Allow me to give you a brief overview of my financial life. By the time I was 30, I had about $30,000 in credit card debt, I owed my parents a ton of money, and I wasn’t doing too well. Then one day, I woke up. I got tired of living my life the way that I did, and I made some dramatic changes. Approximately three years later, I had emerged completely from all credit card debt, my parents were paid off, and I even paid off my car. This was all a precursor to buying my first home. Since then, I have been dedicated to saving money in my everyday life. I am by no means cheap, I just save everywhere that I can. Well, if you had asked me a few years ago if I was saving everything I could in all things financial, I would have told you yes. That statement could not be further from the truth. Through a lot of learning, investigating and so forth, I uncovered many more ways to save. I thought I would outline them for you below.

Periodically, Take A Step Back And Review Your Finances Objectively

Personally, I do this every six months. The first time I did it, I thought that it would be a one time thing. Oh how wrong I was. At least every six months, you should take a step back and review all of your monthly bills. For example, your television service, cell phone, and internet plans. If you reviewed these last year, made some adjustments and saved some money–great job! However, don’t stop there. You need to go thorugh this process every six months or so. TV packages are always geting cheaper, cell phone minutes plans are always coming down, as well as internet services. This is why it is so important to never sign a contract for any of these serices. That is why these companies are so big on them. They want to rope you in for the long term because they know that rates are always decreasing. Call these companies up periodically to see if there are additional ways to save.

Do Not Save On Everyday Purchases, Eliminate Them

I used to think that I was doing good by saving as much as I could when I ate out on my lunch break, when I bought coffee in the morning on the way to work, and so on. Then one day I realized, instead of saving as much as you can on these every day items, why not look into ways to eliminate them? Before long, I invested in a coffee maker and now make my morning cup of coffee, and I no longer eat out for lunch (besides special occasions), I simply brown bag it. These are low-cost items, but they are every day purchases. If you spend $5 a day for lunch five times per week–that translates into a $1300 annual expense. I have no idea how much my brown-bag lunch costs me daily, but I am guessing that $2 would be a good estimate. By making this change, I have cut this $1300 annual expense into a $520 annual expense–a savings of $780. By taking my lunch to work with me, I just got a free mortgage payment.

Investigate/Research Any Purchase Over $50

By no means am I advocating that you micro-manage your finances to the point that you are bleary-eyed in front of your computer till three in the morning, trying to find a way to save ten cents on a gallon of milk. Personally, I set the cut off point at $50. Any time I am considering a purchase of $50 or more, I investigate and research it on the internet before pulling the trigger. The purpose of this is twofold:  first, it prevents me from any “impulse buying”. Second, when I do make the purchase, I know that I am getting the best price. Many times, purchasing something online is cheaper than buying it in a store, and this is including shipping costs (if any). I’ll give you a perfect example. I recently needed to buy a new umbrella for my patio table (it was quite dirty). When I first looked, the average price was about $150. Since there was no need to buy it at the first moment, I waited and looked around. Within a month, I found a retailer (Kohl’s) who had them on clearance. I was able to get it for $48, shipped to my home.

Sign Up For All The Daily Deal Discount Sites You Can Find

I am currently registered on the following websites: Groupon, Living Social, Mampedia, and Gilt. They are all websites dedicated to sending discount offers for things in your localtiy. I might not see something on Groupon that applies to me for three  months, then again, I might find three deals in the same week that apply to me. Basically, the deals that these sites offer are fifty percent discounts for local merchants. I have saved a ton since I have signed up for these websites. Just don’t fall prey to the mindset of  “buying a deal just because it’s a deal”. Remember, its only a deal if its for something that you truly need/want.

Closing

In the end, no matter how long oyu have been saving, trust me, you can always save some more. Take my advice on the tips I outlined above, and you can more than likely improve your savings in at least a few of these areas. Saving money is an ongoing concept, I can assure you of that.

What other little known way do you know of to save money? Your comments are appreciated below.

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From time to time, I try to look at some of the “smaller’ things in my financial life, and I try to find ways to save on them. Especially, purchases that I make on a regular basis. One thing that any parent should know is that whether it be your child’s birthday, Christmas, or any other gift-giving holiday, that a good supply of batteries is always a necessity.

