After a couple of “See ya later” lunches with peers and colleagues last month, I handed in my company’s laptop and iPhone, and said “Good-bye” to traditional paid employment once and for all. Oh, the risk! The excitement! The freedom! The lack of a paycheque every couple of weeks! The – wait a minute; what was that last one?! You mean if I don’t work, I don’t get paid? Are you kidding me?! This certainly would have been useful information to have BEFORE I quit my job!
Who am I kidding? When I said “Later, Skater” to my boss for the very last time, I knew (a) exactly what I signed up for, and (b) that endless days of “no pay” were coming down the pipe, and quick; I’m just saying now that they’ve finally arrived, it’s still kind of hard to wrap my head around the concept of not having an income any longer. My subconscious is in a state of shock as it naively absorbs the “Einstein-sounding” theory; you know, one he’d scrawl on a chalkboard, saying something like: “Here’s my theory of cash relativity… work = cash; no work = no cash… Any Questions? I didn’t think so!”
Let’s be honest: It doesn’t really matter if there are/are not theories or formulas, because (and for the benefit of my naive subconscious) to be blunt, facts are facts: No work equals no pay, every single time. And since I’m not “working” per se, no-one is – or will – be paying me – not unless my writing catches fire sooner than later. And yes, I’m definitely missing not being greeted by a juicy, big, fat deposit of cash in the ole’ chequing account every second Friday; in fact, I miss it more than the free gas, the expense account, AND all the free corn dogs I could eat, put together! (I know what you’re thinking: Really? Corn Dogs as perks? I’m afraid so!)
Obviously, I knew that quitting would result in loss of income – I just wasn’t prepared for that hollow feeling I get each time I log onto online banking, only to confirm nothing’s changed since the previous day; or the day before that, or the one before that, and so on, and so on… *Sigh* Woe is me… or am I?
The good news is that this stark reality has hit home, and I’m ready for the challenge! And while I’m not quite ready to line up at the soup kitchen just yet, it is time for me to put on my “Big Boy Pants” and deal with this new reality head on! Without cash coming through the door, I’m become more cognizant of just how much money I’m spending, (especially on Visa) and am constantly “on the hunt” for ways to stretch the finite dollars that I do have.
I’ve entered into “Full Lock Down/Penny Pinching Mode”, and am digging DEEP into my bag of tricks to come up the very best tips on how to live frugally, all so I can get the biggest bang for my (dwindling!) bucks. And even though I may have written about a few of these ideas in an earlier post, the following list is updated and has some new and improved suggestions. I consider these babies my “star performers”, and are the ones that will most likely keep me out of “The Poor House”! I hope you give a few of them a try, and perhaps they can help you save a shekel or two as well.
So without further adieu, here we go – Good Luck!
1) Create Left Overs: When cooking dinners, always make sure there’s extra of everything in order stretch it into a couple of extra meals. This works well to supply everyone lunch for a couple of days after the main meal was served. By the way, I’m having last night’s spaghetti for lunch today… Yippee!
2) Make Some Homemade Soup: Especially on cold, frosty winter days, nothing is better than a big bowl of hot homemade soup! Gather up all the leftovers in the fridge, get chopping, add some stock and viola! Hot meals for days, for mere pennies a portion! *Bonus Tip: To be truly effective at this, go to your local “bulk” store and buy powdered chicken base, beef base and “soup mix” (beans, barley, etc.) so that when you’re ready to make soup, you have all the basics already. It’s a great investment!
3) Cheap Coffee Trick #1: If you just want a cup of coffee on the fly, always, always ALWAYS make it home – those daily Starbucks you’re drinking should be called daily “BIG BUCKS”, since that’s what they are costing you! However if you want to actually SIT in a coffee shop, so you can read or go online whilst enjoying a coffee, that’s okay; because the same couple of bucks are buying you an hour’s worth of ambiance, not just a quick hot drink to carry around with you on errands for the next half hour.
