Clothes Shopping on a Budget

Today, I am excited to be helping out at St. Paul’s UMC Rummage Sale.  This annual event is HUGE.  People stand in line just to get in the door and grab some deals.  WHY?  Seasons are changing – finally.  Warmer weather is coming and we can always use something new (at least to us)

You know the saying “one woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure”, right? I will admit, clothes shopping is not something I really enjoy. Yes, I have lost most of the weight so I can shop off the racks BUT I still see the “fat” person of yester year.

Growing up, we didn’t shop in thrift stores. In fact, I am not even sure they were around in the 60’s and 70’s. I do remember donating items to those who were less fortunate but I don’t think I ever saw where they ended up.

As a single mom, thrift stores were a fun place to go – not just for me but also for my daughter. We checked out rummage sales at the local churches and scoured the thrift stores for goodies. From toys to books to kitchen stuff to clothes. We always found some treasure which would make the day a success.

There are two sides to most thrift stores – you get to help out a charity by donating and then again when buying from them. You get to make a difference in the lives of others. When donating items you no longer need or want the charity is then able to sell it to someone who needs or wants the item. The money raised helps others in need with food or other essentials. A win-win for everyone.

Let me say, I do know there are some “not so good” charities or thrift stores.  The ones who sell items to feed the pockets of their administration staff or some corporate big wig.  I am not talking about those because honestly, the best deals are not usually found at those “stores”.  I am talking about the local church rummage sales or the thrift store whose money goes directly to help those in need.

Here are some myths about thrift store shopping we are going to BUST!

Myth #1: It is shameful to go into a thrift shop.

Remember you are giving to a great cause and getting yourself a bargain at the same time. The items you are getting aren’t dirty but have been carefully sorted. Give your items a quick wash once you’ve bought them and they will be just like new. I even think for a period of time, this was the preferred way to shop.

Myth #2: Sometimes thrift shops can be considered ‘expensive’

I know, kind of crazy, right? The truth is everything is not “cheap” – a dollar or two. Things will be cheaper then buying brand new but there are those occasions when they could be a little bit more expensive than what you expected. Thrift store employees know value too. Their goal is to offer items at a reasonable price while helping raise funds for their cause. So, the designer dress may be cheaper than a brand new one but it is not going to be given away for just a few dollars.

Myth #3: You should just stick to one thrift store

The truth is frequenting the same thrift store on a regular basis is good. Don’t limit yourself to just one – find your favorites and stick with them. How else are you going to bag yourself some amazing bargains? Check in once a week to see what they have new. Every once in awhile, mom and I will spend the day exploring some new thrift stores. We meet some great people, and get some bargains.

Myth #4: You can’t try the stuff on!

Yes, you can actually try the clothes on in most. Don’t see a dressing room, ask if they have one. If they don’t, ask what their return policy is so you can try it on at home and return it if it doesn’t fit. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Just like shopping at the mall. the most important part of all this is to have fun. Thrift store shopping isn’t grimy or dirty. It’s a fun thing to do while grabbing bargains at the same time.

Remember to keep to your budget. It can be just as easy over-shopping in a thrift store as it is at the mall. The idea is to keep within a budget, when the purse strings are a little tight. Don’t go overboard otherwise you’ll defeat the objective of thrift shopping!

Heading out for a day of shopping.  Grab your Thirty One Large Utility Tote to keep all of your treasures in.  You’ll be amazed at how much this classic tote can hold. The structured metal frame keeps it open for bulky items and provides strength for durability. Use it to keep your closet in order, carry toys or groceries while you’re on the go, haul camping gear and so much more. It even collapses for easy storage!  The best part is they are on sale this month!

Let me know what you think about second hand shopping. Share some of your favorite places with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Time to Get Your Finances In Order

I’ll admit, I am not the one to give financial advice because I still struggle with staying on budget as well as paying down debt.  As hubby says “You will never be a Rockefeller” which is why I was a perfect fit for social work and non-profits.I am always looking for tips on how to get better at this because:

Managing your money is the key to success!

So, if you’re looking to try and get your finances in order, stop spending, and start saving, here are some top tips are for you to try….

 

1. Create a Spreadsheet 

Do you know how much you owe?  If you have debt, do you now how much your interest rate is on each one? To easily organize your finances, a spreadsheet is a great way to see your income and your expenses.  You can create one in Google Drive so you can stay on top of it.   I have a list including interest charges so when there is extra money, I can pay down on the highest interest rate first.

