Reuse Glass Jars to Save Money

When you need to pickle some vegetables or to store something, what kind of containers instantly come to your mind, mason jars aren’t they. I love mason jars too, and I used to buy many of them to use for pickled vegetables and fruit jam. However, I gradually realized that other than mason jars, there is also another option that I have never paid attention to, pasta sauce jars. This comes first in my mind because I often buy pasta sauce from Target or Walmart. Other than pasta sauce jars, there are many other types of jars or even bottles that you can reuse.

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Mason jars are lovely and handy, but they are not cheap. If you keep buying new mason jars, they will cost you a lot of money. To avoid wasting money on mason jars, I just simply stopped buying new ones and reused jars that were food containers I bought from grocery stores. When I shop at grocery stores, I always make sure that I choose glass containers over plastic containers. Plastic containers are less useful when I want to reuse them, and they are harmful to the environment. If you want to reuse pasta sauce jars, when you shop, look for those with a wider mouth so it will be easier to wash and reuse later. After you take all the sauce out of the jar, rinse the inside with water and let the empty jar sit in a bowl of warm water for some time. For some reasons, the food manufacturers love to use very sticky glue to glue the label onto the jar. I guess that glue was meant to be that sticky so they label cannot fall off easily. In most cases, the glue will become easier to remove after your jar sits for some time in warm water. For those labels that are too stubborn, try putting some OxiClean in that warm water when you let your jar soaks. Once you got the label off and cleaned your jar from the inside out, just let it dry and make a new use for it. I often use write-on tape or freezer tape to label my jars. Since I love pickled vegetables, I always pick them in used sauce jars.

Other than sauce jars, I also reuse salad dressing bottles and syrup bottles. For salad dressing bottles, I often reuse them to store my homemade sauces and salad dressings. They work perfectly since they are quite easy to clean. Since bottles are often narrower than jars, you may need to buy a brush to clean your bottles. If you store oily sauces and salad dressings, use warm soapy water to clean your bottles. The grease will come off very quickly. For syrup bottles, I often keep them to store sauces or cocktail mixes. I love dipping sauce, so I always make a few different dipping sauces in advance. Syrup bottles are perfect for this purpose. They always come with a screw cap so you do not have to worry about spilling your sauce. The last type of container I love to reuse is baby food jars. Those tiny lovely jars are perfect for yogurt. I often ask my family members, friends, and coworkers who have a baby to keep the food jars for me. When I make yogurt, I can put in these jars.

Do not throw jars away. You can reuse them, and they will save you a lot of money.

Study Faster

If you are trying to save money while still in school, do not ever forget this, the longer you are in school, the more money it will cost you. I made this mistake a few years back and it cost me a fortune. Nowadays, universities often offer dynamic courses which are shorter but still worth the same amount of credit. Since I did not know this before, and I also did not realize the importance of finishing school early, I wasted a lot of time and money that I could not get back.

So how is finishing your degree faster can save you a lot of money? Here is what I learned.

First of all, most bachelor’s degrees will take four years to complete. During that four years, most students will rely on federal grants and scholarships of some sort. Since you were pretty busy in these four years, you do not have a lot of time to work. Trust me, I tried and failed miserably. If you want to work and to study at the same time, you will most likely have to take four classes or less per semester. If you try to work too much, chances are you will fail one or more classes or your grades will be terrible. If you choose to focus more on school, you may not be able to work that many hours your employers required. This happened to me before. My employer did not want to hire more employees so they wanted their employees to work more hours instead. Little tip, most employers do not want to work around your school schedule so do not believe them when they say yes to that during your interview. As a result of choosing work over school, I failed some classes so it took me much longer to complete my degree. Thus, this is the first reason a college student who wants to save money should try to complete his or her degree.

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Do you live with your parents during your college years? If not, this is another reason you should finish school faster. I did not live on campus during my college years. I preferred to live off campus instead. Since I was responsible for my rent, I had to work while still in school. The more I worked, the more I got distracted from school. I did not take school seriously enough, so I kept slowing down with my academic progress. Because I have not graduated yet, I could not work in companies that require their employees to have a bachelor’s degree. These companies pay higher and the job is often more secure. How do you live with a minimum wage? Since I was working a minimum wage job, I never managed to last until the end of the month. I always ran out of money about the twentieth day each month. Later, I realized that staying in school for too long will limit my ability to make more money. As a result, I switched to a part time job and focused more on school so I can get my degree as soon as possible.

If you can, take more classes each semester. Take as many classes as possible in summer school too. Sacrifice the fun to focus more on your success.

