I came to the US a long time ago, gosh too many years ago and I wish there were bloggers out there at that time to help me with my personal finances. This article is about, What not to do with your money when you move to the USA for the first time? If you are new to the US, this is how you can save money.
I remember going to a welcome fest that the school had organized and remembered American Express giving away free goodies for signing up for a credit card. Ofcourse unknown to me at that time what that meant, I signed up for a card just so that I could get a free goodie bag. Thanks to the fact that I had to be very careful about expenses, I pretty much did not use the credit card, but used cash only and worse case my debit card.
There are a couple of things I would advice folks coming from another country to the USA be aware of and not do:
1. Do not buy groceries at the most convenient store.
In this day and age of easy information access, research prices at grocery stores online and then make an educated decision around which store to buy your groceries. Most major cities have ethnic grocery stores as well, that stock vegetables that could be reasonably priced. Research the prices ahead to shopping.
2. Do not not create a Budget
Always plan your expenses ahead of time. It will give you an opportunity to find places that you can save money like eating out.
3. Do not spend all your money eating out
Eating out at restaurants can get expensive. Even if you are a visitor, a tourist or are immigrating to the US, eat out as a treat. As a grad student, we were so busy studying that we always ended up at the local Chinese restaurant that had a buffet. In hindsite had I planned my days better I could have saved a lot more by cooking at home.
4. Do not just open a checking account and be content
Interest rates on the US banks is really low. When you do go to the bank to open an account, ask the bank about money market accounts. Also, go online and see which banks offer the best interest rate. Research local bank offerings. Some banks offer generous deals to customers if they open bank accounts with them. Depending on what status you are in the US, think about opening an IRA for your retirement as well. Check the article below on setting up an emergency fund.
5. Do not buy your essentials at Walmart only!
This is a big one. When I first came to the US I got all my essentials like bedsheets, pillows, shampoo at Walmart. Given that you have the internet now, you can compare prices to see which place can save you more.
6. Don’t avoid those free sites or Facebook city sites
There are many items that you can get for free online if you are patient. Craigslist is just one example where you can find free items, that people want to get rid of. Also, for a lower cost you can buy things off folks on certain town Face Book pages. Some people may not like this but if your goal is to save for down the road, consider Salvation Army or any such thrift store where you can get clothes, furniture for a lower cost.
7. Don’t just buy a car at a dealership
Most of my cars have been used. You can find people that are looking to sell their cars and are placed in their yard. There is a risk there but bring along someone that knows cars. Craigslist used to be a good place to find used cars, but times have changed and it may not be the best place. Check this article on new vs used cars.
8. Don’t drive past the dollar store
There are dollar stores all over the US. What is appealing about the dollar store is that everything is a dollar and you can even get coupons at times. Buying toothpastes, tooth brushes, gifts etc makes it a good place to shop every now and then. Some dollar stores have g=food as well.
It is always good to think outside the box and be aware as to where the deals are. I know this needs a lot of patience, but could compound in the long run. Of course the temptation of overbuying things when they are ridiculously cheap is always there, but my advice would be stay clear of clutter and buy what you need.
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