Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pooches: On the Splurging and Saving of Dog Finances

Recently, we've been realizing just how expensive dog-ownership can be.
Especially as we've moved into a new home, and we're putting the rest of our savings into a new venture (we're hoping to be able to share about that soon!).
We wrote this earlier post about our dog splurges and things we just can't cut back on.
Since our pups are older, it has been hard finding places to skimp. We don't want to have any regrets.
So we just found some ways we can change to save money.
I've always been curious about how people do it, so here is a little peek into some ways we've been able to save money to allow for splurges for the pups:

Saving Money On (Not) Eating Out:
Breaking from the Habit
Our most impactful change so far is changing how often we eat out.
There are so many amazing places to go out to eat in Chicago.
Amazing places mere steps from our home that we pass each day on our daily walks.
When we went through our budget we realized how much we really spent on eating out.
Not to mention how easy it is to just go out, or order in, when you're tired after work on a Monday.
Or Tuesday.
Or basically any work day.
We weren't even enjoying the food that much, but it was easy and we needed to break ourselves from that habit.
We started by just going to the grocery store and stocking up on some easy microwave meals We actually took them out of the plastic and ate them from real plates so they looked like a nice meal.
We also made an event of sitting down at the table to eat together with an inexpensive glass of wine--thanks to Trader Joe's inexpensive wine options--to make our meal more of an event.
I know it sounds ridiculous, and I feel funny just writing it, but there was something about making a meal that looked visually appealing that helped break us from that take-out habit and we became accustomed to looking in our own fridge before going out or spending money on take-out.

Cooking Easily
I thought I hated cooking, but then I found this book which really made me understand how to use the fresh ingredients that are available each season to make easy meals. The recipes use a lot of the same ingredients to make different meals--because I hate having to go out to buy something you're only going to use for one meal--and I was able to use a lot of the spices from our herb garden, so I actually felt like cooking became easy.
It also became fun because we were always having people over for drinks and to eat in our new outdoor area and it was fun to make all the different recipes. This winter we've re-discovered our slow-cooker where cooking at home is no longer time consuming.
We started saving money on groceries by just going grocery shopping more often to make sure we were really going to eat what we were buying--I used to throw out so much uneaten food!
We have also discovered the new Pete's Market on Western and Madison is right on my way home. They have a huge selection of produce, and I don't have the same type of impulse buys as when we go to Trader Joe's.

Reducing the Temptation to Buy Stuff:
When we first decided to sell our place we got rid of a lot of stuff.
When we were packing to move we got rid of more stuff.
And when we finally moved in we got rid of a third huge batch.
Moving really made me realize how much money I waste on stupid things. And being faced with the idea of having to physically pack, carry and move all of those stupid things made me not want to buy things ever again.
We've done pretty well where everything has a spot in our home and we are very aware of double-checking that what we purchase and bring in really does have a purpose. Though I think making sure we are more conscious of annually going through our closets to help us remember how much money we could be wasting on things we don't need.

Learning Why Celebrities Look so Good in their Clothes:
I also realized I was wasting a lot of money because I had a lot of clothes I didn't enjoy wearing because they didn't fit very well. I always wanted to get rid of these clothes to buy even more clothes in the hopes they might fit and look nicer.
I read somewhere that clothes aren't really supposed to fit most people off-of-the rack.
The reason celebrities look so amazing is because they get all of their clothing tailored exactly to their dimensions.
So I decided to try it myself. I always thought tailors were so expensive, but I found out about F&G near our neighborhood where she was able to take in the sides of my dresses for a mere $10. It made a huge difference, and so many of my dresses that I had given up on looked that much better. One of my favorites was actually a $20 dress I had gotten at Target that suddenly looked really nice now that it was tailored.
I also stopped buying things just because they were on sale. Sometimes I would find a sweater on sale, in a I color I didn't like, but I would buy it anyway because it was $20 cheaper than the sweater I really liked. As I was getting rid of so many of my clothes when I moved, I realized it actually saves money to spend the extra money to buy something you will love and wear for a long time than to buy something that's just okay because it's a little cheaper.

