Archive for the ‘Saving’ Category

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

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Last week I was so excited to show off my Spring capsule wardrobe with you all. I got some questions and emails regarding the capsule wardrobe and one thing people wanted to know the most is how I was able to pull of my wardrobe secondhand. Today I wanted to share how I did manage to keep my capsule wardrobe 90% secondhand and how you can do the same with your wardrobe.

I have always loved to shop secondhand for clothing and the fun of that just has never ended for me. There is such a thrill in the hunt for the perfect item. When I was a girl we would visit a store in my great-grandma’s town that had barrels of clothing to dig through. I remember my mom shuddering and me clapping my hands with glee. I loved to hunt and who knew what treasure you could find at the bottom of a barrel? It could be something really exquisite and rare like J. CREW or BANANA REPUBLIC or ESPRIT or UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON. RARE, RARE, RARE. For a girl who couldn’t afford to upgrade her wardrobe, this possibility thrilled me.

When I was young though I was simply attracted to brand names that I could not afford and deals…oh, THE DEALS. What I ended up with were loads of items that didn’t look good, that didn’t work together, and things I didn’t REALLY love. If only you could have seen the label on the inside though…you might have been impressed.  As an adult, I have learned to be patient, to choose wisely, and to try to be flexible when piecing together a secondhand wardrobe.

The capsule wardrobe requires a well-edited closet, selecting pieces that work together and that can be worn many different ways to maximize your choices. You might think secondhand couldn’t work, but I will share my secret with you…consignment shopping online has transformed the impossible and multiple trips to shops into the possible.

Spring Wardrobe Classics

(source Kendi Everyday)

Start With a Really Good List

The capsule wardrobe relies a lot on wardrobe staples and I had none of these when I started.  Even though secondhand shopping is more affordable than purchasing the items retail, you still must keep your budget in mind. Make a list of items that are important to you to own this year and consider dividing your list into the different capsules. For me, items like a good pair of jeans, a crisp white collared shirt, a black skirt, a black pair of jeans, a jean shirt, and a good blazer were all wardrobe essentials. Consider this list and this list (pictured above) as a good starting point for building your wardrobe.

Build In a Few Trendy Pieces

Once you have covered the basics, you can start jotting down a few of your favorite trends this season that you would like to incorporate. I love this list of Spring trends that include adding a bit of floral, the mixing and matching of bright & bold, a nod to denim, a fresh summer scarf, and the addition of a good clutch.  Obviously, only embrace the trends that really work for you and for your lifestyle, otherwise, it ends up being a pointless task in incorporating these items if you will never wear them.

Always consider the trendy colors of the year to as a way to add a little bit of color to your capsule, while keeping it timeless with still embracing the basics.

Shop Around

There are lots of great online consignment shops out there, you just have to find the right one for you. I have had the best luck on Twice and on thredUP (both of those are affiliate links and will give you $10 towards your first purchase). Here is a list of all of the shops that I have found to do some online consignment shopping.  I have found that a lot of my happiness with a site and what they offer really relies upon their search tool since I like to shop with my list and not blindly hunt for items.

I would say after trying several different companies out for online consignment, my happiness has really been with Twice the most. I like that I have 30 days to try things on and make sure I really love it. I appreciate the convenience of being able to ship my returns without getting charged for shipping or restocking fees.  I feel like I have been able to make smarter decisions and am not keeping items just because I don’t want the expense or hassle of returning them.

Of course, consignment shopping can happen locally too and many consignment shops are on Facebook, sharing and posting some of the best offerings they have in their store. Consider following the shops you love and keeping your eyes peeled for smart purchases for your capsule.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

(source Twice)

Start Shopping With Your List

Once you have a list of items that you really want, shopping for consignment online is a breeze. I begin typing in descriptions of the items I am after and let the hunting for them begin.

Start with your basics and type in the key phrases of what you are looking for.

“Black Skirt”

“Black Pants”

“Shirt Dress”

“Tunic”

Type in the patterns of fabric you are looking for- stripes, gingham, checks, herringbone, floral, chambray…. the possibilities are endless.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Be a Brand Snob- You Can Afford To

I have become quite the brand snob with my clothing and the reason is simply because I am buying my clothes at a fraction of the cost that I used to. I don’t want to spend the money on a pair of socks from some of the brands that I have been shopping at in their stores, but I can have a whole outfit when I purchase it on consignment…and not feel one bit guilty.

I try not to be too trendy in my capsule wardrobe and so I look to brands that I know will wash well, will have longevity, and  won’t fall apart on me.

Sell It Back

Since you are keeping a well-edited closet with your fashion capsule, you will know right away what hasn’t gotten worn and won’t carry over to the next wardrobe. Consider making some money or credit for the clothes and sell them back to the retailers you purchased them from.  I have this handy resource list on how to make money organizing that closet.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

(source thredUP)

Add In Your Accessories & Shoes Secondhand Too

Not only is buying secondhand great for your wardrobe, but it can be great for shoes, purses, scarves, and belts to compliment your items.  If there is a trend like, “emerald green,” or “floral print,” consider adding these into your wardrobe with accessories instead of with your wardrobe basics. A quick browse on thredUP yields a million floral scarves and at a much better price than the retail stores. These smaller items are a great way to add something trendy without deciding which trends you think will actually stick in your capsule wardrobe.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Last spring’s buttery Italian suede smoking slippers from J. Crew were available on Twice when I was putting together my capsule. Would I have spent $200 on these for myself? No way!  I can afford a little luxury when they are priced at $60, use my referral credit, and pay a mere $5. YES! This is a luxury that this cheap lady can indulge in. They are beautiful and worth all five dollars and MORE!

The same principle can be applied to that beautiful handbag you have been dreaming of.

This has always been my secret to good shopping…

You can have the beautiful things you always wanted with a little patience- someone is always editing their items and the chances are good that ONE THING you have been dreaming of will be yours one day.   

I waited a whole year for these shoes and it was worth the wait.

What are your tricks for shopping secondhand for your clothing? Feel free to leave them below!

 

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33 Copy-Cat Starbucks Drinks

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

It’s no secret around here that I love a good coffee drink and you all know I love a good way to save – especially when it’s easy. Making your own versions of coffee shop drinks gives a particularly good return since most DIY drink recipes take only a few minutes to make and are only a fraction of the cost of buying. And the no-guilt feeling while you’re enjoying your beverage? That’s right – priceless.

