Category: money and happiness

9 Ways To Save Money For Travel (or any big purchase)

Trying to save some travel money? Socking away $$ for your big trip? I saved enough on a teacher's salary to travel for 10 months! Here's how >> yesandyes.org
Dear Sarah,
I’m writing is to ask you about saving money for travelling. You see, I’m off in the beginning of March for three months in New Zealand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. My boyfriend and I bought our ticket on Saturday and I’m getting pretty worried about the money situation – even though we’ve decided to do it on the cheap.
I have a full time job but it pays badly – do you have any tricks to raise money in a fairly short time? Although I’m sure you were sensible and saved up over a long time!
Oh, friend. Yes, I was sensible (and a bit boring) and saved up over a long time. But all is not lost! You can put away a good chunk of money if you’re willing to make some changes.

9 ways to save money for travel (or any big purchase)

Get a Second Job or a side hustle

Blowing your mind with my originality, right? But it’s obviously easier to save money if you’ve got two or three streams of income. And a second job doesn’t have to mean working every evening and weekend at Starbucks. You could tutor the neighborhood kids, house-sit for family friends, babysit your cousins – there are a million options.

Here’s an article with some great ideas for second jobs. I know that working two jobs is a drag of epic proportions. But if you’re doing it for a limited amount of time and to raise money for a very specific reason, it seems exponentially more tolerable. At least that’s what I always tell myself while I’m tutoring poorly behaved fifth graders.

Put Yourself on a Crazy Tight Budget

Again with the mind-blowing, right? Suzy Orman, watch out! Making a budget is wicked easy: look into how much you need to buy your round-the-world ticket/new car/house/Jimmy Choos, look at how much discretionary income you have, do a bit of math and see how long it should take you to save enough to buy said pair of shoes. If you’re not happy with that amount of time: reexamine the way you spend your money.

Surely you can trim a little fat?

*Cancel the cable (that’s what Hulu is for, y’all!)
*Split wi-fi with someone in your building
*Cancel your gym membership and go for walks with friends or workout at home
*Start cooking at home instead of eating out so much
*Go cold turkey on Starbucks
*Don’t drink so much. If you’re going to party, pre-game at home so you’re not spending $40 at the bar every weekend
*Get a flatmate
*If you engage in retail therapy (aka: are human) why not hit up a thrift store or a nice second-hand boutique? You’ll save heaps of money and still feed the hunger for new shoes

My budgeting non-secret

I allot myself a certain amount of ‘fun money’ each week and withdraw that amount in cash from an ATM. Once that money’s gone, I’m stuck at home eating soup and watching library DVDs until Sunday rolls around again.

Realize that every non-essential thing you buy is a step away from your dream

Oh, that’s a bit dire, isn’t it? But it’s true, y’all. Before you buy yet another set of decorative towels, realize that all that terry cloth equates to one night in a Cambodian hostel. Or a can of paint for the house you want to buy. Or two weeks worth of car insurance on that Saab you don’t have yet. If you want to make these things happen, you have to make them a priority, right?

Find Sponsors

If you’re saving up for something remarkable and do-goodery – launching a non-profit,working with an under served population – there might be people willing to help fund your dream. Learn how to write grants proposals, contact your local paper and see if they’re will to write up your story.

If you’re incredibly cheeky (and clever) you could even aim for corporate sponsorship like Dancing Matt of Youtube fame (Stride gum sponsored his trip) or Maggie Mason, whose life list is being sponsored by Intel.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing This

No amount of budgeting will help if you’re not in the right mindset and let’s be honest, giving up your Americano habit isn’t particularly easy or fun. But nearly everything in life worth having requires a bit of work and sacrifice, no?

Make an active effort to remind yourself why you’re making these sacrifices.If you’re saving up for a trip to India learn how to make paneer, listen to some punjabi mc and rent some bollywood flicks. If you’re socking away money for a house, make lists of features in your dream house, stop by designsponge and haunt all those real estate open houses. You’ll be more likely to stick to your financial guns when the reason is at the forefront of your mind.

Sell Your Stuff

Granted, this money making scheme is best employed when you’re moving or about to travel, but certainly there are some things sitting around your house, gathering dust. If you’ve upgraded to a flat screen, maybe someone wants your old tv? And if you’ve got a laptop, do you really need a netbook? Craigslist awaits, my friends.

