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Saving Money

How I Save Money on Contacts

How I Save Money on Contacts

When I was in grad school I started doing a lot of research on personal finance, budgeting, debt payoff, and all the other fun stuff that comes with personal finance. I wanted to create better spending habits, not just a quick fix to my situation. So, I decided to focus on different areas of my life one at a time. This way I hoped to make these habits last. I started with my grocery budget and how I was going to keep eating organic while cutting my spending. It was tough, but it was doable once I got creative. Then, I went on to my toiletries, and once again I found some creative solutions to save money in this area. The one area that I figured was easy was to save money on contacts, boy was I wrong. This took some research and definitely some poor choices in regards to my eye health.

My Original Plan to Save Money on Contacts

When I first started focusing on my budget and trying to trim it I was using monthly contact lenses because they were the cheapest when I originally started using contacts when I was in 8th grade. Yes, I kept doing the same thing for 12 years simply because that was what I was used to. My senior year on high school I ended up being allergic to the proteins in my eye, so I needed to start using hydrogen peroxide solution. This was obviously more expensive then basic lens cleaner. When I started on my debt free journey, one way I saved money was switching to the generic brand of the solution, it helped, but not enough.

I started getting frustrated by how much my contacts were for the monthly lenses plus my little science experiment I needed to complete each night to properly clean them. So, I made an extremely poor choice and started wearing my lenses for as long as possible. I’m talking like months wearing the same lenses, just cleaning them with the hydrogen peroxide each night. I figured I could still see with them, they weren’t ripped, so why throw them out? I did this for about 3 years and made a year supply of contacts last me those 3 years, talk about savings right!? It is true, I did save money, but what I didn’t know is that I was practically suffocating my eyes because the contacts break down at that monthly mark and no longer allow your eye to breath. I also was setting myself up for a greater risk for eye infections.

My New Plan to Save Money on Contacts

After 3 years of doing this I realized I needed to take better care of my eyes. I started researching and found a much better solution for myself. One of the most frustrating things about wearing monthlies is that no matter what, at that month mark, I had to throw them out. Even if I only wore them 15 days that month. I felt like I was throwing away money some months if I didn’t wear my contacts much. I finally realized that my best bet would be to switch to dailies and wear my glasses more. Even though the yearly cost is more than monthlies, I can stretch out my year supply and its still healthy for my eyes. For example, no matter what my monthly contacts are the same price for a year supply because I have to throw them out. Now that I have dailies, I can stretch my yearly supply by wearing my glasses. It’s also a great idea to check for rebates on contacts, you can basically find a rebate for any of them by doing a quick search. How do you save money on contacts?

Saving Money

Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget

I began my debt free journey in November of 2015. It truly became a reality that I was in over $200k of student loan debt while I was completing my graduate studies. During grad school I completely changed my life to save as much money as possible. I started meal planning and got my grocery budget down to under $150/month. I was proud to get my groceries this low, but I also was dealing with my chronic sinusitis and migraines at the time. Eventually those two things wore me out, especially the migraines. I had sinus surgery in 2012 and was taking so much preventative medicine, only to still feel congested, always have headaches and averaged 1 migraine every week, sometimes up to 5 per week. I was over it.

Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget

Around this time my coworker mentioned to me that her daughter’s doctor recommended they cut out dairy from their diet when they had chronic sinus problems. She also suggested I do some research to find out what else caused inflammation in the sinuses. So, I went home and did my research. The two major things I knew I could quickly change was dairy and switching to organic. But, I knew my budget was going to suffer drastically from the organic. Desperation to get rid of my migraines pushed me to ultimately try the new diet.

Yes, my budget jumped to being under $200/month once I switched to organic. I expected at least this, but a lot happened that I didn’t expect. After about a month, I no longer needed my migraine medicine or my allergy medicine (I wasn’t even allergic to anything, my doctor told me I was sensitive to everything), this saved me about $50/month. And look at that, I just made up my grocery budget going up 🙂 Eventually, I stopped seeing my ENT all together, I was no longer getting sinus infections, and it was very rare that I got sick. I went from seeing doctors more than once a month, to seeing them once a year for a physical.

