Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advice Genie: Your First Car & Apartment

My life as an independent adult started with kind of a lurch.  I was living a somewhat peaceful life at home when I was suddenly compelled (that's a story for another day) to find my own humble abode, means of transportation, and the trappings to go with those two very important--and pricey!!--things.

Here's a chunk of advice for savvy chicks out there right now.  No matter if you are 13 or 31, you should be tucking away some money for the future.  Make it a savings account or a glass piggy bank, it doesn't matter.  Just simply tuck away 10% of every paycheck or designate random gifts or financial findings to that "rainy day" money.  It'll make a hell of a difference!

Personally, I have a little decorative purse sitting on my dresser that I put my babysitting money into (maybe $20 a week), and it adds up.  When my car needed to be inspected and needed new tires, the $200 I had saved went to cover that, with money left over.

Another chunk of advice on adult life set-up.  When shopping for your first place, don't go to big brand-name box stores for those knick knacks like spatulas, scotch tape, or even curtains.  I can think of at least 5 smaller, cheaper places to find those little things that add up to big dollars.  Want the scoop on where to shop?  Ideas lurk below:
Each regional area of the United States sports myriad varieties of resale stores that aren't name brand or huge chains.  For your first apartment you don't need the top-of-the-line thumbtacks, shower curtain rings, or toilet plungers.  All you need is one that will get the job done.

For instance, I shopped at my favorite places and supplied my closets, cupboards, and entire apartment with the following...
  • assorted (adorable and unique) glasses and mugs each for 50 cents (Goodwill)
  • pink cow-spotted broom and dust pan for $4 (Christmas Tree Shops)
  • bath mats for $2 (Christmas Tree Shops)
  • curtains for $7 a panel (compared to $14) (CTS)
  • discount canned, boxed, and dry goods at a liquidation market for mere pennies (jello boxes, canned veggies and baking supplies, spices, flour, cereals, bottled water and juices, makeup, toilet paper and paper towels, even light bulbs and cookie utensils--I even got a shiny metal over the toilet rack for my towels and washcloths for a mere $10 at this particular liquidation market)
  • sheets and blankets for $5 and $1 respectively (throw them in the wash on hot with color safe bleach and you're set)(Goodwill & Salvation Army)
  • toaster for $5 (Recycle North)
  • microwave for $14 (Goodwill)
I don't even know how much money I saved by shopping second-hand for my first apartment!

Now, had I been someone who was a chef or something glamorous, I wouldn't have been poking thru the $1 bins at Christmas Tree Shops looking for measuring spoons and flimsy whisks.  I would've got straight to Williams-Sonoma for the best of the best.  But my cheap-version wooden spoons and metal whisks get the job done for the few scant times I use them in my kitchen, and I only paid pennies for each.

Then there's car shopping.  *ugh*  I bought my car at a place here in VT called Paya's Auto Sales, and my 2004 Pontiac Grand Am (a big-ish, solid car with power windows, cruise control, cd player and air conditioning) cost me $5995.  It was financed through a local credit union, and it's a great car:  safe on the roads in winter time, good on mileage, and easy on my pocket book (with payments under $200 a month).

Of course, if you want to pay for a brand new car whose value is worth 25% less the second you drive it off the lot, go right ahead.  I firmly believe in being able to buy a used or even rebuilt car after checking it thoroughly and calculating wisely, then driving it and taking care of it for years.  But it's all about what's in the package deal for your pride...sometimes driving a used or rebuilt car (or one that isn't very fashionable or sporty, like a Pontiac) isn't "cool."

It's a vicious, delicious cycle, saving money.  Not only does saving money by being savvy and frugal make you look like a winner because you end up surrounding yourself with possessions you need with money left over, but also you feel even more satisfied knowing that you're spending wisely and one step ahead.  After all, the more you have to tuck away for emergencies, rainy days, unexpected illnesses or lay-offs, the better.

Worried about buying cheap crap?
1.)  It might not be THAT much cheaper than the name brand stuff.  Do some research about where it's manufactured.
2.) Does it matter?  If it breaks, heck, it was $1!  Go buy a new one.  Chances are your name-brand _____ will break just as easily but be less- easily replaced.  

**photos of my beautiful, cheap-chic apartment and loverly gray Pontiac to come!**

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