There are a lot of people out there that believe that living in New York is outrageously expensive. Well, it all depends on how you choose to live.
If you’re careless and don’t do your research…yes, this city is damn expensive. But after 7 years of being in this city, I’ve started to learn the tricks of the trade in not only just being in NYC, but also just being a recessionista.
1. CLIP COUPONS. This is a rather new trend for me. I’ve been getting a lot of email blasts from David Bach (financial guru) about the crazy women throughout North America that clip coupons and get so much stuff for practically free.
Well, I took the articles to heart very lightly. While I was in Target, I picked up a few of the frozen pizzas by the slice (since they’re easier to take into work). I open it up and find that if I send in the UPC, along with my receipt and information form, I can get another pizza for free.
I bought two…so I get two more slices for free. That means that altogether, I spent only 99 cents per slice.
I cut up coupons from the Sunday paper and then flipped through the flyers to find that not only can I get Carefree pantiliners for free that week…I have 5 coupons, so I get 5 packages for free. Tylenol heating pads…on sale for $5 this week…with the $5 coupon…all 5 boxes are free. Finesse shampoos…on sale, buy one get one free. I have $1 coupons for each bottle. Oh, and I’ve got a $2 mail-in rebate for each product I buy. So I’ve got $10 coming back to me.
Mail-in rebates…I’ve got a few of those, and I already have a coupon for the product. Throw in Up-Rewards at Rite Aid…and it’s like I just got paid to shop.
Very weird how the coupons just add up left and right. But hey, that’s what extreme couponing will do. The funny thing is…I just got started on this couponing adventure…I haven’t even gone super extreme yet.
I decided to clip the stuff that I don’t want. If I can get it for free…I can donate it to the community kitchen to give out to those less fortunate.
Also, make sure to check with your local grocery stores to see if and when they allow double or triple coupons (up to 99 cents). You could save even more money on your purchases that way.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PROMOS. Social media is starting to become a big thing with retailers. I originally wasn’t going to go to Vegas for the NHL Awards. I had just finished talking to one of the guys at the NHL corporate office about foregoing the Awards this year.
I came back to my office and saw that Orbitz had just tweeted that if you are the next 10 people to book at an MGM Resort, the flight was on them. So I booked…and I got my flight for free.
What’s also nice is that they used my preferred airline, Continental, to book the trip, which means that I’ll be getting miles after I fly to Vegas. I can even upgrade to first class (how about them apples?).
Total cost of going to Vegas is usually around $800+ for me. Now, it’s $200 for both the hotel and flight (and I’m not staying at some cheapo motel).
It’s always best to follow retailers like Orbitz or the Orbitz gnome on Twitter and Facebook. They give away hotel deals, flights, etc. all of the time. It worked for me. I got a free flight to Vegas.
I’ve also scored Rebecca Minkoff tickets to her fashion show, a Minkoff outfit, and free lunches at Fresh & Co. (they love me there). Let’s not forget scoring a Valentino dress for $2 from The Outnet.
They put it out there…so why not take advantage of the freebies retailers and companies are giving out?
3. RECYCLING HAS ITS REWARDS. So the princess (aka Surita) has been getting her luxury Fancy Feast meals for free lately. How? A lovely thing called Recyclebank. By clicking on links, taking challenges, recycling various products (like my Blackberry), I get points. I can use those points to get coupons for free cat food (and various other things).
I prefer to use my points for cat food, because I wouldn’t buy Surita those Fancy Feast meals unless they were handing it out for free…oh wait…they are.
She’s a happy kitty thanks to those RecycleBank points.
They also have ways to get $10 off of $50 at Macy’s, etc. There are so many coupons and gift cards on there that can be used. All you need to do is gather up the points. [They also make it fun and educational.]
4. CASH BACK FOR SHOPPING. How would you like to shop and get some of that money back? Ebates.com allows you to get some of that money back by shopping through their links (where you can also find coupons for select retailers throughout the site).
I recently used them to get 5% cash back on my purchase of the Flip Cam. Those babies are not cheap. I found a $10 coupon online, and $225 later, I’m still getting 5% back on my purchase (in cash). It may not seem like it’s a whole lot, but after you shop and shop and shop through the links at places you would normally shop with online (Best Buy, Target, etc.), it all adds up.
Plus, when you refer friends, it’s like getting an extra $10 back via CASH.
For instance, if a blogger refers up to 425 people, they get $5000. Not bad in this recession just for recommending a site, right? But to make it easier on others, just 10 referrals nets you a $100 gift card to your choice retailer. Not bad, right? So recessionistas and recessionistos…start referring (and using the services).
I had heard about Ebates on the radio. Just an interesting way to get some of your money back when you shop, and make some dough on the side.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF INTERNET COUPONS. All weekend, I kept saying…I think my good friend’s birthday is on Monday. By Monday morning, I get the alert that my intuition was correct…her birthday was on Monday.
I’m always the worst at trying to find the right gift for a good friend and end up giving out shitty gifts. Well, not this time.