Drastic measures To be utilized only when you are really broke or need to save an huge amount of money

Move Back in with Your Parents

Twin beds, dial-up internet and casseroles every night for dinner. But it’s (probably) rent free. I’m sure you’ll save everyone’s sanity by helping around the house, not bringing boys home from the bar as 2 am and setting some parameters before you move in, right?

Teach ESL in Asia/The Middle East

Drastic? Yes. Effective? Definitely. After the first six months when I spent all my money on Ikea furniture and t-shirts with terrible Engrish, I saved $1,000 a month. Really! With no effort and no impact on my swanky quality of life.

It should be noted that this doesn’t hold true for ESL in all Asian countries – I’d hazard the guess that you’d have the most luck in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Take Part in Medical Studies

My goodness but this is drastic, no? I’ve never done these myself but I have several friends who financed large chunks of college with medical studies – and they still have all their limbs and appear to be fertile! Of course, if you’re going to do these exercise caution, do heaps of research and start small.

P.S. I would be remiss in my role as pseudo-financial advisor is I didn’t make the point that you really shouldn’t buy trips/cars/houses that you can’t afford (I’m looking at you, America’s housing crisis). I know that those shoes are calling your name, but if the choice is between groceries and green cute boots, be a grown up. A human can’t live on patent leather alone.

How do you save up for big ticket items? What’s your relationship with money like?

P.S. How I paid off $50,000 of school debt 5 years ahead of time + How I traveled for 10 months on $5,000

photo by toa heftiba // cc

5 Easy(ish) Ways To Stop Being A Pessimist

Do you want to stop bring a pessimist? Do you want better self-care and more happiness? These 5 things will help you get closer to your goal!

Is it possible to stop being a pessimist?

Which is to say: Is it possible to re-wire your brain? To change your personality? To alter the way you navigate life?

The short answer is: sort of.

Science tells us that we all come with a built-in ‘emotional set point‘ – some of us are just naturally happy and some of us are just naturally …. less happy.

But! We can move the needle! We can make ourselves happier or at least less pessimistic. Today, reader Gene tells us how he’s moved away from his pessimistic tendencies.

How to haggle in a store without dying of embarrassment

Want to know to to haggle in a store? Or negotiate prices down? It doesn't have to be embarrassing! Click through for bargaining and haggling tips!i

Have you ever wondered how to haggle in a store? I think most of us are (relatively) comfortable haggling at a flea market or on Craigslist. But when we’re standing under florescent lights and talking to a well-dressed shop attendant, we lose our nerve. Luckily, Sherin is here to help us out!



When I think of haggling, I usually think of being in a market on holiday, and kind of just shouting until the price gets lower. But I never thought you could do it in a proper shop. That was until I read this really interesting article in Time Magazine.
It was all about how haggling and negotiating prices is much more acceptable now because of the current economic climate and how you can get everything at a discount price – if you do it right.
I remember my brother saying that I should try haggling when I shop on the high street, and I didn’t take him seriously at all. I would love to be able to haggle to get prices down, but I have no idea where to start. Here are a few tips that should make haggling easier:
Free 5-day money bootcamp

How to haggle in a store without dying of embarrassment

Know where to haggle

I doubt you could go into Oxford Street’s H&M and try to cut down the price of a t-shirt. But you could do it where the item is a bit more expensive. Electronics stores are likely offer discounts on TVs or DVD players. And you can ALWAYS haggle on jewelry.

Ok, maybe not the plastic rings from Topshop, but you could try in real jewelers that sell gold/silver. Independent stores are also good places to haggle. The sellers have more control over the prices, and the owner is usually around, so you could talk to them as well. If you speak directly to the manager or owner, you’re more likely to get a deal because they have more authority to cut prices.

Be Respectful

You shouldn’t be rude or offer ridiculous prices. Start with maybe 20% off. Try to remain polite and smiling. If you get angry, so will the seller and that could cause a scene. Try to remain calm, patient and slightly humorous. Try having fun and negotiate with the seller rather than having an unnecessary argument.

Do your research

Know what you want before you go shopping. Then do some research on the product. Try finding it at a better deal elsewhere or online, and then see if your chosen retailer can offer you a better deal. (I doubt they’ll tell you to buy it at the other place).

