Real Talk: Money Saving Tips

I read a tweet a month or so ago from a millennial asking Generation X and Baby Boomers for financial advice.  I answered the tweet without actually answering the question.  I told her that I felt like most financial advice that I’ve seen given in the media is usually geared towards people with fairly high incomes so I can’t advise anything without knowing her situation.

I’ve often been frustrated by financial advice given through the media because it is usually unrealistic for people who make less than $70,000 annually.  Suze Orman expects people to have tens of thousands of dollars in retirement by thirty five.  I remember her telling someone on her show once that they just need to make more money as if it was that easy.

Most young Americans spend their youth paying back debts and have no opportunity to save for retirement or a home.  I’ve heard financial advisers tell their audience how to get the best interest rates on a mortgage.  Well if you are in the market to buy a home or retire you’ve already crossed a certain income and savings threshold.  There isn’t much advice out there for people that need it most.

But I have some financial advice for those with modest incomes.  I’ve never made a great deal of money but I’ve managed to accomplish a lot with what I have.  I got a second Bachelors degree.  I’ve travelled out of the country twice.  I’ve taken my mom on a few nice vacations.  I’ve bought a few cars.  And it’s not a problem for me to treat a friend to dinner once in a while.  I’ve never really been broke.

I will start with the only financial advice I’ve ever heard on TV that anyone can follow.  Many years ago Oprah aired a series on financial responsibility.  She had a man on the show who simply said, “Pay yourself first”.  He said no matter what you make or what you owe take a bit of your earnings and save it for yourself.  It really does work and we can all do this.

Learn to cook.  I’m far from a culinary expert but I have some skills in the kitchen.  If you don’t know how don’t worry, if you can read and follow a recipe I promise you that you can cook.  Cooking saves you from eating out which is very expensive.  Even fast food and convenience items from the store is expensive.  Learning to cook simple meals will save you money and will probably improve your health.

Clip coupons.  People kind of laugh when they see the coupons in my purse but I have learned that there are certain items that you never, ever have to pay full price for.  The Sunday newspaper consistently has coupons for toothpaste, body wash, cosmetics, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and paper towel.  Retailers like Walgreens and CVS have their own coupon programs which can be coupled with your newspaper coupons.  The savings over time are significant.

Coupon with a purpose.  Coupons can be a double edged sword.  I am on the coupon list for a few retailers that I frequent.  I’ve saved money at clothing stores because of the coupons they send me.  Some retailers send coupons regularly and I feel like I need to use the coupon or else I am wasting money.  But the truth is I could save %100 by not buying that item.  Coupons only save you money if you were going to buy the item anyway and you can apply savings.  If you are just buying something so you can use the coupon you are wasting your money.

Shop with a purpose.  I’m an impulse buyer and I rarely have regrets.  So my personal policy is not to window shop because I can’t.  I will always find something I like and I won’t want to walk away from it.  Even if I leave the store without whatever item caught my attention I’ll come back for it next week.  I stay out of stores unless I am prepared to buy something and have the discretionary income to do so.

Don’t waste money buying money.  ATMs often have fairly high fees to get cash from their machine.  Use your own banks ATM or get cash when you shop with your debit card at the grocery or drug store.  Avoid charging more on your credit card than what you can afford to pay in a month.  Paying the interest on a credit card is a real drag especially if you only make the minimum payments.

So there you have it.  There are a few of my thoughts on maintaining a budget and saving money.  You can make a little go far with a good game plan.  Good luck.  Go out there and prosper.

How Tithing Shaped My Views on Money


About ten years ago I decided to get serious about my Christian beliefs.  I wanted to be obedient to the word of God and stop picking and choosing the scriptures I would adhere to.  I wanted to submit myself to God and stop be a disciplined Christian.  I decided to fully commit to tithing %10 of my income.

