Lately, I've been in serious debt reduction mode. We're talking a no-frills lifestyle. We're talking PB and J for lunch. Last week you might have spied me on Fox Business News blathering on about how to pinch pennies in these precarious economic times. However, I wasn't able to fully cover all the ways in which I'm trying to save money without dumpster diving.
1. View your day job as a freebie-filled mecca: From those mind-numbing 401K free lunches to the decaying coffee pot in the communal kitchen, your workplace is crawling with cost-saving opportunities. Don't like the coffee your company brews? Split gourmet or whole-sale bags of coffee with your coworkers and make your own brew at work. Also, make nice with the key assistants who manage the conference room and lunch meeting schedules as they have the inside scoop on choice leftovers. However, if you're not in the know, attend as many "info" sessions as you can bear, put out a candy till so you and your co-workers can have your 3pm fix satisfied at a low cost.
2. If you own it, odds are you can swap it: I'm an evangelist for the clothing/accessories/home items/book/cd/dvd swap. If your items are in fabulous condition and you're deft at shopping your closet, consider hosting a swap in your home, or consider participating in the large-scale affairs. Remember, set friendly ground rules of what kinds of items can be accepted and ensure (if you're swapping clothing) that all sizes are accommodated. Nothing is more horrifying than my J Lo ass amidst the skinny set. Get your friends to chip in for goodies and you have a bonding, swag-filled affair.
3. Buy in season produce/veggies: I've been preaching the buy local game for quite some time. Rather than buying $6 strawberries in December, consider $3 at the farmer's market, in season. I shop for most of my produce at the farmer's market. Additionally, consider splitting a CSA membership with friends/neighbors, so you can snap affordable produce (and possibly poultry) at rock-bottom prices.
4. Leave the credit/debit cards at home: Want to bludgeon your coworker with a stapler and your only solace is your lunch hour and retail therapy, reconsider. Leave the cards at home (I take out a set amount of cash/week and only bring out the cards when I KNOW I have a shopping trip planned or I'm traveling) because it's mostly the case that you'll be sucked in by impulse buys. Also, give it the 24-hr test. If you're debating a purchase, wait 24 hours. Odds are, the craving will dissipate.
5. Don't be afraid to negotiate or ask for a lower price: I've priced trips out online and haggled with store clerks. Leave a little pride at the door and be willing to ask for a bargain. The worse they can do is say no.
6. Freebies galore!: I score tons of freebies by dressing in a fox outfit, hitting the department store/speciality circuit and asking for freebies/samples. Over the course of a day I can secure enough free products to last me a few months.
7. Blog your way to free goods: Of course you shouldn't be a walking advertisement or a rotten product placement whore, however, if you blog passionately and authentically about what you love (books, cosmetics, cat food) and your blog garners a fair amount of traffic or loyal readership, don't be afraid to ask for review discounts (I've scored loads with salons/spas/restaurants) or free items to sample/keep.
8. Nix the single item purchase: Because, by god, you never just walk out of the store with a jar of peanut butter. I have scheduled shopping trips and I buy on sale, in bulk. And I'm a freezer evangelist. Check out this book on what you can/cannot freeze. And please, please do not buy household/beauty products from the supermarket. Snag them from big-box stores or pharmacies where they are infinitely cheaper.
Negotiate your interest rates, pay yourself first, invest in your 401K plan - you've heard these tips all before, so tell me: what are your penny pinching methods?