Have confidence

No one is going to offer you a discount if even you look like you know you’re not going to get one. Have some confidence and look like you’ve done this successfully before.

Build a relationship with the seller

Chat for a little while, saying that you like the product, *pause for large sigh*, but state that it’s just too much. Maybe then, with big puppy dog eyes, ask if there’s better offer. Use the right words to get them to maybe sympathize with you.

Say your other half/parent will go mental if you spend that much or say that you’re a student or unemployed.You also don’t want to show your interest too much. Pause and hesitate a bit and use silence to your advantage. Silence is your friend.

The more awkward the better. In these silences, when you hesitate, the seller will come in with better deals.

Shop at the right time

Firstly, you’re more likely to get the seller’s full attention. There will be less people around, so you’re more likely to be able to have a long chat. Also, if there are lots of people within earshot, the seller will definitely say no. This is because if people see one person getting a discount, they’ll all want one.

Know what items are likely to get discounted

Old inventory is a great one when asking for better deals. The seller wants to get rid of old stock quickly, to make room for newer products. ‘Damaged goods’ are also likely to get discounted, and usually they’re not that damaged. The Levi’s store near my university had a small fire, and when the shop re-opened a few days later all items affected by the fire where 50% off.

While browsing through these ‘damaged’ items, I realised most were in perfect condition. But keep a look out for missing buttons or frayed stitching. Last items can also get you some good deals. Again, the seller wants to get rid of these as quickly as possible to make room for other, newer products.

Ask about future sales

Ask if the item you like is likely to go on sale anytime soon. If it is, ask if you can get it at the sale price now, and say that if you wait, you might see it cheaper somewhere else.
I’ve not tried it yet face to face haggling purely because I’m too shy, but I have done so with phone companies. Pretending that you’re going to leave the provider always gets you a better deal. I suppose there’s no harm in trying, it’s not like they’ll make the item more expensive after you’ve tried!

Has anyone tried haggling in stores? I would love to hear some success stories!

P.S. 9 surprisingly easy ways to avoid buyer’s remorse

photo by Scott Webb // cc

How To Live a Champagne Life on a Beer Budget

Yes, you CAN live a champagne life on a beer budget! A cute home, a nice wardrobe, even travel - it's possible! // yesandyes.org

Dear Sarah,

So this is a pretty awkward question, but I do hope you’ll answer it. I know that you are a teacher at a non-profit and you’ve made a few references to you salary of “two dollars.” But you are always dressed so well! And you travel all the time and it sounds like you live in a really nice neighborhood! How do you do it? You don’t have a trust fund do you? ;D

You’re right! That is an awkward question! But, in an effort to hook up some other ladies who are trying to squeeze liquid gold from the proverbial stone, I’ll share my secrets of financial skulduggery.

Style

Buy second hand

Guys, it is not an exaggeration that 75% of my wardrobe is thrifted. And a lot of it is swankity swank brands pilfered from deep in the racks of my local Goodwill. Not only does thrifting save me heaps of money, I feel endlessly clever and lucky when I score an Anne Klein cocktail dress for $20.

Anybody can walk into Anthropologie and put together a cute outfit for $500. It takes an artist to create an ensemble out of the $2 bin. Here are my trusted thrifting tips.

Swap clothes with your friends

Most of us have tons of perfectly nice pieces that – for one reason or another – we’re not wearing. Maybe it doesn’t fit anymore, maybe we’ve progressed past our stripe obsession, maybe we got dumped while wearing it.

Whatever the reason, you can rehome your gently used goods and get some free goodies of your own by hosting a clothing swap! Essentially, you just invite all your girlfriends to your house for drinks and bags of second-hand clothing, but if you’d like a better breakdown, check out this post.

Be extremely intentional + strategic about what you buy

You won’t spend as much money on clothing if you think very, very carefully before you buy something new. Before you add something to your shopping cart (either in real life or online) ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I wear this with at least three other items that I already own?
  • Do I feel comfortable and confident when I put this on?
  • Is this the best cut for me? 
  • Is this the best color for me?
  • If I layer this with other things, can I wear it for more than one season?
  • Is this classic enough that I’ll still be able to wear it next year? And the year after this?
  • Is this well-made? Will it still fit and look good in a year or two?
  • Does this fit my body today? Not five pounds from now?
  • Am I comfortable with the production practices of the company that’s selling this item?

