Monday, 31 January 2011

Day 15

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language. - Elise Boulding 

The Purse Of A Pro

Congratulations on making it to the final day of Cut Your Costs Bootcamp!
We hope that you walk away from this bootcamp with useful cost-cutting strategies for every room of your home. That said, we can't let you leave the house unprepared. Take a minute to peer into your purse to see if you can take your cost-cutting habits with you.
Here's What Shouldn't Be In Your Wallet.

Don't walk around with personal information like your PIN, account numbers, or Social Security card. The only identifying info in there should be your name and the best way to reach you if your wallet is found.

Here's What Should Be In Your Wallet.

Credit Card

Keep your main credit card in your wallet; keep an emergency credit card hidden away at home

We aim to carry around $25 to $50 at all times. Although any loss of cash is a blow, the goal is to keep little enough that we won't, say, have trouble paying rent if we lose our wallet, but enough to split a restaurant bill with friends as the occasion arises.

A.T.M./Debit Card

You should always have access to your checking account, just in case you need extra cash on the go.

Personal Identification: Stores have the right to ask for an ID when you use a credit card, so you need to have one ready to show them.
Insurance Card

You'll need your health insurance on hand for any medical services, and your auto insurance card in case you get into a fender bender.

Discount Club Cards

This includes your CVS card, Regal card, promotional tenth-coffee-free cards, and anything else that fits the bill. This also includes your AAA card, which you should have with you at all times if you're a member.
Membership Cards

This includes things that have already been paid for, like a gym membership card.

Airline Cards

This is optional, but recommended—never forget to use your frequent flyer number whenever you travel.

Day 14 Bootcamp second to last

              Leave sooner, drive slower, live longer

In The Garage: Highway To Savings

As we move into your garage, we find one of the most expensive

purchases you'll probably ever make, other than a house. Today, we'll go over ways to save on all of your car expenditures, but stay tuned even if you don't have a car. Tomorrow is the last day of bootcamp, which means you'll be heading out into the world—even if you live in a big city without a car, we've got you covered with ways to save.

Get A Steep Discount On Your Car Insurance.

This is actually far easier than it sounds. Here are some of the easiest methods:

An advanced degree can win you up to 12% off of your car insurance bill. Make sure to tell your insurance company.
Take a defensive driving course. If you happen to have already taken one, tell your insurance.
If you own a home, you can get a discount for being stable and responsible.
Are you a teacher? This could save you up to 7.5%.
Having more than one policy with the agent or insurer can also help you negotiate down your total prices.
Note that tickets and accidents will raise your insurance payments, so always be on your best driving behavior.
Make Your Car Last Longer.

Preempt potential major issues by scheduling regular inspections every 5,000 miles. Make sure your tire pressure is correct, which will make your tires last longer, and help maintain your transmission, engine, and suspension. Maintenance is important because, after all, it's cheaper to replace a spark plug than an engine.

Pay The Best Prices For Car Repair.

Try the free RepairPal app for iPhones; if you don't have an iPhone, access the just-for-phones version of their website. Enter in the specific job you need on your car, and RepairPal will spit back a price estimate, so you'll know if you've received a fair quote. (This app is helpful even for those without their own cars because it'll help you find repair shops in the area, including user reviews, if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere in a rental car.)

Mind The Gas.

Here are a few ways to slash your gas costs:
Unload the trunk. The heavier the car, the less efficient your gas mileage.
Once you're on the highway, the speeding-then-hitting-the brakes method of driving can reduce your fuel efficiency by up to 33%, so keep it steady.
When you do have to fill up, check out BillShrink first to find the cheapest gas station in your area.
Words Of Wisdom For The Car-Less.

If you commute every day via public transportation, check with your employer to see if you can buy your transit pass with pre-tax money (TransitChek is an example of one such program). For instance, if you'd normally be taxed on a paycheck of $1,000 but your transit pass costs $100, then you would be taxed on $900 instead—meaning that you'd pay less in taxes total. If your city offers an unlimited pass on a monthly or other basis, do the quick math to see if that makes sense for you.

  1.  Review the above car insurance discounts, and make a list of the ones you qualify for

  1. Call your car insurance company, and ask about discounts, as well as any other unpublished benefits.
  2. Make an appointment to get your car tuned up, if you haven't had it done within the past 5,000 miles.


Day 13 Boot camp nearly there!

