i The Frugal Law Student | Credit Cards

Law School
Frugality
Personal Finance
Productivity
Nutrition

180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Financial Life Around 180 Degrees

Written by Brett McKay

Here’s a list of 180 money saving tips that can turn your financial life around 180 degrees. These are things that I have learned while reading blogs or other books. I’ve tried to provide links to blog posts and other articles that elaborate more on the tip. This was a fun exercise. While I personally don’t practice every single tip listed, it was a good way to find out how I can do better on saving money.

Automobile/Transportation

  1. Wash and vacuum your car at home.
  2. Buy a used car. New cars drop significantly in value as soon as you drive off the lot.
  3. Get rid of your car. If you’re married, just have one.
  4. Keep your tires inflated at the correct pressure.
  5. Do not carry unneeded weight in your vehicle. Excess weight puts a heavier load on the engine.
  6. Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Avoid jackrabbit starts. Get into high gear as quickly as possible.
  7. Use your air conditioner only when absolutely necessary.
  8. Avoid unnecessary stopping and braking. Maintain a steady pace.
  9. Do not rest your foot on the clutch or brake pedal. This causes needless wear and poor fuel economy.
  10. Keep the front wheels in proper alignment. Improper alignment not only causes faster tire wear, but also puts an extra load on the engine.
  11. Rotate your tires regularly. Rotating tires slows down tire wear.
  12. Wash your car regularly. A dirty car can damage paint.
  13. Avoid heavy traffic. You’ll save on gas by not idling as much.
  14. Change your own motor oil.
  15. Observe speed limits. You’ll save money on gas and avoid costly speeding tickets and the resulting increase in insurance rates.
  16. Pay your auto insurance premiums annually instead of every six months. You’ll get a lower rate.
  17. Use the bus to get to school or work.
  18. If possible, ride your bike or walk to your destinations.
  19. Carpool with co-workers.

Clothing

  1. Find an image consultant in your town and ask if you can have the clothes their clients get rid of.
  2. Don’t buy into trends. Keep a wardrobe of classic pieces, so you don’t have to update your clothes every year.
  3. Buy clothes at a thrift store.
  4. Wear clothes more than once before washing them. You’ll reduce wear on your clothes and save energy by not washing so often.
  5. Shop at outlet stores.
  6. Avoid buying clothes that require drying cleaning.
  7. Cut dryer sheets in half to double the value of each box.
  8. Buy your winter clothes at the end of winter/beginning of spring. Buy summer clothing at the end of summer/beginning of fall.
  9. Shop at discount stores like TjMax and Ross.

Food

  1. Forage for food. Check out a book on local edible plants and start stocking up on them.
  2. Buy a water filter and make your own bottled water.
  3. Buy bread at the bread outlet store and freeze excess loaves.
  4. Make meals that are left over friendly, like soups and casseroles.
  5. Join a food co-op.
  6. Make dinners in a crock pot
  7. Buy in bulk.
  8. If you buy soda, buy 2 liter bottles instead of cans. It’s much cheaper per unit price.
  9. Have potluck dinners.
  10. When you eat out, share meals. Most restaurant meals are big enough for two people.
  11. If you don’t have someone to share it with, split the meal and half and put when half in a to-go box for next day’s lunch.
  12. Skip the soda when you go out to eat, and drink water.
  13. Quit smoking.
  14. Make your own coffee. Better yet, stop drinking coffee.
  15. Quit drinking alcohol.
  16. Quit drinking soda.
  17. Find cheaper café’s and restaurants to go to.
  18. Cook your own meals.
  19. Take a list when you go shopping and stick to it.
  20. Buy generic brand products at the supermarket.
  21. Bring your lunch to school or work instead of buying it.
  22. Grow your own vegetables.
  23. Use coupons and loyalty cards at grocery stores.
  24. Reduce meat consumption.
  25. Eat cereal instead of fast food. It’s cheaper and usually healthier.
  26. Have a late lunch/early dinner when going out to eat. You can save on lunch menu items.
  27. Buy cheap food coupons on eBay.
  28. Join clubs at school and take advantage of free food at meetings.
  29. Don’t buy prepackaged cheese or meat. Go to the deli and have them slice it for you. You can get more for you money.
  30. Collect vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer. As soon as it’s full, make a soup out of them.
  31. Buy whole roasted chickens. When you have used all the meat, throw the bones into a soup.