I used to have a medical sinking fund, that’s how much money I used to spend consistently on my medical expenses. Between the co-pays and medicines I consistently took, it was a ton of money. I no longer save any money for medical expenses because I’m no longer needing to do any of the things I used to do daily just to still feel awful.

Some people might argue that it isn’t frugal of me to be spending so much money on my food, or spending money on my at home work outs. Everyone has a different definition of frugality and mine has definitely changed over the last few years. What I realized was that even though I was spending an incredibly small amount for preventative health (nutrition, exercise, etc.), I was spending a ton of money on my reactive health, medicines, doctors appointments, surgeries, etc. In the long run, I feel that this is going to save me the most money, so that’s why I made the change.

Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget

I shared my reasons why I switched to a healthy lifestyle and how it has changed my budget. If you’re interested in even more tips, follow this link and I’ll happily add you to my private Facebook group 🙂

Saving Money

How to Lower Your Grocery Budget

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When I first started my journey for financial freedom, my spending was out of control. I remember looking at my spending and thinking, “There’s no way I can lower any of these budgets.” I especially thought of this when looking at my spending for my groceries. It’s really hard to think about cutting costs when you think you’re doing the best you can at the time. You need to get creative sometimes and think about how you can get the most food for your money by learning how to lower your grocery budget.

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1. Look at your current spending vs. food

The first thing I did was look at my old receipts. I never used to even look at how much items cost when I would buy them, I wanted to eat it that week, so I bought it. What I realized when I looked at them was that I was spending SO much on frozen foods and prepared foods. Now, ironically at the same time I was switching to an organic diet for health reasons. I thought I was going to be spending so much more (honestly I didn’t spend much more because I was buying everything fresh.) Frozen foods and prepared foods are crazy expensive because you’re paying for convenience. This also goes for veggies and fruits cut up, SO expensive.

2. Pick your meals for the week

I’m not saying go crazy meal planning. Just plan out what you want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since it’s just me, I typically have the same dinners or lunches multiple days a week. It’s pretty difficult to cook for just one person and keep with correct portion sizes. So, I use my leftovers for the following days lunch or dinner, this allows me to plan, and buy, for less meals. Keep in mind what you found when you looked at your receipts, keep your meals simple and fresh to save cash. I also recommend making similar dishes throughout the week so you can use the same ingredients. For example, I buy a package of chicken breasts and ground turkey each week and make that work each week. I change up the marinade or the spice to add variety to my meals. When I was in grad school and living the serious broke student life, I regularly had rice, veggies, and half a chicken breast. It’s easy, healthy, nutritious, and relatively cheap.

3. Make a grocery list

Once you have your meals planned for the week, make a grocery list based on your meals. Once you have your grocery list made review it to see if it’s under your budget. If it’s not, revise your meal plan. Is there a cheap meal that you could make last more nights and get rid of a different meal? Do you have things in your pantry or fridge you could use to make a meal? Sometimes my meal planning and grocery list takes me quite a bit of time, but I’m always happy with my results once I pay for my bill. Take the time to plan well and it will pay off in the end.

4. Check deals at the grocery store

This is a tricky one. I don’t mean buy anything on sale. You should always stick to your list. However, if you notice that something is on sale this week that is a staple in your diet (chicken, rice, etc.) that you can freeze or has a long shelf life, buy more than you need. This will make your budget higher this week, but will save you in your monthly spending on groceries. I do a monthly budget, so if I need to take more one week to accommodate for this, I will. Also, I will make swaps in my grocery list if something similar is on sale. For example, if I wanted to buy grapes, but apples are on sale, I’ll buy the apples. These are snacks for me, so I can easily snack on a different fruit and try to find the cheapest one.