I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends. - Nancie J. Carmody 

In The Kitchen:

Ways To Entertain For Less

What's the point of a lovely, cost-effective home if you're the only one who sees it? Whether you're in the mood for a low-key drink with your roommates or plan to entertain a whole group, we've got you covered for the best ways to pull it off with style, grace, and a minimal amount of money.

Be Your Own Set Designer.

Even if you're looking to have a fancy dinner party, don't spend any extra money on aesthetics. Instead of buying flowers, adorn your table with a bowl of fruit or summer vegetables (which you can eat on your own, later). If you have access to a garden, pluck a few leaves and attach them to simple note cards with your guests' names. If you have a colorful set of dish towels, spread each towel lengthwise over the narrower part of your table to serve as a shared place mat between two people sitting across from each other. Otherwise, don't be shy about repurposing a pretty scarf as a table runner.

LV Etiquette.

Feel free to ask your guests to bring along a beverage, food item or dessert of their choice, especially if it's a casual gathering. Let them know if there is something specific they can bring or help out with.

Day 12 Bootcamp

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. - Jim Davis 

In the Kitchen: Eating Smart

Food is one of our biggest expenses. We all know that it's cheaper to eat at home than to dine out, but trips to the grocery store aren't cheap.

Start With A Strategy.

Hardly anything is more persuasive than your stomach, so make sure it's satisfied before you breach those sliding doors. If you plan out your tactics for sample sales, you should also plan your attack for supermarket sales. Our favorite tactic is perimeter shopping—sticking to the aisles of the store along the perimeter—since the most expensive and least healthy foods are toward the middle.

Once you're done with your shopping, save your receipts. Go through them at the end of the month to see what you've bought that you didn't use up in time. Don't buy that next month. Come armed with a plan for what's worth buying in bulk, and what doesn't pay.

Embrace The Discounts.

Saving money has become increasingly stylish in the down economy, and technology has made coupons trendy again. For great deals at the grocery store, try some of these resources:

GroceryCoupon Network

Nonetheless, some of the steepest discounts are available only in print from individual grocery stores. So, we always shop for groceries on Sunday night, after the coupons come out in the newspaper. Doing so often saves us 25% to 50% off of our total. If your grocery store offers a loyalty card, we also suggest using that religiously in order to earn higher savings and deals over time.
Make The Most Of The Leftovers.

Everyone loves the idea of leftovers, but sometimes the execution can go a little sour. Here are two tips you need to know to prepare for that second feast in a safe, healthy, delicious way:

Handle It Properly

Put leftover food into the refrigerator promptly and strive to protect it from air, repackaging it if necessary. Eat leftover fish the next day; you have three days for something like leftover short ribs as long as you keep the food in the fridge.

Cook With Leftovers

Leftovers are wonderful, but don't be afraid to repurpose them by adding in some additional ingredients like onions, carrots, cheese, and eggs. Prep the new ingredients first, as the leftovers should be the last thing you add to the concoction since they require heat, not more cooking.
How Your Lunch Adds Up.

You made it through the grocery store, and now you have food for…dinner. But what about that lunch you buy every day? Consider whether you have time to make lunch (it doesn't have to be a gourmet dish), and grab the groceries you'll need to bring your own.

  1. Calculate how much you spend on lunch at work. If you don't have time to prepare lunches in advance, buy a few things you can keep at your desk and make at work.
  2. Pack leftovers for lunch two times this week
  1. Check your budget to make sure that your monthly grocery expenses are accurately accounted for.
  2. Bookmark your favorite online coupon sites (check out our favorites for suggestions). Visit them before your next grocery shopping trip

Day 11 Bootcamp

Water, air, and cleanness are the chief articles in my pharmacy. - Napoleon Bonaparte 

In The Bathroom: Through The Looking Glass

Rare is the medicine cabinet that isn't overflowing with expired sinus medication, assorted cotton balls, and a handful of yellowing Band-Aids…our goal is to help you assemble a useful medicine cabinet with the basics you need to have—for the least money possible.

Team Generic.

If you've been keeping up with LearnVest, you know that we're big fans of generic medications. The mere fact that the generic drugs generally cost about 80% less than their name brand counterparts is enough for us to don our "Team Generic" tees. These less costly, equally effective drugs are FDA-approved copies of brand-name drugs whose patents have expired. When your doctor gives you a prescription, bring it to a pharmacy and try to get a generic version of the medicine that you need.

Generic drugs are safe and FDA-approved. They only differ from their brand-name equivalents in size, shape, or color, and sometimes in inactive ingredients, like dyes and fillers. All of those dyes and fillers, however, are approved by the FDA, and the meds have the same active ingredients.