Tithing is a controversial and heavily criticized practice.  I don’t understand the criticism.  Churches have bills and expenses like everyone else.  I think that if you attend a church that is ministering to people, changing lives and reaching out to the surrounding community in a charitable way you should help support the church financially.  Nothing in this world is free and I believe in putting your money where your mouth is.

You can tell where a person’s heart really is by where they consistently put their money.  If they spend money at a sporting goods store, a book store, or a store that sells designer fashions you can tell where their passion lies.  If a person spends most of their money on their child or a lover you have no doubt about how they feel about that person.  If a Christian believes in their church and trusts their pastoral staff they should financially support their mission as long as it aligns with scripture.  If they don’t trust the pastor or support the churches mission they should find a different church.

Tithing has been a great spiritual exercise for me.  It has taught me to not become too attached to money and material possessions.  I have also learned a lot about generosity, sacrifice and selflessness.  Whether you have a lot of money or a little it is very easy to exalt money in your life and make it a god.  Tithing has given me a different perspective on money.  Money is very important but it is not the end all be all.  Money is not a constant.  Money and it’s source is easy come easy go.

I have to be honest.  There have been times when I had to make a mental IOU to God because if I wrote a check for %10 of what I anticipate earning the next week the check would have bounced.  But I will also say that tithing has in no way been a detriment to me.  I’ve always gotten the bills paid.  I’ve always had money for my necessities and I’ve usually had money for things that I want (within reason).  There has always been enough.

I wish I had a story to tell you about me tithing at church and then I hit the lottery next week.  Nothing that dramatic has ever happened to me and I do not believe in prosperity Christianity at all.  However, I have always made ends meet even when money has been tight.  I have been blessed and God has always made a way for my household.  I have had several financial blessings come my way.  I believe that these blessings come from being obedient to God and the financial discipline that tithing brings.

The world we live in is absolutely consumed by greed.  People do horrible things in the pursuit of money.  The lack of money and the chase for more creates a great deal of anxiety and stress.  Tithing is a great practice because it teaches you to prioritize something ahead of your own financial gain.  Tithing teaches you to turn to God for your needs instead of your own ability to earn money.  Tithing also teaches you discipline which will help your finances in the long run.  I believe that tithing has been a blessing in my life in more ways than one.

I Love Shoes


I really love shoes.  I’ve had this fascination with them since childhood.  Earlier this fall I decided that I wanted to get rid of all of my shoes and get new ones.  I can’t afford to buy all new shoes so I just god rid of some of them and gave them to the disabled veterans store.  Despite being underemployed, paying off student loan debt, in need of a new car I’ve bought four new pairs so far.  It’s a sickness I tell you.  At least I’m more stylish than crack addicts and most alcoholics.  I also have a pair of Michael Kors rain boots in the trunk of my car.

The way I see it, I’m not buying no damn house.  I could save my money but I don’t make enough to make it amount to anything quick enough.  If I scrimped and saved I could probably have a few extra thousand saved up by the end of the year.   But one good car repair could eat that up.  To hell with it.  Buy the shoes.  My hope is that I will eventually make significantly more money.  Because the whole saving thing doesn’t really work that well for me.  I’m unsure of how realistic this is in a country where people think a $15 wage is an exorbitant wage.

I honestly try to save and I think it’s important.  I’ve been successful at saving in the past.  But even then every time I got a good $6,000 in the bank I took an awesome vacation somewhere.  And there’s only so much a single woman can do with a $13 per hour job and $34,000 in student loan debt.  I’m forty years old and I’m kind of at a point in my life when I think I should say to hell with it buy the shoes.  My life is half over.  I think the world is slowly coming to an end.  Why not?

Every time I feel like I’m gaining ground financially something stupid happens.  My car dies and I need to pay for a new battery  It dies again and  now I need to pay for a tow truck.  An insurance claim is denied and I have to pay for a dental appointment.  To hell with it buy the shoes.  And call up a friend and go out for cocktails.  But that’s just me.  I’m no Suze Orman.