Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Saving Money with Common Sense

A couple of my friends have asked that I make a list of the things I do to save time and money around the house. I actually thought that they were just a little bit crazy until I really thought about it. The things I do are really not that difficult or even that unusual, but I guess if you are used to every modern convenience and having a store close at hand, it is a little bit different.

So, I will try to list the things I do to save money, and hopefully it will be in some useful order.

1) DON"T USE CREDIT CARDS! I am not sure some people actually realize just how much they depend on them for everyday spending. From gas cards and department store cards all the way to your Visa Platinum Plus card, they are all evil. Every time you think you have found an awesome deal on something and you buy it on credit, you need to figure in the interest rate and the number of months it takes to pay it off into the purchase price. That great deal on the 37" plasma TV will wind up costing you a lot more than the sticker price. And do you really need it anyway?

2) Learn to cook. Every time you eat out, you are spending the money you could be using on something else to pay a salary, insurance, electricity, manager bonuses, etc., in addition to the actual cost of the food you eat. Why not just make your burgers or steaks at home and enjoy a little family time in the process. Not only will you be saving a bundle every month, but you will know exactly what you are eating, without all of the preservatives and added fat and salt.

3) CFLs. We have changed most of the light bulbs in the house out to CFLs and it has made a difference in our electric bill. Yes, they cost a little more up front, but they do use less electricity to run and they last a lot longer. With the price going down on them, they are actually getting to be a reasonable option.

4) Clothesline. I was astounded at the money we have saved using a clothesline instead of the dryer. I know that a lot of people don't want to have to mess with it, or it is too much work, or "what would the neighbors think?" or whatever, but if you are serious about saving money, put up a clothesline. It takes me about 10 minutes to hang up a load of clothes. Usually by the time the next wash load is finished, the ones on the line are dry, or are at least close to it. In the hot summer months, they will dry in about 30 minutes. I can wash an entire week's worth of clothes for my family of 4 in 1 day without adding any heat to the house from the dryer. So the AC doesn't have to work any harder either. Which brings me to the next point...

5) Open the windows. Homes have window screens for a reason. Just because you have an Air Conditioner doesn't mean you have to use it all of the time. If you have windows on opposite sides of the house, open them and prop open any doors between the windows. It will create a flow of air through the house that will cool off the inside even when it is 80+ degrees outside. Ceiling fans will help even more. Any time you have air circulating through the house, even if the actual temperature us higher than you are used to, it will feel cooler. If your windows are covered by a porch or awning, even better. The outside air will cool off before it ever hits the window. Another option is to put a box fan blowing out on one side of the house. This will suck the warmer air out of the house while pulling cooler air in. This is especially good for kitchen windows when you are doing a lot of cooking or baking.

6) Make an investment in food storage options. This could be a freezer, a pressure canner, a dehydrator, a new pantry, whatever. Just do it. With grocery prices climbing upward, it just makes sense. When fresh produce is in season, buy a lot and preserve it for later use. When non-perishables are on sale, buy a lot.

7) Buy in bulk. You might be surprised at just how much toilet paper you actually use every month. If you can find it on sale, buy as much as you have room to store. That will be just one more thing that you will not have to run to the store for (saving gas too) every week. All paper items can be purchased in bulk and just stored until you need them. This works with soaps, shampoos, canned goods, even things like socks. Look at prices at dollar stores and retail closeout sites. If it is cheaper to buy them there, do it. You may have a case of socks stashed in the back of your closet, but you won't have to buy socks again for a really long time. As long as you have a spot to store it, go ahead and buy it.

8)Just because it is on sale doesn't mean you have to buy it. This one was kinda hard for us. We had gotten into the habit of scanning the shelves for closeouts and super sale prices. We wound up with a couple of cans of gooseberry pie filling( that we hated), scone mix (that sat on the shelf for months), some weird chipoltle pepper paste (that we still haven't used), about 20 boxes of Hamburger Helper( they were on sale for $1 a box and we had coupons) and some rice mixes. If it isn't something you will actually use, don't buy it. You will just be wasting money. Even the best sale isn't worth the shelf space if you don't use it. Only buy the things you know that you will use in a reasonable amount of time. No point in tempting the ants and other critters into getting in your cabinets.

I know that #7 and #8 seem to contradict each other, but actually, they really don't. Things that you will use, buy. Socks wear out fairly quickly so it just makes sense to get enough to last a while if you can get them at a truly good price. And most adults will not outgrow them so they will still be useful to you even years later. But you shouldn't buy a case of socks just to be buying a case of socks. If you don't have a place to store 50 pounds of beans you shouldn't buy them, even if that is the cheapest way to purchase them. Or if you have a place to store, say 20 pounds but not 50, split them with a few friends. That is true of just about everything. Just make sure that everyone will use what you are buying. Don't get 50 pounds of beans just to find out that you buddies don't want them.

The thing to keep in mind when you are trying to save money is to use common sense. Look around your home. Is there anything you can do to change your buying habits?

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