I have been thinking about all of the things I do around the house to save money. Granted, some of it doesn't save a lot, but over time all of the little things really add up.
Take, for instance, light bulbs. Granted, 1 light bulb by itself doesn't make a big deal, but all of the lights in the house over the course of the month actually do make a savings. So as a bulb burns out, I change it to a CFL(compact fluorescent light) bulb. They do cost a little bit more up front, but they burn about a tenth of the electricity and last much much longer. Making sure the lights are turned off if no one is in the room makes another difference.
I know I have mentioned this before, but a clothesline, especially in the summer, makes a HUGE difference. My dryer takes forever to dry things like jeans and towels and that eats a lot of electricity. And it heats up the house, making the AC have to work harder. So by hanging out clothes on the line I have seen a savings of between 25%-50% of the usage on my electric bill. So it is worth the $3 in string and the $2 in clothes pins? Absolutely. And on top of that, I can do more loads of laundry at a time because they dry so much faster. Usually by the time one load is washed, the first load is dry. A weeks worth of laundry done in 1 day.
Turning the AC up to about 78 degrees makes a difference too. With the ceiling fans to circulate the air, it feels much cooler than that and it cuts the electric use as well. If I am in the kitchen canning or baking, I use a box fan as well. If your summers don't get too terribly hot or your house is well shaded, don't use the AC at all. Just open the windows and use the fans. Believe it or not, they draw less power than running the AC.
Cooking from scratch instead of eating out or buying ready made or boxed meals is also another money saver. I can make at least 3 meals for 4 people out of a whole chicken that costs me $5. I actually once made a meal for 14 people out of 1/2 chicken, about 1/2 pound of carrots, some stray pasta, and some left over fresh veggies in the crisper(celery, spinach, onion, bell pepper, and a half shriveled leek) and a couple of dashes of hot sauce. It made about 3 gallons of soup, and we buttered up some sandwich bread that was going stale and toasted it in the oven. By the time every one got seconds or thirds, there was about 1/2 cup left over. With a little creativity, you can make some very inexpensive meals. Pasta, rice, and potatoes are great for stretching out meats to make them go farther without feeling like you are depriving yourself. More on that in another post.
I have also mentioned that I make my own soap and laundry detergent. Granted, making the soap isn't really necessary for saving money, but with all of the allergies in our house, it is just a good idea for us. The laundry soap on the other hand is wonderful. You can use just about any kind of soap you want and it just costs pennies a load. Very easy to make and costs about 70 cents to make 2.5 gallons. Much better than 6$ for less than a gallon of detergent.
We have just about stopped buying cleaning supplies too. Vinegar and water make a fine window and surface cleaner and baking soda works great as a Comet or Ajax substitute.
Stocking up on things when they are on clearance is another way to save cash. I have a freezer full of meat and veggies from the clearance sales. The pantry is full to bursting with food that I have canned myself or things that I have gotten on closeout or on a really good sale. The only thing I really have to grocery shop for is stuff like milk(and other dairy stuff like cheese and butter) and eggs. We have been buying our cereal at Big Lots and the dollar stores and the bread from the thrift store.
One habit we did have to break was buying food just because it was on sale. At one point we had almost 20 boxes of Hamburger Helper because they were on sale for a dollar and we had coupons for .50 off of 3 that would double to a dollar off. The problem with that is we do not eat a lot of Hamburger Helper. We have found that I can make the same thing without the mix. So it is almost a year later and we still have about 10 boxes taking up space in my pantry. So even though they were plenty cheap enough, it wasn't worth the .60 each we spent on them.
Gifting is another thing we have cut back on. It has been unanimously decided by both sides of the family that Christmas gifts are just not needed. We spend way too much time and money on things that will probably not be like or needed so we decided to just cut it out completely. None of us really have the spare cash at that time of the year anyway. For birthdays, we just call the folks and have a good chat. For Father's day this year I made my Husband a shirt instead of buying one. Needless to say, he was a little surprised. I haven't had the sewing machine out for a good long while and I made sure that everything was put away by the time he got home from work.
I have made 2 baby blankets (crochet) for shower gifts instead of buying something. It just seems a lot more meaningful if you make a gift instead of buying it. Time and effort do still mean something to people especially, if it is customized to their tastes.
I am sure there are other things I do to save money that I am just not thinking of right now. But I will pass them on to you when I think of them.