15 Easy Ways to Save Money
The little things really do add up. Saving an extra dollar here or $2 there can add up faster than you think. When you start looking at $20 and $30 differences it adds up much quicker still! For starters –
- Comparison shop – coupons, brand name, no name or store brands each can hold deals at the right time
- Pay attention to maintenance issues.
- Buy in bulk and consider “processing” and storing foods at home rather than pre-processed foods.
1. Check discounted food places. Many areas have a “canned food store”, “salvage store” or other place where dented cans, discontinued brands and such are deeply discounted. This can add up to big savings even on name brand items. A recent trip to a local place gleaned 10 bread and cake mixes at 59 cents each – this is a savings of $10 or so on it’s own. Potato mixes, pancake mixes and other things can be bought on sale. Usually it’s cheaper to measure and make things from scratch but when you can get a mix of nut bread for 59 cents that includes the nuts it’s hard to beat it! Mix in a couple handfuls of oatmeal and a little cinnamon for a yummy, easy quick bread that is very inexpensive. Sometimes muffin mixes can be found 10/$1. The small Jiffy biscuit and cornbread mixes for 10 cents, often with the box dented but still sealed.
2. Check the meat case for dated items – you can often find meats for $1-2 per pound. It might be pork chops one time, ground meat another and steak another. We seldom eat steak because of the cost – but when three meals worth is $4 it’s just too good to turn down! I’ve found ground burger for about $1 per pound both in one pound and 3-4 pound amounts. Take a pound of that $1 burger, a 69 cent jar of salsa, a 10cent box of Jiffy corn bread and a little barbeque sauce or 10cent pack of chili mix and a little cheese – for less than $3 you have a tasty, quick meal – simply mix it all together or top the cornbread with browned burger, salsa and cheese. This makes plenty for four people – for two we normally have two lunches leftover (and it reheats well!). You’ll need to get these discounted meats home and in the freezer, and use them right away when thawing – but between these two places you can save a lot of money on your food budget!
3. Do you have an area to plant things in? Large pots on the corner of the deck or even an old sink pressed into service…plant some food you can grow yourself. Lettuce mixes, peppers, tomatoes and other things can be grown very economically – some decent soil, a pack of seeds less than $1 and you have enough peppers or tomatoes for many. If you are in a small town or apartment community with like minded people – consider a seed swap! Many seed packets will have 30-50 seeds – more peppers than you need. One person buys a pack of peppers, someone else buys tomato, someone else buys other seeds and you can have an inexpensive, decorative and edible “garden” on your deck or patio without breaking the budget. Often you can find lettuce and replant several crops during the year – seeds 10/$1 will give you all the salad you can eat for $1 for the year.
4. Consider the no-brand or store brand items. While there are differences for some when the name brand is $1.99 and the store brand is a dollar – 30 items like that puts another $30 in your pocket! Look for things on sale; while coupons are a great idea watch using them – if your 50 cent coupon is for a $3 item it might till be more expensive than the $2 no-name-brand same item. Go to the bulk food aisle and stock up. Large plastic jars that contained pretzels have been pressed into service storing pasta – at $2.33 for a large bag we can get by for 2-3 months on a single bag – much cheaper than the boxed pasta dinners! Check expiration dates on dairy, meats and other items where possible. That $10-20-30 you save set aside – when something goes on sale in bulk you can stock up without breaking the budget.
5. Check your service plans. The long distance calls of $40 might be better with an unlimited long distance program of $25 – savings of $15 per month. Don’t rely on obvious advertising – ask. After an accident with a car that was financed we had full coverage on it – but ended up with not enough to pay it off. Lesson learned – for used cars buy cash and watch your deductible as well as coverage. Consider if for the difference of full coverage vs liability and medical if it’s worth it. For a car valued under $2,000 it usually is not! The car is easily “totaled” (more damage than the blue book value) and therefore what you get is minimal. If the difference is $30-40 per month put that money in a fund. If, heaven forbid, you have an accident and have $1500 or $2,000 saved up you can immediately go out and get another vehicle rather than waiting for the insurance to clear. In our case that took an extremely long time even though there was no medical claim or other people involved.
