With layoffs, rising prices and uncertainty everywhere we are all looking for ways to save a few dollars. Learning to trim your costs will help your bottom line, and might just make it easier to get thru that looming layoff on the horizon.
Shop with Smarts
- Always plan a menu – planning a menu allows you to know exactly what you need when it is time to go shopping. A menu also cuts
down on multiple trips to the store during the week, because you have planned ahead and know what you need.
- Always use a list- For the same reason as a menu, lists are an important part of your shopping trip. Be sure you have a complete list, and be sure you stick to it. My rule of thumb is if it is not on the list and we do not really need it, it does not go in the cart.
- Never go to the store when you are rushed or hungry- Going to the store when you hungry or in a hurry is inviting trouble. Nothing tempts you to overspend more than the smell of fried chicken or pizza, and when you are hungry it is even worse. Hurrying thru the store keeps you from checking your list carefully and price checking brands before you purchase. Go shopping on a full stomach and you have plenty of time to make your choices.
- Clip coupons – Every little bit helps, so if you can find coupons for items you buy then by all means use them. Even better yet, check around for stores that will double or even triple your coupons. Look for free after rebates, and buy one get one free deals, there is nothing like getting paid for shopping.
- Limit trips – Try to not go to the store more than once a week, not only are you tempted to spend more, but you also waste gas. This is where it is so important to plan your menu carefully, and make good lists. Keep a list on the refrigerator and insist that the family uses it. Ask them to write things on the list they use up or are almost gone.
Savings adds up
- Start a change jar – I love my change jar, and the taller it grows the more I enjoy it. The great thing about change jars is they are unexpected savings deposits, and usually the deposit is a lot more than you realize it is.
- Pick up those pennies – This goes along with the change jar, why not pick up that spare change, and add it to your change jar. It might seem like nothing but over time it adds up.
- Change in aluminum cans – No amount of money is petty especially when you start pooling it all together. If you have any opportunities to collect aluminum then save them and turn them in. The same thing goes for anything really what can you change into extra cash?
- Never use change put it in your jar- One of my favorite habits has been whenever I use cash, I put the change in my pocket. I do not spend it when I hit the next store, so by the time I get home I have a fairly good sized pocket of change. All of that extra change then ends up in my change jar and depending on how much shopping with cash you do, this can add up to a lot.
- Round up in your check book – a trick I learned from a friend long ago, it is one of my favorites. It is similar to the change in your pocket trick but instead whenever you write down a debit or check in your checking book, when you deduct it you always round up, $1.15 becomes $2. You do not miss the money and I can tell you from personal experience this money adds up fast. If you write the actual amount in your register, you can still balance the books at the end of the month, you will just always come out with an extra balance which can either stay there or go into savings at the end of the month.
- Cut extra off your grocery bill by doing a bit of extra cooking -Then put that extra in savings. We often forget how much money can be saved by using what we have on hand and spending a bit of extra time in the kitchen making our own.
- Take a babysitting job – Or mow lawns, mend clothes, clean houses, write articles, blog or…. well you get the idea. There are many things you can do to make a bit of extra money, use a bit of your creativity and hard work, and then put the profits in your savings account.
Making Meals save you money
- Eat meatless meals more often – Meat is the most expensive item in your menu with the possible exception of Dairy. Americans eat far too much of both. Learn to substitute other much cheaper sources of protein for your meat.
- Go completely vegetarian – Just like above only GO all the way. You can eat healthy without meat, there are plenty of sources of protein in cheaper eggs, beans, and grains.
- Learn to do without cold cereal – Cold cereal is one of my pet peeves, how can an item that is made with such cheap ingredients become so terribly expensive? And why is it that Americans think it is such a necessity? Cereal is overpriced, not that nutritious and completely unnecessary, there are plenty of foods out there that will not leave your family feeling deprived, and cost pennies compared to cereal.
- Cook for 2 and eat it again – Making double the amount saves you time, and it saves you money, especially when you cheat and use half the amount of meat! You can either eat it in a couple of days or you can freeze it and have it next week.
- Make it from scratch – Not everything is cheaper from scratch, but many things are. Salad dressings are simple to make, and can be made for pennies. Cakes, cookies and treats will be much less expensive and more nutritious make at home, of course if you can visit the day old store and clearance rack at your local grocery store, be sure to take advantage of that too.
- Search for recipes that will feed your family for under $5– There are many frugal recipes that are bare bones, and will easily feed your family a filling meal for well under $5. Look for recipes that contain fillers such as rice or beans, avoid recipes with high priced ingredients instead find recipes that make use of seasons for their flavor. A little bit of seasoning can go a very long way.
- Grow your own food – Last year I read a newspaper article about a family that opted to not have a vegetable garden that year because of the cost. HUH? There really is no better way to stretch your budget than purchasing a few seeds and growing a lot of produce. Plan for produce that you use a lot of, and that you can freeze for winter for best impact.
Don’t use up your Utilities
- Insulate doors and windows – While this may seem like a no brainer, I cannot tell you how many people miss this one. Those strips of self adhesive foam will cost you around $2 to cover one door, and block drafts that can drive you power bill up. Use a piece of bicycle tube to tack to the bottom of your door for a door sweep to block drafts from coming under your door.
- Use power strips – Power strips are cheap, and they will save you money on your power bill every month that you would not have thought. When Appliances are not being used turn the power strips off, this stops what is called phantom power loss which can account for up to 40% of your power bill.
- Hang clothes to dry – Ok so everybody knows this one, but does anybody realize how much money that hanging your clothes will save you each month? For a family of 4 or 5 you can expect to save between $20-$30 a month.
- Turn off lights – Seriously…. it is ok to nag your kids, I have an eight year old that rarely ever forgets to turn out a light as she leaves the room now. She has even managed to turn the light out on mom when she walks out!
- Replace incandescent with fluorescents – These have become much cheaper now, and are worth investing in. Want to save even more? Look for LED lights coming soon, you will even find them on the Internet now if you look. Still a bit expensive but you will make up what you spend quickly since these use a fraction of what even fllurescents use.
Entertain in the cheap
- Have a family game night – Entertaining does not have to cost a lot of money, having fun is about being with the ones you love. Get out that monopoly game, pop some popcorn, and have fun like you used when you were a kid.
- Stop buying magazines, newspapers and books, go to your local library – Everybody loves to read, but the great thing is reading can be free, go to the library look at the news online, and borrow magazines from friends, who probably will be glad to get rid of them.
- Have a take out party – Does your family love pizza, chinese or tacos? Have a take- out party once a week. Make your families favorite fast food, and see if mom can do it “right”!
- Look for free things to do in your area – Most areas have an abundant amount of activities that you can do for free. Parks, gardens, museums, lakes, or trails. Go for walks, take bike rides, or go for a swim in the summer. Watch for events in your local newspaper and on the bulletin of your local store.
- Look for discount and free coupons for things you love to do – There is a time and a place for everything, and not everything has to be free, but if you look hard cheap is easy to find. Dollar matinees still exist, and most smaller amusement parks have at least one day a year where they are free or greatly discounted. Our local amusement park is $2 on Wednesday, we take a sack lunch and our swim suits and go early to beat the crowds.
Yes we are in the middle of a recession, but life does not stop, we just work a bit hard and a whole lot smarter.
pic by: ralphbijker