going to throw out (okay, give to Goodwill) my television. When I have less clutter in my home or work station, it makes me feel like there's less clutter in my mind, too. And when there's something I want, I save up for it so I can buy it without debt. Yes, it takes time, but the rewards are worth it in the end. The simple life is a happy life.

10.To Save Money, Give It Away.
Yes, I said that right. Giving to charities and non-profit organizations is a tax write-off. To go even further, you can volunteer, and your travel/commuting expenses can be written off, as well! The more you give to the causes you believe in, the less money you have to give to Uncle Sam. So you not only save money on taxes, and not only do you feel good giving to good causes, but you also are empowered by the fact that you're taking control over your world and helping shape your community.

~Jenny Bunns!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Whole Foods Budget Shopping

Whole Foods is trying to wipe away their "whole paycheck" reputation by giving special tours of the store, highlighting cost cutting solutions to those who are on a budget, but want to live healthy. Click here for the original article.

Whole Foods tries to shake 'whole paycheck' image with free value tours
Friday, August 8th 2008, 4:00 AM

Allison Smith leads budget-minded shoppers on 'value tours' of the Union Square Whole Foods to point out smart shopping techniques.

Bold yellow signs indicate sale items, like these raspberries.
Think Whole Foods means whole paycheck? The national supermarket chain wants to change your mind.
Faced with rising food prices and a national recession, Whole Foods has launched free value tours, leading groups of bargain hunters through the aisles of natural, sustainable and organically made goods.
"It's the economy," says Whole Foods' Allison Smith, who leads the tours for the Union Square store, "everybody's looking for a deal now."
Just a few weeks old, they take place mainly at suburban stores, says Smith, but the three she's led at Union Square have been well-attended. (To sign up, call any store or look for notices on their bulletin boards at the entrance.)
While Smith's ultimate goal is to change our perception that the store has high prices — some Whole Fooders float the theory that "whole paycheck" is from someone wishing they could spend their earnings at the store — there are real take-away tips from the exercise.
The tours move their way through Whole Foods like any shopper would, highlighting great buys along the way. There's the bulk bins at the newest Tribeca store, where their fanciest granola mix is $2.99 a pound. Or the fact that Earthbound Farm organic bagged lettuces are always same price or cheaper than any other supermarket, says Smith, because "we just buy so much of it."
Other Whole Foods' deals include their house line of 365 shampoos and conditioners (16 ounces for $1.99; 32 ounces for $3.79). There's their Whole Catch line of frozen prepared foods ($3.99 for a 10 ounce box of fish sticks) or their fresh, 6-ounce individually portioned filets of fish for roughly the same size per pound as bigger cuts, nice for one or two people.
For all proteins — like chicken, beef, pork or fish — there's a case of family-sized "value packs" that are at least a $1 per pound less. And for literally any dry good item in the store — meaning everything from diapers to spaghetti sauce to bottled water to energy bars — you can get a 5% discount if you buy it by the case.
Beyond these specific deals, however, the tours are also designed to highlight overall strategies for cutting costs on your bill.
That's reading and shopping from the weekly sales flyers, shopping seasonally for produce, buying in bulk to cut waste and save per pound and using store brands, which are just as great quality.
These are the ideas, says Smith, to keep in mind where ever it is you're shopping. And with any luck, there'll be plenty of your paycheck left over.
Allison Smith's Whole Foods Bargain Hunting Techniques:
USE WEEKLY SALES FLYERS: Like most other markets, says Whole Foods' value tour guide Allison Smith, the store puts out its new yellow weekly sales sheet on Wednesdays, marking each sales item in the store with a large yellow sale sign. So once you learn what tags are used for sales at markets, you can easily scan the store for deals.
SHOP SEASONALLY: "In produce," says Smith, "the really big thing to look for is seasonally and locally." When you buy local food some of the transportation costs have been cut out, she says, and when you buy what's in season, there's more of it, meaning the price goes down.
BUY STORE BRANDS: Many house brand items are just as good as brand names, and some stores even contract with the same people who make brand name products to create their versions. They're often much cheaper than sales items or even post-coupon prices.
BUY IN BULK: If you can buy just the amount you need from bulk bins, says Smith, food won't go to waste and you'll save on packaging costs. Or if you can buy in larger quantities, you'll save on cost per pound or unit, too.
CONSIDER COUPONS: Many times store brands are cheaper than items bought with a coupon, but you should still check out weekly newspaper circulars and mailings for brands you buy regularly.

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