(Photo Courtesy: The Running Doc)

Dear Diary,


I spend my paycheck before it’s directly deposited into my bank account.  Almost every dollar’s designated to a bill or expense.  This January, I plan to pay off my sugar daddies who dump me at the end of the month.  You know the type–my apartment manager who lets me live under his roof until the first of the month passes.  My customer service representative whose credit card company covers the costs of dinners, diapers and dry cleaning services until the billing cycle ends.  My cable man who entertains me with reality shows I won’t admit to watching until the payment reminder emails.  And my daycare provider who teaches my daughter letters and numbers until the bill mails.  And the world’s biggest heartbreaker of all–Uncle Sam. He’s taking 2 percent more from my check–and the checks of every working American–on the first payday of 2013. That doesn’t sound like a lot.  But over time, it adds up.

For the past two years, taxpayers have been paying 4.2 percent in Social Security contributions. In 2013, it will go back up to the original 6.2 percent.  So, if you make around $50,000, you’ll pay an extra $1,000 in taxes for Social Security over the course of a year.  And like my mother always says–with any amount of money–a thousand dollars is a thousand dollars!


I can complain, curse or comment all over cyberspace, but that won’t change the balance of my bank account.  Instead, I decided to look at ways we can cut costs or make money totaling $100 a month.


1.  Find a Side Hustle

Mine is writing.  I make extra money from doing what I love.  What talent can you tap into to make more money?  Are you an artist?  Set up shop on Etsy.  Are you a hoarder?  Sell some stuff on Ebay.   Become a bartender, a babysitter or even a paid designated driver.


2.  Turn of the TV 

Have you ever complained that nothing was on television even though you have a hundred channel lineup?  If so, have you tried to live life without a television?  If you can’t go to that extreme, call your cable company and request a basic package or inquire about a special. Although I would prefer to flip through premium channels, I don’t really miss HBO and Showtime.  In addition to cable companies, you cell phone provider may offer discounts when you threaten to stop service.


3.  Cut Coupons

I don’t know what extreme couponers do with a dozen bags of cat food when they don’t own a cat or a hundred boxes of sugar free cereal that they won’t eat, but I do know they are savvy shoppers.  I’m the opposite.  I don’t take time to clip coupons.  When I do, I forget to take them to the store and the discounts expire.   I won’t ever  stockpile supplies, but this year, I will print out coupons for things I actually use.  I’ll also meal plan and write a shopping list–in advance not in my mind as I aimlessly wander up and down the grocery store aisles buying things that are already in the pantry.


4.  Dine at B.Y.O.B. Restaurants

I am a regular at the Thai restaurant a few blocks from my house.  I not only love the food but love the fact that they are a B.Y.O.B. establishment.  My friends and I can sip champagne on a beer budget.  We just pay a small corkage fee. You can also buy the Entertainment Book or purchase half priced meal deals online to dine on a dime.


5. Get a Library Card

The other day, my friend returned DVDs she rented, but she didn’t drive to the video store.  She went to the library.   Cardholders can check out books, CDs, DVDs and video games.  Plus, most branches offer free classes, workshops and fun activities for families.


6. Workout With Mother Nature

Instead of spending money for a monthly gym member, workout at a local park.  The one near my house has hiking trails, exercise stations and water fountains.  I also read about a man who enrolls in a college class each semester to use his ID at the university’s gym!


7. Chill Out  

When frozen, batteries last longer, candles burn slower and seeds germinate faster.  Plus, pantyhose are less likely to run when stored in the freezer instead of your dresser.  And did you know that the freezer works as a washer?  To prevent fading or shrinking your favorite jeans, seal a pair in a Ziploc bag and freeze for a week.  The cold kills bacteria and deodorizes smells.


Hey DFTM family–What cost cutting tips would you add to this list?  How are you saving money in 2013?


About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

4 Responses

  1. T. Espi

    I am all for #3! It’s amazing how much money you can save using coupons properly. I say properly because you have to learn the right time to use them and know which ones can be doubled, used with other coupons etc.

  2. Laila @OnlyLaila

    All awesome tips! I live at the library because of the free entertainment and I don’t have cable. I also have multiple side hustles to increase my income.


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