Housing

  1. House sit. Older affluent couples often leave their house for months at a time for vacations and need someone to watch it while they’re gone. Not only can you get free rent, you might get some extra cash.
  2. Become live in help. Some older people need help around the house, someone to cook meals for them, or just someone to talk to. You can live rent free this way.
  3. Relocate to an area with a cheaper cost of living.
  4. Share an apartment. Better yet, move in with your in-laws.
  5. Make an extra mortgage payment each year. You can save money on interest.

Household

  1. Buy furniture at a consignment store.
  2. If you need a tool, see if you can borrow it from someone before you go out and buy it.
  3. Don’t throw away “dead” batteries. Remove them from your radio and use them in quartz clocks. These clocks take such a small amount of power that batteries too weak to run anything else may have enough power to run a clock for a while.
  4. Wash and reuse plastic bags.
  5. Clean your own carpets. You can rent carpet cleaning machines for about $10.

Health Care

  1. If you take a prescription medication on a regular basis, ask your doctor to write a three month prescription. Instead of paying three co-pays, you only pay one.
  2. Go to the dentist at your local dental school. Students need people to practice on. You can get all your dental needs fulfilled at a reduced cost.
  3. If your doctor gives you a prescription, ask if he has samples that he could give you.
  4. Use your local park’s playground as a workout station. Monkey bars can be used for pull-ups and leg lifts. The park will also have a trail where you can run.
  5. If you go to school, use the school’s gym. It’s free.
  6. Brush and floss your teeth. You’ll save on dental expenses.
  7. Eat right and exercise daily. You’ll reduce health costs.
  8. If you join a gym, find one that offers a month to month contract. That way if for some reason you stop going, you won’t be stuck with a 1 year contract that you have to pay for.

Beauty and Hygiene

  1. Use baking soda for toothpaste.
  2. Use baby shampoo for a makeup remover.
  3. Buy makeup online.
  4. Use makeup samples.
  5. Don’t throw out small pieces of bar soap. Wet the small piece and the new bar and stick them together.
  6. Add water to your shampoo to get more uses.
  7. Stop using shaving cream. Shaving cream’s purpose is just to keep your beard wet. You can maintain a wet beard in the shower.
  8. Cut your own hair.
  9. Simplify your beauty products. Do you really need 5 different types of body lotions?

Travel

  1. Pack your travel meals in advance.
  2. Buy snacks at the grocery store, not at roadside convenience stores.
  3. Plan trips where you have friends and family. You might be able to score free room and board.
  4. Go camping.
  5. Stay at a college dorm room when traveling. Many universities rent out dorm rooms at a decent price during the summer.
  6. Book your flights and cruises way in advance. You can get lower prices.
  7. Always negotiate hotel room prices. Hotel rooms are like highly perishable food: if they’re not used that day, they’re wasted. You can almost always get a better deal just by asking, but do it with a nice smile face-to-face when you check in, or with friendly calls direct to the hotels you’re considering. It won’t work if you just call national 800 numbers, because they can’t negotiate. If your flight is overbooked and the airline offers a voucher if you take a later flight, take it.
  8. When flying, bring your own snacks. Airport food is expensive.
  9. Avoid renting a car at the airport. You’ll find more competitive rates, plus avoid extra surcharges at car rental agencies away from the convenience of the airport.
  10. Time your stay for best hotel deals. Plan the timing of your stay according to the type of place you visit. Hotels in cities are usually cheaper on the weekends, when business travelers aren’t staying there, but hotels in resort areas or other places that are popular with leisure travelers are often cheaper during the week
  11. Tourist spots sell everything from film — to capture those special moments — to sunscreen, bottled water and aspirin for prolonging your fun, at a higher cost. Purchase these items before and save.
  12. Travel after peak season. This might not be an option if you have school-age children. But families with infants and toddlers can take advantage of discounted rates by traveling in the fall.
  13. Bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. Bottled water at airports is expensive. While you can’t bring any liquids past security, you can bring an empty bottle. Put it in your carry on and fill it up as soon as you get past security.
  14. Stay in hostels when traveling overseas. While you do have to share a bathroom and a room, you can stay for as little as $5.
  15. If you need a quick get away with your significant other, spend a night in your local bed and breakfast.

