It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The days are going by so quickly…Christmas is almost here.  Who is ready?  I’m sure not.

I’ve been getting the new office ready (I know, it doesn’t make sense to redecorate an office when I’m actually packing up most of my stuff in a year to move to Morocco).  The Veterans of America are coming by on Friday to pick up all of my donations so I can finally clear out that Ikea desk, an old dining table, a bunch of chairs, and countless bags of clothes.

I noticed that I had a huge bag with Christmas presents in it.  You know…those presents you buy for the ‘just in case’ you need a gift?  Yeah…I have to give all of those gifts out this year.  The cat’s Christmas stocking from years gone past…that was in there too.  That’s about the only thing that has gone up besides the Christmas cards that have arrived in the mail.  Oops…guess I need to send out Christmas cards too! 

Right now, I keep looking at the calendar thinking…I have to be in Montreal next weekend.  My brother is in town the weekend after that (crap, that’s Christmas).  I have to be in Philadelphia the following weekend for the Winter Classic…oh wait, there are Devils games I have to go to as well before that and a Rangers game.

Oh…I was supposed to book plane tickets for my brother?  Did I book everything I needed for Montreal?  Did I remember to pay the rent? 

Don’t tell me I need to buy Christmas presents yet…

It’s funny how the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time of the year.  I think my paychecks from now until April have already been claimed by everyone but me! 

You know that feeling when your balls are nailed against the wall…actually, I don’t…but that feeling when they’ve nailed your ears to the wall (that’s better for us ladies)…well, that’s how I feel right now.  One HUGE expense after the other.  You should have seen my cell phone bill when I got back from vacation.  All I’m going to say is that it hit the $1,000 threshold.  I liked it better when it used to be only $60/month. 

So as the harsh reality is sitting in that my life just got uber expensive for the next six months (when I’m really supposed to be scaling back), here’s a few things I’ve been doing to cut back (which I know will help those looking to save a few pennies…and those who are also thinking about making the big move across the pond).

  1. Cut Back on Your Cell Phone Bill.  Ok, so I love watching Phineas & Ferb.  Because I’ve already scaled back by not having cable, I got an App on my BlackBerry where I can watch Phineas & Ferb whenever I want.  Well, that was costing me $9.99 a month…and I didn’t watch $9.99 worth of Phineas & Ferb every month.  Are 3-4 episodes a month really worth $9.99 a month?  No, it’s not.  Getting rid of the subscription to the app and other apps on my phone saved me $15 (plus taxes) on my monthly bill.  You have to be honest with yourself…do you want the dream more or do you want your Phineas & Ferb? 
  2. Cut Back on Entertainment Costs.  See a trend here?  For those who use subscription services to sites like Netflix, cancel them.  Stop buying books, CDs and DVDs/Blu-ray.  In this digital age, downloading is a huge enterprise…but it costs money to have those downloads.  Consider this…THE LIBRARY.  My local library has a huge section for DVDs, CDs and of course, BOOKS.  All new stuff arrives before Netflix even has them available to the public.  A lot of libraries now allow you to use your Kindle, Nook, etc. devices to download books there FOR FREE.  Did I mention that checking stuff out from libraries are FREE?  Granted, you can’t get stuff when you want it if another patron has it checked out, but patience can be virtuous.  The Interlibrary Loan also comes in handy if your library doesn’t have the book you’re looking for.

    This week, I’ve been able to check out the book “The Buddha in the Attic,” the DVDS: The Vampire Diaries: Season 2, Desperate Housewives: Season 7, Unknown and Hall Pass.  For most of us, we just need to see something once or read it once.  After we’re done with it, it just wastes space either in our devices or in our homes.  Why not just borrow it from the library and return it when you’re done?  FREE versus NOT FREE.  Another thing to pack or give away?  Save money versus Waste money?  You are trying to save some dough, right?

  3. Start Cooking.  Oh, I love to cook.  But sometimes, I can get lazy and just want to order out.  Thai restaurants are always on speed dial.  BUT that kind of expense can really add up.  I once calculated that I was spending $2,000 a month dining out all of the time.  Sure, I cooked at home, but I also met up with friends all of the time, ate breakfast, lunch and dinner out.  I ordered in on the weekends.  Oh, let’s not forget the countless Starbucks runs.  By lunch, I would have already spent between $20-30 just on two meals alone.  By dinner…the bill could be between $40-80.  That’s an expensive habit that had to be broken.

    So what do I do now?  Well, sadly…I said goodbye to Starbucks runs and started drinking the free coffee at the office.  I eat out only one day a week (you do have to splurge every now and again).  I cook all of my meals over the weekend and take them with me to the office during the week.