2. Set Up Savings 

I know this sounds crazy if you have debt BUT you need to start saving for an emergency.  It can be as little as $10 a paycheck or $25 a month.  Check with your bank too for some of those instant kind of saving programs.  Bank of America takes the change from your ATM transactions, rounds up and the money is put in your savings account.  Those pennies add up quickly.  It all helps!

3. Organize Direct Debits 

I used to advocate direct debits but when my income varies, it is better for me to have repeated reminders set up. I have reminders set up on each of my credit cards when payments are due – 14 days out and 1 week out.  This ensures I avoid any late payment fees and any (further) damage to your credit score.

4. Refrain From Impulse Purchases 

Yup, we are all guilty of it.  Sometimes it is easier said than done.  Be sure to have some room in your budget for treats – large or small so you can occasionally splurge!

5. Make A List – Stick To It How many times have you gone to the store and your list is home?  The end result, you buy more than what you need and usually forget what you originally went to the store for.  I have started putting my grocer list on my phone.  When was the last time you left home without your phone?  Whether shopping for Christmas, clothing or groceries – always stick to the list!

6. Set Budgets for Events 

Everyone’s salary is different so why not set a budget for Birthdays so you don’t feel pressured to match what everyone else is spending.

7. Emergency Fund 

This goes back to #2 when we set up a savings account.  What happens why you have a surprise expense – car repair, etc?  Tempted to pull out the credit card. DON’T!!!  Use your savings account or emergency account.  By saving a little each money, you are ready for those unexpected events.

8. Don’t Be Drawn In By Offers 

Sales.  How often are you drawn in by the offers non things you may not really need.  If you need it, great.  If you don’t, why buy it.  I mean do you really need the  half price Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?

9. Make a Packed Lunch 

Taking lunch to work is so much cheaper than a daily visit to the local sandwich shop.  Think of the money and time you will save.  Have an hour for lunch?  Imagine being able to enjoy a full hour of leisurely eating your lunch and catching up with friends instead of waiting to order food and then gulping it down.  Bringing your lunch to work is better all around as well as far healthier for you.

10. Cut the Coffee 

Yes, I went there.  When I was commuting to work, I would do a WAWA stop on the way to and from work.  That came to at least $5 or more a day or $25 per week or over $1,300 per year.  I’m now hooked on Starbucks unsweet green tea and thankfully, I don’t commute or it would be about $1,000 a year on ice tea.  What could you use a $1000 on?

 11. Use Your Legs 

If you live in the city or your commute is to an area where there is good public transportation, this is a great way to save money.  Growing up in NJ, there really is not a very good public transportation system unless you are headed to NY to work. In addition to saving money, you can also burn some extra calories by walking to and from the stops.

12. Seek Out Deals 

Yes, I have gotten lazy when it comes to looking for the best deals.  Whether it is car insurance, phone service or our cable bill – I haven’t shopped around for the best deal in ages.  When I did call Comcast to re-negotiate our bill, I was able to save about $50 per month which is $600 to apply to paying down credit card debt.

13. Sell And Buy Online

I used to do this all of the time – selling on eBay was a regular thing.  It has gone by the wayside but it may be time to revive this old habit.  When it comes to shopping online, I am always looking for the best deal using apps like Ebates and others.

What is YOUR best tips for getting your finances under control?  Share them with us.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Is it Possible to Budget on an Irregular Income?

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Budgeting – I cringe when I hear those words.  I used to say “don’t know how to budget” so guess what, budgets never worked.  The funny thing is as a grant writer, it was one of the things our funders loved about me.  I was always on budget or under budget.  Now, I am learning to apply it to my personal life……..

As a full-time direct seller, my income can be irregular.  There are months when sales are AMAZING and there are months when sales are less than desired.  I have always used the fact my income was irregular as an excuse not to stick to a budget.  I mean the key to getting and staying out of debt is a budget, right?  So I went on the hunt for some tips to help me (any maybe you) manage your money better when you don’t get a regular paycheck.

Budgets are easy on a fixed income but are a challenge when you aren’t 100% sure how much money you’ll bring in every month.  Honestly, the budget challenge is the fear factor which kept me from working my business full-time.  Not having faith in myself or in God to provide for my needs.  I have monthly bills to pay – old credit card debt and school loans along with the monthly cell phone, cable bill and our grocery bill.  Sounds basic enough, right?  I mean how tough can it be?  Here are some tips I found…

STEP 1: SET YOUR MINIMUM MONTHLY BUDGET

Your monthly bills stay the same, no matter what your income.  The first step is to figure out what your income and expenses were on an average for the last three months. You have to know there the money goes every month to build a budget.