Entertainment

  1. Buy an Entertainment book. The initial investment is about $20, but there’s hundreds of dollars in entertainment savings in it.
  2. Join Gamefly for cheap video game renting.
  3. Trade video games, DVD’s and books with your friends.
  4. Start a book or film club. After reading the book or watching the film, discuss it.
  5. Have a game night with friends.
  6. Attend movies at dollar theaters.
  7. Take advantage of your local university. Colleges often have free entertainment events.
  8. Join the library.
  9. Read magazines for free at bookstores.
  10. Check out DVD’s from the library, rather than renting them from the video store.
  11. Find cheaper hobbies like blogging or jogging.
  12. Go on a hike, take a walk in the park, or go to the beach. Some of the nicest things to do in life are totally free.
  13. See if your local zoos, museums, entertainment parks and water parks have annual passes. Often the annual passes may not cost more than the price of a couple of visits.
  14. Save money on movies by going to the matinée.
  15. Watch amateur sports. High school athletic competitions are cheap and can be just as exciting as the pros.

Banking and Investing

  1. Start an automatic savings plan with your bank.
  2. Use your credit card to make all purchases, but pay it off each month. That you’ll earn cash back or travel points.
  3. Invest in index funds. There are hardly any costs in purchasing and owning index funds.
  4. Open an online savings account. Most online accounts offer a 4% interest rate. That’s much better than the 1% you get at your current bank. E-mail me for an ING referral.
  5. Avoid ATM fees. Only withdraw money from machines approved by your bank. 7-11 doesn’t have a surcharge.
  6. Pay bills by direct debit. You save on postage and avoid the risk of paying late fees.
  7. If you use checks, don’t buy them from the bank. You can get a better deal with other printing companies.
  8. Don’t overdraft on your account. You’ll save yourself money on penalties.
  9. Invest with a cheap online brokerage company like Sharebuilder.

Children

  1. Buy gender neutral baby clothing so you can use them again with the next baby.
  2. Make your kids Halloween costumes. It’s cheaper and more fun.
  3. Buy your baby toys from the thrift store. Toys suck these days. Give your child the gift of old school toys that actually requires an imagination.
  4. Buy your baby’s and tot’s clothes from the thrift store. Your kid isn’t going to notice the difference between a thrift store onezy and a Gap onezy.

Utilities

  1. Use a clothes liner to dry clothes. You’ll save on your energy bill.
  2. Replace old appliances with ones that have Energy Star approval.
  3. Regularly clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator. A clean coil uses less energy.
  4. Make sure your freezer is full. An empty freezer requires more energy to keep cold.
  5. Use washable coffee mug instead of Styrofoam. You’ll save money and help the environment.
  6. Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent lighting.
  7. Turn off the lights when not using a room.
  8. Turn off your appliances when not using them.
  9. Don’t use a cell phone.
  10. If you have a cell phone, don’t buy the extra features like text messaging and web access.
  11. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your land line.
  12. Get rid of cable. Who needs 100 channels of crap?
  13. Use the internet at school or the library. Not only will you save money, you’ll save time.
  14. During the winter, leave the oven open after you cook to heat the house.
  15. Sign up for Skype for long distant phone calls.
  16. Turn your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in the summer.

