How to Thrift Shop

Months after moving down to Indianapolis my roommate at the time Kalyn and I took on our first Goodwill shopping extravaganza. Places like Goodwill and Plato’s Closet are a girl on a budgets best friend. We went to an upscale town about 20 minutes North to find some seriously great deals. Every first Saturday of the month Goodwill offers 50% off the entire store. Much to our surprise we walked out of there with a full bag of clothes.

Here are some tips on how we did it and how you can thrift shop the right way:

  • Keep an open mind!  Don’t expect to find a brand new pair of Steve Madden sandals minutes after you walk in the store.
  • Dress comfy.  Wear something that can easily be changed out of.  I was wary at first about trying on used clothes but just wear a tank top and cardigan that are easy to take on and off.
  • Bring friends with similar tastes to your own style.  
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time sifting through racks upon racks of clothing.  Kalyn and I nearly had to look at every single item on each rack. You’ll never know what hidden gems may be hiding in between some old t-shirts.
  • Look for name brand, boutique items and make sure the item isn’t damaged or snagged. It’s important to make sure the piece is in good condition before purchasing.
  •  Don’t be afraid to leave without making any purchases at all!   Some trips to Goodwill will be a total bust. Walking out of there empty handed isn’t the end of the world.

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Part 2: The Aldi Experience

Are you curious about Aldi? Yesterday I made a list of all of the items that are normally on my grocery list and how much each item will cost. It’s easy to shop at ALDI, but here’s are a few tips and tricks that can make your trip as smooth as possible if you have never stepped foot into an Aldi before.

What to expect:

1. You will save money! Aldi’s prices a typically lower than even the sales prices of brand names at other stores.

2. Bring a quarter. That is right – you are going to need a quarter to get your cart. The quarter is returned to you when you return the cart.

3. Bring a bag. Save some green and go green at the same time. Bring a reusable bag (or two!) with you. ALDI does not hide the cost of bags in their grocery prices.

4. Try new things. Aldi carries mainly house brands, so be willing to try another brand before you walk in the door.

5. Pack it yourself. There is no one to pack up your purchases. The check-out clerk will put your groceries in a cart for you but it is up to you to take your purchases to the packing counter and pack them up.

6. No credit cards. No credit cards are accepted at ALDI. (But your debit card and cash are always welcome

7. Double Guarantee. If you are unsatisfied with the product they will refund your money and replace the product.

8. No Late Hours. ALDI is not open 24 hours a day. Store hours are typically from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Most of the time, I find that Aldi’s prices beat even the sale prices of most larger grocery stores. There are tons of deals and bargains to be found at Aldi you just have to be willing to give it a shot.

By bringing your own bag, bagging your own groceries, and having limited store hours this makes it possible for us as consumers to purchase cheaper groceries eliminating overhead costs.

Be on the lookout for Part 3 next week of recipe ideas using Aldi products.

Part 1: What to Buy at Aldi

My love affair with the discount grocery chain began during my first few weeks out of college on my own. My roommate Kalyn and I were just out on our own, broke, starting new jobs and trying not to pay a lot for groceries.  She had shopped there while going to college at Ball State tipping me off on how much she saved by shopping at Aldi vs shopping at Kroger.

I was delighted when I discovered that the food did indeed exceed my expectations and everything I have tried so far has been good quality. Check out my list of real, whole foods that I purchase every time I step foot into the store. My favorite brand that I always try is their Fit and Active Brand.

My Aldi Grocery List:

Raw Almonds: $3.15
Pistachios $2.99
Avocados (sometimes for as little as $.49 each!)
Granola- Coconut chia seed & pumpkin flaxseed: $2.75
Fresh Spinach: $2.60
Cottage cheese: $2.50
Spicy Guacamole: $2.19
Eggs: $1.09
Salsa: $2.25
Olive Oil: $1.99
Coffee (Keurig K-Cups): $3.40
Chicken breast: $6.49
Pasta: $.99
Wheat bread: $.89
Almond Milk: $2.58
Pineapple: $1.69
Cereal: $.99
Dried cranberries: $1.19
Greek yogurt: $2.55
Cheese: $1.79
Cucumbers: $.49
Baby carrots: $.99
Broccoli: $1.49
Green peppers: $1.69
Hummus (Roasted Red Pepper) : $1.69
Pita chips: $1.99

So there you have it those are my current Aldi recommendations. I haven’t tried everything in the store, so I can only recommend items that I have tried and considered good quality but I hope this might help you out in some way.

