Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cash Back for Dining Out

I first must give credit where credit is due.  I like to think that I know everything there is to know about frugality, but let’s be real, I don’t. A friend of mine, Anna, actually referred me to this first program after redeeming her $20 gift card.

The way it works is based on your spend with participating restaurants. At first the list was pretty small and I did not find myself going often but recently they have added a lot of great restaurants that I frequent.  So basically the amount you earn is directly related to how much you spend at any of their participating restaurants, bars, and clubs (including tax and tip, holla!) in a 1 year period.

SDN-03749-1

Members earn 5% back until they have spent $250.

– Members earn 10% back when they have spent more than $250 and less than $750.

– Members earn 15% back when they have spent more than $750.

Perfect! So far I am only at the 10% mark but with their growing list of participating restaurants I think I can get up to 15% soon!

Now, combine this program with Opentable‘s reward program and you may find yourself eating for free a lot more often than you think.

The way it works with OpenTable is that you earn points when you make and honor reservations made through their site or app.  

I put this in bold because reservations made directly through a restaurant’s webiste or by calling them directly do not earn OpenTable points and if you do not honor your reservation (you skip out or don’t check in at the hostess stand), you do not get those points.

eye 1

I can say with confidence that about 85% of the time I dine out, the restaurant I go to uses OpenTable. Even if it’s at a slow time (hello, I love a good 5:00pm dinner) or the place never gets crowded, use the app anyways so that you can earn points!

Here is how the points break down:

2,000 Dining Points = $20 Dining Rewards Gift

5,000 Dining Points = $50 Dining Rewards Gift

10,000 Dining Points = $100 Dining Rewards Gift

I use OpenTable for everything in terms of dining out, even work lunches etc. The more you use it the more you earn!

Between these two programs you can be getting rewards money on a monthly basis and that makes a huge difference in cutting into the dining-out-budget!

Student Loans (AKA the meaning behind my Madness)

Although I try my hardest to be frugal and save money when possible, there are some debts that are darn near (I say near because some escape it) impossible to escape and one of those is student loans.

I have amassed quite the chunk between undergrad and law school, so I was desperately seeking ways to save on interest rates.

I did a lot of research before I settled on refinancing my student loans. I heard some people say “oh well when Obama wraps up his presidency he’s going to forgive all federal government student loans”. I took this to heart and took about a year researching this claim.

First I spoke with a friend at the Department of Education and her response was that there was no way he could patently forgive “all” student loans. Meaning, if loans were forgiven it would be within a very narrow set of margins.

For example, Obama recently decided to forgive student loans of a narrow group of borrowers who are in default and have disabilities. While this is a very big deal, it certainly with not spread and affect every borrower who took out loans at any time.  Obama did reform part of the direct loan program which now says:

“Borrowers of new loans starting in 2014 will qualify to make payments based on 10% of their discretionary income. New borrowers would also be eligible for student loan forgiveness after 20 years instead of 25 on qualifying payments.”

I think that’s the best that we can get.

So last summer I decided to pull the trigger and I refinanced my student loans using using SoFi.

I choose SoFi after applying on a few different sites and getting different rates. They gave me by far the best rate at 10 years and 5%. My student loans were mixed between 6.8% and 8% so this made a HUGE impact.

SoFi

Before my refinance my repayment plan had me paying over $700/month and my total repayment over 10 years was about 140,000 which was a LOT more than my loan amount and a huge chunk of that is interest.

Through Sofi my monthly payment is a little less, $650/month, but my total lifetime payment is much lower (approximately 40,000 lower) and my total interest paid is HALF of what it was before.

This savings is HUGE! The extra tens of thousands that can be saved can be used towards a down payment on a home or a car or a crazy vacation!

I would recommend shopping around for the best rate you can. If you have a partner who is willing to cosign for you, your wait will be lower so that is also a huge help. Don’t just bank on someone swooping in and providing a blanket forgiveness on everything you took out, I wish it could happen but it won’t. And that’s okay, too. Student loans are just part of life. We took them out and now we have to pay them back which is annoying but we can do it! And if we can do it while paying less interest, even better!

Check back later this week for my next post!

5 Fast Frugal Tips

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. This meant that we lived what’s now being termed as the trendy “sustainable lifestyle”.  Being raised that way I learned some things that I got teased for but now have become the zeitgeist for hipsters (by the way I do not use the word hipster pejoratively so don’t rage-message me please!).

I have shared some of these tips with friends and some get laughed at, sure. Sometimes people call me “cheap”, sometimes people love it. So here I am sharing my secrets and you are free to make fun of me if you want, I will laugh with you while I save money.

  1. Re-using Aluminum Foil- Growing up we would wash and re-use aluminum foil all the time, so when I would go to a friend’s house I was amazed that they would toss perfectly good foil. I would say if you had raw meat in it, don’t wash and re-use but otherwise, just lay it flat and run a soapy sponge over it, rinse and voila! Perfectly good for another use or even a few!
  2. Buy Rechargeable Batteries-Again, growing up we always used rechargeable batteries. Why spend so much money (seriously, why are batteries so pricey) on something you’re going to throw away? I have heard people say “well rechargeable batteries don’t last as long and they die after a few years.”  This is not true! I have been using the same rechargeable batteries for 10ish years and they still work great!
  3. Unplug Certain Appliances-There are some appliances you should unplug when not using. While you might not immediately feel the financial benefit, this will save you a lot of money in the long run. I personally unplug the toaster, cablebox/TV (connected with one surge protector), phone chargers, and lamps when they are not being actively used.
  4. Use an Insulated Bag-I recently had a bunch of errands to run and getting groceries was one of them. Rather than make multiple trips which wastes time and gas money, I got an insulated tote at Trader Joe’s (it was $5.99) and was able to put my groceries in there and run errands for 2 hours afterwards without worrying about food spoiling.41c8n3yLHeL._AC_UL320_SR302,320_
  5. Eat Out With Coupons-Not just scoutmobs here! A lot of restaurants have a subscription newsletter that when you sign up you also get coupons. My prime example is Marlow’s Tavern in Georgia.  About once a month they email me a coupon for $10 off a $25 dinner. That’s a huge savings! So when you want to eat out, check out the restaurant’s website. Also check out Yelp Deals. A lot of restaurants offer a free appetizer or discount if you check in. A local example from me is Pinewood in Decatur, Ga. I love their brussels and if you check in on the yelp app while dining there you get the appetizer for FREE!

Keep checking in for more tips on saving money!