First, thank you so much to all of you who have commented on my last post! Hearing from you really has made me smile :)
I’ve learned a lot since my last birthday! Lots about personal finance and life in general, really. Today, since it’s my 23rd birthday, I’m going to share with you 23 things I’ve learned about personal finance/saving money since I turned 22. These are in no particular order.
1. You can get so many free things from drugstores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens! I wish I knew about those deals while I was in college.
2. Because I didn’t ask the right questions about my car insurance policy, I didn’t realize I was over-insured in the medical category. I’ve adjusted that down, and now we’re saving even more on car insurance!
3. If you get focused about getting out of debt, you really can pay credit cards off faster than you ever thought possible. Shane and I paid thousands of dollars off in just a few months, since we got really serious about it. And, it hasn’t taken us long at all to save 70 percent of our emergency fund!
4. It’s only money. And you can’t take it with you. Sure, having money is an important thing–you’ve got to pay your bills, after all. But there’s about a million more things to life than money.
5. Aldi is my favorite grocery. I love the prices, quality, and general shopping experience. Again, it’s another store I wish I took advantage of in college!
6. Blogging is a surprisingly good way to help me stay on track with my goals. I’m holding myself accountable, putting my thoughts into words, and getting so many tips and helpful suggestions from you readers. You guys have helped me save a ton of money!
7. Being thrifty is generally a good thing. However, depriving yourself of something and calling it “frugal”definitely is not good. It’s one thing to be so broke that going without something is your only feasible option. It’s quite another thing to be miserly for the sake of having money in the bank.
8. This year, I bought a Wahl razor kit and have since given Shane three haircuts. They’ve come out pretty good! It’s going to take awhile before I become really comfortable with it. Home haircuts have saved quite a bit of money so far, and now Shane doesn’t have to make smalltalk with a barber.
9. I generally do well at the grocery only when I come prepared with a list and stick to it (don’t want to get kicked out of the store! lol). Also, planning my weekly meals in advance has helped me make the most of what I already have on hand and avoid not having at-home options for dinner.
10. I realized that the less debt you have, the less money you need to make. If you’re paying $200 per month on a credit card balance that never gets paid off, that means you need to earn an extra $2,400 each year (after taxes) to meet your basic expenses. Get out of debt and give yourself an instant tax-free raise!
11. Most generic products are perfectly good. In fact, many generics are actually brand-name products in different packaging. I have no good reason for being a brand snob.
12. I’m pretty certain that if you can buy it, you can get a better deal on it somewhere, somehow. Whether shopping around to a different store, buying online, using coupons/coupon codes, a cash back program such as Ebates, buying it used, making it yourself, borrowing it…you get the idea. Whenever I find out what a particular item costs somewhere, I think, “Ok. That’s the price to beat!”
13. The little things really do matter. Paying attention to unit prices of even the cheapest of items, trying to save a little here and there on your fuel consumption, and reusing things when possible really do add up. Plus, when you’re doing lots of those “little things,” you have an even bigger impact!
14. I’m generally a messy person. My house is never completely clean and organized all at once. Sometimes, I’ll have just one room (or maybe a nook within a room) that actually has some order to it. However, when I can stay on top of clutter, I’m more likely to remember what I have on hand, instead of buying duplicates.
15. Ask for a discount or for a company to match another’s prices. It’s totally worth it. From things like your phone bill to shipping a box at UPS, the worst they can say is, “No.”
16. With a little creativity and maybe a little work, you can get free things. From free samples to free toiletries or free food, there’s freebies to be had just about everywhere. I used some earned Target gift cards from MyPoints to buy myself a swimsuit, flip-flops and more. After all, my favorite price is “Free!”
17. In general, it’s a good idea to ignore “percent off” figures on sale prices. For example, if something is marked 75 percent off, it still might be way overpriced. Or, no matter the price, you might not need the item. I try to ignore sale amounts and focus on the final cost.
18. Sometimes, it’s completely worth it to calculate the cost of preparing a meal at home. I have a post explaining why and another post showing an example. I should have done this a lot sooner! I would have realized just how expensive fast food can be.
19. It feels really good to save up for an expensive purchase, rather than going the “easy” route and charging it on your credit card. Our Christmas present to ourselves was a digital SLR camera. I waited many months for that thing!
20. A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned. You have to pay taxes on that earned dollar.
21. Weather-proofing your house in the winter (and even in the summer) can save gobs of money off your heat bill. Gobs, I tell ya.
22. Personal finance is personal. What works for one person might not work for the next. And that’s ok. The point is, do what works best for you. Look to others for inspiration, but don’t compare yourself.
23. You can have a shoestring budget at your wedding or a sky’s the limit budget, and you’ll end up with the same result: Being married to the man you love. By necessity (and a bit of choice) Shane and I got married on a very small budget. Cuz right after college graduation, you’re broke. And your parents and parents-in-law don’t have much more money to give ya. Our wedding day was lovely, and I don’t regret the price tag one single bit.
Whew! What a year it’s been. My 23rd year promises to be a year of learning as well. I’m thankful for my 23 years and looking forward to what this year holds.