Money & Career

How to save money on practically everything

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

How to save money on practically everything

Saving money for the future you want doesn't mean feeling guilty about every cent you spend on yourself now. Who would want to stick to a plan that entails that much suffering?

The Smart Cookies are all about preserving the lifestyle you enjoy – just doing it for less. Each of us managed to find lots of ways we could save extra money, without feeling like we were giving up the things that gave us pleasure. When it comes to deciding what spending strategies work best for you, it's important to come up with some that fit with your lifestyle, not just your goals. We’re not asking you to stop visiting the spa or to swap your cashmere sweater for a polyester blend just because it's cheaper. The idea is to figure out what is really important to you and what's not. We learned that we all spent a lot of money on things that didn't provide a great deal in return. And even in those areas that are important to us, there were ways to save money without sacrificing our social lives, stylish wardrobes, or the small luxuries that brighten our days.

Some places to look should be obvious to you by now. If you haven't watched the Discovery Channel in more than six weeks, maybe it's time to consider switching to standard cable. If you're spending a disproportionate amount of your paycheck on dinners out, try meeting your friends for brunch or a drink instead. There are lots of easy ways to cut back a little without lowering your standard of living. Here are a few more of our personal favorites:

Instead of meeting a girlfriend for dinner, suggest meeting for breakfast, lunch, or even coffee, as we mention above. If you eat out, dinner is always the priciest meal. And you are likely to have just as much fun no matter when or where you meet a friend. If you're dying to check out an expensive new restaurant, why not go early for a drink and split an appetizer? You'll get to sample the ambience and the menu for a fraction of the cost.

Have a Girls' Night In. Rather than going out for dinner with your girlfriends, have $6 Girls' Nights In. Each person can spend $6 on food made for sharing – like pita bread, olives, and a container of hummus, for example, or a small pizza – and bring a regifted wine or combine funds with others to buy a bottle. We estimate that we collectively saved at least $3,600 just by doing this once or twice a week for one year. (How? We figured that we each would have spent at least $20 had we gone out instead. So we took that $14 saved, multiplied it by 52, then by 5, the number of Cookies in our money group.)

Be fashionably late. Eat dinner at home before you go out to meet your friends. Then you can snack on an appetizer or skip the meal altogether and just have a drink or two with your friends.

Eat early. Most restaurants and bars have happy-hour specials between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. on weekdays, with drinks at half price and a range of menu items for under $10. Why not meet a friend right after work for a half-price drink and appetizer and then head home for dinner?

Page 1 of 4 — on page 2, learn how you can stay beautiful on a budget.

Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. Saving money on beauty and body maintenance

Exercise with friends. Health clubs are expensive. Many cost more than $1,000 a year and often require a commitment of a year or more. Gyms count on the likelihood that most members stop going, at least regularly, after a few weeks or months but are still stuck paying monthly dues until their contract runs out. Before you join a gym, consider organizing a group of friends for daily or weekly walks, runs, hikes, or bike rides instead. This way you can be social and be fit – and working out with friends will give you added incentive to stick to your exercise regime. If it’s too cold or too hot where you live to exercise outside regularly, consider joining a Y, where the membership rates are often significantly lower than those at a higher-end health club.

Make the most of municipal facilities. Most cities have free or discounted access to tennis courts, swimming pools, and other sports facilities. Check to see where you can play for less. Some cities even offer free use of boats at city-owned lakes and/or free (or discounted) rentals of golf clubs and use of the range or course at city-owned facilities.

Let your hair down. Stretch out the time between haircuts. If you usually get your hair cut once every six weeks, try stretching it to once every eight weeks and save yourself the cost of at least two haircuts plus tips each year. If you color your hair, use a base color but skip highlights, which are costly and more damaging to your hair anyway.

Dye it yourself. Yes, it's best to leave complicated hair-color jobs, like bleaching, to the pros. But if you’re just covering gray roots or experimenting with a deeper shade of brown, you can buy good temporary, semipermanent, or permanent hair color at your local drugstore for a fraction of the cost of getting it colored in the salon.

Shop at the drugstore, not the mall, for your beauty products. Some of the most effective and popular products can be found at your local drugstore for a lot less — from Maybelline’s Great Lash, which is often cited as a top brand among models and makeup artists, to Oil of Olay's Regenerist, which was ranked as the most effective antiwrinkle cream by Consumer Reports in its January 2007 issue, even though it was the least expensive brand tested. (Of course, the cheapest and safest way to keep wrinkles at bay is to buy sunscreen and to avoid the sun. Consumer Reports found that the top performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than ten percent, on average, after 12 weeks — barely enough to be detected by the naked eye.)

Get made up for less. Take advantage of the free makeovers offered at makeup counters and boutiques before a big night out. And don't feel pressured to buy. If you like the results, you can just make note of the blush, eye shadow, eye liner, and lipstick colors that were used. Then go to your drugstore and look for cheaper makeup brands in the same shades. Or if you have a friend who always looks great, ask if she'd be willing to share her secrets and/or make you over one afternoon.