Budgeting for Vacation

Itching to go on your next vacation but your checking account isn’t quite ready to take the plunge? Whether you’re planning a family vacation to Florida or a cruise to the Bahamas this summer you have to think about your savings account before booking the trip.  Here is a quick guide to budgeting for a vacation making sure you get every penny’s worth during your getaway.

1. Determine your sources of income

So how much money do you have to work with? Do you need to pick up a part time job in order to save some extra fun money? Ask yourself how you can put away just $25.00 extra a week in order to save for a vacation. The chart below shows different scenerios of how you can save enough in just 4 months to go on a nice vacation: 

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2. Set your travel plans

The key is to start planning early with a budget in mind.  Start by making a list of your must-see destinations & activities you want to do.  Make sure to leave some room for a few unexpected adventures that you may decide you want to try spur of the moment.

Create a daily cash allowance listing out how much you expect to spend each day on transportation, food, drinks, hotels, activities and shopping. 

A good way to cut back on spending is to keep an eye out for local groupons, event packages and coupons in the area for restaurants. Example: Last weekend during of Zip Lining in French Lick adventure we found a living social deal offering 2 people for $55.00 compared to the original price of $69 a person. This deal saved us $166 dollars between 4 people! We then went Go Karting after we got a buy one round get another round free. Each Ticket was $17.00 so this coupon saved us $34.00!

Also, do you have friends or family who reside in destinations you’re dying to see? Send them a message to get some free housing lined up that is a huge money saver even if it’s just for a night or two!

3. Set up a separate Vacation Savings Account

We have talked about setting up an emergency fund and a house down payment account, but have you thought about setting up a separate account for vacations? If you make some of your money unavailable for spending, it will simply be that…unavailable! An easy way to do this is to create a separate savings account I use CapitalOne360! Remember, out of sight equals out of mind! Set up this account just like your other two with an automatic transfer so you don’t even realize the money is gone.

4. Mock Budget

In my mock budget I decided to use Jake and I’s trip to Arizona last summer as an example of how to budget your money and get the best experience on a 4 day vacation. The hotel at the Fairmont Princess Resort was paid for by his work so that was a huge savings but everything else we made a budget for making sure to spend X amount each day. We ditched the fancy restaurants and opted for cooking at home, cut back to going out only once on the weekends instead of two and cut out our Starbucks habit to save some extra cash. As you can see below we budgeted in the flight, rental car, food and some fun money keeping our entire trip under $1,000 dollars.

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Why you should Increase your credit limit

1. It improves your credit score.

A large portion of your credit score relates to the amount of revolving debt you have versus the limit you have available. I recently called my credit card company and asked for a credit limit after discovering all of these benefits to increasing the limit on my card. Increasing the limit on your credit cards while not increasing the balances gives your score a boost. 

When you have a lower credit utilization ratio, (how much credit you have in relation to the amount of debt you have) this reflects positively on you with the credit bureaus. Getting a bigger limit, while keeping your debt at the same level, improves this ratio. If you are thinking about raising your credit limit you need to be smart about keeping your debt at the same level instead of thinking you can increase this as well.

The balance on any credit card should not exceed 30% of the credit availability. So, if you’re credit card limit is $10,000, your balance should be kept below $3,000.

2. Making a big purchase.

Another reason that you may want to increase your limit is that it increases your purchasing power. Your credit limit is the amount of money that you can spend on your credit card. You may be faced with a time when you need need to make a big purchase, you may need to increase your credit limit before this is possible. 