Ooooof. That’s a lot of questions for a fitting room at Marshall’s, right? You might not be able to check every box for every item you purchase, but keeping these questions in the forefront of your mind when you go shopping will reduce buyer’s remorse by approximately 99 percent.

And a weird tip: I feel better about my thrifted, second-hand clothes when I display them nicely and keep them in tip top shape. I splurged on those fancy ‘huggable’ hangers so everything I own hangs nicely. I display all my prettiest jewelry and I keep my boots shined and my sweaters lint-free. My wardrobe looks like a million bucks even though it costs $20!

Food

Eat out less

Under the heading of “so incredibly obvious I hesitate to mention it,” eating out is expensive. And unhealthy. And unless you’re enjoying haute cuisine, you’re probably perfectly capable of making food at home that is just as delicious as the $13 plate of pasta that TGIFridays is serving you. My favorite pizza is $20 for a 12-inch. I CAN BUY THREE FROZEN PIZZAS FOR THAT PRICE.

If you find yourself eating out because it’s Friday night and the cupboards are bare, make a practice of stockpiling “emergency” food for such occasions – frozen pizzas and burritos, Trader Joe’s curries, or those frozen vegetables with sauce. These cost a fraction of a meal out and you can store them almost indefinitely.

Learn to cook awesome things at home

Again, painfully obvious. Cooking will help you save money, maintain a healthy weight, and impress potential lovers.

If you, like me, are lazy, you can spend your Sunday night making one giant pot of soup, one giant pot of oatmeal, one non-lettuce salad thing, a casserole-y thing and eat all of that over the course of the next week. Super easy! Super cheap!

Leann Brown’s cookbook Good And Cheap is a revelation and teaches you how to eat well on $4 (!!!) a day.

And a weird tip: I find I enjoy dining at home a lot more when I make it a proper ‘experience.’ I use placemats and cloth napkins. I plate my food nicely and garnish it if I have some parsley kicking around the crisper. I put ice in my water and light a candle if I’m feeling ambitious. You can create a restaurant-worthy atmosphere in your breakfast nook with pretty minimal effort!

Be your own mixologist

Did you know that most bars charge a 1,000% markup on their bottom shelf liquor? A ONE THOUSAND PERCENT MARKUP. Why is no one rioting in the streets?!

Of course, there are lots of reasons people go to bars, but if you’re really going there for the Vodka Gimlets, you’ll save yourself a lot of money if you just learn to make them yourself. Here’s what you need to stock a party-ready home bar and here’s a bartending guidewith 780 drink recipes. Get to mixing my friend!

Stop wasting food

Americans waste 165 billion dollars worth of food every year and I’m responsible for at least one billion dollars of wilted fresh herbs that I only used in one dish.

You can waste less food if you only buy what you need and eat what you buy. It sounds obvious, but check your fridge and pantry before you head to the grocery store and always shop with a list. Only buy enough fresh produce for that week and learn to adjust recipes to fit what you’ve got on hand.

Freeze extra portions if you don’t think you want to eat soup every day this week and if you see that fruit is about to go bad, peel it, chop it and freeze it for future smoothies.

Figure out which foods make you feel fancy and purchase accordingly

This post is titled “How to live a champagne life on a beer budget” but you might not feel very champagne life-y if you’re eating beans and rice every day. We’ve all got a few foods that feel “fancy” to us – mine is a nice chunk of high-quality Parmesan. Maybe yours is prosciutto or chocolate souffle.

If that food makes you feel like a baller, find a way to make it part of your life. Use it as a garnish or watch for sales. Learn to make it yourself. Eat soup for lunch so you have more space in your budget for cured meats.

Transport

I have the least awesome car you could ever imagine. Seriously. Does it get any less awesome than a 2003 Ford Focus? But it’s rust free, only has 100,000 miles on it and isn’t going to get stolen when I go thrifting in a dicey neighborhood. And I bought it with a personal check. No big monthly payments for me!

Home

I do, in fact, live in a nice, slightly swanky neighborhood. I’m a total design and home whore, so living in a boxy, seventies-style apartment in the suburbs was simply not an option. I squeezed my way into this pricey real estate market by sheer luck and by taking an apartment in need of a really good cleaning and a new paint job. I’ve gussied it up using these tricks.