Page 2 of 4 -- Discover tips for saving money at home on page 3

Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.• Paint your own nails between pedicures. We wouldn’t recommend that you give up pedicures and manicures altogether. It’s nice to be pampered occasionally. But instead of spending $20 to $40 for a new paint job in a salon every time your nail polish chips, buy an extra bottle of the color polish that your salon used and do the touch-ups yourself. This way you can stretch out your time between visits to the salon and still have fabulous nails.

Saving money at home:

Talk less. If you don’t use your cellphone that often, see if there’s a cheaper monthly calling plan that allows fewer minutes. Compare rates, not just between packages but between service providers.

Lose the landline. If you use your cellphone a lot, ask yourself if you really need a landline. If you still want phone service at home, consider switching to an Internet Phone Service (or VoIP). These providers route your calls through your high-speed broadband Internet connection, not a phone line. The quality is comparable but the cost is usually much lower than regular phone service. (Check out for a comparison of different VoIP services.)

Cut the cable. Do you really need all of those cable channels? You could save a lot of money and maybe free up some time by just using basic cable. By giving up cable, Sandra saved both money — $900 a year! — and time. She used the time she once spent sitting in front of the TV to exercise, read, or hang out with friends, activities that proved to be more fulfilling to her than staring at a screen.

Go paperless. Read your favorite newspaper online instead of subscribing. Or go to aggregate news sites like Google News, where you can read articles from publications all over the globe for free. Many magazines are also starting to post much of their content online for free.

Be energy efficient. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Turn the thermostat up in the summer or down in the winter when you’re not home. Try a fan and open a window before resorting to the air conditioner. Unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Switch to energy-efficient bulbs. Not only will you be saving money on your electric bill, but you’ll be helping the environment too.

Buy in bulk. Cut down on grocery costs by shopping once a week (where you can load up at a large discount store like Costco) instead of picking up a few items every day at the nearest shop. Always bring a list when you shop so you don’t get sucked into making impulse purchases. And try not to shop when you’re hungry and may be tempted by every delicious display.

Decorate creatively. You can save money by printing out photos you like from the Internet, or photos you’ve taken, and having them framed instead of buying prints. Or go to a fabric store and buy a piece you like and have it framed. Pick up candles and knick-knacks from discount stores or flea markets to add a personal touch. Try, the classifieds, or yard sales to find gently used furniture at great discounts. You can always buy a slipcover for the couch if its color doesn’t match your decor – and for a lot less than it’d cost to buy a brand-new couch.

Page 3 of 4 -- Learn how to save money while you shop on page 4

Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. Shopping:
Check for discounted display items. When we are making a major purchase, we always ask the salesperson if the store has any of last year’s items on sale or if there’s a display or demo model for sale. This works for cars, appliances, mattresses, furniture, and almost any big-ticket item. You would be surprised at how much you can save.

Shop in-store then buy online. Last summer Sandra wanted two new pairs of high-end jeans. She went to Holt Renfrew and tried on the style and size that she wanted, then she went on to eBay, found exactly what she wanted, and paid $200 for three pairs of jeans that would have cost a lot more at the mall.

Prowl the web for promo codes. Once you’ve filled your shopping cart at an online retailer, open another window and type the name of the retailer and “coupon” or “promo code” into your favorite search engine. You should be able to find discounts or coupons that you can use when you check out — saving as much as 30 percent.

Carry the card. If you regularly shop at a particular store, see if they offer a frequent-shopper card. You can join for free and receive coupons and qualify for special discounts. Some stores give out coupons worth a specific cash amount off your next purchase once you’ve spent a certain amount of money there over time (for example: for every $100 you spend, regardless of how many separate trips it takes to reach that amount, you’d get a $5-off coupon to use within a certain period of time).

Sign up for sale updates. Most clothing stores and boutiques now send out regular e-mail alerts to customers on their mailing lists about sales and special events. It takes two minutes to sign up, but the savings can be substantial. Tip: You can often plan ahead once you know when your favorite stores’ regular sales are, so you can save up your money and then stock up on some of your favorite looks for less.

Buy some time. If you’re planning to shop in the same mall or retail area for a while, put the item you’re considering on hold for a few hours. Then walk around before you go back to the store and buy it. Once you’re out of the environment and have had some time to think about your purchase, you may decide you can easily live without it.

Scour secondhand stores. Thrift stores, vintage stores, and other secondhand shops are often treasure troves for the savvy shopper. Sure, you have to do some digging, but you can often find designer clothes and accessories at deeply discounted prices. Better yet, drop off some of your gently worn clothes, and you may get an even trade or come home with some extra money as well as extra clothes.

Go generic. Most grocery stores offer generic or store-brand versions of everything from cocoa to cookies, even diapers and baby wipes. Often the quality is comparable; the generic or store-brand versions are just less expensive because they don’t spend much on design or marketing. If you pay out of pocket for medicine, you should also check regularly to see if generic versions of your prescription drugs are available yet. Under law, pharmaceutical companies must allow generic versions of their brand-name drugs to be sold after a certain period of time has elapsed. (Many health insurance companies now routinely require the use of generics, unless otherwise prescribed, in order to cut costs.)

Page 4 of 4

Read more
Save energy (and money!) in your home
Makeup: Which items should you save or splurge on?
How to shop in a recession

Excerpted from The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough, copyright 2008 by The Smart Cookies with Jennifer Barrett. Used by permission of Random House Canada.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Money & Career

How to save money on practically everything