Miscellaneous

  1. Get a digital camera. You save money on film.
  2. Don’t own a pet. You’ll save money on food and shots.

Shopping

  1. Avoid impulse buying. Practice tantric shopping.
  2. Buy as much as you can online.
  3. Negotiate the price on big ticket items like cars, electronics, and large appliances.
  4. Use cash as a negotiating tool. Nothing makes a seller’s mouth water than cold hard cash in their hand.
  5. Before you buy something, ask if the item will be put on sale in the near future.
  6. Don’t buy extended warranties. Eighty percent are never used, and they’re a major profit item for the vendor. That’s why they push you so hard to buy them!
  7. Keep receipts and send in rebate slips. Very few consumers actually return rebate coupons. Which is, of course, exactly what the manufacturers are hoping for.

Low cost ways of making extra money

  1. Sell your old stuff, like CD’s and books on eBay and Amazon.
  2. Turn your hobby into a business. Pretty much anything you do can be turned into a business of some sort.
  3. Sign up with an online survey company like Survey Spot.
  4. Become a mystery shopper. Not only can you make some extra money, you might get some free stuff as well.
  5. Have a yard sell.
  6. Start a blog and put Adsense on it. You might only earn 4 cents a week, but it’s something.
  7. Become a consultant. Do you know a lot about a particular skill? Put that knowledge to work by helping others.
  8. Do freelance work on the side. If you’re a good writer, photographer, artist, or programmer you can make some extra money by selling your talent to companies.
  9. Start an errand Service. Offer to pick up groceries or dry cleaning for others.
  10. Waiting service. People these days don’t have time to wait on the plumber of cable guy. Charge by the hour to do the waiting for other people.

School

  1. Check out study supplements from the library. Don’t buy them.
  2. Buy used text books.
  3. Take advantage of free pens and pencils at business conferences.
  4. Keep track of your pens and pencils. You’ll spend less on them if you don’t lose them all the time.
  5. Buy back packs that your kids can use for years. While they might think the Sponge Bob Square pants one is cool in 2nd grade, they probably won’t think it’s cool in 4th.

Computers

  1. Use open source software like OpenOffice for your computing needs. Here’s a huge list of all the open source software you’ll ever need.
  2. Refill ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.
  3. Print off your documents in draft mode. It’s faster and saves ink.
  4. Use free online storage for all your digital storage needs.
  5. When you buy new computers or printers, keep the old cables. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Gifts

  1. Make your own greeting cards.
  2. Make your own wrapping paper.
  3. Agree with family and friends to NOT buy each other Christmas presents this year.
  1. Offer to give a service, like a night of free babysitting as a gift, instead of buying stuff.
  2. Give baked goods. Everyone loves cookies!
  3. Learn the art of the re-gift. If you get something that you don’t like, keep it and give it to someone else later. However be careful to keep track of who gave you what. You don’t want to give a gift back to somebody.

Can you think of any more? Add to the conversation!
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to subscribe to my RSS Feed.

Featured Resources

A great way to avoid spending extra Money is by avoiding Credit Card Offers that have a high Interest Rate. When you signup with a new Credit company be sure to check their APR rates and find out if a free Balance Transfer option can help you save money.
[tags]saving, frugality, personal finance, clothing, food, cars, beauty, health care [/tags]

Carnival of Credit Cards #13 and Carnival of Debt Reduction #87 Are Up

Written by Brett McKay


Go check out the Carnival of Credit Cards hosted by Credit Card Lowdown and the Carnival of Debt Reduction at Ask Mr. Credit Card. They both did an excellent job putting together this week’s submissions. I would also like to thank them both for including my submissions.

[tags] credit cards, debt, blog carnivals[/tags]

5 Ways to Use Your Old Credit Cards

Written by Brett McKay

credit-cards_69.jpg

One of the fist steps of getting rid of your debt is getting rid of your credit cards. However, instead of just cutting them up immediately, extend your old credit cards’ uses.

