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10 things I never thought I’d do to save money (that I now do because I’m not making it)

Back in March, I left my full time position of restaurant manager and events coordinator to pursue a more 9-5 type position. If you’ve ever worked in restaurants you understand that there is an invisible wall that looms in the distance just daring you to one day hit it. In January, I was beginning to feel the impact of the collision with said wall and by early February, I was feeling downright concussed. So, in mid February, I gave my notice and come the first of March, there was no looking back. Some say that they get used to the hours and constant feeling of being ‘in the weeds’ (restaurant term for being so busy that you feel like you’re trying to speed walk through quick sand). I never got used to it and longed for a ‘normal life’. I had savings and a very supportive husfriend (we’ve been together for 7 1/2 years but are not married so I’m allowed to make up a word) but no game plan. Foolish? Maybe but sometimes following a ‘fool’s path’ reveals a certain level of freedom and happiness that you never knew could be yours. This has been the case for me (for the most part). I’ve enjoyed having the time to keep my house at a level of cleanliness that is finally above that of a squatter. I’ve taught myself to cook (a little) and I’m finally getting back to my passion for writing. How do I pay the bills? I scour thrift stores and garage sales and resell name brand and vintage clothing + vintage furniture online. I also pick up catering gigs as a server. So…I get to shop and I get to meet new and (sometimes) interesting people! It pays the bills for the most part and I get to set my own hours.

Of course, there is a learning curve to all of this and sometimes it feels as if I’m going around a dead man’s curve with no brakes. That is to say, I no longer have the cushion of a set income. Sometimes, I hit a hot streak where everything I purchase sells right away. Sometimes, I buy items that I fall in love with and am sure will provoke a bidding war, only to find myself listing and re-listing, until I practically give the things away in order to turn a little profit.

Do I miss the cushion of knowing exactly how much I am going to make every two weeks? To be honest…yes. Is that financial security enough motivation to reenlist me to a work life that zapped everything else in life that motivated me to actually live it? For the time being: no. I don’t want to put myself in the position of one day being seen as a hypocrite. Maybe one day this endeavor won’t work out and I will feel refreshed and ready to go back to the life of working every holiday, working shifts that end at 2 a.m. and begin that same day at 9 a.m. and practically prostrating myself before an angry ‘guest’ in an apologetic attempt to correct an issue in which said ‘guest’ is clearly in the wrong. Man, I’d love to shake hands with the guy who coined the phrase “the customer is always right”. I don’t think I’ll get that chance as I’m sure he died a very wealthy yet very sour man.

So you see why I made the transition? Clearly, I need some time to rinse myself of that bitter taste.

I’m not saying we were ever living ‘high on the hog’ but dropping $100 on a dinner never caused even one eyebrow to be raised. If we were to do that now, we’d have to enlist the eyebrow sets of Brooke Shields, Peter Gallagher and Oscar the Grouch combined.

In lieu of that and because I’m sure there would be a royalty fee for those ‘eyebrow appearances’ here are some ways I’ve learned to cut corners. Read below.

1). Paper Towels. Washed your hands recently? Used a paper towel to dry them on? Don’t throw it away! Your hands were clean when you dried them so save that little paper nugget to wipe the disinfectant from your countertops later. I cringe every time I see Husfriend go for the paper towels because he always takes so many more than the job requires. Where is that Brawny lumberjack when you need him? * Not used to the term Husfriend? Uncomfortable with it? I just made it up as I was writing this because we’ve been together too long for the term boyfriend to feel normal, yet we’re not married. It feels creepy to me too but let’s just go with it for the sake of this article.*

2). Plastic Baggies. Talk about recycling. Now that I’ve been washing these out and reusing them my heart yearns (almost in a hippy way) for all of the ones I have tossed out in the past. These suckers are practically begging to be reused.

3). Tin Foil. What? I don’t know. I just found myself washing it one day and it made sense. Use your own judgment on this one. Obviously if it’s charred beyond recognition…

4). Casseroles. I grew up in a virtually casserole free home aside from sides created for Holiday get-togethers. Over the past few months, I’ve been able to create some decent to really great meals by pulling together what I had in my fridge/cupboard and turning them into a casserole. Who knew? Most of you probably, but like I said, this is a learning curve.