    I do simple things like roast a whole chicken or a turkey.  After it’s done, I’ll tear up the pieces and put it in the refrigerator.  During the week, I can throw the pieces into various dishes like soups or salads or make tacos or pasta.  I use them as base ingredients for other dishes.  I also make a pot of rice for the week.  There’s always frozen fruits and veggies within reach for smoothies or a quick toss with some olive oil and sea salt to take in for lunch or have for dinner.

    You’re more likely to stick to a good diet when you plan ahead.  Cost savings are up there…like $1700+ in savings.  This coming from someone who has a very strict ‘clean’ eating diet filled with organic foods.  I find that when you’re eating healthy things, you also eat less because your body is satisfied. 

  4. Start Selling.  The joke at my office is, “I wonder what Michelle’s purse closet looks like.”  They have this crazy idea that I have purses all over the place and that my closet is overflowing with bags (I mean, I do carry a new purse every week).  But the truth is, my purse closet is pretty organized with a lot more room for more bags.  😉

    BUT even though I’ll splurge when I see a good deal, I also have to PURGE when a new bag comes in.  That’s where I go to the designer closet and really think to myself, “Am I ever going to carry that bag again?”  When you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find that Ebay and (like Ebay without the auction) can help you ring in some extra cash on those designer duds…or even non-designer duds. 

    I went Kate Spade crazy one season…so I told myself that I could only own one tote bag and one handbag.  That netted me a few items that I could resell. 

    Of course, I keep reminding myself…your husband is going to go nutso when he sees how many purses you own…and then laugh at you and ask, “Where are you going to carry these purses?”  Yeah, the desert life means I can’t show off a new bag every week.  I mean…really…who needs 100 purses in the Sahara Desert? 

    Best to sell what you don’t need anymore.  {Truth be known, I’ve gotten down to 50 bags I can’t part from yet.  The way I pack, they will probably all end up in Morocco…that is, if I can stop buying more bags.  Oooh…Louis Vuitton bag on sale…}

    I also have an extensive DVD library… comes in handy for selling DVDs/CDs and books you don’t want anymore.

  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Pass that Invite Code Along.  So I’m a Bauble Bar ADDICT.  I buy a new item from them every week (I actually put weekly Bauble Bar purchases into my budget).  But you want to know what I’ve done that fuels that passion even more?  I passed my invite code along to anyone and everyone.  Why?  So I can get free baubles. 

    This week alone, I’ve scored 4 free necklaces from their vault.  Yes, I still had some budget money leftover, so I bought 2 Buried Bauble cuffs today for $10/each.  Sending on invite codes to your favorite places you love to shop can be very rewarding for you and your debit card. 

    If you have a favorite shop that you can get rewarded from by sending on other customers…SEND THEM THAT LINK.  No shame in getting free stuff (or credits) from a company you love.  Who doesn’t like getting boxes in the mail filled with free goodies?

  6. Go VINTAGE.  So every girl wants a new outfit every now and again.  Would you believe that my favorite finds right now are all thanks to Housing Works (a NYC not-for-profit that benefits people with AIDS)?  Housing Works has thrift stores all over the place. 

    This past summer, they opened up their Warehouse.  Winter Adams came down from Boston to sift through numerous bins with me and find bags worth of merch for $25 per brown bag.  We came out with so many great finds, even my dry cleaner commented on all of the nice stuff I picked up.  Each time, I have to tell her that Nicole Miller gown or that Burberry coat was a find at that Warehouse sale.

    I’ve scored lots of cute fashionable bags that all of the fashion blogs are blogging about.  Want a fashionista look for $25 or less…try several outfits for $25 from thrift shops.  Every single day this week I’ve worn something from that $25 bag sale at the Housing Works Warehouse.  I’ve loved every single find…so did Winter!  We had so much fun digging for stuff…we’re now wearing it like we spent hundreds on it…it’s our little fashion secret.  We go vintage and wear it with pride.

  7. If You Really Want to Cut Back.  So I don’t have cable at home.  I actually don’t need it.  I haven’t really missed cable that much over the last few years because a lot of the shows that I love…they’re released out on DVD and I can watch all of the episode in one swoop rather than wait week after week after week for the next show.  I actually prefer to watch them all back-to-back that way.  {I also miss out on the latest junk shows like Jersey Shore.}

    Getting rid of cable has helped me focus on other things…like reading books and magazines…and actually cleaning the apartment, rather than letting it gather dust week after week.  I’m also a workaholic, so I’m rarely home.  When I did watch cable, I usually watched movies.  So the Library helped with making the switch.