3. It serves as a temporary emergency fund.
To be financially stable means having an emergency fund that would cover three to six months’ worth of household expenses if an unexpected emergency of income were to happen. It is an expensive method of financing emergencies but is far better than having no options at all. 

4. It can be an inexpensive way to utilize your home’s equity.
If you have equity in your house, you may be able to apply for a secured credit card. This type of card is especially useful if you are undertaking house renovations. Rather than spending potentially hundreds of dollars on refinancing fees to re-mortgage your home or take out a second mortgage, you can use the secured card for renovation expenses. 

 If you raise your debt balances up to match your new limit, the benefits of the increase disappear. Managing your credit card debt wisely will pay off in both your credit report and in your financial planning goals. 

Homemade Laundry Soap

The powder detergent recipe that I have been eyeing on Pinterest is not only cost efficient but relatively easy to make. This weekend while at home my mom and I decided to give it a go and were pleased with the results.

This DIY laundry soap will appeal to a lot of people because you will recognize everything that’s in it. Secondly, it was cheap. The recipe is said to last 9 months and thats for someone who does 3 loads a week.  This recipe will be lasting me almost a year and with the ingredients costing under 20 dollars, I think it’s a pretty good bargain  

Here’s the DIY laundry detergent recipe and price breakdown…

Grate the Fels Naptha using the middle size grate on a box grater.  Then just mix all the ingredients in an air tight container.  I used a glass container with a lid from Target.

Costco Dos and Donts

Last year my mom and I finally splurged and decided to split a Costco membership. It now seems that every time I go into Costco I come out with more items that what I had originally planned. I love shopping there but it can be hard at times not to overspend and to go in with a frugal mindset. The problem is that if you don’t go in with a list to follow, you find yourself with an increasingly full cart of items that you don’t necessarily need. Since most items are priced at $10.00 or more it’s hard to stay on budget. Here is a simple list of ways you can avoid spending more than you had planned.

Avoid the Samples

Ahhh this is the hardest tip for me! I love the samples at Costco just like you! It might possibly be my favorite part of the shopping experience at Costco. Having free samples entices you to buy something you might not have planned. With a full stomach and a frugal head, you can get what you came for and not make unplanned purchases while still hitting up every aisle for the free samples.

Mind Your Payment Method

I almost always use cash when shopping at Costco or my debit card that is linked directly to my checking account, as opposed to using one of the credit cards they accept. This tip helps you stay within your monthly grocery budget and be more cautious of the price of each item.

Avoid the Executive Membership

I remember the day that my mom and I signed up and the emphasis they put on going with the Executive Membership. With the membership you get a 2% reward back of most of your purchases at the end of the year, and is capped at $750. If you do the math you would have to spend about $250 per month to get more money back than what you put in

Is it really a good deal?

The problem with Costco, is that we start to think everything we see is an amazing deal. I remember my first time shopping at Costco I bought a 5lb pack of gum and thought I was getting a good deal. Who needs that much gum? Just because we think it’s a good deal doesn’t mean we need 10 gallons of something.

What to do with your tax return

Are you tempted to plan a vacation or spend your entire check on a new spring wardrobe now that you have your tax refund coming your way? Before getting too exciting about your refund and spending it all in one place think about how you can make this money work to your benefit going forward. Whether you are getting back hundreds or thousands here are a few things you should do with your check before hitting up the mall:

1) Pay off high interest debt
Regardless of how much money you’re getting back, reducing and eliminating your debt should be your number once priority. Start with the highest interest debt until your balances are resolved. Don’t forget about your student loans.

2) Contribute to your emergency fund

Remember last week when I talked about 
creating a stable emergency fund? This is a perfect time to put extra money towards this savings account. Once you pay off your debt, your next priority is to establish an emergency savings fund for at least six to nine months worth of your monthly spending. 

3) Medium Goals

What types of things do you plan to do in the next 3-5 years? Once you pay off your debt and establish an emergency fund put some of your refund towards items like buying a house, wedding, buying a car, etc. Remember that anything that will cause you to borrow money at an interest rate above 0 percent will cost you more than it’s worth. The more you can put forth out-of-pocket, the less you pay in the end.