4) Cheap Coffee Trick #2: On the other hand, if you simply must grab a coffee on the go, your best options are (a) 7-11 stores – but only if they have their “Any Size $1 Dollar” deal on, which seems to be lasting a very, very long time; or (b) McDonalds, who actually have a pretty decent cup of brewed joe these days, and for only a$1.59 + tax you can get a small AND a fresh baked muffin! Also McDonalds gives refills, so you can read the (free) paper for a bit, reload, and head out with a full cup! Take THAT, Starbucks! SUPER BONUS: On Mondays all small specialty coffees (Latte, Americano, P.S.L., etc.) are only a buck each at Mickey D’s! Woot! Woot! Oh, and don’t forget to save the McCafe stickers while you’re at it – 7 stickers gives you a free medium specialty coffee!
5) Eating In On The Cheap: The three best ways I’ve found to get cheap meats (proteins) to feed your family a good home-cooked dinner are (a) check the online flyers for your local grocery store and watch for reoccurring deals, like “BYGOF” specials, or just lost leaders that are designed to bring you through the doors. (the trick is once you are there, not to spend all the savings on 2 big bags of Miss Vickies chips and a case of Coke Zero!) Also, (b) look for marked down meats (usually identified with red stickers) which freeze well and can be used at a later date. For some reason, Sunday mornings around 9:00 a.m. seems to be like Mecca for these items… go figure! Actually, (c) has to do with collecting roadkill, and isn’t as popular here as it is in Texas, so let’s just let that suggestion slide for the moment…
6) Pizza On The Cheap: The average XL pizza costs about $30 bucks, yet a “slice” of pizza often only costs around $3 bucks… and with 6 slices to a pie, it seems that ordering that number but demanding a whole NEW pizza – to go, thank you very much – is a way to bring home pizza dinner, only at about 60% of the cost! Don’t be a Weenie – just ask them, they’re happy to do it! Remember, for them every sale is a sale, and money is money, if you know what I mean – the guys at the pizza shop sure do, right Schmaltzy?
7) Eating Out On The Cheap: I only know of three options to eat out on the cheap: First, we have the “Value Menus” at fast food joints. For example, McDonalds “McDouble” is pretty cheap, and you can get a couple of those (two have the same amount of meat as a Quarter Pounder) and a small fries for less than $5 bucks, versus about $9 bucks for a Big Mac meal*. Same at Subway – they’ve got a few subs on for $5 bucks as well, and you just ask your friendly neighbourhood “Sandwich Artist” for “more, more, more” veggies until that sub is burgeoning with healthy goodness, all for the same low price! Obviously, drinking tap water greatly reduces both the cost, and the post-lunch bloating of these two options, so I always go for that.
*On the back of McDonalds receipts is an online survey that, once taken allows you to print off a coupon good for an “Extra Value Meal” for around $5 bucks, which basically means you can have that Big Mac, Fries and medium Coke after all – but only if you do your homework first!
Fast food not your thing? No problem – sign up for Groupon, and every day a bunch of new deals show up in your inbox, usually including 50% off at some decent local restaurants. Of course, Groupon sells everything, not just food – but let’s just say that if you can afford to buy that 2 day spa weekend (with all meals included) at some Foo-foo resort for “only” $499 bucks, then you are probably reading the wrong site – here’s the one you want
8) Hungry AND Broke: Let’s face it, we all have lonely boxes and bags of forgotten food tucked away in our cupboards, freezers and pantries that has been there FOREVER… find a way to use it up, and save yourself the cash you’d spend otherwise. Pasta, noodles, rice, cans of beans, eggs, etc. – be creative, and whip up something that will taste good and last a few meals. Actually, this is a great opportunity to get started on making that soup we talked about earlier… I’m just sayin’…
9) Cheap/Free Movies: Okay, we all know about Tuesday being “cheap night” at the Movies, so let’s call that one a gimmie, just like is Netflix – which personally, I don’t subscribe to because after two days you’ve pretty much seen everything on there worth watching. However, what many people don’t know is that their local public library brings in movies that you can check out for FREE – yep, I’m talking new releases and old favourites. Best of all, you can keep them for multiple days, narrowing the opportunity for getting dinged with a late charge. The only downside is that lots of people use this service, so sometimes it takes a few weeks before you can actually see that new release you really, really wanted to see.