Nothing is worse than a child tearing open a new gift, and wanting to play with it, only to be told that he/she needs to wait because there are no batteries.

On top of that, batteries are not cheap.  By any stretch of the imagination.

Therefore, I want to share with you a recent experience that I had with batteries, and then give you some general pointers on purchasing them.

Buy What You Need Beforehand

Whenever you buy a gift for your children, you should know whether or not the item requires batteries. We gave our son one of those work bench type things for Christmas last year.  He really loved it!  It came with a battery operated drill, all the screwdrivers you could ask for, a variety of other tools, and a few battery operated saws.  I had batteries on hand for the entire set up except for a little flashlight that came with the set.  It called for some button cell batteries, which is not one of the batteries that one would typically have on hand around the house..

I was unaware of this, so we had to put off getting the flashlight to work.  It was no big tragedy, because the rest of the workbench was fully functional.  I had never even heard of this type of battery before, so later on in the day, I went off to the drugstore to pick some up.  To my shock and surprise, these tiny little batteries came in packs of three at the store I went to for the wonderful price of almost $10!  For three little batteries.

Well, right away I decided that we could wait a little while longer before getting batteries to the flashlight.  This price just sounded a little too ridiculous.  I zipped back home, did a two minute search on the internet, and lo and behold, what did I find?   A pack of 10 for $2.88 shipped.

Battery Buying Tips

  • Always, always buy them on sale. They’re on sale just about all the time, plus you can usually find coupons for them too.  It is one of those fairly pricey things that you should always at least be able to find some kind of discount on.
  • Always, always buy in bulk.  Again, if you’re a parent, you are going to need lots of these for a long time coming.  I would never get less than a 24 pack or so of the AAs or the AAAs–the savings will definitely add up over time.
  • There are two sides to the “buy generic” or “buy quality” issue.  I won’t get into if there is a difference in quality or not, because I honestly have no idea.  Here is what I have come up with.  I usually tend to buy a combination of the two.  I buy the discount ones for my childrens’ toys.  I buy the high quality ones for emergency type uses—flashlights, battery operated radioes, smoke alarms, etc. Because if the “cheapies” don’t last as long, it’s less stressful if a toy stops working rather than a flashlight in a thunderstorm.  Plus, if your kids tend to leave their toys on all the time like mine do, you’ll be draining away less expensive batteries.

Closing

Buying batteries is a small issue in the grand scheme of things, but if you decide to change your mindset and adopt this new buying attitude, you’ll save yourself a good bit of money in the long run and it takes up no extra time from your daily life. And, by adopting this buying strategy into other areas of your life (i.e. groceries, sundries, other small purchases) you can save even more.

Got a comment on my words??  Please share!  I love feedback.

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Over the course of the past year or so, I have received quite a few inquiries as to why I chose the title that I did for my book. Before it published, I had considered quite a few more generic titles (i.e. Making Money Matter, Good Financial Cents, etc.) The reason why I went with what I did was two fold:  first, I think for a lot of people out there, they need to be “hit over the head” so to speak when it comes to managing their money. It is pretty elementary to me now the need for prudent money management, but in my younger days, I was definitely one in that crowd. This is the first reason why I chose a more “hard hitting” title. Secondly, I wanted to make it something that is a little outside of the box. I think it stands apart from most other books on the topic, because it divides money management into three separate categories, and dissects each one. Some have called the title of my book “stupid” or “ignorant” and I can respect that opinion. However, I stand by the title of my book. It basically means what it says– “Don’t Be A Mule.”

What Do I Mean By That?

Here are a few quick examples where I think that people are basically being stupid with their money–

Grocery Shopping–When you are doing your grocery shopping–“Don’t Be a Mule.”  Don’t mindlessly wander through the aisles picking up the same overpriced items that you always do when you could take off the blinders, open your eyes, and start saving yourself some money  (see Chapter 3).

Bills–When you are paying your bills-“Don’t Be a Mule.” Do not robotically open up the envelopes, look at the amounts due, write out your checks, lick the stamps and send them off.  Check your utility bills for accuracy, check your credit card bills for mistakes, and if you find something wrong with any of them, then REALLY don’t be a mule…….stand up and fight for the money that’s rightfully yours. (see Chapter 4).