Getting Great Things on Craigslist:
Chicago is great because there are a lot of people who move here, pay a lot for really nice furniture then they decide they don't want it anymore.
So they sell it cheaply on Craigslist.
Some of the things we've found haven't even been used because they were used as props to style an empty home or even owned by consultants who were never home anyway.
I'm not crazy enough to spend that much on furniture, but my Craigslist stalking has ended up with a lot of good deals: A pair of Tolix stools (normally $300+ EACH!) for only $25 each, a pair of these never-used Meremekko dog beds (they were so pretty!), a $400 Room and Board Standing Lamp for only $50 a 1 year-old $2500+ wooden headboard from DWR for $150.  Just to name a few.
Craigslist can be competitive, but I almost always "win" and have the chance to buy what I find. Here are my Craigslist secrets:

1) I check it a couple of times a day and I scroll through the listings in gallery view. Sometimes I use keywords, but the best deals I've found don't come up in the key word searches and are just through consistently scrolling through the photos.

2) Since I've also sold things on Craigslist, I know how important it is to sound like a human on our correspondence. As a seller I've gotten creepy 2 word responses, so I will usually go to the next person who sounds like a real person. When I respond to an ad, I will write something in the header: "So excited to see this! Is it still available?" and I will include some kind of conversational item in the email to let them know I am not a creepy person. I usually like to throw in I'm a teacher since it seems non-threatening. People usually want to get rid of things immediately, so I let them know I'm flexible for pick-up.

3) Usually everyone I've met through Craigslist has been really nice, though I don't go alone, I try to meet outside to make the exchange, and I always have exact change.

4) Ever since the bedbug epidemic, I'm mixed on buying upholstered items through Craigslist. I've done it in the past, buying 2 sofas that we still have and love. We did make sure to have the upholstery cleaned which was about $100 per sofa, from A-Abace.

We save a lot on entertainment costs because we enjoy each other's company and time with our pups. And it's free to go on long walks with the pups, explore our neighborhood, and just sit in the park and people watch. There are also so many other free events throughout our city.
We're making the most of our home inviting friends over for drinks in our outdoor space, or by our fireplace.
We have never had cable and we are basically able to watch things from Netflix or Hulu.

So this was our little peek showing how we save to be able to make some splurges for our dogs.
And we are ever-curious, what are your best cost-saving tips?

Saving money by using human products for our pups
And on gear.
Beauty products I share with the pups.
Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.


The Daily Pip said...

These are great tips. We started limiting our eating out when we had a child and it does make a big difference. I tend to cook for the week on Sunday night so that when we come home from work everything is ready to go.

I never thought about the clothes idea. That's very smart.

Another tip for me is not buying coffee out. I used to buy it every morning and now try to bring it from home. Not as much fun, but definitely saves money.

Fortunately, Ruby is able to use many of Pip's beds, sweaters, harnesses, etc. She is slightly larger, but most items still work for her.

Two French Bulldogs said...

We are expensive alright. Mom said she could finally get her Maserati if she traded us in. The nerve!Mom is scared of Craigslist cause she thinks it's to creepy.
Lily & Edward

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

I find that I am more willing to buy stuff for the pooches than I am for myself! Our biggest culprit is definitely eating out too much. I tried shopping for a week at a time to reduce the amount of trips to the store, but found that we ended up wasting a lot because of last minute plans. So I end up shopping as needed. That backfires sometimes when I want a home-cooked meal, but don't want to go to the store! Luckily there is a local co-op right down the road from our house so I can swing by on the way home. We also join a CSA in the summer (and a smaller one in the winter) that gives us fresh vegetables each week. It's costly up front, but eliminates produce expenses throughout the summer.

Hannah@Eriesistibull said...

Oh, and that cookbook looks great! My favorite cookbook is Simply in Season - a similar set up with in-season produce and limited ingredient recipes.

Can't wait to hear about the "new venture"!!

Rachel @ My Two Pitties said...

Great tips! I'm with you on all...I don't eat out much, don't have cable & shop on Craigslist! I just found a saved search function so I get an email every time a new ad is posted that matched my search terms. The other day I scored a brand new bed frame for free!

Another tip is to check online prices for something you see it a store. Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon & Etsy are my go to sites to find things on sale or very similar but way cheaper.

Jacquelin Cangro said...

I love your Craiglist tips. I've sold a few things on the site before and ended up with trouble from spammers. It made me not want to post anymore. But I think I'll use your tips to give it another try.

When Starbucks moved into the ground floor of my office building I started buying coffee every day. Then I added it up and realized how much money I was spending per month -- on coffee! I got a great travel mug and bring coffee from home. That has saved me so much cash!

Anonymous said...

Great tips! We too are guilty of eating out way to much and are trying to cut back. It doesn't hurt that my hubby is an amazing cook! And, I'm also becoming more and more familiar with Craigslist.

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