List the bills you pay every month like rent or mortgage; car, house, or medical insurance; groceries, gas, and utilities.  Figure out the minimum number it would take to balance your bills.

STEP 2: SET EXCESS MONEY IN A SEPARATE ACCOUNT

Now you know the bare minimum amount you need to stay afloat each month.  On pay day, pay the necessary bills first, pull out cash for groceries and gas to last the month, and put the rest into a separate account.  Sounds easy right?  The cash system (or envelope system) by Dave Ramsey is a great way to get started.12141871_626490764164659_208335335_nBuilding up a reserve of cash from your “feast” months, you’ll have funds to rely on during the “famine” months.  I have set up separate savings accounts for my business and personal to “save” for those famine months.  Transferring money “excess” amounts over or even a minimal amount every month allows me to save for those tough seasons.

STEP 3: DON’T GO CRAZY ON PAY DAY

It is going to be tough to not go crazy when you get a large paycheck, especially after a famine month. Resist the urge to spend.  You won’t have money to set aside in your separate account for famine months if you spend excessively on unnecessary things. I’m not saying don’t enjoy a night out, just don’t make it a habit so your account drops to zero.

STEP 4: TRY TO LIVE WITH LESS

There are lots of ways to strip down spending to reduce your budget. We reduced our cell-phone bill, and cut got our cable bill.  I negotiated a lower payment rate on outstanding school loans which reduced the monthly bill.  I found when I went into saving mode, I wasn’t tempted to spend money on things I don’t need.  Now, I am not putting out to the Universe “I can’t afford this” because negative thoughts bring negative actions. BUT what I am saying is “I have plenty of money in my accounts” to bring more positive into my Universe.  When you save, you widen the gap between your minimum monthly budget and how much you have to use during your lean months.

STEP 5: BRING IN MORE INCOME

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, right?  If no matter what your try, you are still having trouble paying the bills in your famine months, it’s time to bring in more income.  Now for those of us in direct sales, it may be working our business a little harder or helping our team reach their goals.

Want something a little bit more concrete?  You can pick up a side job to bring in extra income and pad your bank account for when you need to rely on your savings. Find a way to monetize your skills, gifts and talents to earn some extra income.  Maybe it is being a freelance writer, or if you love graphic design, market your services to websites and bloggers. Maybe you are great at organization and secretarial skills, so become a part time virtual assistant for businesses and websites.  Extra income will help during the famine months and it will help to make them go away faster.

Do you live on a feast or famine income? What is your advice to people struggling to make a budget?

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Simple Money Saving Tips for Families

3393c2a0e337453fa47f6298bf868a79Leaving my part time job and a guaranteed paycheck was scary.  Yes, I have a growing Thirty One business BUT FEAR was starting to knock on the door.  Reducing credit card debt and school loan debt has been a big focus for me BUT I have to be honest, I may not have worked at it as hard as I could.  Yup!  Me being accountable.  The new year kicked off new attempts to truly bring this debt down while at the same time giving up my part time job.  Seems impossible right?

So, I went looking for ways to save some money on our monthly expenses.  While it’s rare eliminating a single expense will give you control over your finances, you can usually save a lot of money by combining savings from several different directions.

1. Organize your grocery shopping

Be more organized when you go grocery shopping, you actually can save money. Of course have a list of what you need to buy, and coupons (I’m still working on this one).  Shop early in the week to avoid the stress of over crowded stores.

2. Eliminate one service each year that you can do without

I have to admit the first thing we cut was the cable bill.  Yup, we went from what seemed like 1000 channels to maybe about 300 although the cable company said there were only 143.  By doing this, we saved about $65 per month.  Next step is canceling the land line telephone service for an additional $30 per month. I am also doing this with my businesses to make sure I’m not spending money on tools or subscription services I’m no longer using.

3. Never buy “off the shelf”

Now, I don’t mean all of the time BUT when you are buying something fairly costly, do your homework first.   Surf the web for the lowest price, or upcoming sales.  Is it something you can buy second hand. Thrift stores and Facebook yard sales are great places for this.  You don’t want to do this for small purchases but maybe set a threshold of say, $50 and above.

4. Participate in – and use – your rewards programs

Admit it!  You have tons of reward cards, right?  How many of them do you actually use?  Sign up for them where ever possible, and keep tabs of your points. I love Ebates because the notification pops up about a rebate when I am shopping online at a store which offers it.  I have rewards plan with Verizon Wireless which gives me discounts on a variety of things from restaurants to gift certificates.

