Community Voices
Open image in lightbox

Raising two kids coupled with the high cost of living in California, I am always on the lookout for a deal. My parents were frugal, not cheap, and knew how to make the most of their money. Because of that, I grew up with strong financial ethics. When I bought my first car, I made a down payment, and my dad loaned me the rest of the money. He had me sign a contract outlining my monthly payments to him, and I was able to pay him off. I didn’t always listen to my parents, especially as a teenager, but I ultimately ended up with similar standards, which I’m very thankful for. Here are some of my favorite local money-saving tips:

CLOTHING – I buy the majority of my clothing from local thrift stores. My favorite is Ticktocker Thrift Shop on 6th Street. Purchasing used clothing is good for the environment and does not contribute to textile waste. Money spent at the thrift stores where I shop goes to charity. I have found new Dr. Martens boots for $12, a Lululemon jacket for $10, and other pieces averaging $5 each. Beacon House Thrift Store and Goodwill also have deals; you never know what you will find. I have a high-end wardrobe for work that cost me about ten percent of the original cost.

FOOD – I live by the motto “go to food before it goes to you.” Basically, it means to plan ahead and you won’t make unhealthy and expensive food choices. A bag of beans in a slow cooker can make many meals for a few dollars. One night I can make burritos with the beans, and the next day I can use the leftovers for bean burgers. My children like the beans and rice from Guanajuato Meat Market on Pacific Avenue and the bolillo rolls from Acacia Bakery next door; all are reasonably priced and make multiple meals. 

There are several meal kit delivery companies that deliver locally, as well. I’ve tried Hello Fresh and used a coupon I found online. They deliver all the ingredients for a meal with the easy-to-read recipe instructions. It has been a hit in my family, even with picky eaters. It’s a great way for my kids to cook with their easy-to-follow photos, and it cost us the same amount as a meal at In-N-Out. I also have had groceries delivered from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime and Costco delivered through an app called Postmates. I was pleasantly surprised by the prices, especially Whole Foods. They sell their generic 365 products, which keeps the costs down. I spent less than when I shop at the grocery store myself because I was not tempted to pick up any extras that were not on my list. 

NUDA GARDEN SWAP – Every third Sunday of the month, people bring surplus fruits, vegetables, and flowers from their yards and swap it for other produce at NUDA Juice and Wellness Shop on 6th Street at no charge.

ENTERTAINMENT – San Pedro Public Library offers many free services like movie streaming (which includes 28,000 movies), audible books, language learning apps, and admission to local attractions. For a fun, inexpensive outing, take the Silver Line to Downtown Los Angeles and visit the L.A. Central Library. They have a new technology room called the Octavia Lab that includes a 3D printing machine, virtual reality gear, and a laser cutter that can be used at no cost.

GREETING CARDS – I keep a package of birthday cards from Marshalls on hand and buy other greeting cards for $1 at Dollar Tree or Trader Joe’s. The Dollar Tree and 99 Cent Only Store are good places to find gift bags. While I am there, I grab the off-brand Swiffer pads that I use on my floors for $1. 

POINTS – I also use credit card points for free hotel and airline travel. When somebody needs a new cell phone in our family, I buy used iPhones on eBay for a fraction of the cost. Call me old fashioned, but my kids do not need to be carrying around thousand-dollar phones. I know I probably get that from my dad, who worked hard and taught me about the importance of saving money. Thanks, Dad. spt

photo of san pedro today author Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez can be reached at  and @jenntmqz on Twitter and Instagram.