Thanks to GiltCity.com I found not just one perfect gift for my friend, but two gifts. For $100, I ordered a gift certificate to Fresh. My friend can get a facial and $125 worth of Fresh products. That was a $250 value that I picked up for $100.
I also ordered a Milk and Honey manicure/pedicure for her from Blush Nail Lounge.
Considering my friend is bogged down with so much stuff at home (and she’s trying to declutter), these two spa gifts, plus $125 worth of Fresh beauty products (a line she loves and always gives out as presents) is the perfect emergency birthday present for a good friend.
This week, I’m heading to Justin Timberlake’s Southern Hospitality to load up on beer and ribs. I paid only $30 for the voucher. For all you can drink beer and ribs…that’s a damn good deal.
Throw in movie tickets for $7 (as compared to $13) and I’m all set. I hear Thor was a pretty hot commodity this past weekend. 😉
Prudential Center has also hooked up with them to provide discounted ‘experiences’ as well. They’ve really taken a liking to these Groupon type places.
What better way to get a great experience (and great gifts) by paying only a fraction of the cost for an exhilirating experience in NYC.
6. TAKE A CHANCE. Ok…so I seem to be a bit on the lucky side lately. I’ve won hotel stays at 5 star hotels in NYC, free airfare, free NHL stuff, free this, free that…the list goes on and on and on.
But you know why I win? Because I take chances and just enter contests and take advantages of promotions. What do you have to lose, right? Well, apparently I keep winning stuff left and right (I’m on a serious lucky streak right now). I don’t hope to win stuff. I just enter it and say, “I’m winning this.” And lo and behold…I win it.
Granted, I think this has more to do with my good karma than anything else. 😉
7. SIGN UP FOR REWARDS CARDS. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for rewards cards at your local grocers, pharmacy, etc.
Just recently, after all of my gift shopping, candle buying, and Vera Bradley stationary shopping at Hallmark, I finally got a $6 gift certificate to use. That took about a decade! But then again…I didn’t start using the card a lot until this past year.
KMart has a shopping reward card. They’re also linked with Land’s End, Sears, etc. One card does it all. It’s free to sign up. It’s also worth all of the discounts that come from the card.
Target’s debit card (which you can then control how much money you are spending at the store) saves you 5% each time you use the card at the store and online.
If you are a frequent Target shopper like I am, this allows you to monitor how much you are spending, as well as save 5% off of your order. [Since my Target also sells groceries, 5% off could have taken another $30 off of my order (on top of all of the coupons I used).] Every penny counts.
Some drug stores like CVS and Rite Aid have UP rewards where you can earn extra dollar awards for the next time you shop. Luckily, those UP rewards are during sale weeks and you can get bonus dollars. If you play your cards right, one shopping trip along with all of those coupons you used can net you anywhere up to $50 in UP Rewards to use on your next shopping trip. What’s nice…you can use those rewards on just about anything.
For Shoprite, I have the card linked up to my Continental mileage account, which means after a certain amount, I can earn miles from my Shoprite rewards card, on top of all the discounts at the store.
Then again…you would be nuts to go to the grocery store and not have a rewards card for that store. Most of those sale prices are actually for rewards members.
You should also register your card online for extra savings. At Food Emporium, you can add coupons online to your savings card. No need to print out coupons, just print the shopping list and take it with you to the store. The amount you’re saving is listed to the side of the shopping list. Just make sure to bring in any of your extra coupons to also apply to your purchase. Those coupons you linked to your card will be automatically deducted from your receipt.
8. SHOP SAMPLE SALE SITES. I can’t stress enough how important it is to shop at sample sale sites. The whole “refer a friend” can net you credits to buy whatever you want on the site. Sometimes I save up the credits and use them around Xmas. A year’s worth of credits basically covers your entire shopping list.
What I also like about Gilt City, when you refer a friend, you get 20% off your next Gilt City order. $10 credit for sample sale sites.
You can get great deals on nice, qualitative (and designer clothing) for up to 85% off. That is much better than what you can do in the store. Trust me.
9. Yard/Garage Sales. Someone else’s trash could be someone else’s treasure. It’s now springtime and that means there are a lot of yard/garage sales around.
Last summer, I found antique mason jars (with the flip top and glass lids) for $1 each. Online they are $10.99 each. To get the kind I purchased…try $35 each.
I also scored a beautiful crystal bowl for $3 (excellent for large floral arrangements), and a large crystal tray for $2.
I’ve found decorative Asian pieces for $8 and a Cheer Bear Care Bear for 50 cents.
Why spend an arm and a leg for things you need for your home when you can probably pick them up from a yard sale for next to nothing?
The rule of thumb for yard sales…only buy what you know you’re going to love. Everything I’ve picked up are items that I love and use. Don’t clutter up your home with nonsense. Make sure you’re buying things that you have a legitimate use for. Those mason jars are used every single day. I love them. You can’t find this style anywhere (and so eco-friendly).
The Care Bear was a childhood relic that I have out and look at every single day. The Asian decorative pieces go well in my home. That vase…I use it all of the time. It’s a vital part of my living room. It pulls the entire room together.