  1. Ice Scraper. If you don’t have an ice scraper on hand, try using your credit card. This will probably only work if you just have a light frost on your wind shield.
  2. Door key. If you accidental lock yourself out, press the latch into door by sliding your old credit card between the door and the frame. If the bevel faces the other way, cut the card into an L-shape, insert, and pull toward you. WikiHow has an entry on how to do this. [via Lifehacker].
  3. Guitar Pick. Can’t find your pick? Use the corner of a credit card instead.
  4. Manicure tool. Clean your finger nails with a credit card.
  5. Ruler. When I read, I underline. To make sure my lines are straight, I use my old credit card like a ruler.

What other useful things can you do with an old credit card? Drop me a line.

If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to subscribe to my RSS Feed.

[tags]credit cards, tips, money[/tags]

Summary of MTV True Life: I’m In Debt

Written by Brett McKay

Last night the wife and I sat down to watch MTV True Life: I’m in debt. This news documentary followed three twenty-somethings and their struggles with debt. MTV did a good job picking the least sympathetic people to follow. Be prepared for some snarky remarks.

First, we have Amy, a twenty-two year old who as accumulated $14,000 worth of credit card debt. She has been able to make payments and as a consequence she has creditors calling her all day, everyday. She works for an “up and coming” model agency/recording studio called Lifestyle. In reality it was three dudes working out of their house. She never got paid. Idiot. Her dad suggests getting a job with the city. Good pay, nice benefits, everything she needs to get her out of debt. No dice. According to Amy, a job with a city would “take too much time.” What? Can somebody smack this kid? There was this one scene where she was working on her resume with her mom, but then her friends came over. What did Amy do? She left and let her mom finish her resume for her. By the end of the show, Amy finally found a job after being unemployed for six months. She’s now working at a health club.

Next, we have twenty five year old Daniel. Out of the three girls, she seemed to have her head on her shoulders the most. Her problem was that she bought a condo when things were going well for her financially. But she lost her job and is now having trouble paying her mortgage. She works at a bar and makes decent money there. She has also taken to eating frugally. Her diet consists of Ramen and tuna fish. By the end of the show, she was making enough to pay mortgage on time.

Finally, we have twenty-one year old Ashley. Out of the three girls, she frustrated me the most. She accumulated over $20,000 in credit card debt and can’t make the payments because she’s only working part time. Instead of taking on a second job to help pay off her debts, what does Ashley decide to do? What any responsible American would do. File chapter 7 bankruptcy. What killed me is that she went to a credit counselor and developed a plan so she could consolidate her debt and still have money to live off of. However, for Ashley that was going to take too long and the money left over wasn’t enough for her. The girl was living with her parents, so didn’t have to worry about expenses. She just wanted more disposable income. I can’t believe she sacrificed her credit score for the next ten years, which could consequently effect her ability to get a job or rent an apartment, just so she could go tanning. Idiot.

I can’t believe how stupid people are with money, especially people from my generation. What’s the walk away lesson from the show?

  1. Limit your spending.
  2. Get a job or even a second.
  3. Get an education.
  4. Don’t incur more debt.

Nothing new here. You’d think this is basic financial advice, but for many young people it’s advanced quantum physics.

Featured Resource

Going to traditional Law School can require Several School Loans. While it may not make you a lawyer, an Online University is an alternative that can help you earn a degree which can become your foray in the Legal field.

Notes from 20/20’s Special “Flat Broke”

Written by Brett McKay

20/20 did a special tonight on America’s debt crisis. The broke it down into three parts: Spenders and savers, debt collecting, and cyberbegging. Here are some of the highlights of the show.

Spenders and Savers
This segment focused on two families living on opposite ends of the financial spectrum. The Peterson Family are big spenders. They’ve racked up over $60,000 in credit card, hundreds of thousands of dollars in time shares, and a few mortgages on their house. Despite their money problems, this year the family has gone on more vacations than any time in their marriage. They’re on the brink of bankruptcy.

In order to help them, 20/20 brought financial planner Robert Pagliarini, author of the book The Six Day Financial Makeover. He set up a plan for the Peterson family that included selling their house and time shares. I wonder if the family will follow through with it.

