You walk into a restaurant with your date to grab some dinner. You decide to pay with your credit card…declined! That’s when you remember your bank account is in overdraft; can’t use that. Your date takes the bill with that knowing smirk on his/her face. You can blame whatever you want: the recession, student loans, insurance, or the late nights partying. In the end, as much as you might cringe at the thought, you think, “maybe my parents had it right.” The notoriety of our older generation for being cheap may not be so bad, after all. Now, no one wants the stigma of being a penny-pincher so here are some tips for you to put away a few dollars without turning into your parents.
1. Discover your kitchen
Take a walk into your kitchen for a second – yes, exploring new territory can be a little intimidating. Eating at home on a regular basis can end up saving you thousands of dollars a year and countless hours on the treadmill working off that Big Mac. Spending $10 a day eating out adds up very quickly to $300 a month or $3600 a year!
2. Buy used
In true Tamil fashion, the first car your parents bought was probably used. A new car loses half its value in the first three years. Why not save yourself that $20k+ by buying a 3-year-old car? Use it to pay off some of those student loans or as down payment on a new condo.
3. Don’t impulse shop
Any time you walk through the mall, you probably find your attention drawn to those bright red signs: ‘50% OFF!,’ ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free!’ Before you make buy it, take a moment to reflect on whether the purchase is a need or a want. Impulse shopping, even on small items, can easily add up to thousands of dollars a year.
4. Do groceries the right way
Most of us will simply visit the closest grocery store and buy all we need because it’s convenient. Our parents used to visit multiple stores to buy at lower prices. Considering the weekly shopping trips, that adds up to $500-$1000/year in savings on groceries!
5. Pay those bills
Remember all those bills you need to settle, but haven’t gotten around to? At rates of anywhere between 10%-20% interest, you could start seeing your bills blow up very quickly. Setting up automated online payments can help those of us too ‘busy’ to pay those pesky bills on time.
6. Points Cards
Getting back 1-2% on your purchases may seem small at first, but these can add up over time. Use your points cards to save that cash in the future. It’s no risk and all reward.
7. Bundle your services
How many of us still use a home phone? Watching television online through services such as NetFlix may soon eliminate the need for cable outside of specialty programming. Save on your cable/phone/Internet bills by dropping down to a more basic package and bundling your services. Even a $20/month saving from bundling can add up to $240 in a year.
A lot of tech stores and car dealers are operated by the owners or pay staff on commission. Always try to bring down the price of the item or get them to include accessories/warranty for free. Since the sales agent wants to close the deal, they will be willing to negotiate on the terms. If you had saved the extra $50 on that iPad you bought, you might have had the cash to pay for that date.
9. Sell your junk
Remember all that old stuff you keep around in the storage room because it may become useful in the future? Selling it off on Craigslist or eBay could bring in some extra cash while the item still holds value. And gives you the added benefit of freeing up some extra space.
10. Do it yourself
Fixing that leaky faucet, slow computer or clogged shower can be time consuming and annoying. Hiring someone to do the work is always the easy way out. But doling out cash for things that you could have easily taken care of with a little elbow grease is not a great way to spend money. Do it yourself and use those savings for things that count.
While they aren’t perfect, Tamil parents definitely do a lot of things right when it comes to saving money. So, the next time you’re about to make that big purchase, take a moment and ask yourself, “what would my parents do?” Saving a few dollars here and there will add up quickly. Those few dollars could add up into an embarrassment free Valentines Day date with your sweetheart….or even an all-inclusive vacation to Cuba!
– Suren Srinivasamoorthy