A blog about spending wisely in your twenties, with advice on everything from cooking to saving money on gas; how to teach yourself to save money instead of spending it, traveling without breaking the bank, and much more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

One Month Old

Believe it or not, You Might as Well Burn $5! is one month old today! Thank you to everyone who's been reading since day one, and of course thank you to everyone who 's joined along the way. Thanks also to Scott for buying http://www.burnfive.com. This blog has been far more successful than I imagined, and I'm hoping to continue to build upon that- bringing you even better researched articles and useful tips.

YMaWB$5 has received over 700 hits since March 18th, with individual pageviews of 1000+. Hits have come from 23 different countries and from 46 of the 50 U.S. states. According to Google Analytics, this little blog is performing leaps and bounds better than blogs of a similar size.

So, thank you to everyone.

I've had a lot of ideas for posts thrown at me since I began writing, but now I'm asking for a comment roll-call. What would you guys like to see in the coming months? Leave me a comment and keep reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Saving Time & Money on Laundry

Most 20-somethings probably don't live in apartments with in-unit laundry facilities. Some are lucky enough to have on-site laundry rooms, but those machines are often pretty expensive and a lot of them require the use of a pre-paid card. Even then, going to the laundrymat is often cheaper than using the complex's facilities.

Here are a few ways to save money & time on your laundry:

(1) If you use a laundry mat, only use it for washing. Pile the clothes neatly in their baskets (or bags), then take them home and line dry them. You'll spend less time sitting around the laundry mat, and you can keep all those quarters. If you're one of the lucky few to have a washer/dryer in unit, you should still line dry to save on utility bills.

(2) Do your laundry at your parents' house. Until my parents up and moved to England a year ago, I showed up Monday nights to watch Heroes and do my laundry. This might only work if you like your parents.

(3) If you've got a friend with a washer/dryer offer a trade. You could offer to clean something at their place, cook dinner, or to buy their laundry detergent. This one's also a great excuse to hang out with friends for a couple of hours.

(4) Combine laundrymat trips with a similarly laundry-disabled friend. Combine your loads and wash them together. You can save money and be less bored than you would be hanging around a laundry mat by yourself.

(5) Don't use too much detergent.

This post was inspired by Shawna of bumblef**cked.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Buy More Money

Here's a novel way to save some cash: buy someone's unwanted giftcard. Often you can find giftcards to any number of grocery, drug, or household stores for sale at a discount. And if you've planned ahead to shop during a sale, you stand to save a lot of money.

Check out swapagift or cardavenue to search for cards. You could also make an ad on craigslist (or post a myspace bulletin or a facebook note) offering to buy unwanted gift cards. Most gift card sites also offer the option to trade, so if your grandma gets you a Macy's card, but you're wise enough to be buying well-made clothing secondhand, you could swap the card out for a merchant with a little more utility.

Just be sure that you don't start blowing money on random giftcards that you don't need. For example, I've got some gardening projects coming up- so I'm hoping to offset costs by researching sales at Lowe's/Home Depot and then buying a gift card at a discount. When this month is over and I'm back to grocery shopping, I might try to buy a costco giftcard, so that I can buy baking supplies in bulk AND receive the built-in discount of having bought an $80 gift card for $70 or less. But I'm certainly not going to buy a $200 Nordstrom's card for $180.

Buying gift cards at a discount is also a great way to save on gift-giving. Not that you should encourage anyone's Starbucks habit, but if you really want to get someone a Starbucks card, might as well save some money on it, right?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Festival of Frugality #121

This week's Festival of Frugality was hosted by Kyle over at Rather be Shopping. Here are my picks from all the great articles featured:

New Old-Fashioned Gal goes on a Consumption Diet.

The Digerati Life presents Frugal Tips: How to Make 10 Ordinary Things Last Longer.

Campus Grotto dicusses how to Rent Textbooks.

Go check out the festival for more great reads!

Monday, April 14, 2008

What If Rent Was Already in the Bank?

Pretty much every financial book ever starts off with "Why You Need an Emergency Fund", generally about three month's salary or six-plus months of living expenses all stashed in a fairly liquid, but high interest account. Most of them also say that you should build this fund at all costs; take on a second job, sell something, whatever. I think an emergency fund is an entirely different beast if you're younger than 27. It's still a necessity, but our emergency funds can be a lot lower than 3 months salary. I'm not saying you should scrap the goal of ever having 3 month's salary stashed away, but if you start building a smaller emergency fund at a younger age, you don't need to flip out trying to put away $9000 or more when you're 30+.

First of all, we need a more concrete emergency to save for, an exact number. Busting your ass to save X thousand dollars doesn't feel like a goal, it feels like a chore- especially when you're used to living paycheck-to-paycheck. Anyone just beginning to become financially stable is likely to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount to be saved if they go the three-months-salary route. I suggest that instead of randomly saving to reach an unspecified quadruple digit goal, begin with saving a backup of your most consistent, necessary expenses.

The obvious starting place for an emergency fund is rent. Just your rent, that check you start freaking out over on the 28th. If you can manage to have one month's rent stashed away, think about all the peace of mind you've got. Sick and can't work for a day or two? You're covered! Finals coming up? Take a day or two off to study. Most of us could have a month's worth of rent saved up after 3 months or so if we cut out some of our more frivolous purchases.

After rent, a month's worth of bills is the next obvious step. Sit down and calculate exactly how much you spend on bills every month. Spend a month or two focusing on adding that amount plus a little cushion to your fund.

Once you've got a month's worth of rent & bills stashed away, the next obvious necessity (for me, at least) is food. Figure out the minimum you need to eat decently for a month, double that- and work toward adding it to your fund.

My next step would be gasoline, but yours might be different. Instead of slaving away at a second job trying to save thousands, why not pick a series of smaller, more concrete goals and reach them by keeping your money instead of desperately trying to earn or find more when bills come due? Once you've saved up a month's worth of rent, bills, food, & gasoline...why not tack on another month's rent? After a while you'll have a few thousand dollars stashed away, earning interest, and you'll never have to panic about getting your rent in on time when you've lost income.

For some great tips on how to find money to put in your fledgling emergency fund, check out 50 Tips to Help Establish Your Emergency Fund at Consumerism Commentary.