5. Use rebate apps

The three rebate apps I use are Checkout51, Ibotta, and Receipt Hog. Now, I never check my apps before I go to the grocery store, only afterwards. The reason I do this is because I don’t want to get sucked into buying things I don’t need simply for the rebate, that’s going to make me spend money unnecessarily. Ibotta is a rebate app that allows you to search the store, restaurant, service, etc (they even have Uber!!) that you’re using for cashback. You simply scan your receipt, click the rebates you’re claiming, and will get some money once it is cleared. Use my link to get a free $10 just for signing up! Checkout51 works exactly the same, but you don’t need to specify where you shopped. Receipt Hog is a little different, you just take a picture of your receipt and get points, once you have enough points you can claim it for cash back or gift cards.

These are the tricks I used to get my budget on track for my groceries. It might seem tedious and a lot of work, but once you get it going, it really is very simple. Plus, you’re going to save money in the end, so why not! How do you lower your grocery budget?

 

Saving Money

How I Got a Free Gym Membership

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It might sound crazy that a girl trying to save money and pay down a ton of student loan debt pays for a gym membership. I promise you, that wasn’t part of the original plan I had. When I was planning for my debt payoff while still in graduate school, I planned a strict budget. One that definitely didn’t have a gym membership on it and didn’t have me buying all organic food, but that’s for another time. I told myself I’d work out at home and run outside when I didn’t have the luxury of a free university gym membership anymore. But then reality hit.

No Gym Membership at Home

I moved home and started to stick to my strict budget that I had made that worked well when I was in grad school. The major difference was that I no longer had a gym membership and I was no longer paying electric, rent, and utility bills each month. This was a huge savings for me. However, the no gym membership really hit me. I strive to be as healthy as possible, not only for my health, but also for my wallet. I have found that by paying a little more for preventive care (well visits, working out, organic food, etc.) I have saved a ton of money in the long run. Since changing my lifestyle to a healthier one, I very rarely get sick and very rarely need to take medicines. This all saves me a ton of money overall. I found myself not being able to motivate myself to work out at home, which is when I started researching.

Finding the Right Gym Membership

All the gyms by me cost about $50/month plus all of those lovely fees they add on, no thank you! I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money to work out. I didn’t want to go too far away because I knew I would never use it if it was. So I began looking by where I work, and I actually found a reasonably priced gym for $20/month. Before I signed up I asked some friends and read some reviews and found that they run promotions all the time for discounts when signing up. So, I waited. And waited. Finally, they had a promotion for $0 starting fee, I was sold. I went in and joined that day.

Unexpected Free Gym Membership Perks

Shortly after I joined the gym I began working. I was very overwhelmed by the beginning of my first year of teaching, but determined to get to the gym every day I could. I’m proud to say in those first few months I did go to the gym most afternoons. Then one day a teacher at school told me about our insurance giving reimbursements of $20 for gym memberships, if we went 12 times a month. It’s part of their preventive care. I signed up that night and my workouts started being tracked. This pretty much makes my gym membership free now, except for the annual fee the gym charges me.

If you’re someone that wants to join a gym, but can’t justify paying for it, do some research and see what you can find out there. It seems that a lot of insurance companies that I have looked into offer this in their plan, there are usually rules, like my 12 visits, but they’re giving you money to work out! It makes me excited just typing it! I need the gym to keep me motivated and healthy, it provides me with a great stress relief too. How do you make sure you keep active?

Saving Money

Saving Money in College

I was pretty carefree with my money my freshman year of college. I didn’t think about my student loans, didn’t get a job, and just kept pulling money from my savings account. Not the smartest moves on my part, but you live and you learn, right? 6 years later, 2 degrees, and about $200k in student loans, I definitely wish I did a few things differently back then. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, think about your financial future before you even step on campus.