  1. Go through your medicine cabinet and throw away anything that has expired.
  2. Organize the cabinet so you know what you have when you need it.

Day 10 Bootcamp

It matters more what's in a woman's face than what's on it.  - Claudette Colbert 

In The Bathroom:

The Price Of Beauty

Each year, American women aged 30 to 49 spend approximately $1,200 on cosmetics, $1,000 on their hair, $500 on eyebrow maintenance and waxing, and $400 on caring for their hands and feet, according to a recent Newsweek article. That's around $3,100 annually—and $31,000 over a decade!

It's perfectly possible to look great every day without leaving an army of salon specialists in your wake. Sure, it makes sense to go to the salon before a big event (your first ever video screening, perhaps?), but we bring you tips for the daily grind.

How To Make Discount Makeup Go The Distance.

On a daily basis, $30 Chanel mascara performs no better than $7 Maybelline. Here's how to make sure that your Revlon does the trick just as well as the Dior:
Make sure to throw out any expired makeup. All cosmetics have an expiration date, regardless of the type or the brand.
Store your makeup in a dry place away from heat and light.

Ensure that your makeup goes the extra mile by applying it like a pro.

Where To Buy Makeup For Less.

From now on, you shouldn't be paying full price for your makeup. If you have a favorite brand or know exactly what you're looking for, consider ordering makeup from an online discount retailer. Here are some of our favorites:

"Natural" Ways To Reduce Beauty Costs.

Instead of paying high prices for beauty products, substitute some around-the-house items in creative ways. According to Alexandra Spunt, author of No More Dirty Looks, your body and skin will thank you for using clean, natural products. "Very harsh surfactants—chemicals that makes the products really foam," she says, "strip your natural oil, and make you have to shampoo and wash even more." This also means that you don't need to waste money on leave-in products to replenish those same oils.

  1. Check out these sites for discounts on your makeup:,,

  1. Throw out any beauty products that are past their prime.
  2. Make a list of how much you spend on all beauty expenses. There are probably places you can cut back.

Day 9 Bootcamp

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. - Coco Chanel 

In The Closet: Save Money On Clothing

We know you're going to spend money on clothes (heck, so are we). But, in the spirit of helpful guidance, we've put together a program to help you save on clothing from now on.

Know Where To Go For What.

We love high-end fashion, but we only go for it when we can land it at regular prices. Luckily for us, the newest trend is "diffusion fashion," which means that designers are increasingly making lines for discount stores.

Know When To Go For What.

Although it might not feel natural to buy fluffy sweaters on the first beautiful day of spring, items invariably go on clearance when a store switches its inventory from one season for another. You can easily save 30% to 70% simply by buying at the end of a season. We like to pack up our purchases right away—tags and all. That way, when we break out the winter boots that we bought almost a year earlier, they'll feel brand new.

Know What To Go For.

The most important factor when you get to the register is whether or not it fits. Ill-fitting, expensive clothes can pale in comparison to fitted, flattering cheap clothes. Companies cut their clothes differently, so always try on a potential purchase. Digging into your hips? No. Pooling at your ankles? No. Only buy clothes that fit imperfectly if you have a great tailor, or if the store offers free alterations. This service is for little things, like shortening pants. If you need more than one thing done to your piece, don't buy it. It doesn't fit

Know If You Need To Go Shopping In The First Place.

Instead of shopping, consider swapping. Set up a clothing swap with a close friend, or even host a swapping party, in which everyone brings in clothes she'd like to trade for something new. If your friends aren't feeling it, check out sites like,, and Craigslist's barter section can also be a goldmine if you need some new threads—new to you, at least—and have clothing to get rid of, in turn. A word of warning: Proceed with caution when swapping online. If you can, meet to exchange the items in person, in a public place.

Collect Savings Before You Pass Go.

Before shopping, hit the internet. Many websites off promotional codes and coupons to help you save massively at retail stores—think up to 50% off

  1. Create a list of the stores you go to most often, and what is best—and most inexpensive—at each. Refer to it the next time you need something specific.
  2. Talk to your friends about setting up a clothing swap. Otherwise, browse swap sites to see if there's a free way to get what you want.
  1. Read the LV article on which stores are best for each kind of merchandise.
  2. Print out our seasonal buying guide. Refer to it the next time you need to make a seasonal clothing purchase
  3. Bookmark your favorite websites for retail coupons. Make a habit of visiting them before any new purchase.

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