I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. Which means that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner! And we all know what that means… SHOPPING!! But how can you be smart about your shopping and how much money you spend? Obviously you want to get all those amazing deals on the items you’ve been wanting, but you still want to have money for the ACTUAL holidays. Amiright?
You want to get the best gifts for everyone on your list, but you also want to treat yourself and have money to pad your budget around the holiday times. Who wants to spend Christmas worrying because they spent too much money buying gifts and can’t afford a New Years party?! Not me!
Don’t get me wrong… I’m no money maven. But I HAVE suffered due to the lack of money basically my whole life. My whole known life has been living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve never been able to drop $100 on clothes simply because they’re cute. I can’t afford to go out to a nice restaurant on Friday night with friends to socialize and enjoy a delicious dinner. Why do I tell you these things? Not to gain pity, but to share where I come from and hopefully create a valid standpoint on this topic.
Through those hard times, I’ve learned a few tricks that help to save money for specific purchases and times of year. I’ve tried budgeting, and that’s never worked for me. Below I talk about how I’ve learned to save money and control what I spend.
5 Tips For Saving Money
1. Don’t Check Store Emails — Unless you specifically plan on buying something there
If you’re not already planning on spending money at a store, do not look through your 2,000 emails in your inbox from different retailers. The point of these emails is to market to the customer, showing you a sale or promotion in hopes that it will lead you to go buy from that retailer.
Victoria’s Secret just sent you an email advertising $30 any bra. What an amazing deal, because bras are normally $56! But you weren’t planning on purchasing a bra. And how many people are going to see the sexy strap or pretty ruffle detail? Likely not many, if anyone at all. Plus you already have 3 everyday bras you wear on a daily basis. Do you REALLY need that super pretty/sexy new bra? But since it’s only $30 you’re tempted to buy it.
The only time I will check my everyday email (my non-professional, non-blog email) is when I am actively searching for a deal or coupon at a certain place. In this photo above, I had Bath & Body Works coupons for a free travel size item and 25% off your purchase that expired that day. I was curious if they were having a sale on certain items I was looking for. And it just so happened that I received an email for $3.50 wallflowers, which was one of those items. So instead of spending over $25 full price, I got 3 wallflowers and a travel size body wash for $8.
Which brings me to my next tip…
2. Don’t Use Coupons Just Because They’re a Good Deal
We all know that holiday time means TONS of coupons from basically every store you’ve ever visited… which is great! But those stores are not focussed on saving you money – they’re banking on the fact that you will use those coupons to SPEND money because you’re “getting a great deal”. If you weren’t already planning on spending money, then you probably don’t need it.
Free items and discounts on purchases sound like a great deal, but think about what else that money could be going to. Let’s say you’re saving up for a vacation in the next couple months. If you use that $10 off a $30 coupon and spend $25 at BBW, treat yourself to a $6 meal, and buy those adorable sweaters you fell in love with at TJ Maxx, that’s over $50 spent that could have gone towards your vacation. And that’s $50 you could’ve used on drinks, treats, or shopping while on your vacation.
And again, leading into the next tip…
3. Pay Attention to How Much You Spend on non-necessities like food and clothes
I was given a rude awakening when I discovered how much money I was spending on food each week aside from groceries. I work at Panera 5 days a week and get a 65% discount on food (should be free IMO). So instead of paying $12 for a pick two, I pay about $3.50. I’d take a pick two for $3.50 ANY day! But unfortunately that’s pretty much what I was doing. I’d spend $3-4 each day (Monday -Friday) adding up to $15-20 a week. Multiply that by 4 weeks a month, and that’s up to $80 a month!!!
$80 is a LOT of money when you’re on a super tight budget like me. That $80 could’ve been saved up to go toward the desk I want; or my plane ticket for Christmas. When I realized how much I was spending on food, and how strongly I desired other things, it made it a lot easier for me to stop spending.
Instead of spending money on food every day, I started limiting myself to a $2 breakfast sandwich once or twice a week. And that extra money I had, I started saving for other things I desired (see how right after tip 5).
4. List Unwanted Items on Poshmark or Ebay (#notanad)
I will tell you that I have two large moving boxes of stuff that I’ve been trying to sell to make a few extra bucks. I have everything from clothes and shoes to undergarments, trinkets, and decor. What better time to list these items for sale than the holidays?! This is when everybody is shopping for Christmas gifts, so there’s a higher chance of your item selling, granted you take the time and put in the effort.
Listing items online is NOT AN EASY TASK though and it is very time consuming. You have to work for the money. It is very important to get quality photos with good lighting, proper set up, and the best angle. My trick for taking photos is a white bed sheet. I lay out the sheet on my bed, and lay out flat the item I want to sell. For most items the most flattering angle is a bird’s eye view from above. If you wish to stage your photos with props, that is also an option. But you have to be careful your props don’t take away from the actual item you are selling, and you don’t want your photos to be too crowded.
After I have the photos taken I crop if necessary and adjust lighting (exposure, contrast, whites, shadows, highlights) and color (saturation, warmth, blues). I will typically expose the background to make it lighter and slightly increase saturation on the item to make it pop.
To see an example of how I’ve set up my “closet” on Poshmark, click here.
Before pricing your item, look up other similar or identical styles or items and use those prices as a guide to price your items accordingly.
5. Give First, Save Second, Live Off the Rest
This is one of the most profound lessons I have learned in church. Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio spoke a sermon on God’s plan for your money, and it has made a huge difference in my life. Think of your money in a pyramid. Most people are using the first-fruits of their income to live – taking vacations, buying clothes, going to dinner, etc. before saving or giving. When you live this way, you put yourself at the top of the pyramid and allow a very small surface area/opening to allow for blessings to come in. But if you flip the pyramid upside-down and give first, you put God at the top of the pyramid and allow for a much greater area to allow His blessings to come into your life. And believe me, He has certainly been faithful in blessing me since following His way for using my money.
See the “FAITH” highlight on my Instagram profile to see the actual photos of the sermon.
But probably the best way I’ve saved money…
Is by putting aside money into envelopes labeled for the item I am saving for. As a delivery driver, I get my pay-outs in cash each day. I use my hourly wage paychecks to cover my rent, utilities, and bills, and keep the cash to put into my savings envelopes. If you don’t get cash payments regularly, this may be tougher to do. But you can budget a certain amount of each check and take it out of your account for your envelope(s). The best thing about these cash envelopes is that you won’t touch the money until you need it, so there’s no way for it to get spent. I’ve already paid for a plane ticket and dental work just by doing this!
Can you spot the mess-up in this photo? 😛
Make sure you don’t have too many envelopes at once though, or it will be much harder to complete them. Stick with a maximum of 3 so you’re able to put larger amounts into each one instead of splitting money into multiple different places. You’ll usually know which item or event is most important to you because you’ll put the most money into that envelope, or at least make sure it gets SOME money each time.
I hope these tips will help you save some money this holiday season, or at least be smart about your spending.