33 Copy-Cat Starbucks Drinks

So I’ve rounded up some of the best copy-cat Starbucks drinks recipes for you from our own Mom Advice archives and other fabulous blogs so you can save some of your hard-earned money and enjoy a coffee (or non-coffee!) break at the same time. Here are 33 copy-cat Starbucks drinks categorized into four sections for your convenience – Hot Coffee Drinks, Hot Non-Coffee Drinks, Iced Coffee Drinks, and Iced Non-Coffee Drinks (as always, please pin individual pictures from the original source):

Copy-Cat Starbucks Hot Coffee Drinks

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photo: Salted Caramel Mocha Latte @ Mom Advice

Gingerbread Latte @ Mom Advice

Peppermint Mocha @ Mom Advice

Pumpkin Spice Latte @ Mom Advice

Caramel Macchiato Starbucks Copycat @ Babble

Caramel Brûlée Latte @ Brewed Daily

Cinnamon Dolce Latte @ Farm Girl Gourmet

Starbucks Eggnog Latte @ Copykat

White Chocolate Mocha @ Kitchen Concoctions

 

Copy-Cat Starbucks Hot Non-Coffee Drinks

homemade-chai-tea-latte via Live Simply

photo: Chai Tea Latte @ Live Simply

Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice @ Cincy Shopper

Chocolate Chai Tea Latte @ A Lazy Girl

Quick & Easy Starbucks Hot Chocolate @ My Frugal Adventures

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate @ Bright Green Door

Copy-Cat Starbucks Iced Coffee Drinks

salted caramel mocha frapp via Girl Cooks World

photo: Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino @ Girl Cooks World

Iced Peppermint Mochas @ Mom Advice

Mocha Frappuccino @ Around My Family Table

Healthy Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino @ The Lemon Bowl

Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte @ Simplee Thrifty

Iced Caramel Macchiato @ Milo and Me

Mocha Cookie Frozen Coffee @ Bubbly Nature Creations

Light Frappuccino @ Food.com

Iced Caramel Snickers Frappuccino @ Savvy Saving Couple

Coconut Mocha Frappe Cappuccino @ Food.com

 

Copy-Cat Starbucks Iced Non-Coffee Drinks

Vanilla-Bean-Frappe via The Black Peppercorn

photo: Vanilla Bean Frappe @ The Black Peppercorn

Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino @ Blommi

Green Tea Frappuccino @ Raining Hot Coupons

Iced Chai Latte @ The Grant Life

Very Berry Hibiscus Tea Refresher @ Hip2Save

Green Tea Lemonade @ Momtastic

Passion Tea Lemonade @ The Pin Junkie

Chai Tea Frappuccino @ Flour On My Face

Cool Lime Copycat @ Just A Pinch Of Ginger

What is your favorite coffee shop drink?

Reader Transformation: Shanna’s No Spend Challenge

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

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Note from Amy- I am SO thrilled to be featuring one of my amazing friends today as we continue our m challenge towards saving money. Our family tries to take on a yearly challenge to dedicate one month towards not spending any money.  No spend challenges are something that I find help me to regain focus and discipline towards saving. They also highlight some of my terrible habits that I have towards spending money unnecessarily. I had the incredible honor of following Shanna through social media as she challenged herself to not spend money for one month. I asked if she would let me share her journey because I found her story so incredibly inspiring. Are you giving up anything for Lent? Perhaps this story of transformation will help inspire you and consider the savings a gift to those in need or to help your family save more this year. I hope you enjoy Shanna’s transformation as much as I have! 

shanna

It’s always been important to me to do what I love. The problem is that goods and services cannot be bought with emotional contentment – you have to use money.

I’ve never been good with money, but I’m not irresponsible either. In fact, I’m quite frugal by most standards, but I don’t earn much money. With my master’s degree in contemporary dance, I’ve danced and taught classes for a small company and taught dance at a community college. I’ve held many other jobs as well; all low paying. For years I’ve pieced together a living by holding more than one job at a time. I currently work full-time for a non-profit, teach yoga twice a week and I have several regular massage clients.

But life is expensive, especially if you don’t live near your loved ones. Clothing and food also cost money. Despite being generally frugal, my deficits accumulated. After ten years of working hard and not earning much, I had gotten into some bad habits and some bad debt. My journey to dig myself out was an eye-opening experience.

In January 2014, I made some pretty lofty personal finance goals for the New Year. First, I wanted a new job that paid at least $10,000 more per year. Second, I wanted pay off my $10,000 in credit card debt (although at the time I didn’t know how I would do it). Third, I would sign up for a fitness challenge at my gym, take first place, and win the fancy $75-a-month executive membership I could not afford.

I would win 2014! I would be confident, fit, and debt free by 2015!

So it began. My husband Matt got me a new interview suit at an after Christmas sale, and then I signed up for the two-month fitness challenge at my gym, planned a strict diet, and revised my resume. I had a determined mind and a hopeful heart.

By mid-February, that vigor and determination became… well… less vigorous. I was becoming increasingly frustrated because I wasn’t finding anything but parallel moves in my job search. The lack of job prospects was crushing my spirit as well as my motivation. I felt like I wasn’t making any progress towards my prosperous new year.

I began looking for some positive reinforcement, so I decided to commit to a 30-day meditation program being offered by my friend and fellow yoga teacher Erin Menut. Every day during those 30 days I would receive an email and an audio recording from Erin. I would read along and listen to the affirmations and reflections.

On day six the affirmation was: “I am here. I have arrived.” Erin talked about being present by acknowledging the present situation rather than ignoring how things are and looking toward brighter times. She told a story about her friend with credit card debt and called it “an extreme example of this.” Her friend was struggling with credit card debt and when Erin asked if she had a good repayment plan in place, she said “I don’t even know how much I owe. I don’t like to look at all of that stuff because I am afraid to find out how bad it is.”

Yikes! Erin and I never talked about my financial issues, but she might as well have been quoting ME! I too had never sat down with all my credit card bills to really look at the interest rates and fees and come up with a consistent plan to pay them down. I had been simply ignoring all that stuff and hoping for a brighter future. Not only did her friend say exactly what I would have, Erin also called her friend, and by proxy called me, an extreme example! In her reflections on her indebted friend, Erin went on to talk about what it means to be brave—the ability to face and conquer our fears so that they no longer control us. I needed to be brave – I had to figure out how I would tackle my financial mess.