Leisure Time–When you get home from work at nite….Don’t Be A Mule.  Instead of sitting down in front of the TV for a mindless three hours of boob tube watching, actually think about what you are passionate about and what you can provide value to in someone else’s life.  This is the key and the beginning to being able to generate extra cash in your life, without even getting a second job. (see Chapter 5). Identify your talent(s), and figure out a way to turn them into money makers.

Daily Purchases–If you stop by a convenience store every morning for a cup of coffee, why not invest in a coffee maker and make it yourself? The money you save on a daily basis may not seem like much, but on an annual basis, it could mean hundreds of dollars. Do you go out to lunch every day of your work week? Consider brown-bagging it–the savings here are huge, and it is probably healthier eating.

Final Thoughts

Two final thoughts I will leave you with:

It is Not Forever:  I only propose these changes until you are financially fit. if the thought of packing your own lunch is too much, tell yourself that you’ll do it for six months and then look at your finances. if your credit card debt is paid off and you can afford it (and you truly enjoy dining out) then by all means, go back to eating out. I think this is a key point that many people don’t realize–the sacrifices that you need to make in order to fix your finances do not have to be permanent changes–only until your financial house is in order.

Your Money Is Hard-Earned:  This is another point that people just miss the boat on. if you are busting your behind at your job to make the money that you do, why would you let it flow out of your life in such an ignorant fashion. To me, logic states that if you work hard for your money then you should work smart to see that as much of it as possible stays in your life.

 

…..And there you have it, an explanation of what the title of my book really means….

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I think I can speak intelligently on this topic for two reasons.  First, I love to use coupons when dining out, and second, I am recently divorced so I am just now getting back into the dating game. Rather than this being an advice-type article, I’d like to make it more of an open discussion forum. I am no expert and one of the big questions on my mind as I dive back into the world if dating is this: is it OK to use a coupon on a first date?

Those That Say Yes

I think that there are many positive points to using a coupon on a first date. First, I think it sends the message that you know how to handle your finances. Of course, if you decide to take your date to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and use a coupon there, more than likely it won’t lead to a second date (no offense towards KFC). But, if you have a coupon for a fairly nice restaurant, I honestly see no problem with using one.

Next, it should give you a great idea of what the money mindset is of the person you are with. If they react negatively to the use of a coupon, it could mean that they are not the right person for you. Remember, money is one of the leading causes of break-ups. “Spenders” rarely match up well with “savers”. So, you could actually use a coupon on your first date in order to get an insight into what your date’s money mindset is. To back that up, I recently saw the results of a survey at Match.com that said that 46% of women thought it was just fine for a guy to use a coupon on a first date.

Finally, I think that some women would view using a coupon on a first date as a sign of confidence and security. Meaning, they would understand that you are above the worries of seeming to be cheap on your first date.

So, I think there are a lot of positives on the subject.

Those That Say No

Obviously, the first reason not to use a coupon is that you will come off as looking cheap. And that is not what you want to do.

Next, using a coupon on a first date may be misconstrued as you definitely NOT wanting a second date. Another thought you do not want to convey.

Finally, a lot of people seem to think that it is OK to use a coupon on a date, just not the first date. There is just too much at stake. Would you really want to lose the opportunity of a second date with someone you are really interested in just to save a few bucks? Especially when you can save this money at a later time? My guess would be no.

Final Thought

As I began to write this article, I was of the firm belief that using a coupon on a first date was alright, and almost a good thing. I felt that way until I got to the last point under the reasons not to. Look, if you have just met someone you find very attractive and interesting, why would you want to “blow it” just so you can save $5 on an appetizer. Park that coupon in your pocket and use it on the fourth or fifth date. However, there are a lot of rewards to gain by whipping out that coupon on date #1. You can possibly impress the girl by showing that you know the value of a dollar, and you might be able to weed out some of the more materialistic people out there that you might not want to be in a relationship with anyways.

In the end, the choice is up to you.

So, what do you think? First date:  to coupon, or not to coupon? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

 

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