Avoid Car Dealer Tricks – Part III

For those who have had some experience buying cars, you can still be tricked by the car dealership if you are not aware of this. There are a lot of car dealerships out there that increase the price of a car by at least 10% to make some money. This may sound weird, but it is true, and I have seen this more than once. There are big and busier dealerships, and there are also smaller dealerships with fewer customers. To make sure they make enough money, many smaller dealerships often increase their prices.

About three years ago, I helped my cousin to buy a car. Since her family lives in a small town, and my cousin only wanted a compact sedan, they thought they should just stop by at the local dealership to look for a car. Since I have had some previous experience with buying cars plus I know a guy who works as a manager at a car dealership, I made sure we came prepared. The first thing I did was to look for car models from different brands to see which one my cousin would want. After she found the make, model, and the color she loves, I contacted different dealerships to ask for quotes. Since my cousin’s family decided to buy the car at the nearest dealership, I contacted them, asked for a quote, and got what seemed to be a very fair price.

When we were at the dealership, the salesperson was very friendly and helpful. He was new at the dealership but showed to be very professional. After a few rounds of test drive, we went to talk to the finance department. While we were discussing the price, payments, and interest rates, I noticed the finance guy kept rerouting our attention to the monthly payments. Just as I discussed in my last blog post, car dealers often try to trick customers into buying a more expensive car with a longer loan term. During our conversation, I wanted to know what would the final price, or what I usually call, “the outdoor price” be. More than once, as long as I mentioned this, the finance guy told me that what they wanted us to focus on was the monthly payment. Keep in mind that whenever a salesperson tells you to focus on something, that person is hiding something else. After a quick calculation, I figured out something was off. The sum of the outdoor price and all of the interest that I calculated was $2000 less than the sum the dealership gave us. I tried to ask the finance guy to explain that $2000, he kept ignoring it until he finally asked me this ridiculous question: “Who is the car for, and who is paying?” My aunt was too honest and slipped out that she was buying the car for my cousin. The finance guy ignored me completely and talked to my cousin only. As a result, I told my cousin and my aunt to stop everything and drove them home. No one should ever waste time dealing with people like that finance guy

Shortly after that, I was able to find another car with a better deal for my cousin. I took them to a bigger dealership that does not lie to customers. The next time you shop for a car, ask the dealership’s finance department to break down all of the numbers in your loan. If they hesitate, think about stopping by a few more dealerships to compare the prices.

Avoid Car Dealer Tricks – Part II

Believe it or not, car dealers love clueless customers. I am sure about this because I was once a clueless customer and almost got tricked by the dealership to spend extra money on a car. By that time, I did not realize that they were trying to get me into spending more money but instead, I thought the car salesman was helping me out. 

Right after my eighteenth birthday, my dad took me to the local car dealership to shop for a car. Since I am aware of my family’s financial limitations, I did not have any problems with buying a used car. As long as I have a car for college, it is enough. I still remember that day when my dad and I arrived at the dealership, it was almost dark, and the dealership was not very busy. Out of nowhere, a man rushed out greeting us. He was way too excited and seemed to be very professional. I remember seeing him heading out of the dealership when we were entering the parking lot, but then I saw him turn his car around right after he saw us. I honestly thought he was some crazy customer who got kicked out of the dealership. However, he was actually a salesman working in this place.

Since the salesman was too friendly and talkative, we got hooked on answering his questions. The first question he asked us was what kind of car we were looking for. I told him a compact car either used or new is just fine as long as its price is reasonable. He took some time to show us around, and while we were checking out the cars one by one, he asked how much my dad and I planned to pay for the car each month. I thought it was a weird question somehow. After we were done looking at the cars, he showed us to his office to talk more about financing the car I wanted. Since my dad unknowingly told the salesman he could afford a monthly payment of at least $400 each month, the salesman recommended that I should buy a midsize sedan instead of the compact sedan I had my eyes on earlier. The car I wanted cost less than $20,000 dollars while the car recommended cost over $26,000 dollars. The car salesman kindly explained that the extra $6000 is not a lot since I get a bigger car that has a bigger trunk, fancier interiors, alloy wheels, and more room. After my dad and I carefully listened to everything the salesman said, we figured out that it was a 72-month loan.

The reason my dad wanted to pay more money each month for the car was so we could get a shorter loan term. The trick here is the car salesman tried to lure us into buying a more expensive car and a longer loan term. A longer loan simply means more interest we have to pay. As a result, we denied his offer and chose another dealership.

If you are about to buy your first car, try not to be too honest about your financial capability with the salesmen until you finally decide what car is right for you. Do some research before heading to the dealership, and try to listen to everything they say very carefully. A lot of car dealerships out there may not be entirely honest with you.