Buy what you are going to use and appreciate. If you bulk up just because it’s cheap you’re going to have to have your own yard sale to get rid of it.
10. Don’t Overdo it. The key to being a successful recessionista/o is to bulk up on the things you can use and only those things. Don’t overdo it.
Lately, I’ve been decluttering my home. The rules are 1) if I don’t love it, it’s gone, 2) if it doesn’t have a home, it’s gone.
The thing about decluttering a home is that too much can be overwhelming. If you want a happy home you need to keep it free and clear of clutter.
I know some people do the one item in, one item out. That doesn’t work for me. I’ve been collecting books for a long time and building up both my book library as well as my DVD library. I don’t have cable and every now and again I like to sit back and watch a movie, or let a cartoon put me to sleep at night.
I hit up book sales at the Library and shop for books only in June at Barnes & Noble when they have their annual clearance of clearance books sale.
But lately I’m faced with the dilemma of too many books and not enough bookshelves. You have to have the right storage, drawers, baskets and shelves to store your items. As I’m still revamping my office, new bookshelves are on order to house my enormous collection of classic books. What goes? Magazines on fashion and books I’ve read that I don’t want to keep. They head to the Library to be shelved or resold. Trust me, they all find a new home.
As eco-friendly as I am, I don’t have the heart to buy a Nook or other reader. I just don’t see them surviving the apocalypse (please insert laughter here). Truthfully…it’s easier to take a book into another country than it is to take an electronic reader into another country. Sometimes remaining simplistic is better than moving with technology. Besides, I like to turn pages, hold the book in my hands and smell the pages. That’s what makes books so precious to me.
The point is…if you love it…keep it and your collection. But store it properly so that it will last a lifetime. Don’t overbulk up on items (like toilet paper, soap, etc.) unless you can store them properly. I have a closet reserved for all of the extra soap, etc. I’ve picked up on sale.
There’s nothing wrong with bulking up on the things you need. Just don’t overdo it. Make sure you have the room for it or a space for overstock. If you don’t…you’ve overdone it. Just scale back on purchasing that product until you’ve created a serious dent in it.
When it comes to food items, I bulk up on canned tomatoes, beans, rice, ketchup, mustard, frozen veggies and salad dressing. But be cautious. Some of those items have expiration dates on them. It’s best to stick to the canned and dried goods in these instances.
I have shelves for these overstocks. I never overdo it. That’s how I keep my kitchen stocked at all times with the essentials (ketchup is the #1 item I go through the most, that means that when ketchup is on sale, I bulk up).
Always keep plenty of water on hand, because the number one item that most households need in an emergency situation (like a tornado or flood) is water (because there is usually a shortage of clean water). Also, it’s best to bulk up on batteries too for flashlights.
Make sure to have an emergency survival chest on hand for those just in case of emergency moments. In this day and age, you’re going to end up using it.
11. Bring Your Own Bags. When I first started shopping at Target on a monthly basis, people kept following me around because I carried around a huge bag (or brought a suitcase). I finally started just bringing my $400 Just Cavalli tote so they would know…I have money so quit following me around like I’m shoplifting!
What I’m carrying in those huge totes are extra bags to carry home my purchases in. By doing that, they give me a credit of 5 cents per bag. Even if I wind up taking a couple of bags, I still get .25 knocked off the bill for bringing my own bags.
Getting back to the clutter…it’s taken me 2 years to get through all of the plastic bags I’ve been socking away at home. That’s a lot of plastic bags that I’ve been trying to reuse!
A lot of stores welcome customers bringing in their own bags. If you add up how many times you bring in your own bags, I’m sure it will save you a lot more money on your bill in a year’s time.
You can also recycle your plastic bags (including sandwich bags, Ziploc bags, etc.) at Target and many local grocers. Ziploc will give you RecycleBank points when you buy their products and recycle them. More incentive to buy Ziploc and recycle! For me…that’s free cat food! 😉
12. Dollar Stores Are Your Best Friend. When I first moved into the apartment I live in now, I had to cut back on a lot of expenses for the first few months until I could completely furnish the 2 bedroom apartment. I was coming from a shared apartment (for the first 6 months after moving to NYC) to my own place.
Jack’s 99 cent stores filled my refrigerator for a long time. I had to learn how to cook with different ingredients based on what was in the store that month. But it was a good thing, because I learned how to create new dishes.
The Dollar Tree is also great for holiday items (especially if you’re starting with ZERO Xmas items to decorate with). I used to love buying plates and dishes from them. They’re cute and they last a long time. You can’t go wrong when they’re all $1 each.
Don’t let a dollar store scare you off. They have been my lifesaver for years. Dollar General stores are still one of my favorite places to shop. Lots of cool stuff in there. I still have soup bowls, margarita glasses, coffee mugs, etc. that I got from them…all for $1.
My millionaire aunt taught me that just because you got it at the Dollar Store doesn’t mean that anyone else has to know you got it from them. Just buy the qualitative, expensive looking items. No one will know. 😉