Living On Less: Update (5 More Ways We’re Saving Money)

It’s been nearly three months since my “Life On Less” post so we figured it was worth doing a quick update (and collecting more great ideas from you guys on how we can all save a buck here and there). You might remember that four months ago we learned I’d be bringing home four fewer benjamins each month, and we’re pleased to report – thanks to many of your suggestions – that we’ve been able to stick to all but one of the money saving tactics I outlined in the previous post: stop buying music on iTunes, cancel my gym membership, watch movies at home and cash in some credit card points. Here’s how it all went down:

1. iTunes out, Pandora in: Several of you mentioned Pandora.com in your comments and boy am I grateful. I love it! You just input some of your favorite artists or songs and it builds a custom radio station filled with similar tunes. You can even thumbs-up or thumb-down songs to help Pandora learn your musical tastes over time. It’s completely free, though – if you’re like me – you might hit your 40 hour monthly limit pretty quickly. But the good news is that it’s only $0.99 to get unlimited access (which is a heckova lot cheaper than my old iTunes habit). I’m totally addicted, and I have you guys to blame/thank.

2. Sayonara Netflix, Konnichiwa Redbox: Again, at your recommendation we realized there was a less expensive option than our $15 per month Netflix bill. With Redbox, you can rent movies for a $1/night meaning even two movies per weekend only costs you $8 per month. And we’re not even usually that movie crazy. I think we’ve probably spent $6 total on movie rentals all summer thanks to Redbox. Sure, the movie selection is a bit narrower (note: do NOT rent “Knowing” with Nicholas Cage) but it still gets new releases and keeps us plenty entertained. Plus, we saved so much moolah with Red Box that we splurged on one trip to the theatre. I let Sherry drag me to The Proposal. Does that mean good husband bonus points for life?

3. Credit Card Points = Cash… and Magazines!: When we cashed in our stored up credit card points back in May for an awesome chunk of change, we suddenly found Bank of America offering us some free magazine subscriptions too. Usually we brush those off, but when the list showed several that Sherry and I routinely peruse at Barnes & Noble we said “sign me up.” So while this isn’t saving us any money directly, it has meant fewer trips to chill at B&N, which means avoiding the temptation to buy books… and cookies from the cafe. Plus we drop off all of our magazines at a local book store when we’re done with them (they offer them for free to their customers) so it’s a great way for us to read them without feeling wasteful.

4. Tapping the Brakes on My Gym Membership: Ok, so this is the one I didn’t follow through on. After a few weeks off I realized how much a midday workout did for stress release so I caved and kept my membership to the YMCA going. Though my workload has kept lunchtime trips to the gym at a minimum, unfortunately, I guess I’m not strong enough to let this one go. So instead…

5. Restaurant.com Is Our New BFF: Since we’re still amateurs in the kitchen, it’s tough for us to give up eating out entirely. But befriending Restaurant.com has certainly made dining out every once in a while much easier on our wallets. They sell a bunch of $25 gift cards for only $10 which means (with a usual minimum purchase of $35) we can save $15 on a meal out. Not bad, but we happened to snag a handful of coupons during a 80% off sale they were having, meaning those precious coupons were only $2! That equals a $23 savings each time we use one! And I recently learned they’re doing that promotion again through Aug 13th. Just enter “PORTION” upon checkout to score a $25 restaurant gift card for just two bucks! And there’s no waiting for the gift certificates to ship or worrying about them getting lost in the mail- just pay and print them right from your computer. Genius.

So that’s our update. What about you all? Did you uncover any new money saving tricks that you can teach the rest of us? Have you been able to stick to your money saving schemes or are you still being a tiny bit “flexible” like me with my gym membership? Our wallets thank you in advance for all the great ideas!

Pssst: To learn more about how we pinch pennies here at Casa Petersik (ex: Sherry gives me haircuts, we brown bag our lunches, we share one car, etc) check out our Save It series (read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here).

Comments

  1. Cathryn says

    We are HUGE fans of the Restaurant.com deals.
    FYI: They run this $10/$5/$2 sale right before and after Christmas every year, too. We include these, in their gift certificate version, to each family member’s favorite restaurant at Christmas. They are stocking-stuffer-friendly and allow our Christmas dollars to go further.

    Tip: Read the fine print on the certificates! Some restaurants have special rules about using the coupons: before 5pm, in the restaurant only (not the bar – even for food service), or on weeknights only. You can see these restrictions before you buy the coupon online. Hope this helps!

  2. says

    I recently signed up for daily emails from http://www.groupon.com/. I get a deal-a-day offer for businesses, restaurants and services local to Chicago, and it looks like it covers a number of other cities as well. Although it does take will power not to purchase something “just because it’s on sale,” I’ve already gotten a 64% discount off of a year membership to the Art Institute (which pays for itself after going twice AND you get to bring a guest for free) and a $40 gift card for $20 for a downtown restaurant we like!

  3. Gracia says

    I hope we get something like restaurant.com in Spain! We don’t even get coupons for the supermarket, so I guess this is in the really distant future.