Avoid Car Dealer Tricks – Part I

On my money-saving journey, I realize that a good car will save me a lot of money. The most common mistake I have seen other people around me doing was to drive an old car hoping to save as much as they can. However, the old car often poses a lot of problems that will eventually cost you a fortune. If you can, it is best to buy a new car, a pre-owned car, or a used car that is not too old. When you visit the dealer, this is another factor that you should consider. The dealer will find more than one way to trick you into spending more money. If you do not know what to do, you will definitely fall for their tricks. I am lucky enough to know someone who works in the car business. Over the years, I have learned a lot of useful tricks to counter the car dealer’s hustles.

The first thing you should always do when shopping for a car is to make up your mind. There are a lot of people who do not know anything about cars, this often results in them being exploited by the car dealers. Before you head to the car dealership, you can always do some research on your own. If you need help, you can ask your friends and family members who know about cars. Once, I helped one of my co-workers to shop for a car. She told me that she wanted an SUV with all wheel drive but had no idea which brands she should buy from or which dealers she should visit. Since I know about cars, I showed her images of SUVs ranging from five seats to seven or eight seats. Once she picked the car she wanted, I contacted different car dealers in the area to ask for quotes. Different dealers will offer different prices. All you need to do is to look for the lowest price. Avoid buying your car from the nearest dealer. Your local dealer may not be the best choice.

Once you are at the car dealer, this is where the fun begins. The first trick a car dealer may do is the infamous bait-and-switch trap. There are car dealers that are honest, but there are also car dealers that try to trick you into buying a more expensive car by saying the car you saw on the ad or on promotion has been bought by someone else. All they have at this point is a slightly more expensive car. If a car dealer does this to you, walk away. Do not say anything, just let them know how disappointed you are and walk away. I have seen this trick way too many times, and as I was about to leave the dealership, the car I saw on the ad magically appeared after the salesman “double check.” 

Another part of the bait-and-switch trap is that the car dealers show you one model on the ad but when you are there, they let you know that the price you saw was for a different model. When I bought my first car, this was what happened. I saw a sport option for the car I wanted with the price of the standard option. By using this trick, the dealer was able to get my attention so I went to visit them instead of their competitors.

Do not forget to check carefully before heading to a dealership. It is best you come with someone who knows about cars so the dealer cannot trick you easily.  

Meal Swap

For those who like to cook, you can save a lot of money by swapping meals with other people such as your family, friends, neighbors, or other people who have the same interest and live within your city limit. Most of the time, buying ingredients in bulk will save you more money than buying in smaller quantities. However, if you cannot consume all the food you bought, you will end up throwing them away which is a waste of money. Therefore, by swapping food with other people, you can expand your dinner menu without having to waste a lot of money.

When I first started to save money, I knew that I had to cook my own food or I would lose a lot of money eating at restaurants. However, I struggled for a while not knowing why I was still not able to save a lot. Turns out, it was because I chose to buy in bulk to save money but could not consume all of the food I bought. Since I live alone, and I do not have a big freezer, I can only store a small amount of leftovers. As I found out that a couple of my co-workers did not know how to cook, I offered them some food here and there. They told me that they got sick of take-out because they are often too expensive and unhealthy. As we became friends, they often hung out at my place, and we always cooked something together. Since I always have a lot of ingredients at home, my new friends and I often tried making all kinds of food that we wanted to try. Mostly from recipes on the internet. After I introduced my long-time friends to my new friends, we found a common interest in meal swap.

Within our group, we often exchange our food or take turns cooking so we can share food with each other. After we started swapping meals, I noticed that I could use a lot more ingredients than I used to. Personally, I always prefer fresh ingredients rather than frozen ones. For instance, I like to buy half a salmon or even a whole salmon, I know how to fillet a fish, to prepare meals. As there are more people to share with, I do not have to worry about the leftovers. To make sure it is fair to everybody, we listed ingredients each person does not like or allergic to. I find that the more we share food with each other, the closer we get. Even my long-time friends got along really well with my new friends.

Last but not least, since we often cook together, we helped whoever does not know how to cook but wanted to learn. To me, cooking is easy. I have never taken any cooking classes, I just copy what people do from the internet. If you find yourself not so good at cooking but wanted to learn, just as some of my friends did, you can sign up for basic cooking classes, or you can watch your can-cook friends and learn from them. Since friends and I are all college students, we often cook simple meals that we can pack and bring with us to school or work easily. After a few months into meal swap, I saved a lot more than I used to when I was cooking for only myself.