On one of the days that followed day six, I was standing in Mountain pose repeating the affirmation “I am here. I have arrived.”, when I suddenly realized that part of the reason I was feeling so helpless was because I never actually asked for help. After that realization, it didn’t take me long to contact a credit counselor. I made an appointment and, to my absolute terror, would face my fears by sitting down and looking at my financial mess. I would go over a budget with my counselor. I would put a repayment plan in place. I would force myself to take control.

The appointment came, and my terror was realized. I remember the gulp of emotion that swelled up in my throat when we added everything up. My credit card debt wasn’t $10,000, it was $13,860.84! Through heaving sobs, I asked the counselor if I could call her back, and hung up with her. How could I let this happen? How did I continue to allow myself to spend? After I wiped the hot angry tears from my face, I felt my mind beginning to clear. Sure, I was angry and embarrassed, but knowing the number actually relieved my fears. It wasn’t a million dollars. It certainly wasn’t zero dollars, but it wasn’t insurmountable. In being known, the number lost its terror.

$13,860.84 was surmountable, if I could only figure out a way to surmount it.

Then I remembered Amy Clark. I read Amy Clark’s blog post about her no-spend challenge a few years prior. I decided to go back and read her post again. She and her husband and two children (one in diapers) budgeted $250 for groceries (including diapers), and declared that there would be no other spending outside of gas and utility bills for an entire month. I did a quick calculation of my prior month of spending. HOLY CRAP! I spent $300 alone at the grocery store! Yep, alone… that doesn’t include what my husband spent—AND we don’t have little mouths to feed or butts to diaper! It took me until April to get my mind set, but on May 1, inspired by Amy, I committed to a no-spend challenge of my own. I would pay my bills as usual and give myself $150.00 to spend on gas and groceries through May 31.

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Coincidentally, I actually got to see Amy in April when she was in Salt Lake City attending a crafting conference. We were able to steal a little time together. I told her that I was planning on doing the challenge and she was more than encouraging.

On May 1, the no-spend challenge began. I found myself posting on social media about my progress and experience, which forced me to be accountable.

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This photo is from day one. I’m very happy that I live only two miles from work. During my no-spend challenge, I rode my bike to work every day. I spent no money on parking and no money on gas.

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Day two, and the no-spend challenge was already inspiring me to learn new skills! Before the challenge, I would have just walked my bike two blocks over to the bike shop and had someone else change my tire for $10. There was no way I was going to cheat on day two! So, with a little help from Matt over the phone, I was able to change my own tire. He was beaming with pride.

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During the no-spend challenge I was constantly reminded that there were plenty of ways to entertain myself for free. On day eight, I remembered how to use the public library.

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The challenge also inspired me to get creative with spend-free gifting. This is Anna. I like to call her my gluten-free girlfriend. Day sixteen of no spending was also her last day as my co-worker. Just because I couldn’t spend, didn’t mean I couldn’t give her a great parting gift. I made her Super Power flaxseed bread entirely out of ingredients I already had in my pantry. A plain lunch sack and reused ribbon made for quite a lovely gift wrap. (If I do say so myself.)

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In case anyone was wondering, I didn’t win first place in that fitness challenge… I came in second, and won a six-month executive membership! I had FREE access to this gym including laundry service during the entire no-spend challenge. What a luxury!

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Committing to the no-spend challenge not only opened my eyes to all free resources I had access to, now my perspective was beginning to change. I noticed my thoughts moving away from scarcity towards gratitude.

This photo was taken in City Creek Canyon on day twenty during a seven-mile run. I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all this beauty and fresh mountain air that I get to enjoy near my own back yard.

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“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” My thoughts were also moving away from I can’t afford…, to I can afford…

I can always afford a clean home. This photo was taken on day 21. I spent hours cleaning the apartment and I was pretty proud of the results. Just look at those shiny wood floors!

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Remember all that money I was spending at the grocery store before? During the no-spend challenge that wasn’t much of an issue. I stuck to the budget of $37.50 a week on groceries (including wine). I rationed. I clipped coupons. I dug deep in to the pantry to use what I already had. Instead of spending so much money at the grocery store, I was spending quality time with good friends. This photo was taken on day 23 when my sweet friend Amelia made me this beautiful and delicious vegetarian dinner. We ate it on her porch where we spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and dreaming out loud.

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Throughout the month, in addition to dinner invites, I was also receiving gifts from many of my friends who found out I was doing the no-spend challenge. Chocolate bars, flowers, garden veggies, and more! Jenita, my best lady from Cleveland wanted to send me a bottle of wine. She knows me well and probably figured that I would run out of that first. However, she found out that sending alcohol to Utah is a felony. (Ridiculous) So instead of wine, she paid for a Gallup strengths finder test and emailed a link. The test was intended to help me understand how to use my strengths at work and find out what kind of environment and team I need to succeed. Jenita is a good listener.

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I had a special moment on day 28. Here the photo caption reads “Studio time! In the home stretch and finding more and more gratitude for what I already have. I get to spend time alone in this beautiful space before class on Mondays & Wednesdays. This morning at Avenues Yoga was particularly uplifting – doors open, birds singing, clear mind, not a want in the world.”

This was day 28 and I wasn’t even thinking about what I would be spending my money on after the next three days. On that morning, in that solitude, I was complete. I felt like I could go on forever without a spending fix.

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Here it is, the moment of truth. On June 1, I sat down and added it all up. I saved $702.90 during the 31 day no-spend challenge! My husband and I used $400 of that to buy plane tickets to Chicago for our one-year anniversary trip, and I threw the remaining $302.00 at my credit card debt. In September, we stayed on the lake where we got married a year prior and spent quality time with my side of the family. While $400 only covered the cost of one ticket, we didn’t have to use a credit card to cover the rest.

I haven’t used a credit card since before the challenge. I believe the no-spend challenge actually cured me of my debting and credit card use. Now, if I have a big expense coming up, I save my money and plan for the expense instead of automatically pulling out my credit card. That’s huge for me, because I feel more in control of my own finances. In October, I took another 31-day no-spend challenge and used the money I saved to buy plane tickets back to Indiana for Christmas.

It’s been a year now and I only used that interview suit twice. I didn’t get a new job, and I’m certainly not debt-free. I didn’t succeed in meeting those lofty goals, but I think I still won in 2014. Some financial success did come my way. I received a nice bonus a work back in July, and got some new Thai Yoga Massage clients and gigs throughout the year. Most importantly, I learned a few things. I learned that I can’t run from my fears and expect anything to change. I learned that in order to be able to take control, I have to be brave enough to bring my full attention to the present situation. Presently, I am healthy and I am loved. I know that I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m here in the present, and I’m resolving my financial problems.

