Money Saving Tips

17Dec 2014
bike rental

When you see the word “rent,” what comes to mind? I’ve always associated renting with apartments, cars and maybe a tuxedo.

These days, you can rent a lot more than that. The sharing economy is alive and well, and there are endless ways to get access to things you need or want, without having to fork over a ton of money.

In fact, peer-to-peer sharing companies like Lyft and Airbnb are giving traditional taxicabs and hotels a run for their money by creating an ever-growing niche in the travel and tourism business.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain things I’ve become so accustomed to buying brand new, the idea of renting the same thing for a much cheaper price doesn’t even cross my mind.

It’s a Rental!

Some of my fellow women can probably relate to having a closetful of dresses that only see the light of day once or twice a year. I was picking through my collection the other day, unsatisfied with my options for an upcoming wedding, when I asked a friend what she was planning to wear. She sent me a photo of a beautiful, trendy cocktail dress. “It’s a rental!” she said.

I felt a little silly that the same idea had never occurred to me. I mean, why spend the extra time and money shopping for another dress I’ll only wear once a year, when I can borrow one for a fraction of the cost?

With companies like Rent the Runway and Bag Borrow or Steal, you can have like-new dresses, handbags and jewelry shipped to your door. Once you wear them, you just send them back in a prepaid envelope. No dry cleaning necessary, and no closet space lost.

Tools, Bikes and More

Don’t worry, men, I haven’t forgotten about you. You probably know you can rent your own formalwear, but have you ever rented more fun stuff…say, power tools or mountain bikes?

I know my husband can’t stand the idea of buying an expensive new tool for a home improvement project that we’re only doing once. With rental services available through multiple home improvement stores, you can borrow anything from ladders to power washers. No need to waste precious cash or storage space on items you’re only using for a few days.

For a less corporate feel, there are plenty of neighborhood-focused peer-to-peer sharing sites to choose from, depending on where you live. Or you could borrow those tools the old fashioned way…by actually knocking on your neighbor’s door.

As for the mountain bikes, check out Spinlister, a sharing company that connects renters to bikes and other sports equipment. It’s a great fit if you’re an occasional biker who wants to save some money—or if you just want to try before you buy.

We may live in a culture that’s all about owning the shiniest new toys, but Americans are starting to wake up and smell the savings. More and more people are renting instead of buying, and while it isn’t the most economical choice in every situation, it’s often a great, inexpensive option. So expand your rental horizons and see how much cash you can save.

28Nov 2014
Online shopping

When it’s time to go shopping—whether you’re walking into a store or surfing the web—you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. And locking in a great deal comes down to more than just “sale” signs. Below are five things I’ve learned to do before buying anything. Turn them into a mental checklist before you make your next purchase and see how much cash you can save.

Check my wallet

Few things are more infuriating than rushing through the checkout line only to find an unused coupon hiding in your purse…after you’ve left the building, of course. (Can you tell I’ve experienced this a few times?) Now I keep all my coupons in one place and sift through them before I get to the front of the checkout line to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

Check my phone

Whether I’m pulling up a store’s discount app (such as Cartwheel from Target) or using a general barcode scanner app to compare prices, I try to make sure I’m getting the best deal possible. I also check through email and texts for any mobile coupons. Plenty of stores will regularly send you coupons just for signing up for their email alerts (Old Navy, Payless and Bed Bath & Beyond are a few examples). Create a new email account if you don’t want promotional emails clogging up your regular inbox.

Do my research

For large purchases like electronics, my husband and I are pretty thorough with our research. For example, we don’t want to pay full price for the latest iPhone if a newer model is coming out in a month. It’s also good to check customer reviews and get a feel for when certain products may go on sale (Black Friday sales, for example). Big purchases should not be impulse buys.

Use EBATES or AmazonSmile if possible

If you do any amount of online shopping, you need to check out these two websites. EBATES gives you cash back for online purchases you’d be making anyway. AmazonSmile gives a percentage of your purchase to the registered nonprofit of your choice. There are nearly 1 million charities to choose from. Some of my favorites are my local church, Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (full disclosure: I work for BGEA). If you’re going to buy something anyway, you might as well help out a worthy cause while you’re at it, right?

Say “no” to the store’s credit card offer

If you can’t tell, I’m all about saving a buck whenever possible…with one exception. You will not see me digging through a wallet full of store credit cards. Believe me, I know it’s tempting to get that extra 10 or 20 percent off for “signing up today” for a new credit card from Sears, Kohl’s, Target, Marshall’s and on and on. The retailers push those cards so hard because they know that they—not the consumer—will usually win in the long run. Getting 15 percent off isn’t really a good deal when you have so many cards to keep track of that you forget to pay one on time and get slapped with a 20 percent interest charge.

26Nov 2014
Giving gifts

Christmas shopping stresses me out.

I can think of about 20 reasons why, but I’ll just give you my top five: Big family, small budget, mall crowds, time crunch, and what I like to call “gift perfectionism”—the unhealthy need to track down the perfect gift for each person on my list, from my husband to that second cousin I only see at weddings and funerals.

Oh, and my “sleigh” is too small. I live hundreds of miles from most of my family, which means I fly to my hometown for Christmas. And for some reason, US Airways doesn’t seem to want to transport my 32 Christmas gifts from Point A to Point B without charging some exorbitant fee.

A Perfect Storm

You see, from the mall parking lot to the airport, the whole Christmas shopping endeavor is a perfect storm. More often than not, I end up losing my cool, busting my budget and more importantly, forgetting all about the fact that Christmas is not about me. Or presents. Or shopping malls. It’s about celebrating the day our Savior showed up in our world on a rescue mission.

So, this year, how about we rescue ourselves from the chaos and financial strain of Christmas shopping and free up some time to focus on Jesus?

We don’t have to skip the gift giving entirely, but we can certainly find ways to significantly cut down on shopping stress.

Trim the Tree…And Your Shopping List

One of the best ways to trim your holiday shopping list is to get the whole family (or church group or workplace department) to use the Secret Santa approach. You probably know how this works—put everyone’s name in a hat and have each person pick a name. Then set a spending limit and stick to it. If you typically purchase gifts for 10 people, you just reduced your shopping list by 90 percent. Can you feel the stress melting away?

If you’re thinking, “My family is far away, so the names in a hat thing isn’t very practical,” no problem. The online Secret Santa Generator has you covered, and it’s free.

Just make sure you don’t put it off. To make this new gift-giving method a success, it’s important to work out the details well in advance…not two days before Christmas.

Whether you try the Secret Santa idea or get creative with other ways of lessening your holiday shopping bills, now is the time to get everyone on board.

Don’t put up with another year of the same old, preventable stresses. Make a change now, and enjoy a truly merry Christmas later.

04Jun 2014

Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s Saturday night, and your entertainment budget is somewhere between zero and Dollar Menu. This morning, you resolved to stick to your budget and enjoy a quiet night in.

And then you got “the text.” You know it well. It’s the one that informs you your friends are planning to go out to dinner. Or to the movies. Or bowling. And you’re invited. Suddenly your plans to enjoy leftovers, Netflix, and the couch seem incredibly lame.

So, what do you do?

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