If you find meal swapping to be interesting, try looking for other people, especially friends or relatives who also have the same interest and ask them to swap meals with you. You may be surprised by your friends’ cooking skills. 

Don’t Pay Full Price If You Can

Nowadays, big retailers usually offer a price match policy that lets you pay a lower price on specific items. In some places, the customer can ask for a price match to the promotional price of the store’s competitors. If you want to save money, take advantage of this discount feature and check for lower prices on items you are shopping for. Every time I go shopping, whether it is grocery or other commodities, I always check for two things. The first thing is to see which store offers a price match policy. The second thing is to see if the items on my shopping list are on sale or have a lower price somewhere else.

Before I paid attention to the price match policy, I usually paid for my purchases at full price. A grocery shopping trip never has to break your pocket. So, I started to look at the prices from the company’s website. For instance, if I shop at Target, I often use the Target app to scan each item to see the price online versus the price in-store. Whichever is less expensive, I will ask to pay that price. Since big retailers always want to attract customers, their apps can also send you notifications when they have a big sale going on. I often use the Target app and the Amazon app to check for on sale groceries at Target stores or Whole Foods Markets.

Other than using the apps or websites to check for discounted items from retailers, you can also save a lot of money if you become their loyal member. As long as the company does not require you to pay any fees, you should go ahead and accept to become their loyal member or “reward member.” Just pay attention to retailers that ask you to become their reward member by signing up for a credit card. This is both a good way to save money and the worst way to lose money. For instance, as I am always aware of my spendings, credit card companies cannot trick me into opening an account with them. However, I have seen a lot of people losing a lot of money to credit card companies while thinking that they are actually saving some money.

Photo by Omar Abascal on Unsplash

When you are a reward member, you can buy a lot of products at a lower price. For instance, I often shop at smaller retailers like Safeway, CVS pharmacy, and Walgreens pharmacy. These retailers do not always price their products as low as those at Target or Walmart, but with a reward membership, I can still buy a lot of stuff for cheap. I often look for coupons on their apps and present these coupons at checkout. The coupons always save me a lot of money on every shopping trip. Last but not least, if you like to buy in large quantities, consider getting a membership at Costco or Sam’s Club. Before, I did not know that I could get some of my money back when I paid for gas. I always bought gas from random gas stations. After I learned that I could get cashback on gas from my Costco membership, I always plan accordingly and get gas at Costco only to maximize the amount of money I can get back from my membership.

If you do not have a reward membership at Costco, Sam’s Club, or other retailers, consider signing up for a couple of them and start earning some cashback.

Cocktails on a Budget

I am not a big fan of alcoholic beverages, but I do like to have a cocktail or two while hanging out with my friends, especially on special occasions. However, a good drink does not have to break your pocket. A lot of the time, when we think of getting a couple of drinks, we would think of heading to the bar. There is nothing wrong with it, except it can cost you a fortune. If you are not trying to cut back on your spending, the bar is a bit more exciting place to go. There is usually loud music and a lively vibe at the bar. The later in the night, the more fun it gets. However, music can be played at your place too for a much lower price, you and your friends can have all kinds of fun, I often play drinking games with my friends or karaoke, and most of all, you can make drinks just as good as the ones you buy from the bar. Thus, if your goal is to save money, think of how you can hang out with your friends at your home or their home. It could save you a lot of money while you can still have a good time.

I used to live in a big city so I always got attracted to the city’s lively nightlife. There are countless things a person can do in a big city at night. In my case, I usually hang out with my friends at night, both weekdays and weekends, in clubs or bars in the city’s downtown area. It was a fun time, but it was also a mistake. Having fun once or twice a week is acceptable, at least in my opinion, but having fun almost every night and spending a lot of money on stuff I can make at home is not acceptable. Normally, I spent at least $50 per place. This meant that if I was to come to more than one place, which I often did, I would lose all the money I made that day. By the time I decided to start saving money, the first thing I did was to avoid going to bars and clubs completely. I started to invest some money into popular and widely used alcohols such as rum, my favorite, vodka, whiskey, cognac, etc. I also started to research cocktail recipes that I can make at home. Lastly, I invested in some mixing tools. I was lucky to find someone who was also a part-time bartender. She was my co-worker, and after a few short conversations about cocktails, she offered to train me on some basic recipes.

Photo by Jenna Bollweg on Unsplash

Until this day, I rarely go to the bar, especially when there is the pandemic. I have saved a lot of money by making my drinks at home, and some of my friends have also joined me to practice making drinks by themselves. We have added a fun activity to our parties, a cocktail contest. Everyone can create a cocktail that will be judged by the rest. I find this activity to be very interesting since we can try new recipes all the time. Last but not least, since I have my own place, I decorated my place a little bit so it would look like a bar. My balcony is my friends’ favorite spot to hang out and enjoy their drinks.

