If you’re like me (a broke college graduate with no job prospect in site), or like most other people, then you probably like money but don’t have enough of it. Ever since I was a child, my mother raised me to be a bargain hunter (somehow, we are not Jewish), and I’m glad of it now. Now I am here to enlighten you with the top five ways to save money so you can have enough money to pay your rent.
1. Shop at thrift stores. This is a pretty obvious option. You can get an entire outfit for $10 if you know what you are doing. I know, many people may have objections to this. What if I buy clothes that someone was murdered in? That often used to be how I thought, until I realized – this is a pair of American Eagle jeans for $4! Now, not all thrift stores carry name brands – there are many stores that have the cliché 80’s and early 90’s wear still in stock (but hey, with recent fashion trends, you could be in style). Nevertheless, if you know where to look, there are quite a few stores that carry gently used brand-name products at discount prices. Thrift stores are not only limited to clothing – they have appliances, shoes, books, DVD’s, and anything other type of junk you could wish to possess. Here are a few of my favorite thrift stores in the Pittsburgh-area:
a. Red, White, and Blue – There are a few of these stores around, and though I can’t remember, I’m sure they are run by a charitable organization. These stores are known for having quality, brand-name items that aren’t from 1980.
b. Goodwill – This is obviously a chain, but it’s great. Since they are a chain, I’ve noticed they actually get leftovers from retail stores like Target. I’m assuming the stuff that’s on clearance in the store that doesn’t sell gets donated, which means you can get it for double clearance.
c. Salvation Army – Again, a chain of thrift stores, but that makes it wonderful. Remember to keep an eye on the color tag of the day – this usually means the item is half off the already low price.
d. Greentree Thrift Store – Obviously, this store is only for people in the Pittsburgh area. But it is a reminder to others that you should check out your local thrift store, even if it isn’t a chain. This store has so much great stuff, and always has a sale where things are 75%, 50%, or 25% off. Don’t exclude a thrift store just because it looks dungy and you’ve never heard of it – being a bargain shopper means exploring to find the best bargains.
2. Buy cheap food. This, too, may seem obvious, until you realize how much non-cheap food you have in your cupboard. For example, when you go to Wal-Mart to buy cereal, are you going to buy Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes from Tony the Tiger for $4, or Great Value’s Frosted Thins from Toni the Tigress for $2? Brands like Great Value offer discounted foods that are basically the same quality. Sure, there may be a slight taste discrepancy, but you will make up for it in the change in your pocket. All grocery stores now carry their own, cheaper brand. And this may be a rumor, but I’ve even heard that what they sell is the same product as the big names, they just label it differently. Who knows – the only important thing is that it will save money without sacrificing taste.
a. Important Note – Beware of “discount food stores.” When I was a child, my mom used to go to this little store called Groceries Plus in our shabby little village. It usually carried products that had either gone bad or were just about to, but offered them at discount prices. Other than being pretty dirty and disorganized, it also had moths. One day, I was eating pasta and noticed a little worm in my food. I went to the cupboard and saw it was entirely infested with said moths. Even today, I still have a fear of finding them in my food. The place has since closed down, and for good reason. Let this be a lesson – just be sure the food you buy isn’t too big of a bargain.
3. Shop Online. I can’t tell you how big this one is. Here’s an example. My freshman year of college, we were not allowed to sign up for classes until the day before they started. Hence, we could not order our books online, and were forced to get them at the bookstore. That semester I spent over $250 on books. Since then, I have shopped for my books online every semester, and probably only spent around $100 each time. The difference is amazing. People may argue that there is a shipping charge, but most of the time this still makes the item cheaper. The important thing when shopping online is to shop around before actually purchasing. That’s the great thing about not physically walking from store to store – all you have to do is click instead of meticulous walk around the whole mall in search of the cheapest item. Places like amazon.com are cheap, but aren’t always the cheapest. Here are a few of my favorite stores for shopping online:
a. Betterworldbooks.com – a great place that offers used and recycled library books for sale, with free shipping anywhere in the US!
b. Allbookstores.com – a site that automatically compares book prices from all the sites selling it, and tells you where to get it the cheapest
c. Ebay.com – a classic, but still the best. Where else can you get a new phone charger for $3 with shipping included? Compare that to the $14 chargers at Wal-Mart.
d. Newegg.com – I almost bought my laptop off here, but changed my mind. They have great sales on electronics, and offer many products that can’t be found in stores.
e. Shopping.google.com – Ok, not a real shopping site, but a great comparison tool. It can find anything you’re looking for and find the best prices on the web instantly.
4. Go to the movies on bargain Tuesdays, or better yet – the drive-in. I love seeing movies, so I go to the movies a lot. However, movies are freaking expensive these days – almost $10 a ticket, plus even more if you want to see the rip-off 3D. Because I look 14 I can get a student or youth ticket in most cases (another important way to save money, in fact), but that still doesn’t change the fact that I can’t go to the movies when it costs that much. However, there is a way around it. Tuesday, as far as I can tell, is universal bargain night at the movies. Around here, all the theaters offer tickets for $5.00, and even when I’ve been to other places, it’s the same deal. So why not just wait until Tuesday to see that latest flick on your mind? It will be half price, and you can spend that money on buying popcorn instead (or, if you are in the money saving mood – pop some yourself and stick it in a bag). But, let’s say Tuesdays won’t work for you. There is an even better deal, and that is the drive-in. I guess I’m lucky because we have two drive-ins where I live, both of which are cheap and amazing. For $6.50, you get to see two movies, both of which have just been released in theaters. There’s really nothing better than sitting under the stars with a beer and watching X-Men: First Class. Of course, if there’s a movie you really want to see because it’s your favorite thing ever, I wouldn’t recommend this – as it can sometimes be hard to hear with the outdoor acoustics, and the threat of a hatchback in front of you is always looming.
5. Take your lunch to work. I myself am new to the workplace, and this one kind of shocked me. My colleagues at work order lunch every day, which is awesome. I don’t usually partake because I like leaving the office for lunch, but I did become used to buying Subway or some other tasty meal during my break. I thought that since I was making the big bucks ($10 spicy dollars an hour), I could afford to basically spend one hour of my pay on a meal. When my credit card bill came, I was a bit surprised – it turned out that most of my bill was from my daily lunch treats. Oops. Since I’m trying to be on a budget and save money for my looming loan payments, I have since cut back on eating out and now pack my lunch. This saves me an extraordinary amount of money, especially since I live at home and my parents buy the groceries. Still, the point is, buying a pound of lunchmeat that will last a week is cheaper than buying a 6 inch sub that will last 30 minutes.
These are just the basics, but I think you will be able to catch my drift. Maybe this should become a series – let me know your thoughts.