5. Sell what you no longer need

Instead of throwing away items you no longer use, try selling them first to make some additional money. Then put the money towards a bill.  We are not allowed to have yard sales at our condo complex so I have tried this on Facebook and Ebay.  This is something which requires a little bit of your time or to be organized.  Both of which I am working on right now.  When items don’t sell, donate them to a local non-profit and be sure to get a receipt for tax purposes.

6. Buy clothing in thrift or discount stores

I have been a fan of thrift stores for years, since before Belinda was born.  Thrift stores don’t have a huge selection, but you can often come across the perfect item from time to time, sometimes barely used. This is great especially for buying kid’s clothing. They outgrow clothes so fast, thrift stores allow you to buy good quality clothes for low prices.  If thrift stores aren’t your thing, then take a look at discount stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s.

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Thirty One’s Soft Utility Tote is perfect for these kinds of trips.  It can be a large purse and then expands to carry all of your treasures home.

7. Never buy new what you can get second hand

You sell what ever you no longer use, others are doing the same all the time. Be sure to look into garage sales and estate sales in your area – you’ll be surprised at the stuff people are looking to unload.  Best of all, all prices are fully negotiable! Take advantage where ever and when ever you can.

8. Buy when everyone else is selling

Retail sales usually fall off in January, so nearly everything goes on sale. Wouldn’t it be better to do the bulk of your buying in January rather than November and December.  This also has a seasonal application, too.  Buy your winter clothing in late winter or early spring, when winter items go on clearance.

What ways has your family found to save money?

 

Tis the Shopping Season……

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The first day of November…. temperatures are cooler, it gets darker sooner, pumpkin is everywhere and in everything.  The best part of November is people are starting to get into a holiday mood.  I know, it is EARLY but the stores have been decorated for Thanksgiving and Christmas since the beginning of October.

With the holiday mood comes lots of shopping, right?  How many of you have suffered from “buyers remorse“?  Whether it was a $25 item or a $1,000 item, we have all been there.  You start by shaking your head wondering what you were thinking.  Then you think how you could have spent the money on something more worthwhile.  This leads to regret and being mad at yourself for wasting money and going into debt.  Okay, this may be a little extreme for a $25 purchase but if $25 is out of your budget, you know what I mean.

You vow to never make the same mistake again.  I mean doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insanity, right?  So, the next time you get ready to make a purchase not in your budget, ask yourself these questions to help you make a better decision….

1. Can I afford it?

If you can’t afford it, then you should not be getting it.  It’s really simple.  By affording it, I don’t mean putting it on a charge card so the great deal now costs you twice or three times as much. I mean, money in the bank or cash in hand.

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2. How long did it take to earn the money to pay for it?

Think about this: If the item is $100 and you make $20 an hour, then you had to work 5 hours in order to purchase it.  If it is’t worth you working 5 hours for the item, then you may end up regretting the purchase later.

 

3. What else could I spend this amount of money on?

What else could you possibly use this money to buy. This reminds you of about your goals – paying off debt, saving for a trip, etc.  It helps you decide whether or not you truly need to make the purchase.

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4. What mistakes have I made in the past with a big purchase?

Let me count the ways… oh, no let’s not because it will open the door for the inner gremlins to start bashing me!  Have similar decisions in the past made you happy or have you felt regret.  You never know, you may be about to make the same purchase mistake yet again!

5. Can the large purchase wait 24 hours?

If the purchase can wait 24 hours, then you should delay it. This let’s you think about the purchase longer.  Believe it or not, you make a more rational decision about a large purchase after you think about it for at least 24 hours.  Wouldn’t you be surprised, you realized you didn’t need the item at all!  The more time passes, you tend to forget, which means you most likely didn’t need it.

7. Where can I find the best value?

Shop around at other stores – even thrift stores.  Check both offline and online.  Prices can vary from store to store, as well as online, so get the most bang for your buck.

 

 

8. Is there a return policy?

Regardless of the purchase, return policies are important. I mean if you aren’t 100% sure, you want to have the return option for a refund.

9. Do I really need it?

Sounds easy right?  Truth is, it is the most important question to ask when making a purchase.  Really dig deep and ask yourself this simple question. You may think you need it, but is it a want or a need?  “Wants” are fine, as long as you are realistic with your budget and your spending. Living paycheck to paycheck, have a large amount of high-interest rate debt, or anything else, then you may want to skip any splurges and stick to what you REALLY need.

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What do you do before making a large purchase or making a purchase not in the budget? Share your best tips with us…

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

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