Try making some cocktails at home and share them with your friends or family this weekend. It will be fun.

Organize and Sell

To save money, it is necessary to check for less important items in your house and sell them so you can earn a few extra bucks. Most people do not remember what they have in their house until they discover them someday. The problem is that before you discover your long-lost can opener at the back of your drawer, or your flashlight dropped behind the tool car in the corner of your garage, you will buy new things because you need them. If this happens all the time, you will definitely lose a lot of money. To prevent unnecessary purchases, organize your belongings accordingly so that you can find them every time you need them. For things that you do not need anymore, just sell them.

Let’s admit this, we do not like to clean and organize our house. It is the most boring task, and it takes forever to be finished. Who would like to spend their precious day off running around the house, picking up dirty T-shirts, trash, and miscellaneous items on the floor, or pulling out drawers and opening up those cabinets to count and organize the stuff that is not in the right place? I am sure that people who do not want to lose money do this at least once or twice a month. When I was living with my parents, I often saw my dad walking around the house on the weekend to pick up misplaced items. I always helped him with this task but I did not think that I would be doing the same thing someday. My dad told me that as my mom was cleaning the house on the weekend, he helped her with organizing things so that they know what they do not need to buy and what they need to buy. This is like tracking your inventory to see which products are out of stock so that you can order some more. If you don’t know what you have and what you don’t have, you will end up wasting money on things you don’t need.

After I moved out and lived by myself, I ended up failing to do what my parents did. I often got very tired after work so I just neglected cleaning my apartment. It was a mess so it was very hard for me to keep track of what to not buy. As a result, if I thought I needed something, I bought it instead of checking my own inventory. For instance, I had four similar screwdrivers because I cannot remember where I put them. I had way too much canned fruits and vegetables because I did not organize them. I often shoved them into a corner in my kitchen after each shopping trip. I did not count how much food I had so I bought too much and threw away a lot.

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Once I developed the habit of organizing my stuff carefully, I also learned that I could sell the extra items to make some money. As a result, I was able to get some of my money back. Although I lost more money than I gained, I learned a valuable lesson.

Look around your house this weekend to see if it is well-organized. If not, try organizing your stuff to see what you may find. Sell stuff you don’t need so you can earn some money back.

Unsubscribe

Nowadays, we are all subscribed to some kind of streaming service. It is true that these services are relatively cheaper than cable service, and the content selections are much wider, but they can also be a burden if you do not manage them properly. I have a lot of relatives and friends who say that they love to watch movies and TV series on their electronic devices so they ditch cable and subscribe to a lot of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime video, Disney Plus, HBO Max, etc. The problem is that each of these providers charges around $10 or more per month, and if you have access to upgraded services, the price will be much higher. Gradually, these services will cost you a fortune.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of television. I grew up watching television much less than other children of the same age. I like to play outside with my friends rather than sit all day in front of a TV. Since my relationship with television is not that close, I was able to avoid cable service fees for quite a while until the arrival of online streaming services. As a young person, I am always attached to an electronic device of some sort. It could either be my cell phone, iPad, laptop, or my desktop computer. I used to watch a lot of movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu because I always got hooked on the stories. I gradually developed a bad habit of turning on something to watch almost all the time when I am at home. From a kid who does not like television that much, I turned myself into a big fan of things you can watch. Sometimes, I feel like my room or my house is just too quiet, so I turn something on to watch.

After I moved out of my parents’ house, I had to work a lot so I did not have a lot of free time to watch things like I used to. Since my dad used to pay for these streaming services, as I had moved out, I took over all of these contracts. Little did I realize that these streaming services were going to become a huge burden for me later. With that being said, I worked more, resulting in less watching things. Since I kept all of these services, I paid a lot of money for them without actually using them. As a result, I ended up canceling these services. However, canceling may not be the best solution if the show you are watching is exclusive to a particular provider, and you are in love with that show. Thus, I paused my services and kept only Netflix, my most favorite.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

If you feel like you need all of these services or some services and they are not helping you to save money, try to find someone to share them with. These streaming services usually offer access on two devices or more, so it would be a great idea if you have someone to share with. In my case, as I live with someone right now, we share our accounts so we can cut down a lot of spending on streaming services. Still, the golden rule is to at least pause your streaming service until you feel like you really need it.

Do you have someone to share your streaming services with? If not, find some friends or relatives who would like to watch movies and TV shows and offer them to share the services with you. It is a win-win situation for both of you.