 

Goodbye, Old Friend: Asking Jealousy to Leave

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Asking Jealousy to Leave

Editor’s Note- I wanted to bring this article back for our money management focus in our m challenge. This article truly illustrates my own struggle with jealousy and wanting to keep up with others. Yup, I’m human. I struggle too and I really struggled a lot after my husband lost his job in those lean and difficult years.  What I am learning though is that there is so much peace in knowing that we are finally going to be closing in on some major financial goals and that all of these sacrifices that we make and the planning we are doing is going to be oh-so-worth it.  Wherever you are right now, don’t give up. xo 

I pull into the parking lot and park my beat-up car between a Hummer & a Mercedes. I let out a sigh and turn behind me to find him sitting in the backseat between my two children. “You can leave now. You aren’t wanted here,” I say. He looks back at me, absently, dismissing my request with a blank smile.

We all head into the store and I push my cart through the aisles, walking by other people who have filled their carts to the brim. They are buying all the things that I want to put in my cart, but I stick to the basics and whisper, “Please leave!” as we head to the checkout aisle.

As we load up the car and pull into our house I think of all the unfinished projects, the longing for more space, the dreams for something newer and better…and he sits down to join me for my afternoon coffee.

“Don’t you have somewhere better to go? Why don’t you go to someone else’s house?”

He just offers me a green-eyed smile and hangs out in my kitchen for the rest of the day.

I hate him and I hate myself for having him over. He is the guest that will not leave and I am ashamed that we have this kind of relationship.

Yes, I am referring to jealousy and how it can take up occupancy in my heart. To say that these moments of discontent have not graced my life would be a lie. I feel the same urges to shop and the same urges to keep up just like everyone else. I can honestly say that the green-eyed monster has enjoyed more than one afternoon sitting at my kitchen table.

The question is how do you overcome your jealousy issues and lead a simple life? It is easy to tell people to not be jealous, but we live in a culture where bigger is better and there is a constant need to compete with our neighbors. While I am as guilty as the next person of feeling like this, I want to share some of the ways that I have found to ask the green-eyed monster to go and to help me work on finding that inner peace with what I have.

 

Caring for the Things in Your Life

When I think about adding possessions to my life, I have started thinking about what is going to be required of me to care for and maintain them. In the example of buying a bigger home, for example, I think of how much more space I would have to clean. Seeing as I have difficulty maintaining and keeping up with the things that we already have, I realize that adding a new house to our life would actually make things much more difficult for me financially and the added space would not be as rewarding as what I already possess.

When I feel the urge to shop, out of boredom or out of competition with others, I try to think of things that I already have and how I can take care of them. My house is an endless supply of odd jobs and cleaning or organizing projects. Making a list of these things, I can try to focus my energy towards these things instead of the negative energy that I am feeling when I am focusing on what I don’t have.

Likewise, organizing what you already have can shed light on your shopping habits and how much you have already bought. So many times our homes are brimming over with duplicate items simply from lack of organization.

I also find that when my house is tidy and organized, that I feel more satisfaction in what I have. The sense of order, in a house that is usually chaotic, can be a much more satisfying feeling then buying and trying to find a place for another bag of stuff.

Creating Traditions

Our children may also have trouble with jealousy and that is why we have tried to take the focus off of buying things for our kids and instead focus on the traditions that we can create for them as a family. Instead of loading them up with toys and the latest gadgets, we come up with ideas that we can do with our kids to show them how important family is.

We create traditions that do not cost a lot of money like having a pizza night, making crafts together, having a special date night with one parent, reading stories together, making special holiday traditions, and just being together as a family. The things I remember from my own childhood include the special traditions from my family and I have few memories about what they bought me. These are the kinds of things that I want my children to be focused upon and less on all of the toys that could fill their room.

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Remember How Much You DO Have

Gratitude goes a long way in helping bring perspective to all you do have.  I have found the quickest way to gain perspective on all that I do have is to give my time and talent to others. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you have enough and you even have enough to share with others. Consider investing in a gratitude journal (I love this one from Money Saving Mom)  to begin documenting all that you already have in your life.  Beginning your morning with a new ritual of devotion and thankfulness is a great way to kick jealousy to the curb and start your day out on the right foot.

I also have many goals for myself and for what I am doing with my life, which take up a lot of my time. Instead of looking at what everyone else is buying, I am trying really hard to focus on building my business and creating goals for what I can be doing in the future. I find the work that I do to be rewarding and it helps me to stop thinking about possessions and to think more about being a success in what I do.

However you cope with jealousy, do not be afraid to ask him to leave. It is your home and your heart- not his. You are the only one who has the power to ask him to go and to fill that empty space with positive substitutes. Do your best to refocus your energy towards caring for what you own, creating traditions for your family, and learning to live a life full of gratitude and positive goals. Before you know it, you are going to be the envy of others around you!

Do you struggle with jealousy? How do you ask jealousy to leave your heart?

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

I have never had a truly clean and organized closet until I started my fashion capsule project. Had I known that I could have been making considerable cash this whole time, I might have taken the endeavor a bit more seriously. Today I want to share with you some resources I have discovered for making money while cleaning out your closet. Not only do you have the power to make some serious cash, but you also have the opportunity to transform lives by paying it forward to charities in need.

First things first, let’s talk about my purse clean out that netted me $80! 

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Start With Your Purses- I Made a Ton

I have a terrible habit of switching my purses and never taking time to clean them out. Not only did I find a lot of great lipsticks to wear, but I also discovered that I had a lot of credit card gift cards with small denominator amounts on them that I didn’t know what to do with. Do you know that you can transfer all of these tiny gift card amounts to an Amazon gift card with no minimum balance? I headed over to this page where you can quickly reload your balance with NO MINIMUM amount. After kicking myself for all of the cards that had been sitting there expiring, I was happy to see that I now had $80 of credit that I can use towards my shopping.

Sell The Things You Aren’t Wearing

It has been brought to my attention since minimizing my wardrobe how little I really do need and how little I really do wear. If your items are brand name and in gently used condition consider selling them to make some extra cash or to put towards wardrobe items you really would love and wear.

