A new year, new goals, maybe it’s to be healthier, spend more time with your familia, or cut down that debt and save more. As a mompreneur I can honestly tell you that being conservative with money is at the top of my goals list since I have no idea when my next design project or sale will be. This can and IS very scary especially when you have a familia and want to ensure they are taken care of. Let’s face it, today we all need to hustle extra hard because unlike our parent’s and grandparent’s generations, people don’t work for companies their entire lives anymore. There is more uncertainty, so being smart with money will still let you splurge on those Must Have items (Um hello Nars foundation and rock concerts, yes including Sesame Street Live) while saving money for emergencies, that dream home, or paying off those credit cards.
Lo que mi mama me enseño del dinero. (What my mama taught me about money).
Actually, there are two pieces of advice that she gave me. The first, as a little girl, was to always have a piggy bank around and save money. She never told me what to save for but she instilled a saving practice. She always told us the story of a time she didn’t have money to buy milk or bread. My dad was traveling for work and her “allowance” was gone. She told my brother, who was like 4 or 5 years old at the time the situation and he didn’t hesitate to pull out his piggy bank and give it to her so she could buy the necessities. She always tells this story with tears in her eyes. My two year old Victoria has a piggy bank. Unlike my mother, I gave her a focus to save for. She is saving for our first family Disney trip later this year. It’s important to have something to strive for.
The second piece of advice and a very powerful one came after I eloped with my ex boyfriend. She said to open a bank account under my name that He didn’t know about. She told me to save $20 here and there. When I asked her why? She said, “Para que el dia de mañana que te quieras ir tengas con que.” (So if the day comes that you want to leave you can). Now you have to understand that mi papá was muy machista and my mom had dreams of her own. Deep down I know that if she could’ve left him early on she would have, but she decided to stay and was/is an amazing mamá. Through the years my dad changed for the better as many people do and they have been together for 49 years. My mom? She has a bank account all her own.
Now back to those tips!
I’ll share with you MY personal money saving tips. I’m not rich, I’m not debt free, but I am enjoying life, I am enjoying mi familia, and I am focused. It's important as Latinos to empower ourselves especially with money matters since it's something our previous generations didn't talk much about. These are a start maybe they can help you too.
1. Know what you have.
It amazes me how many women and men I talk to that have no idea what they have. I mean, they have no idea what’s in their savings account, they don’t know how big their 401k is and where the money is being invested, they don’t know if they have a life insurance plan through their jobs, how much interest their credit card charges, and on and on. Knowledge is power but means nothing without action. Your lack of knowledge can be preventing you from making more money.
2. Once you know what you have take action.
Didn’t know your credit card company was charging you 22% interest? Try getting a balance transfer at a lower rate. Even try calling the credit card company and have them lower it. It doesn’t hurt to try. Enroll in autopay so you don’t accidentally miss a payment and get charged late fees and a surge in interest rate. Does your company match your 401k contribution? Increase your contribution and you will see your retirement account grow at a quicker speed. Take the next step, it will lead you to success.
3. Enroll in state programs that offer discounts.
I am enrolled in the IDNYC program. I get Free YEARLY Memberships to Zoos, Museums, and Cultural institutions. There are also many discounts at entertainment events, health, and sporting events. It saves a TON of money on family activities and is great because there is so much variety. Go to your state website and see if there are any programs in your state and please take advantage of any student, local resident discounts, even AAA, Amex and others offer discounts at many events and institutions. Never pay full price!
4. Cook more, eat out less, and order less takeout.
If you've read my blog before you know that I love to eat and that will never change. What has changed is the amount of times we order takeout or eat out. I cook a lot more and try and make foods that will last more than one meal. As mamás we have so much on our to do lists, making larger meals fewer times a week means we’ ll have more time to focus on other things. My top choice meals? Anything I can throw into the crock pot, steamer, or oven that doesn’t require my physical presence over the stove. Set a timer and forget it. Check out these 50, yes 50 slow cooker Latino meals. I'm definitely giving these a try!
5. Freeze more, waste less, save more.
After I make some large meals I will freeze SOME things (like below). I find that not everything freezes well, but it eliminates a lot on wasting food and actually saves money. Soups freeze well except when they contain potatoes. Potatoes absorb too much water and taste funny. Breads and “ bready” items freeze well like bagels, english muffins, arepas, and tortillas (depends on the brand, some may fall apart). Stews, fricasse de pollo (Cubans) or sudao de pollo (Colombians) or Asopao (Dominicans) freeze well, again with little or no potatoes. Rice freezes well, but you have to put a little water and make sure to boil it so it tastes fresh. Key is to make it a little hard if you will freeze.
6. Buy store brand versus name brand (on some things).
So there are a few things where I don’t mind using store brands (see my faves below) versus name brands but in other cases no. You have to experiment and see if you and your familia are ok with the difference. My suggestion is to try 1 item every grocery shopping. If you like it great, and if you don’t try another next time, but the investment is small. Personally, I like many of Target’s own Simply Balanced and Up & Up, Rite Aid brand on some toiletry items, and recently I was told about www.brandless.comthat offers organic items with non brand names for $3. Word to the wise, check sizes as I was also told some of their items are tiny but may be worth a try.
7. Go 50/50 with an amiga at Costco, BJs, or Sams Club.
I live in Brooklyn, space is limited so we cannot house a large quantity of anything. However, years ago I split a Costco membership with a friend. How did it work? Great, actually. We would pick 1 day a month to go shopping, we would agree on items that we wanted to split, like an 8 pack of salmon fillets, or 4 loaves of artisanal bread, or even paper towels. We also bought our own stuff, but we would share the cost savings and it was never wasteful.
8. Shop local farmer’s market or farms.
Ok so there are no farms in Brooklyn, but we do have local farmer’s markets with great produce at very reasonable prices. During spring, late summer, or early autumn I like to visit the closer farms, usually an hour away and we'll go strawberry or apple picking, it becomes a family outdoor activity and we get some savings along the way.
9. Get outdoors, it’s free!
Taking your kids to the playground, having a picnic at the park, playing “ tourist” in your city like walking the Brooklyn Bridge doesn’t have to cost you much and your kids will love it. Plus it’s a way to get active, and moving, and being heart healthy.
10. Get creative with date nights.
Now many of you know that I live away from my family so I don’t have a free babysitter. Date night can end up costing an arm and a leg if we’re not creative because on average it’s an extra $100 just for a sitter. In NY we take full advantage of restaurant week, Broadway week, and spa week, where they offer up to 50% off regular prices. Check your local city and see if they have similar programs. We also support our friends, whether it’s supporting their new band at a local pub or larger venue , their art at a gallery, their speaking at an event, or helping support their charity, many of these outings cost little to nothing and makes our marriage and friendships stronger.
My last tip is to give. Life and the universe have an amazing way of returning two fold what you give to others. Enriching others people's lives in some way makes your heart spiritually richer and that is simply invaluable.
If you have more money saving tips PLEASE share in the comments. We are all living day to day and could use an extra tip or two!