    Getting rid of cable was the biggest expense I’ve ever cut…and it’s an expense I don’t miss at all.  Try cutting cable out of your budget if you’re looking to save.  It will be the smartest decision you’ve ever made.  Now, I only have my air card for internet…which I rarely use when I’m at home.  Why?  Because when I’m home…I focus on the things that matter to me: my home, cooking, reading, watching movies, photography, writing and relaxing.

    Now…if I could only switch the BlackBerry to a regular phone…I have to weed myself off of the BlackBerry over the next year.  It doesn’t work in Morocco.  Only regular cell phone service works. 

  8. Making Money Every Which Way You Can.  Want to know why this blog changed?  There’s no money in hockey writing.  Really, no one ever makes it big financially writing about hockey.  You do it for the love of the game.  So what’s a writer to do?  Start writing professionally…as in…it’s time for payday.

    Because everyone’s concern has been what I am going to do for work when I move to Morocco, I’ve been busting ass to get the novels out.  Whether it makes money or not, it doesn’t matter.  Just so long as some income is trickling in.  Photos are being reviewed and prepared for sale.  Contracts are being drawn up with various places to get my work out there with a price tag attached.  All of those years before…that was just the foundation.  You have to do what you love for free until you can get paid to do what you love.  With me, I had to change what I was doing in order to get paid to do what I love.  I love to write and take photos more than I do anything else.  Yes, I love those things more than hockey.

    Sure, I’m saving a lot of money so I don’t have to work for the next few years…and hubby will be working so he can bring in whatever he brings in…but trust me, I’ll still be the breadwinner in that household.  Why?  Because his job is taking care of tourists.  Me, my job is actually in entertainment…to entertain the minds of others through pictures and words.  Entertainment makes slightly more money…when done right.

    In other words, I’m taking the hobby and going full-time before I go to Morocco.  Now, when I say I’ve built a foundation to do this, that means I’ve written over 1,000 articles, taken over 10,000 photos, and have written over 500 pages to go into 2 different books.  I’ve researched different ways of selling my product and how to create a new and better product that no one else has. 

    That’s how you push your product into the market.  Lots of work.  Lots of background.  Lots of back product that can be released at different times while you concentrate on creating new products for the future.

    Why wait to release it all?  Because when the product is a hobby and not a job…the quality is a million times better. 

  9. That Part-Time Job.  I wish I could get a part-time job now during the holidays to help make a little extra cash, but I know I’d end up spending it at whatever store I was working in.  For those who need to make Christmas money, getting a part-time job can help.  It also helps for those trying to save up to make a huge life change.

    I used to work in Macy’s when I was saving up to move to New York.  Every penny helped.  But what I loved about it more…I got to dress men.  It was my favorite thing in the world.  Always get a part-time job in a place that you’re going to enjoy doing what you’re doing.  It will help the clock tick by faster.  Then again, I’m not a fan of doing a job you hate just for a paycheck.  I like doing what I love and getting paid for it.  Don’t you? 

  10. Shop at Target/WalMart.  Penny pinching means doing your research on where to get the best deals for every single penny.  You’re looking at a bona fide believer in buying groceries at Target.  Yes, TARGET.  The Target by me always boasts the lowest prices around.  If Aldi’s is selling Stove Top for 99 cents, Target will sell it for 89 cents.  If Shoprite is selling turkeys for $1.19 per pound, Target will sell it for 99 cents per pound. 

    Luckily, I’ve found that Target is also selling organic products as well.  They beat even Jack’s 99 cents store prices (because Jack’s isn’t 99 cents anymore thanks to our lovely economy). 

    If you use their debit card, you get an extra 5% off your order every single time. 

    They take coupons, you can drop off plastic bags in their recycle bins, you can bring your own grocery bags and get a few pennies knocked off for every bag you brought.

    I loved Target before they started selling groceries.  I love them even more now because they offer the lowest prices around in their grocery aisle.  Use your coupons when they’re doubled at the grocery store.  For everything else you don’t have coupons for…I highly recommend Target.  They’ve saved me so much dough.  My $200-300 monthly food bill is now officially down to $110 (without coupons).  Not too shabby, right?  I also have to be more inventive in the kitchen with the deals I do find…but then again…who wants just boring food to eat day in and day out?  I think I’ll be making Indian food tonight with that turkey (99 cents per pound) and Indian sauces ($2.99) I picked up with some veggies ($1 per pound of SteamFresh frozen vegetables).  It will make for a tasty lunch tomorrow too!

So kids, I hope some of these tips help.  The economy is not so great right now.  I make a lot of money, but inflation finally hit my lifestyle pretty hard so I now have to readjust everything to make it all fit again.  If I thought I was frugal before…trust me, I have to become even more frugal than I was before.

About Michelle Kenneth

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