Entertainment

I am huge fan of the thriftyhipster and generally trawling the internet for free or cheap fun. Honestly, you can usually find me doing ridiculous things to entertain myself (see “visit Scientology church” 30 new things goal) but I’m not opposed to dropping change on an event I really want to see.

Travel

Of course, travel can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! I religiously follow my own advice for traveling on the cheap. And honestly? I just make travel a priority. I’m always planning and saving for my next trip (Next time? Mt. Everest base camp and the Trans-Siberian!) Some girls save up for Jimmy Choos, I save up for Jakarta.

Money Tricks

I only really have two bits of financial wizardry, but I’m happy to share them.
I created a basic budget for myself, just using a spreadsheet and cataloging my monthly income and bills.
From there I figured out how much money I should be putting away each month for retirement, future travel, etc and then a gave myself a weekly allotment of fun money.
I go to the ATM once a week, withdraw that amount in cash and once that money is gone, I’m stuck eating at home and watching library dvds till Sunday comes round again.
I realize that putting yourself on an allowance seems pretty dire and deeply unsexy, but it has actually made shopping more fun and made me appreciate my purchases a lot more.
The other trick I employ is the money vs. time mind game. I think about how much time I’d have to spend at work to equal the cost of the thing I’m about to buy.
It’s crazy to think that I could take two days off for the cost of a purse! And given the option, wouldn’t you rather have two days to do what you want rather than a different thing to carry your phone around in?

How to do you guys fake the good life?

P.S. If you love this kind of stuff, you’d love my free, private Money & Happy Facebook group. Click here to join 3,000+ awesome, like-minded people!

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

6 Smart, Somewhat Fun Things To Do With Your Tax Return

Looking for financial advice on what to do with your tax returns this year? These fun, basic money tips will get you pointed in the right direction!  Click through for 6 money ideas you can use today!
Ahhh, Spring! When a lady´s thoughts naturally turn to tax returns! Wait, what?
Though not quite as tantalizing as Marc in accounting, tax returns are one of the joys of this time of year. And if you, like me, earn approximately $2, you can count on some serious bank. But since we´re all trying to be grown ups here, how´s a girl to spend that?

6 Smart, Somewhat Fun Things To Do With Your Tax Return

1. Pay off Credit Card Debt
But you knew that already, right? Riiiiight?! It´s not a particularly sexy way to spend your money, but super important and, in the long run, you´ll be really, really glad you did. If the siren song of Visa often overwhelms you, stick those credit cards in a bowl of water in the freezer.
2. Contribute to your IRA or 401K
Yes, again. Deeply unsexy. Super important. Your 65 year old self will thank you!
3. Invest in Yourself
You are your biggest asset, yo! Why not take a class or workshop that will make you a little more pinkslip proof? Maybe you can learn how to write grants, use that software that nobody in the office understands or create a basic website.
If that doesn’t float your proverbial boat, use a bit of this money to buy supplies for your Etsy shop, buy a laptop to help along your freelance writing or get some wicked headshots to kickstart your acting career.
4. Green up Your Living Space
Because I love any excuse to feather my nest. And this excuse is pretty damn valid! Low flow shower heads, fluorescent bulbs, water heater blankets, non-toxic cleaners and compost bins all go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint.
And after spending money on all that un-fun stuff, you can probably validate a wee shopping spree at global exchange, a fair trade retailer that helps artisans from developing countries sell their wares at fair prices.
5. Donate to Your Local Food Shelf
With the downturn in the economy, more and more people are accessing food shelves, and fewer people are donating to them. Help turn that around with a cash donation or even just donating all those canned peaches you´re never going to eat.
6. Buy Something Fabulous and Frivolous
After all that do-goodery and responsible spending you deserve some tomfoolery! Maybe add a classic piece to your wardrobe that will last forever? Or splash out on a really nice haircut? Or fly to Vegas for the weekend with your girls! Buy yourself something fantastic that will bring you compliments and memories for the months to come.

How are you going to spend your tax return?

P.S. How to pay off your soul-crushing debt a lot faster + You can choose to want less.

photo by Dmitri Popov // cc