Here are a few resources you can check. I know there are more, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with: 

Twice

Twice- This has been my #1 resource for pulling together my capsule wardrobe, but it is also my #1 resource for selling my gently used items. Twice will send you a selling kit within 4-6 days of your request that includes a bag and prepaid postage sticker for your items. If you are really excited to just get started though, you can grab a box from your recycling and fill it up with a label you print from your computer. Once you send in your first shipment they will give you $10 of credit towards a purchase so you can buy something you really love. Here is a list of the brands that they accept. Once they make an offer you can decide if you want to accept it or not.  If you don’t like the price, you pay $4.95 for return shipping. In contrast, thredUP charges $12.00 to return your items.

Keep in mind that this is not a consignment shop so they pay you once the item is accepted. No need to wait for your items to sell.

Threadflip

Threadflip- Threadflip is a new discovery for me and I am so excited about using this for my next capsule wardrobe. Threadflip is more of an online consignment shop for your clothing so that means you get paid when your item has been sold and shipped. That being said, they charge a mere 20% commission on your items so that you can pocket 80% of the profit. 

Much like Twice, they will send you an envelope with a prepaid shipping label for your items. Once you send it to them, they will list it for you by their team of professionals, saving you the hassle of trying to photograph and style your item. There is also the option to list the items yourself if you don’t want to send the items in. For me, the profit is the same so I would much rather have their team list it for me, but that one is totally up to you.

Poshmark

Poshmark- Poshmark & Threadflip are very similar in nature and the site is one of my new favorite places to browse for items for my capsule.  It is an app available for iPad and iPhone that allows you to shop, sell, and engage with virtual closets full of pre-worn or new pieces on one simple platform.

You list the items yourself- some take their own pictures while others utilize the photos from the website of where they purchased the item. They also charge a 20% commision fee on your items allowing you to pocket 80% of your profit. 

I will say from a user perspective, despite adding my sizing and storing it, I find the site a bit like going to a high-end garage sale. You have to really scan through all of the listings and even when sizing is set, it still pulls items that are not in my size or unrelated to my searches. Since users set their own pricing, you can find some steals though and I still love the thrill of a good hunt so I am sure thrifty shoppers will be ready to embrace your gently loved clothing.

thredUP

thredUPAll of my friends have been raving about thredUP and after joining to try it for this article, I can see what the fuss is about. Not only can you clean out your closet to make money, but you can also make money on your kid’s stuff and maternity items too! As with some of the other places I have listed, you can order a bag with a prepaid shipping label to start your closet clean out. Their fashion resale professionals review your clothing and then pay up to 80% of the resale value. You can earn thredUP shopping credit, or simply cash out with PayPal. Items that they don’t accept go to charitable partners or textile recycling companies. They can also be mailed back to you as part of their Return Assurance program for a $12.99 shipping fee. Be sure to check their quality standards before sending. Here is $10 of credit to spend on your first purchase. 

eBay- eBay has been around forever and is actually featured a lot in my It’s the 3 Little Things because I find some really killer deals on there as a buyer.  Although I have never personally sold items on eBay, I have had many friends who have with great success. There is a seller fee that you can read more about the eBay seller fees here. The nice thing is that you can sell items individually or you can sell them as a lot grouping instead.

Make Money Organizing Your Closet

Give Away The Rest

If you don’t love it, you aren’t wearing it, and you can’t sell it…share it with someone in need. There are so many fantastic charities to give to and if the items aren’t the wildly popular name brands or you just don’t want to hassle with the sale, consider paying it forward and giving your items to a worthwhile cause.

Here are a few options to consider:

Women’s Shelters- By far my favorite place to donate is to our local women’s shelters. This link helps you browse your state and find a shelter closest to you to give.

Dress For Success- Help someone look and feel their best for their job interviews. Their greatest need is larger size suits and apparel, but any business attire will do! Check here for locations.

Pick Up Please- The Vietnam Veterans of America is a respected charity that gives aid to all of America’s veterans, not just those of a particular age group or war. By donating used clothes, shoes, appliances, and other household items, you help generate funds to take care of the soldiers and service men and women who help keep America safe from harm. See if your state participates by visiting here.

Churches- Growing up our church had a room where guests or members could shop. Check with your church to see if they offer this or if they are partnered with any shelters in town where they could recommend sharing your donation.

Goodwill- Goodwill provides employment and job training to those in need of job assistance. Donations couldn’t be easier thanks to the drop-off boxes. Check here for locations.

Once you have your closet cleaned out, let’s get it organized!

Try a Capsule Wardrobe (here are my Fall & Winter capsules) to Minimize- Read more about what I have learned from minimizing my closet.

Tips & Tools for Organizing Your Closet

Have you made money selling items in your closet? Leave your experience here with the different services and be sure to share any resources that I might have missed!

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Do You Really Need That Degree? College Loans, Options, and Savings

Monday, October 27th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

College debt has reached an all-time high in the United States. Collectively, we owe over a trillion dollars in student loan debt. Yes, trillion with a capital T. It’s actually over $1,200,000,000,000. Ouch.

Is that degree really worth it

Student loan debt is unlike most other debts though in that it is nearly impossible to get rid of, known as forgiveness or discharge. This means even if you fall on hard times, lose a job, or your life circumstances change drastically it’s extremely uncommon to have that debt wiped away – you’re pretty much stuck with it. For some adults this means they will be carrying debt from choices made in their teens and twenties well into their middle age and often they’ll still be paying off those debts while paying for their children’s education.

When considering our finances it’s important to look at the impact student loan debt has since many readers are impacted by college debt. It’s likely you still owe for your college education if you have one (and often even if you don’t have a degree!). Others may be considering college costs for their children whether they’re toddlers or getting ready to head to college. Finally, there are many adults who go back to school when they change professions or need additional education to improve their earning power.

Since there are a lot of scenarios to cover here I’ll break them down, and you can head to the subsection that applies to you.

Already in Student Loan Debt

You already have a degree and the debt to prove it. While you may owe anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands the advice to not get into debt doesn’t apply. You need solutions and advice on getting out of student loan debt.

Consolidate

If you have multiple loans look into consolidation. You can consolidate loans with your spouse as well. This may allow you to get a lower interest rate or lower monthly payment, but it also makes it easier to manage than several loans.

Pay More than the Minimum

While it’s common sense, paying more than the minimum means you will pay it off sooner. Some ways you can ‘find’ more than the minimum in your budget include: slashing expenses (like dropping cable or getting a cheaper cell phone plan) or adding any pay raises to your loan payment.

Work a Side Gig or Second Job

Need to earn extra money to meet your loan payments or increase your payments to pay it off quicker? Get a side gig or work a second job to earn extra money to put towards your college loans.

