I know a lot of people are worried about money these days, maybe a lot more than they used to be. Since I was a young, single mother once upon a time, I'm a champ at spending less. I thought I would share some of my favorite money saving tips, because, as Ben Lee would say, "We are all in this together."
Cocktail hour: Bars are expensive. No doubt about it. Going out drinking with your friends can easily cost you $40-60-even $80 in a few short hours. I have a few tips to let you still go out and have a good time, but not wake up with a hangover and an empty bank account.
Bring cash. Put a certain amount of cash in your wallet and promise yourself that is all you will spend. If you have no will power after a drink, leave your plastic at home. Even if you end up taking a cab, and have no cash left, you can always have them wait a second while you run in and get your card.
Be your own mixologist. There are a few bars that my friends like to frequent because of the atmosphere. You know the place. It has all the right people, music, lighting, art, etc... The problem with these places is that a simple well cocktail will cost you $9, add the tip, that is $20 for two small cocktails!! (And that isn't even the good stuff!)
Enter the mini. You know, those cute little airplane bottles of booze? You can buy them at your local liquor store for under $2 each. You can even get top shelf stuff for $3! My drink is Vanilla Vodka and Diet Coke. I will throw one or two of those in my purse, and order Diet coke. Some bars don't even charge for soda, but if they do, it isn't usually over $2, add a tip, that is $3, plus $2 for the mini, you have saved $4!!
Dinner Time: Over the years, I've had times where I had to get really creative about stretching my food budget. I've learned that having these ingredients in my cupboard at all times will guarantee that I can always put a hot meal on the table. The root of all of my favorite low rent meals are:
Frozen mixed veggies (My favorite is the carrot, broccoli, cauliflower mix)
Cream of mushroom condensed soup
Cream of chicken condensed soup
Johnny's Seasoning Salt
Buy them on sale
Coffee: I had to give up my $5 a day latte habit. These days, I allow myself a latte twice a week. Invest in a couple of really nice travel mugs and a coffee maker. If you have a few travel mugs, you won't be able to convince yourself to buy coffee "Because your mug is dirty" or because you "forgot it at the office"
Pizza: There comes a time where even the thriftiest person just needs to order delivery. This is the one time where I think coupons are amazing. We get them in the mail, and I always flip through for the best pizza coupons. I keep them in the file where we keep the menus. You might also keep in mind that frozen food companies have tried really hard to be competitive and have improved the quality of their products quite a bit over the years. Frozen pizza is pretty comparable to delivery nowadays and you can usually buy it on sale, two for one. If you always keep a couple in the freezer, you will never have to order delivery again! You can also pimp out frozen pizza with your own fresh toppings. It still cost less than delivery and tastes just as great!
Clothes: Buy all new clothes in-between seasons. Stores need to clear out for the new season and everything goes on the clearance. The best prices are in early January because stores need to clear out everything they can before they do inventory and pay taxes. Whatever they still have in stock during tax time, they have to pay for, so they are really motivated to move.
Mid to the end of January is also the best time of year for any big purchases. Last year we bought a couch that was originally priced at over $1100 for around $500.
Money: I have a strict "NO PLASTIC" policy. I spend what I have, not a penny more. It is as simple as that. If you have the willpower to keep an emergency card, keep it in a safe, out of your wallet. Better yet, keep it with your parents, so you have to get the info from them if you ever have the urge to impulse buy.