However, for that there’s REDBOX! Yep, for only $1.50 (+ tax) per night, take home a new release, in either DVD or Blu Ray. Most Red Boxes are located in grocery stores, so you can grab a flick when you are picking up the milk and t.p. on the way home from work. Oh, there’s also one at every Wal Mart, so check it out next time you are loading up on Duck Dynasty merchandise and stretchy pants. Extra Bonus! On Thursday you can get 2 movies for the price of 1!
10) Cheap/Free Books: Who knew? Besides DVDs, the library also carries books, which – believe it or not – they will also loan out for free! The only problem is you can’t write in them; so if that’s your bag, then scurry off to a used book store, of which there are about a million to choose from in every city. Or if you are all “fancy-schmanzy”like me, pick up a kindle and download lots of books for either free, or at a fraction of their printed cost. For me, reading is ALWAYS a value, regardless of how much I spend on a book, download or other. I figure as long as I’m learning, it’s a worthwhile spend.
11) Going For A Walk – Always FREE: No seriously, put down the phone/Ipad, turn off the computer/television, put on your coat and go outside for a walk! Besides being great exercise, walking is a great way to spend time either alone, or with your friends and family. Terrific conversations can be had, and wonderful observations made when we choose to look up from our phones, breath int the fresh air and simply take in the environment all around us. And yes, this qualifies as “cheap entertainment” – even if you do pick up those budget coffees we discussed earlier, you know, to enjoy along the way. At our house we go for walks along the waterfront two or three times every week, and just love it – especially during this chilly time of year. It makes coming home to a hot cup of tea and (free) DVD feel just about perfect!
12) Save On Heating Bills: This one takes a page out of my frugal parent’s book: To save money on heating bills, first turn down the thermostat and then bundle up with sweaters and warm clothes. Oh, and being Canadian, whenever the mercury dips don’t forget to add long johns to your winter wardrobe – and just to clarify, we mean the “Fruit of the Loom” kind of long johns, not the Tim Hortons kind! Don’t ever screw this up; because let’s be honest, nobody needs lumps of pastry dough and sticky brown icing stains in their underwear – if you know what I mean!
*Bonus Tip – On those especially cold, chilly, winter nights toss a hot water bottle into your bed 1/2 hour before you get in it – you’ll be toasty all night long, and then through till the morning. Thanks for the tips, Mom and Dad!
13) Use Coupons Whenever Possible: These days (thanks to the internet) coupons are more accessible than ever. Anytime you want to buy something – anything – ask if there’s a coupon available, and vendors are usually pretty happy to hand them over, or direct you to their website. I know, it’s crazy they’d do this, but it’s true, and coupons will save you a bunch of money. Also, if there is a store you like (say Old Navy or Bed, Bath and Beyond) go on their site and sign up for their newsletters – they usually reward folks for doing so, by giving around 25% (or more) off of a single item! For example, at BB&B, we recently bought a mirror that cost $200 bucks; but with the printed coupon we downloaded, we saved $50 bones! Not too bad, eh? It’s also a good thing they don’t sell Miss Vickies or Coke Zero at BB&B, or those saving would have been gone!
14) The Dollar Store: There, I said it. The Dollar Store. I know… “Yuck”. But to be honest, there are tons of household items that we can pay 2 and 3 times more for at places like Wal Mart or Target that only cost $1.25 at Dollar Stores; things like coffee filters, candles, greeting cards, food items, holiday decor, pet toys, etc. – no really, they have it all, and it’s CHEAP with a capital C! My only issues with these places is that (a) they often only take cash, which I never have; and (b) far more importantly, they sell a lot of crap that’s produced in foreign sweatshops. If you have a social conscience, it’s pretty hard to overlook the fact that they are churning out stuff whose raw materials (let alone production of) would cost far more than $1.25 in Canada; but like I said, if you can overlook this, there are big savings to be had. Me? I only go there to buy gift cards, and the occasional candle at Christmas time.
Okay, there you have it! It’s been a bit of a marathon, but now you have my “Superstar” list of the top 13 ways I’m saving money in my retirement. Let me know what you think of them, or if you have #14 & #15 for me to add to my arsenal. And with that said, I say “Thanks” for reading, happy saving and am off to look for my half eaten bag of Miss Vickies Chips… Let me know if you find them, okay? Cheers!