Investigate Options

If you’re really struggling financially like having no job call your student loan company before you skip a payment. They may be able to hold or defer payments or offer some other options to help keep you from defaulting on your loans.

Getting Ready or Going to College

If you or someone in your family is headed to school or back to school for a degree it’s the perfect time to consider all the options.

Do you Really Need That Degree?

While a college degree is still statistically going to increase your earning ability over time it’s not always a necessity in every profession. Some professions simply don’t require a degree, and many trades are desperately seeking qualified and well-trained individuals.

Additionally, the job market has changed drastically to allow small businesses with little overhead to thrive. In an age of consulting, freelancing, and startups a degree is nice-but it’s not exactly a requirement. Depending on your skillset you may not have the need for a traditional college diploma.

Check Pay Rates and Rental/Home Prices

Whether you’re going back to school or headed to college for the first time you need to consider the cost versus the income you will earn in the future. While we all know there are no guarantees of future income checking pay rates in your area and investigating the cost of housing will help you get a general idea of what you’ll have to spend on student loan repayment.

For instance, it doesn’t financially make sense to spend $150,000 on a degree if the average entry-level earnings are $35,000 per year and average rentals cost $750/month.

The math would show you it would take an awfully long time to pay back your loans, and in the end it’s unlikely to be worth the added stress and costs when you could get a solid education and degree for 1/4 that cost.

Exhaust Scholarship and Grant Options

Grants and scholarships are plentiful, but it takes some hunting and some time to getting the most money you can for school. If you dedicate the time upfront though you could end up saving thousands of dollars. There are scholarships and grants that are high value and competitive, and there are smaller scholarships and grants that are for less money and more obscure.

Consider Starting Small

Instead of diving into a 4 year college with big expenses consider a local, smaller school to get your initial credits out of the way. You could even consider an online education if you’re an adult or need to work full-time to fund your education.

Saving for Future College Costs

Saving for your children or family members who you hope to help go to college is a great gift, but you have to consider all the options before you start saving.

It’s vital to be sure you aren’t locking up money that is needed for an emergency fund or for retirement first and foremost.

However, if you have a healthy emergency fund and are (mostly) on track with retirement savings here are come options to consider:

529 Plans

529s are a great option since they offer no taxes when withdrawn for qualified education expenses like tuition. Many states also have no tax on withdraws.

There are two types:

  • Pre-paid plans: You pay for college costs at today’s rates even if costs go up when your student goes to school.
  • Saving plans: Savings plans are based on the stock market with a mix of investments that get more conservative as your child nears college age.

The downside: Funds that aren’t used for college are taxed fully and a 10% penalty is tacked on. While it’s hard to tell when they’re infants, it’s not exactly ideal if Junior decides not to go to school or ends up with a full scholarship.

Roth IRAs

Roth IRAs are a retirement savings vehicle, but they also offer the option of withdraw for college expenses. This can offer the best of both options for families who need to get the most out of their long-term savings.

With a Roth IRA you can use funds for educational expenses OR retirement meaning if your child doesn’t need all the funds you can continue to grow them for retirement without paying penalties.

The downside: Current Roth IRA limits mean you can only save $5,500 each year or $6,500 if you’re over 50 in these accounts.

Note on investing for college: You can encourage family members to add to your little tyke’s college fund (for instance in lieu of gifts for the holidays or birthday presents). For instance grandparents can gift funds to each child, currently you can give $14,000 per year without penalties. 

When Should You NOT Save?

If you’re in debt or struggling financially saving for college shouldn’t even be a consideration. High interest debt (i.e., not your mortgage or your own student loans!) should be tackled before you consider saving for college. If you’re paying 14.99% on your credit cards the math is against you saving for college costs…for now.

Parents often make the mistake of saving for college funds over retirement thinking they have less time to ‘catchup’ on college education costs, but if they aren’t maxing out their retirement savings they could be in major trouble later in life.

While it is a great goal to make sure your children enter adulthood debt-free it shouldn’t come at the cost of your own savings and financial stability-that will impact your children now.

What it comes down to is this–take care and consider all your options whether you’re paying off college costs or saving for your children’s future.

What are your thoughts on student loan debt and college savings? Do you still owe for your education or are you worried about financing your children’s education?

 

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Last Day: Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap + $10 Credit

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

ePantry

I am so thrilled that so many of you have taken advantage of the offer through ePantry I offered this week! Today is the last day you can take advantage of this offer through MomAdvice.

Use this link to get a $10 credit to shop and a free bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap.

Sign Up

Simply sign up for an account with ePantry using this link .  ePantry is giving all new customers a $10 credit + a bonus FREE Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap. Take advantage of this offer through today only.

Answer A Few Quick Questions

These questions help them to know what types of products you love, how many people are in your home, and what scents you love.  This helps give a rough estimate to how often they need to ship your favorite items right to your door.

Fill Your Cart

You can add your favorite items to your cart or allow ePantry to make some selections for you based on the questions you answered.

Check Out

Just for this first order, your order must be $30 or more (but that includes the $10 credit), so that is basically saving you more than 30% on household products you use every day!

Here is what I put in my cart as an example of how much you can save!

ePantry

Once you use my referral link you will see a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s  Scented Hand Soap, a holiday exclusive,  with your purchase. You do not need to add this to your cart, as my link will automatically do that for you!

Here are a few of my favorites I chose (just as an example- choose whatever you like!). I have a Method Clementine Dish Soap, a Method Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner, 3 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soaps, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Toilet Cleaner, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Bathroom Cleaner, a 2 piece Reusable Kitchen Wipe Set, & 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap. Total cost just… $23.25

That is  NINE household products for just over $20 out of pocket, which works out to roughly $2.58 a piece. What a steal! 

I hope you won’t miss out on the savings- happy shopping, friends!

 

 

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry

I consider myself to be pretty forward-thinking when it comes to online shopping and embracing the time-saving it offers for my family.  I really, really, really hate shopping in stores and prefer to spend my time wisely price-checking and window shopping online instead of in stores. Today I wanted to share with you about a new subscription-based service I discovered for our household needs called ePantry and my experience using their services. They gave me a $30 credit to try out their services and I wanted to offer an exclusive to our readers to also try the services too.  I learned about this service from one of my favorite money-savers, Crystal from  Money Saving Mom, and I knew if she recommended it, I had to try it for myself.

Who Can Benefit From Household Subscription Services?