5). Thrifty Thrift Shopping. This is not entirely new to me as I grew up in a ‘riches to rags’ home. I survived junior high in thrift shop clothes and actually received some compliments on my outfits from the ‘rich kids’. Up until now, I had removed myself from that ‘element’. I shop to resell. Still, if you find an Anthropologie or Nordstrom number that strikes your fancy and is your size, buy it FOR YOURSELF. Will you feel the same rush you felt when ‘charging it for $300’? Probably not. Will the smug smile spreading itself across your face when accepting a compliment on your $3 purchase make up for this? Probably so.

6). Coupons. There are reality shows about ‘couponers’ and I just don’t get them. It all seems so scientific and frankly my right brain just does not compute. What it does compute is “free Friday downloads”. Kroger does not sponsor me but I’d be open to it. Kroger? No response yet. Anyway, as part of their free to join membership package, I get a free “Friday download” every week. There is absolutely nothing to buy and so far, I have gotten a bottle of free Clear conditioner, a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, a box of Hamburger Helper and a bag of Cheetos. I’m not used to not having to spend anything to get something for free, which is what makes it feel so luxurious.

7). Cutting your own hair (not for the faint of heart). This practice is not to be observed by the “straight hairs” and hopefully will never be found out by my long term hair dresser Brandy. Girls with curves have ‘certain advantages’. These advantages are not limited to the body and cross over to the follicle. Cut, curvy hair can hide mechanical flaws that straight hair can not. There are many YouTube tutorials but basically twist and cut. I’ve garnered many compliments and just one or two “did you cut your own hair?” comments  from these tutorials.

8). DIY oil pull cleanser. 3 parts Castor oil & 1 part Olive oil. I got my first zit at age 10 and have engaged my face in harsh cleanser mortal combat ever since. I came so close to trying accutane but was frightened away by the side effects of ‘birth defects’ and such. Now, there are enough lawsuits to make me feel proud of my decision to abstain from the drug but my ‘battle scars’ lie in the form of acne scars. A small price to pay but recently I’ve found a gentle alternative I wish I’d discovered 20 years ago. Certain good oils pull bad oils away from the face. I found a blog about a year ago that dealt with this issue and I have been following the subscribed regimen ever since. Step 1. Apply the oil…rub it in real good. Wait a minute. Apply hot, wet towel to face and let steam until cool. Wipe off the day. The outcome? My skin feels refreshed. Acne scars are diminishing.

9). Free shipping supplies from the United States Postal Service. Yet another thing I wish I had known about sooner. For the first few months after starting my little internet auction biz, I was paying for boxes and envelopes to ship my items in. I have my listings set to “buyer pays for shipping” yet I was losing money with all of the supplies I was buying. One day, while on the phone with my sister, I casually mentioned my shipping supply expenses. If a slap could be felt through a phone line err…cell phone tower, I felt it! She, who has been in the business for much longer than I, quickly educated me on the practice of ordering my supplies for free through USPS.com. Since then, my wallet has felt much cozier. Now, if they could only add packing tape and printing ink for free…

10). DIY lotion bars. Here is all you need…
Equal parts of:
Shea butter or cocoa butter (I use Cocoa)
Beeswax
Coconut oil (or any vegetable oil, such as avocado, almond, etc.)
Melt the beeswax slowly in a double boiler. Once melted, add the other oils and some fragrance, drop by drop, until you have the desired aroma (I currently use lavender zzz). The mixture will begin hardening as soon as it cools, so pour it into molds right away. Let it cool then pop out of the molds.
To be fair, I started this long before I quit my job and the start-up cost wasn’t exactly cheap. Luckily, I have a bee-keeping friend who gave me the wax for free but the rest I had to buy. I actually ordered (in bulk) empty (new) deodorant stick containers. Obviously, you don’t have to take this step but I love the ease of just pushing up the lotion and rolling it on! What has made this cost effective for me is that my skin isn’t dependent on it to create it’s own moisture. A lot of commercial products are loaded with chemicals that actually cause your body to create less moisture than you need. A cycle begins and you find yourself applying more and more of the chemically produced ‘good stuff’. With these natural lotion bars, I’ve found that I need to use less and less; yet my skin stays hydrated. Think of it like a cake: it’s great on it’s own but it’s sooo much better with the frosting!

Have your own money saving ideas? Please share.

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One thought on “10 things I never thought I’d do to save money (that I now do because I’m not making it)

  1. Kim, I really like your blog!!! You really have writing talent that you should definitely keep pursuing at all costs!!! Hope the resell business keeps growing too!!! Hope to read more from you very soon!!!

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