Watching this family, I couldn’t believe that people could just rack up debt like that. They never regretted a single lavish purchase they made because they figure they’ll probably be dead tomorrow. I don’t get it.

Lesson from the Peterson’s: DON”T USE CREDIT CARDS! Cut the darn things up (don’t cancel them; it hurts your credit score) and start paying with cash. Take it easy on the big purchase items. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Duh.

The Economides are the cheapest family in America. At least that’s what they titled their book. They earn less than $35,000 a year, have seven kids, cars, but no debt. They’ve accomplished this by buying everything used and planning grocery store trips so they’re economical as possible. They carry around walkie talkies in the store to report on the good deals to each other. They also buy expired lunch meat. I’m going to have to do this again.

Lesson from the Economides: PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. Take advantage of coupons; every cent counts. Buy whatever you can used.

Debt Collectors
This segment was a perfect torts hypo for Intentional or reckless infliction causing severe emotional distress by extreme or outrageous conduct (See? I learned something in law school). They interviewed a former debt collector about the techniques they used to get money from people. Tactics included persistence calls with death threats, threats to reveal their debt to neighbors, and just plain emotional abuse. It was heartbreaking to see the crap that some of the debt collectors could drag people through.

Of course John Stossel had to bust out his libertarian stick to show that we should be thankful for debt collectors. He points out that the bad debt collectors are a minority. The tactics they use are illegal. He then goes on to argue that if it weren’t for debt collectors, prices would go up because companies would lose money on default payments. He also made a point that most of the clients of debt clients are small businesses. I always figured debt collectors were for big companies. Overall, I think Stossel made some good points. At least he got me thinking about things.

Lesson learned from debt collectors: keep only two credit cards, negotiate lower rates, and if for some unfortunate reason you become the victim of thug debt collectors, contact the FTC, your lawyer, and tape the culprit berating you.

Cyberbegging
Cyberbegging is a hot topic, especially in the blogsphere. Paypal donation buttons are popping up on blogs everyday. One law student started a blog to raise money to pay for his student loans. (However, one should note that he’s converted the site into way of raising scholarships for other students and raising awareness about student debt.) Cyber Beg is a popular site where one can list their financial need like they would list an item on craigslist. The crazy thing is that people give money.

The segment discussed how an admitted shopaholic, Karyn Bosnak, got herself out of $20,000 worth of designer handbag and belt debt by asking complete strangers on the net. It worked. She wrote a book about it and made even more money. A movie deal is forthcoming.

They also discussed how Dustin Diamond (aka Screech from Saved by the Bell) used cyberbegging to save his house. His sex tape, “Screeched”, has been picked up by a major porn distributor and he’s raking in the dough. (That makes two former Saved By the Bell alum who’ve gone on to make porn. Don’t do it Lisa Turtle! Resist!)

My first reaction is disgust. These people have no shame. Both Bosnak and Screech say what they did is creative, not shameful. Right… when was the last time you heard someone praise the creativeness of panhandlers and bums? That’s right never. Screech and Bosnack… you’re bums. Jason Ryan Dorsey, author of My Reality Check Bounced: The Twentysomething’s Guide to Cashing In On Your Real-World Dreams, discussed how Screech’s and Bosnak’s attitudes are common among twenty somethings. They’re not responsible with how they spend money, so they don’t want to be responsible for paying it.

I guess one could make an argument that ad’s or pay per post are forms of cyberbegging. I concede that I’m making money by just writ ting my thoughts, but it’s pocket change. I’m lucky if I get .20 a day. However, I think I’ve earned this money. I work hard trying to find content, writing up posts, and marketing my site so people will know about it. I think a dollar a week isn’t too much to ask in return. Same goes for pay per posters. They have to look into the product and spend time writing a quality post about it. They deserve the money they get.

Lesson learned from cyberbeggers: Get a real job!

Conclusion
Overall, it was a good show. I thought they could have spent more time disusing the frugal family. Check out the 20/20 site for more details.