Tuesday, December 20, 2011

5 Ways to Save Money and Help Others

I was asked to guest post here at Cutting Back and Going Green – where you can learn about saving money while living an environmentally friendly life. Let me introduce myself – my name is Melissa Carlisle and I’m the author over at the MelissaStuff blog. I began writing a blog as a personal expression – kind of an online journal – and then as my life became more frugal and my friends wanted to know how to get in on it, the blog evolved into a deal blog . . . with a spin. I want to help you figure out how to save money so that you have more money to give to help others!
5 Ways to Save Money and Help Others . . . 

#1 – Know HOW you spend your money!
Really take the time to follow your money and see where it leads. It's amazing how quickly small purchases add up, and before we know it we are spending hundreds of dollars on something as silly as eating out or buying unnecessary clothes or toys for our children.
If necessary take the first month and chronicle EXACTLY where your money is going. You may be quite surprised by what you find.

#2 – Eliminate anything unnecessary

Each person's definition of "necessary" is going to differ, but we found that when push came to shove we really didn't have to have cable or a home phone. Two things that were non-negotiables for me were Internet and cell phone. However, I have another good friend who doesn't carry a cell phone, so each family will have to decide what their own choices will be. The challenge is to at least find one monthly budgeted item that you can eliminate right now.

#3 – Make sure you are getting the best deals available.
It's easy to get comfortable paying the same bill every month - insurance, cell phone, Internet, cable. And because of this, frequently even when we are passed our locked in rates and could get a better deal we continue to pay more than we should for the very same service others are able to get cheaper.
Take a few minutes every 6 months or so to re-evaluate each bill you are currently paying. Is there a way to make it cheaper? Could you use a few less minutes on your cell phone? Do you text enough to make the cost worth it? Can you trade your cable/satellite for a Tivo subscription and not miss much?
Any time your contract is up with someone, make sure you contact them to find out if they have a promotional rate they are willing to offer to keep you with them. If not, contact their competitors and see what kind of offers they will give you to switch your service.
#4 – Shop clearance and off-season.
The first place I head when I enter any retail establishment is their clearance section. It doesn't matter if I'm shopping in a department store, a grocery store or a drug store. They all have clearance and many times I can find nicer items for cheaper in this section than anywhere else in the store.
I buy almost all of my family's clothing during the off-season when it is clearanced 80 or 90% off. Believe it or not, this allows me to buy brand new, name brand clothing for cheaper than what many people pay at thrift stores, garage sales or consignment sales for used items. I then sell what we outgrow or don't use and sometimes it sells for more than I paid for it brand new!!
Also, using coupons with grocery store and drug store clearance is how I get many of my FREE items. This means cutting all of your coupons and having them filed in a way that you can access them. At different times, I don't have the ability, energy or desire to keep up with this. But when I do, it ALWAYS pays for itself.
#5 – Don’t compare yourself to others.
This may be the most difficult step of all. How many times do we buy things because we think we need or our kids should have it simply because someone else does? How often do we worry about having others in our homes because we don't have the latest updates in our kitchen or because our floors have been used and abused by a houseful of family?
Do what God has called YOU to do! Sometimes he blesses us with an abundance and we are able to do all that we should and still have room left to buy nice things just for the fun of it. But sometimes we are on limited budgets and our choices become to bless ourselves or to bless others. Which one will you do?
I told a group of women not too long ago that I think when we stand before the Lord one day, He won't ask what kind of countertops we have in our kitchen or how nice our appliances were. But I do think He will ask what we did to show His love to others with the kitchen He gave us.
How would you answer that question today?

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