4) Roth IRA

ROTH IRA contributions, placing up to $5,500 of your refund can also boost your refund, because your contribution grows tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free upon retirement.

5) Spend it on something you need

Are you having car trouble, do you need a new winter coat, or have you put off dental work? You need to take care of these essentials, preventative issues and now that your refund is here, you can cover the cost.

If you’re smart you can make your refund check  work for you and improve your financial situation. You can even treat yourself, but don’t blow it at all the mall or splurge too much!

Cooking on a Budget

Cooking on a budget doesn’t mean you have to opt for unhealthy options, pasta and ramen noodles every night. Planning out your meals and shopping for the ingredients to make them once a week, is my #1 tip for cooking on a budget. Plan out the meals that you will be making for the week and write down all of the ingredients that you will be needing.

Remember to buy in bulk and don’t stray away from your grocery list. It is so easy to go to the store without a plan and just start grabbing unnecessary items. Here are two examples of a lunch and dinner item that I made for the week that will end up being less than $6.00 a day. 

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Lunch: Frozen Burritos

  • 2 lbs of ground chuck- $8.58
  • Refried beans- $1.49
  • 10 Tortilla Shells- $2.89
  • Shredded Cheese- $3.49
  • Total + Tax = $17.60
  • Made 10 lunches- $1.76 per lunch

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Dinner- Olive Garden Copycat Tuscana Zuppa Soup

  • Kale- $.99 
  • Chicken Broth- $2.89
  • Heavy Whipping Cream- $2.89
  • Bacon Bits- $1.99
  • 2 Potatoes – .46 & .42
  • Onion- $1.30
  • Sausage- $3.19
  • Total + tax = $15.11
  • Makes 4 servings = $3.77 per meal

Saturday Savings

Over a year ago Jake suggested that I read the book “I Will Teach You to be Rich” by Ramit Sethi. After finishing it in just days I immediately realized the importance of setting up a savings account that offers interest and sub accounts. The author puts great emphasis on automating all of your money in order to focus on the bigger picture and your long term goals. I’ve now had my Capital One 360 account for over a year, setting up and funding a new account was a piece of cake and I couldn’t be happier with their services so far.

Savings accounts really matter because they’re where you save for mid-term and long-term goals: your wedding, house/car down payment, vacations, emergencies, etc. To get started you need to determine your monthly expenses. The first step you want to do in your financial plan is have an emergency savings account with 6 months of expenses available in case of job loss, medical emergency, car repairs, etc. This account should not be touched unless it’s an EXTREME emergency. So if you spend let’s say $3000/month, your emergency fund should have $18,000.

Next, set up sub savings accounts for your various short term savings needs. Some needs that come to mind are:

-House Down Payment
-Wedding
-Vacation

Capital One will allow you to set up an automatic deposit from your checking account into each of the sub savings accounts monthly, weekly, daily, whichever you choose to do. Think about this: If your friends call you up and say “Hey, let’s go on a trip this weekend,” you’re not going to be like, “Hang on girls…let me transfer money from my “wedding fund sub-savings account.” Having the sub accounts is key because you are way less likely to transfer or spend the money in your account than if all of your money is setting together in a checking or savings account.

I use monthly automatic transfers to funnel money into each of my sub-accounts. Currently, I only have two accounts set up with Capital360. I have an emergency fund & a house down payment. Now that these accounts are in place, I’m getting closer to each of my goals automatically, month after month, without having to remember to set money aside. I have already saved for 6 months of emergencies and am working towards being able to put a 20% down payment on a house.

When you don’t see the money and it’s automatically transferred into these sub accounts you will never miss it. However, a few months later, you’ll be amazed at how fast you’re accomplishing your goals. I have only had my account for a year now and cannot believe how much more money I am able to save than I was previously.

CLICK HERE to sign up now and get a $50 bonus!