In my opinion, everyone. Here are 3 benefits that I have found, in general, with subscription based services and what they have offered my family.

Does Your Dish Detergent Cost $100?

Maybe it is because I have zero self-control, but I can’t make a quick run into Target for dish detergent and walk out with dish detergent. Inevitably, I end up filling my cart with a lot of random and unnecessary things that I don’t need and approach the cashier with a dazed and confused look on my face about what in the world I just brought up to check out. Don’t even get me started on that convenient Starbucks on the way out. Having household items shipped to my door saves me a lot of money that is spent on impulse purchases.

Do You Forget to Keep Items Stocked?

I am generally really good with keeping our pantry and fridge stocked with what we need thanks to my Grocery IQ app on my phone. When it comes to household items though, I am THE WORST. It is usually when some poor family member is on the last roll of toilet paper or when I am ready to finally tackle that mountain of laundry that I remember that I don’t have what we need to… ahem…get the job done.

With a household subscription service, they can figure out what you need and you can modify/adjust that list as needed.  Instead of running out of items, they can automatically ship it right to your door so that you don’t have to make that late night toilet paper run.

Do You Hate Hassling With Coupons?

I have admitted to you over and over again that I am no coupon clipper. I admire people that do this, but I just can’t make the time for deal-hunting with two busy kids and my work.  You do know though that I love to save our family money so that is why I shop for our groceries at Aldi, where coupon clipping just isn’t an issue, and I love shop offerings that are competitively priced that don’t require coupon clipping and I have found that ePantry offers lower prices than I was getting in my store, they have free shipping, and they save me from impulse purchases.

How Does ePantry Help?

According to their website, ePantry customers save 26% vs. their local grocery store. There are no service or maintenance fees and you’ll be charged only for the products you buy. Based on the information you provide, ePantry is able to predict how much and when you need each product. They do understand though that there are countless variables in life (vacation, house guests, an addition to the family, etc.), so we made it incredibly easy to make changes on your personal dashboard, or via their mobile app. A week before any shipment is scheduled to go out, they send you a reminder email and a text message for you to make any changes.

What I love the most about ePantry is there are no commitments or fees to use their services. The products are all focused on green living so I can be proud to use them in my home. They also will only charge you once items are shipped. You can cancel at any time, and if you don’t like a product, they will refund you.

3 Benefits of Household Subscription Services + Free $10 Credit for ePantry



Currently, ePantry is offering a MomAdvice exclusive offer which I am so excited to share with you. You can  get a free $10 credit to use on their site when you sign up to try their service + a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Scented Hand Soap for the holidays (retail value $5.59) with every purchase.

ePantry-Review

Just for this first order, your order must be $30 or more (but that includes the $10 credit) so you can spend just $20 and get several natural home cleaners with my referral credit for a lot less than you would ever get in the grocery store.

Here is what I put in my cart as an example of how much you can save!

ePantry-Cart

Once you use my referral link you will see a FREE Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Scented Hand Soap, a holiday exclusive,  with your purchase. You do not need to add this to your cart, as my link will automatically do that for you!

Here are a few of my favorites I chose (just as an example- choose whatever you like!). I have a Method Clementine Dish Soap, a Method Lavender All-Purpose Cleaner, 3 Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soaps, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Toilet Cleaner, 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Bathroom Cleaner, a 2 piece Reusable Kitchen Wipe Set, & 1 Mrs. Meyer’s Cranberry Hand Soap. Total cost just… $23.25

That is  NINE household products for just over $20 out of pocket, which works out to roughly $2.58 a piece. What a steal! 

Just as I stated above,  shipping is always free and for all future orders, there’s no  minimum amount to purchase.

I hope you enjoy the savings and convenience as much as I have and I am so excited to get to share this exclusive offer with you! This offer WILL EXPIRE on Tuesday (10/21/14) so I wouldn’t delay if you are considering trying this service. 

I love it and hope you do too! Happy shopping!

*This post contains affiliate links! I promise to only link to things I love.

 

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Cars, Trains, Bikes, and Feet: How to Get Around for Less

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

Transportation costs are often the second largest expense after our homes. For cars, the cost of ownership goes beyond the sticker price and includes everything from oil changes to replacing tires and wiper blades regularly. Train and bus passes may save you big bucks, but they can also add up to lots of time (especially if you encounter delays). Walking is by far the cheapest way to get around, but it also takes the most time and may not make sense more suburban and rural areas.

In the end it doesn’t matter much how you travel- by train, by car, or by your own two feet -they all cost time and money. So, let’s dig into how to get around for less.

How to Get Around for Less

Location, location, location:

They say it’s true for real estate, but it’s also true when it comes to public transportation. If you live in an area that’s far away from work, school, and activities you will spend more time behind the wheel. If you live somewhere that has decent public transportation you may be able to rely on it for commuting. In suburban areas you may be able to do a combo of using both trains and buses and relying on your car for things like errands. While we can’t always pack up and move it’s worth a second look at what your community offers in terms of transportation.

What to look for: Look for bike routes, walking paths, bus stations, trains, and car sharing options in your local area. Try using Google Maps to create your route and look at what public transportation options are available. While biking and walking directions should be examined closely in street view (as they are in beta in many areas) you may be pleasantly surprised to find new ways to travel.

Do the math: If moving is an option look at what you could save on transportation costs. If it’s not an option consider what you’d save by using public transportation, carpooling, walking, or biking 3 days a week. Challenge yourself to see what you can save. Consider monthly passes for public transportation as well. Many locations offer monthly passes at a steep discount if you’re a regular commuter.

Consider Going Carless

For many families, but especially those in the suburbs or country, a two car way of life is the only way that their family can meet all their obligations. Mom and Dad may work in different directions while the kids need to go to after school programs. Even if one parent stays at home it may be inconvenient to spend an hour or more dropping off and picking up their spouse to work with kids in tow.

What to consider: Look at the family obligations as a whole and see if you could juggle having one car. Consider parking one for a few days or a week as a trial. You could always keep it around if it’s not costing much in insurance money for times when it is needed. This will work especially well for families with an at-home parent who either stays at home or works from home. The office worker in the family can drive in most days, look at public transportation options for a few days a week, or even consider carpooling with a local co-worker.

My one car experience: We were a one car family for several months after my husband’s car needed repairs that cost more than the car was worth. We sold the car, paid down some debt, and worked out our schedules to make one car work. It wasn’t easy but it allowed us some time to save up for our next car purchase, and definitely challenged us to be more thoughtful about our driving. You can read more about it here.

