Dollar Stretcher: Raising your savings

Marco Eagle

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Dollar Stretcher

Raising your savings

I recently got my first raise in a couple of years. We need the money, but I decided to have a third of my raise automatically deposited into my emergency fund account. By doing this, I'll have the money when it’s really important.


Teen clothes

My daughter has been learning how to be the ultimate clothes shopper. We search the clearance racks and thrift stores together. She’s even faster than I am to put items that she doesn’t wear on eBay. We give her a clothing allowance each month, and she doesn’t even spend it all most months! How many teen girls can say that?


Treat yourself twice

Like most people, I like to treat myself to a latte or even a restaurant meal. At first, I thought I needed to give up those nice things to save money. Then I came up with this idea. I allow myself to splurge on nice things that I really don’t need, such as my latte or even a top that I really like. However, I take the same amount that I’m spending on the splurge and put it into savings. If I don’t have enough cash to do both, I don’t spend the money. It’s forced me to look at my spending more carefully and I’ve built up a nice savings account.


Time to replace?

Growing up, I was always taught to repair and fix up anything that I could. We used everything until there was nothing left to clean or repair. We were told that it saved money and the environment. Recently, I had a revelation. I was trying to get a stain out of a tablecloth. I tried everything I had and even went out and bought a special stain remover. Nothing worked.

Finally I got fed up and decided to buy a new one. I found one on sale for less than I had spent on stain removers. Now if something needs special cleaning or repair, I consider how much time and money it’ll take to bring it back. Then I compare that to the cost of replacing it. I’m willing to do the work, but if it’s cheaper to replace it, that's what I’m going to do.


New car shopping

If you're planning on buying a new car before summer vacation, now is the time to plan your strategy. We began this time last year by comparing models. We started online and then in dealers, making it clear that we weren’t ready to buy. Once we had decided on a make and model, we found the dealers within a two-hour driving distance of us. Then we waited until the last week of the month and contacted each one of them by email, asking for their best delivered price. Once we got responses, we played the top two against each other. We got the deal we wanted without any high pressure tactics from salespeople. We’re enjoying our new car and would never shop the old way again.


Auto accident claims

If you’ve been in an auto accident and then sold that car, you know that the car is worth less after it’s been in an accident. This is true even if it’s been repaired. Therefore, you should include an amount to cover that loss of value when you settle with the insurance company. You’ll need to do it at the time of the accident, not when you sell your car. They’ll deny it at first, but if you persist, most will come around.


Banking roulette

Over time, we managed to save some money for emergencies. We have some that we can get at quickly if our car needs fixing or the dishwasher breaks, but some of it is more for if one of us loses our jobs or we have a serious medical emergency. Naturally, we don’t touch that unless it is absolutely necessary. We shop rates for both accounts. Nothing says that they have to be at a local bank. In fact, we’ve found that online banks often have better rates. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but one-percent more year after year does add up.


Storing veggies

If you cut your lettuce ahead of time, no matter what your method of storage, use a serrated, plastic knife. I got a long, sturdy one at Walmart several years ago for about $2. If you use a regular knife, your lettuce will usually turn brown at the cut edges. This does not happen with the plastic knife. For storing my veggies and some fruits, I use fabric produce bags that I made (and sold). I use cotton with a loose weave and even lace for the more delicate items like mushrooms. I remove the produce from the original wrappers and store in fabric bags. Plastic makes it sweat and spoil more quickly, but the fabric allows air circulation. Paper bags work almost as well, but the fabric ones are more ecofriendly, as they are washable and reusable.


Used car strategy

I’m planning on using my tax refund to buy a new-to-me car. I have some other money saved up to go with my refund. I haven’t made my final choice of a vehicle yet, but I have been thinking seriously about what I want and don't want. I don’t want any payments, which means I need to eliminate some of the things that I would have liked in a car. When I started thinking about it, I realized that I really only need a car that’s comfortable for two people. I don’t take car trips and can’t remember the last time my back seat was used. Therefore, I’m going to try to find a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Chevy Malibu. All three are popular, so I should have plenty to choose from when I’m ready to buy.


Financial fun

I used to think that saving money was hard to do and that saving would make my life miserable. However, I’ve turned saving into a pleasure by making it a game. Some weeks, I challenge myself to see if I can save a set amount like $20. Other times, I give myself a small reward once I hit a savings goal. I’ve also challenged my sister to a competition to see who could save the most in a month. I know it’s a gimmick, but it is surprising how much I’ve saved over the last 18 months with my little games.


Garage sale groupings

Garage sale season is almost upon us. I’ve noticed in recent years that many people are selling their better items on eBay or Craigslist instead of putting them out in a garage sale. That’s meant less really good stuff and fewer shoppers, too. I decided to look for things that I could buy cheap and group for sale. For instance, no one would put a single toy for sale on eBay, but if I buy five for cheap at a garage sale, I can sell them as a group on eBay. I made enough last year to pay for all the Christmas presents I bought, and I hope to do even better this year.


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