Saving-Money-In-College

Saving Money Before College

  1. Carefully fill out the FAFSA form. Make sure you correctly fill out the FAFSA form, if you have any questions, I strongly recommend getting advice through your high school or college. Filling out this form wrong can result in you getting much less financial aid.
  2. Apply to scholarships. Apply to every scholarship you can find, and then apply to more. There is SO much unused scholarship money out there, it’s crazy! Look for local scholarships where the pool of people will be much smaller, but also apply to the larger national ones as well.
  3. Check in with the scholarship committees. This is one I never thought to do until I was in graduate school and it paid off incredibly. I went into the scholarship office every two weeks to check in until I finally got an answer. That poor woman knew me by first and last name, but it paid off because she had a face to a name and knew I really needed the scholarship.
  4. Ask for more financial aid. As soon as you get your financial aid package, call the financial aid office. Typically your financial aid package will arrive sometime in the summer before you head to school, call them immediately when it arrives. I learned this trick after my freshman year and was able to get more financial aid for my sophomore year. The schools send out financial aid packages and then a lot of students don’t come to the school. This makes more money available and they give it out on the first come basis.

Saving Money in College

  1. Price compare for textbooks. Look everywhere for your textbooks before immediately buying them at the bookstore. Yes, the bookstore is convenient and you will know that it’s the correct book, but it’s also usually a lot more money! I usually found the best deals on Amazon for buying and selling my textbooks all throughout undergrad and grad school.
  2. Sign up for student deals and discounts. There are so many deals and discounts out there only for college students, sign up for them! My all time favorite one was definitely Amazon Prime Student, which also made buying and selling my textbooks so much easier. I could easily procrastinate buying my textbooks and still get them in two days, FREE 🙂
  3. Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work. I just had to reference the Rhianna lyrics here, get out there and WORK! There were so many job opportunities presented to me, especially if you have work study as part of your financial aid package. Most universities will even pay you to be a note taker for the classes you are already taking notes for. You’re basically being paid to be a good student! It really is a win win for you.

These were some of the things I learned throughout my college experience and learning how to manage my money. It’s hard managing your money in college and trying to plan for your financial future with potentially so much debt. I wish I had known these things when I was a senior in high school so I could plan better for my future after college and have saved a lot more. Like I said, you live and you learn, right? What tips and tricks did you learn about saving money throughout your college journey?

Saving Money

My Top 5 Ways to Save Money

My Top 5 Ways to Save Money

I know when I first realized how much student loan debt I actually had, I got angry. Afterwards, I viewed it as a challenge and just wanted to tackle it head on, paying it down as fast as possible. I spent every spare moment I had in grad school searching ways to pay down debt quickly, save more, make more money, anything to get this debt paid off faster. I made quick easy changes that didn’t change my lifestyle, but made me save a lot more money. By making these changes I was able to pay down a lot more debt while I was in grad school making about $1,200 a month.

1. Plan your meals each week before you go to the store

Meal planning overwhelms me, I just don’t have the patient or the time right now to learn a good system for it. So, I don’t do it as well as I’d like to. But, I do have a plan for the week generally before I go to the grocery store and always have a list. This way I know exactly what I need to buy for the week and I throw away less food.

2. Pay attention to portion sizes

I buy mostly organic foods, which can be expensive. Especially when it comes to meat. I used to always eat an entire chicken breast for my dinner with a veggie. Not anymore. I eat about half of a chicken breast, depending on the size, with brown rice and a veggie. Rice is SO much cheaper than chicken, so this allows me to get two dinners, sometimes three if it’s bigger, using one chicken breast.

3. Baby wipes

I can’t even put into words how wonderful these little wipes are. I used to spend a ridiculous amount of money on make up removing wipes. Out of pure convenience, I just couldn’t give them up when I started trying to save more money. When I found out that baby wipes work in the same way, I had to try it. I have very sensitive skin and using the sensitive skin fragrance free baby wipes I had no problems.

4. Sign up for store rewards cards

The best one I have is Rite Aid, I currently get 20% off everything in store because my family shops there so much. On top of that, I switched to using all store brand products and those usually have an additional discount. For me, this works for my budget because it is so convenient. I wish I had the time to make my own products to use because it would be even cheaper, but being a first year teacher makes my time limited!