Do the math: A car payment + maintenance + gas can add up to $100s each month. If you have a car that’s paid in full you’re still looking at thousands of dollars in maintenance cost. If you could commit to going car-free or cutting back to one car for a year you could easily save upwards of $3,000-$5,000.

Save on Buying your Next Car:

Buying a car can be an intimidating prospect. Considering that most of us only do it a few times in our lives it’s not something that’s easy to ‘practice.’ The buying process can trick you into thinking you’re saving big money, but the truth is most often the dealer will always do well since it’s a process they go through regularly. But there is good news. The internet makes it easier to find out what people are actually paying for cars (both new and used) and you can use it to your advantage to source the exact car you want at a price you want to pay.

Do the math: While it’s fun to consider snazzy features and brand names that include jaw-dropping sticker prices you should really look at function over form. You want a car that has a low cost of ownership, has the features you need (and okay maybe a few you want), and holds its’ value well.

When it’s time to buy you should put everything you can reasonably afford into the purchase so you have low or no car payments. While the old adage is that used is always better and a new car loses 20-40% of its value the second you drive it off the lot that’s not always the case. For cars that hold their value well you may even find that a newly used car (like 1-2 model years old) will be just as expensive as a brand new car.

Whether you get around on foot, by bike, train, bus or car, you’re sure to have ideas on additional ways to save. Share in the comments.

 

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Evaluating the Cost of Home: Renting vs Buying

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

One of the largest expenses we have is our homes. Whether you’re renting or buying your home it can add up fast. While most financial experts recommend you spend 25% or less of your earnings on your home costs, location plays a huge factor in whether you can meet that guideline or not. This month we’ll be evaluating how to make the decision to rent or buy, and I’ll share some money saving tips that will help whether you rent or own your home.

Evaluating the Cost of Home Renting vs. Buying

When deciding if you should rent or buy it’s important to consider a number of factors:

1. Evaluate your Needs and Where you Are
Knowing what you need in a home or rental is the first step to your evaluation between renting vs buying. In addition to knowing what you need in a home, location plays a big factor. Look at the community you want to live in, but don’t be afraid to look outside your ideal area because the savings may be worth it.

Renting: If you’re renting it’s easier to look for something that fits you right now, but that may be a mistake. Consider what plans you have in the next several years because it is easier to stay put than it is to move you want to ensure you don’t go through the upheaval of moving multiple times especially if you have a family.

Money saving tip: Before you sign a lease find out if your rent is negotiable. For instance you may be able to make repairs or improvements for savings.

Buying: If you’re buying or own a home you will want to consider a little more long-term. For instance, if you’re planning to add children to your family or possibly care for an elderly relative you’ll want to be sure your home has enough room to grow into.

Money saving tip: Homeowners should evaluate their mortgage to see if refinancing will save them money.

2. Cost is King
Cost is a major factor in your decision to rent or buy. The costs of home ownership and rentals in your area will play a big role in your decision. In some communities and urban areas it never makes sense to buy because rent is low and home prices are high. In most areas though it can save you money in the long run to own your own home. As rental prices increase your mortgage payment will stay the same.

Renting: One of the major costs of renting a home is the deposit you have to put down. Generally this will be 2-3 times the monthly rent. In some urban areas they will require a larger deposit especially if you have poor credit. This could end up costing you several thousand dollars to tens of thousands in higher priced areas. In addition, you will have to factor in what other costs are covered (or not) by renting. Your rent could include utilities, WiFi, and water bills or might even include a building gym or services especially if you live in a metropolitan area.

Money saving tip: Consider all the costs you will have to pay when comparing rentals. If you find a rental that’s going for $1,000/month but you have to pay $300/month in costs for electric, water, and association dues that is more expensive than the $1,250/month rental that includes everything.

Buying: The major cost for buying is the down payment on your home. With the collapse of the housing market options have become more limited for people who don’t have a large down payment. However there are options to consider, so be sure to check with your local bank and mortgage broker. In addition you will have moving costs and repairs to consider if your home needs anything immediately.

Money saving tip: Shop around for pre-approval for a mortgage if you decide to buy. You can save tens of thousands of dollars by doing your homework on mortgage rates.

Prepare to Save

No matter if you’re buying or renting here are some steps you can take to get a better deal:

1. Improve your credit-
Use your free credit reports (1 per agency each year) to ensure everything on your report actually belongs to you and there are no false reports on your credit. I

Money saving tip: A credit dispute can take up several weeks to be fixed and can affect your mortgage interest rate and your ability to rent.

2. Research, research, research-
Knowing what typical rent and home prices are is the key to finding a good deal and simply not overspending on your home. You can use sites like Zillow, RedFin and local realtor sites to get an idea of pricing.

Money saving tip: Set up email alerts or app alerts so you don’t miss when new properties become available.

3. Set Expectations-
Know that there will never be the ‘perfect’ home. In most cases we have to choose the best options out of what is available and what we can afford. In some cases this means trading square footage for location or choosing an older home because the neighborhood schools are worth sacrificing granite countertops.

Choose the things that are the most important to you now and think ahead for the next several years. Will this house or rental suit your needs as your kids get older? Or are your kids older and you’ll be able to live with less space in a few years?

4. Real Estate is not an Investment (for Most of Us)-
While there are exceptions (like people who make it their business to buy and sell real estate) for most of us our homes are simply a place to live. While it’s important to pay attention to the costs it’s unlikely the housing market will climb the way it did pre-housing boom in most areas.

Since most families don’t stay in their homes and locations the way they did in past generations it’s not as common to pay off your home mortgage. Even if your mortgage is paid off and you own your home outright you will still have the costs of repairs and upkeep. When/if you do eventually sell a paid-off home you’re going to use that money to buy again.

5. Repairs are Costly-
If you’re renting, having a landlord means you will have someone to lean on when things need to be repaired and won’t have to cover the cost yourself. While you may not incur the cost directly it will be passed on in the form of your rent.

If you buy a home all the cost and work of repairs will be on you. While you can DIY some things larger repairs can be get expensive. An inspection before you buy will help identify some needed fixes when buying a home, but you may encounter things you didn’t expect.

No matter what you choose or how you save money on your home it can be challenging but worth it both financially and for your happiness. Examining costs and weighing your options may not seem especially exciting but by saving on the place you call home you can slash your budget significantly.

Of course there is one thing you can’t put a price on and that’s the feeling you get when you’re truly home.

For more in our series of money savvy tips read:

 

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