Making My Money Stretch

Was your New Year’s resolution not to be completely broke by next New Year’s? Are you trying to scrimp, save, cut down, be good, be cheap? Before you shave your head and sell your hair, consider downsizing in each department of your life:

[IN THE CLOSET]

Steal from J.Crew. Steal their ideas, that is. The next time you’re flipping through a catalog, don’t look at individual pieces and their prices—look at the pictures. Look at the outfits the models are wearing: how are they put together? Layered? Tucked or untucked? Tied or loose? Then find somewhat similar pieces in your wardrobe and mix and match them in new ways. Maybe all you need is just the right scarf (from Target)!

Procrastinate. You know it’s going to go on sale in two weeks. You can wait!

Return. Save your receipts, and don’t be afraid to take things back that you find you’re not wild about.

Try things on. It will save you the hassle of returning in the first place. In the dressing room, be tough on yourself. Don’t buy it just because it’s new and you’re sick of your old stuff. And don’t buy it if it doesn’t fit you perfectly.

Sell your old clothes at a consignment shop.

Ask your mom or grandma to knit you a scarf, a hat or mittens, and be specific about shape and color so you know you’ll like them. Talk about one-of-a-kind cool!

Swap clothes with friends when you get sick of them. You’ll all feel like you got a new wardrobe.

[ENTERTAINMENT/CULTURE]

Again, procrastinate. Wait for it to come out on DVD rather than going to the theatre.

Listen to a CD before you buy it; don’t buy a CD for one or two songs.

Borrow stuff from people or from the library. Recognize that in a month you might be sick of the band you’re crazy about now—so see if your friend will loan you the CD for a few weeks.

Good call? Look again at your calling cards, cell phone plan, long distance bills, etc. to make sure you’re not overlapping expenses anywhere.

Don’t buy books, CDs and DVDs at stores that specialize in those things; they’re cheaper at places like (gasp!) Wal-Mart.

Consider free entertainment. Play a game, talk a walk, play Frisbee in the park, browse a bookstore. TALK.

Do not pay for reading material. Use the bookstore to read your favorite magazines once a month; read the copy of the USA Today someone left on the table at the coffee shop; check books out of the library.

Ask someone to teach you how to paint, do yoga, kayak or dance rather than paying for classes.

[GIFTS]

Make gifts rather than buying them—same goes for cards (spruce up a great old snapshot of you and the birthday girl in Photoshop and print it on cardstock).

Buy non-holiday-specific wrapping paper so you can use it on any occasion. Better yet, wrap with random things about the house (old maps, Xeroxed pages from favorite books, old calendars, brown paper grocery bags, etc.). A decorated cereal box can make a great gift box.

Think gifts every time you shop; don’t be shy about buying birthday and Christmas gifts months in advance. If it’s “two for one,” think of whom else might want one and knock out a birthday!

Go in on gifts with friends or family members.

Remember the initials L.M. “Last Minute” means “Lotsa Money.” Plan ahead so you don’t end up buying lame-o presents last minute over the Internet at top dollar (plus shipping fees).

Keep a running list of things you want—it’ll make birthday and Christmas shopping easier for your family and friends, and you won’t have to spend the money on yourself.

[FOODSTUFF]

Plan your meals around common ingredients (green peppers and onions can be used in omelets, stir fry and chili).

Use substituteswhen baking. If you don’t have sour cream, use plain yogurt instead of running to the store to buy more.

Don’t make four or five cups of coffee at a time when you really only want one.

Remind yourself at restaurants (before you order!) how many times your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Reuse Ziploc bags as much as possible.

Eat before we leave home. You’re less likely to go to a restaurant when you didn’t plan to.

Split meals with friends at restaurants.

Eat leftovers. Warm them in the oven rather than the microwave—they’ll taste better.

Learn to use your freezer. Know what you can freeze and for how long; label things.

Buy chai by the box and brew coffee at home rather than stopping at a coffee shop every day.

See Also

Drink water. It’s marvelous for you, and you won’t be dishing out money for soda.

[GENERAL CHEAPSKATE PRINCIPLES]

Do things less often. Get your hair cut less often. Go shopping less often—go to the park instead.

Don’t pay for things you can do yourself, like washing your car, highlighting your hair or fixing things around the house.

Ask for advice. Before you make any purchase over $50, asks friends, family members and/or coworkers about it. Do they have one? Did they go with the cheap or expensive brand? Are they glad?

Buy bulk the things you’ll always need, like toilet paper.

Trade/barter. Does your friend know how to cut hair? Tell him you’ll take his kids to the playground for an hour or two if he’ll cut your hair when you get back. Or, mow Aunt Sara’s lawn or shovel her driveway in exchange for a good home-cooked meal.

Start collecting frequent flyer miles: it’s not too late!

Be assertive. Get what you pay for. Don’t accept lousy service or a product that doesn’t do exactly what it should.

Decide on a few things you can handle buying used. Some people can’t stand wearing second-hand clothing but don’t mind buying used CDs, for example.

Watch out for the phrase “more for your money”—it’s still your money. Don’t pay more for perks you don’t need, no matter what your friends have. To quote Julia Ormond in Sabrina, “More isn’t always better … sometimes it’s just more.”

Consider an alternative use for EVERYTHING before throwing it away.

RELATED LINKS:

NOT MORE MONEY, MORE MARGIN

10 WAYS TO USE MONEY

READ MORE LIFE | POST COMMENTS BELOW

Scroll To Top