5. Waiting to buy

This one was very hard for me at first. I can be stubborn and want to get an item right away. I quickly realized that I was missing out sometimes on great sales or realizing that I didn’t actually want what I was buying afterwards. Once I started waiting to buy, I saved so much money because I was no longer impulse buying. If I still wanted the item after doing all my research and finding the best deal, I went ahead and got it. If I realized it wasn’t what I wanted, then I saved myself the wasted money on something I didn’t actually want.

These are just a few tips that I have been using to save money that I find to be very simple changes that made a difference in my budget each month. The easiest thing to do is look at your spending habits and find ways to make slight adjustments or ways to make what you’re currently doing cheaper. What are some ways that you save money?

 

 

Saving Money

I Switched to an Organic Diet and Saved Money!

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I never thought I would switch to a mostly organic diet, I never thought I could afford it. I mean, organic food is so expensive, right? Its difficult to swing that on a tight budget, and I can just eat the other, cheaper options. I used to always say this, food is food, so who cares if it’s organic or not? While I was in grad school, I knew I couldn’t afford it. I was making roughly $1,000 a month and trying to put as much of it towards my loans. Right around this time, a few of my friends started changing their diets to be organic and take out certain food groups, and their health issues went away. This intrigued me.

Some Background Info

You should probably know before I really dive into this post that I have awful sinuses. I’ve had issues since I was in middle school with sinus infections and migraines. I have gone weeks where every day was ended with a migraine. It’s not fun, and would require me to take a lot of medication. I had sinus surgery when I was in college, this helped a lot, but my migraines would still randomly come and I still got the occasional sinus infection with a cold. At my absolute worst, I was taking a strong decongestant and nasal spray every single day, and would still get the headaches now and then. I was spending at least $30 a month just on my allergy medicine and nasal spray. This doesn’t include the additional decongestants I would take when I got a headache. I didn’t want to live like that anymore, taking medicine everyday, only to still feel awful. I was curious to see if I just started eating healthier, more veggies and fruits, and organic, if my sinus problems would get better.

Was an Organic Diet Worth It?

Lemme tell ya, I felt so much better after making the switch. I still got the very random headache, but I was able to stop using the nasal spray and take a much more mild allergy medicine. This allowed me to save a lot of money on medicine. Once I calculated it all out, the additional cost of groceries was about even to what I saved from stopping my old medicines and lowering my allergy medicine. Personally, I would much rather pay more for groceries, and take less medication that costs me a lot of money each month. I now spend at most $18 a month on my allergy medicine, usually I can find the Rite Aid brand to be even cheaper and I get 20% off everything with my Plenti card. This allowed me to put additional money towards my grocery budget in order to afford organic choices.

Stepping It Up

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of research on how our diet effects our health. Some people in the past have mentioned how cutting out dairy completely got rid of all of their sinus problems. This seemed completely impossible for me, I love dairy. But, what I have found online supports what people have told me. So, I’m slowly cutting dairy out of my diet to see how I feel. It’s definitely hard, but I think cutting things out slowly will make it more manageable for me. I’ve only made switches so far, like almond milk instead of milk, almond milk yogurt instead of Greek yogurt, but I have already noticed differences. For one, I unexpectedly lost the 10 pounds I gained in college after eating organic now for about 4 months and making those minor switches for about 2 months, I was shocked. But, my sinus problems have also greatly improved. The only times I feel congested and get headaches now is the day after I eat a lot of dairy. I still take my allergy medicine, but I’m hoping if I completely cut out dairy, I’ll be able to stop taking that altogether.

This little diet experiment blew my mind, I’m so happy I made the changes I did and continue to do so. I feel so much better and now understand why it is so important to fuel our bodies with the best foods for it. We shouldn’t have to take a ton of medicine each day just to get through it. By making healthier choices and creating a diet that was specific to my health problems, I am now able to live a much happier life, almost medication free! Did you change your diet for health reasons? What was your experience?