6. Take charge of pet health. An annual veterinary exam is a good idea. Consider carefully and research whether your pet *needs* annual vaccinations – some studies show they do more harm than good. See if the immunity level can be checked to prevent over-vaccination. Rabies shots used to cover 3-5 years – annual vaccination of the same basic thing does not give more immunity and if the animal doesn’t need it then you’re wasting money. A blood test can tell you. Learn to give vaccinations yourself (rabies vaccination must be done by a vet) – pay attention to prevention and limit the amount of food to keep the pet from being too fat, which increases health problems, is a waste of money and shortens his life.
7. Maintain your vehicles! Regular oil changes, tire care and “babying” your vehicle insures it will be there when you need it. Don’t forget the spare tire and roadside kit which should be in the vehicle at all times. Consider a small hydraulic jack – often under $20! – instead of the inexpensive and sometimes frustrating ones that come with many vehicles. Even if you can’t do it having the right things available lets a helpful citizen have the tools along with the willingness to help.
8. Do a weatherization check on your home. Look for leaks in the plumbing, air leaks where energy is lost, weatherstripping along the doors and windows. While you’re at it check your fridge and freezer to make sure the seals are tight – a paper put into the closed door should be difficult to pull out. Good weatherization can save money!
9. Start a compost bin. You would be surprised how much is thrown out that can be composted – and put around those plants you’re growing to feed yourself and your family! Most kitchen and yard waste instead of being hauled away can be used literally in the garden. Grass clippings, leaves and other “waste” need not be a problem to be discarded – use it!
10. Search thrift stores and yard sales for great deals on clothing. Sometimes expensive name brand items can be found for under $5 each. Jeans for working out in the yard can be $20 or $30 or $4 – as long as they cover you the important thing is handled!
11. Look for “other” things or solutions to what you need. A clear example of this was recently looking for a bulletin board for the office. I balked at the smallish ones for $10-15-20. Instead I bought two sheets of white ceiling tile for $3.66 each – and have roughly a 4X4′ area for much cheaper than the standard ones. A couple nails to put it on the wall and it was ready to be put to use. Often builders throw out extra wood and other materials that they don’t need – get permission to salvage these things and use them. A cabinet on wheels with a nice countertop makes a useful, handy and inexpensive “island” work area for the kitchen or craft area – and the savings on getting free items means often the wheels and top is all you need to buy – savings can be several hundred dollars on this project! An advantage – you not only have extra work space but also extra storage under it – and it easily wheels to the corner when not in use.
12. When cooking some things make double batches – chili and other things are easy to double. Get storage containers and freeze the extra – those nights you’re too tired to cook you still have something easy to heat up without having to order out. Done enough it’s worth getting a small extra freezer.
13. Buy direct whenever you can. Farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture and other programs make it easier than ever to buy fresh, reasonably priced produce and often other products such as eggs, honey, flowers and craft items. Seek out livestock raisers and ask about buying a market hog – they take it to the processor and it’s cut and wrapped to your specifications and you pick up roughly 180 pounds of pork that is cheaper than “the store” and helps an independent farmer survive. Lamb, beef and other meats are also possible to be bought this way. For the not squeamish willing to learn you can learn to process and cut up the meat yourself after the animal is killed, dressed, skinned and chilled.
14. Avoid the drive thru! With gas prices going up all the time it’s more expensive than ever to spend 10-15 minutes (3-4 cars!) waiting in drive thrus. You are getting ZERO miles per gallon and it’s often more time efficient to park and go in – you can be out and on your way before that car that took where you would have been gets to the head of the line!
15. Consider shopping at “dollar stores” – there’s several types of these from discount stores to truly everything is $1. Again – buyer beware – the package sizes often aren’t cheaper if you compare but for many things you can save a lot of money. The Ziploc bags (no name brand) and trash bags, shampoo, potpourri and many other things are inexpensive. Storage solutions can be found as well as good deals on office supplies.
The money saved by careful shopping and attention to detail can add up very quickly. Couldn’t afford to take a vacation or go out last year? These things can make that big of a difference in this one!
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