    Keep updating! It’s great to see all the ideas working. Might have to check pandora…

  4. says

    Too funny – this is exactly what I posted about as well today :D And I totally snagged your Restaurant.com tip – It’s AWESOME!!

  5. Carmen says

    I don’t buy books or movies anymore. I check them out of our local library for free. If my library doesn’t have what I’m looking for, they’ll locate it for me from various libraries in the county and have it delivered to my library.

  6. says

    John you mentioned that you drop off your old magazines to a local bookstore where their customers can browse through them for free. I normally end up throwing mine in the recycling (or collecting them and complaining about my lack of bookcase space!) but what you and Sherry do sounds so much better.

    I’m a local Richmonder (a Fan girl) and am wondering what local bookstore you use for this?

    Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Elle,

      They’re called Tumble Weeds here on the Southside in Bon Air (on Buford Rd near the CVS and Jersey MIke’s Subs- which is delish by the way). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  7. says

    COUPONS!!!! I cannot stress how much money I’ve saved on groceries and toiletries just in the last few months by spending a bit of time online and clipping through Sunday’s paper before hitting the store! Target offers some great coupons on their site (just google “target printable coupons”) that update every week or so, and if you shop there enough you’ll start getting great high value coupons in the mail as well. I took my $62 total down to $33 with coupons in one recent trip! When I get annoyed with the time it takes clipping them all out I just remind myself of how exciting it is to save that much money in the end.

    Also, one of my new favorite sites is http://www.groupon.com, which offers a great deal at a MAJOR discount every day. I’ve grabbed some great finds off the Chicago site, but it’s available in quite a few other cities as well! Another great one for Chicago area folks is http://www.twobuckduck.com, which offers a great deal for just two bucks each day.

    Finally, I always make sure to check out http://www.slickdeals.net for coupons and discount codes before buying pretty much ANYTHING besides groceries. I’ve scored some great deals on Christmas presents and electronics by scouring the site.

  8. says

    One way to pinch some pennies & maximize full benefits of your Netflix account is getting a cord (pref. HDMI cord) to plug in your laptop to the good ol telly. Netflix offers a decent selection of “watch instantly” movies and tv shows.
    This way you don’t need to pay 15 bucks for 2 or 3 at a time. but 9 bucks for one at a time unlimited where you can watch those new releases/stuff they don’t offer on “watch instantly”.

    Also this handy HDMI cable has saved us a lot of money bc we do not have cable or satellite tv so we watch our tv shows through Netflix or through the channels website. (A lot of websites offer HD quality, and there are less commercials)

    We only use Redbox when we have free promo codes. Every first Monday of the month they text you a promo code. WOOT

    BOOM! how’s that for squeezing every drop of life out of my pennies.

  9. says

    I used to get my nails done every other week. I figured I worked hard and I deserved it. When I was let go from my job in August of 2007, suddenly just trying to pay the bills became a huge problem. I figured at $30 a pop I was spending over $700 a year on my nails! I started doing my own manicures, and realized I enjoyed it just as much. I have since gotten another job (that pays more), but I still do my own nails. If I have to pay $7 for a bottle of new polish every once in a while, that’s fine by me. My friends and I even trade colors to save us all money.

    Also, LOOOVE the Redbox. Our apartment complex has one in the main office and the boyfriend and I have made much use of it.

    Thanks for the tips!

    LB

  10. says

    haha, I don’t know why there’s so much Knowing hate lately! I liked that movie, it’s so rare a movie follows through with a plot to destroy the world and kill Nicolas Cage! :)
    p.s. if you google redbox, a blog will come up that posts free movie codes. I think it’s called redboxinsider. You can get a free movie every Monday and Wednesday!

  11. Loren says

    I’m not a good cook either but one thing I can suggest is the Bulk food section in the Whole Foods or a health food store. You can get organic popcorn for about a dollar a pound to cook on the stove top. That’s about 5 or 6(unpopped) cups, it tastes awesome and it isn’t covered in butter and salt like the stuff you buy at the store. The same goes for organic beans and wild rice, the per pound price is sometimes about half as much as buying in a bag at the grocery.
    I’m also a big fan of Junk Day in our neighborhood. When people can put everything out on the sidewalk for the garbage men to haul away. I’ve gotten a bookcase, a couple mismatched kitchen chairs, end table, set of dinner plates just buy dragging them home and cleaning them off. I usually draw the line at anything upholstered, but there is still a mildly embarrassing number of thing in my apartment I’ve gotten for free from the garbage. And the only really ‘new’ pieces of furniture in my house are electronic.

  12. says

    thanks so much for the restaurant.com tip! there were TONS of good restaurants in our area (ventura, ca), places we go to a lot and some new places i’ve wanted to try. paying 44 for 560 worth of anything feels awesome!

  13. Hilary says

    John:
    I haven’t read the previous comments to see if anyone has already mentioned this, but, RE: Pandora…there’s another website, slacker.com, that is similar, though without the thumbs up/down option. With Pandora’s 40-hour monthly listening limit, I alternate between the two sites to extend the free listening and for some more variety.
    Happy listening.

    Hilary