If things continue going the way they have been, we’ll be sitting around in a few years saying, “Remember when gas was $4.00 a gallon? Ah, those were the good old days.” But until we make that inevitable statement, we’ve got to find ways to put a lid on that siphon attached to our wallets. There used to be a time when I didn’t mind paying a high price for the things my family needed. Nowadays, I find myself averaging if we can go another week without running out of toilet paper (just picture that one); or negotiating between shampoo and shower gel (I got the shower gel and used it as shampoo as well as body wash). Bottom line – times are tough and money is tight!
It became evident that the stress of my financial situation was overpowering my usually rational thought process, when I nearly beat my farmer’s market grocer with a stalk of celery after he told me it was $3.00 a bunch. It was time for an intervention. Like I said, times are tough, and people get crazy when times are tough. I have instead decided to implement a few money saving tricks into my lifestyle, that have so far been working and keeping me from an assault & battery charge.
- Public Transportation – I’ll admit it. I drove a MEGA gas guzzler and every time I put my foot on the peddle, I could feel my wallet shudder, not to mention the emissions! So, I parked that sucker and opted in to the transportation reimbursement program offered at my job. They pay for parking or bus passes. I evaluated my situation – gas was a significant drain on my finances (upwards of $400/mth) so utilizing public transpo really did the trick for me. It also gave me some extra sleep time on the way to work.
- Farmer’s Market – Oh the joys of NOT having to pay almost $50.00 for one bag of groceries. I always carry only $40.00 with me to the market. With this $40.00, I get the following items: 2 bags of raw almonds, a week’s supply of broccoli, celery, spinach, cauliflower and carrots. I also get some flowers (they usually die within the week), a week’s supply of pears, apples and grapes. Then, I pick up lunch – yes, without exceeding that $40.00. Obviously, for a person like me (Vegetarian/Vegan), the farmer’s market is like heaven, but looking at the cost of meat these days, you might want to consider becoming V/V.
- Buy in Bulk – I’m pretty much a minimalist, but when it comes to kids, you’ve got to have their stuff on hand, otherwise you’re screwed. I started using an online baby store called Diapers.com, where I can buy just about anything for my son and have it mailed directly to my door. Hooray, they just launched their ‘green section’, this is the area in which they’ve assembled all of the eco-friendly products for tree-huggers like me. After comparing calculations for buying in bulk or otherwise, I realized that I’ve been saving about $5.00 per purchase. Also, if I spend over $50.00 (which I ALWAYS do – have you seen the price of diapers lately?), I get free shipping.
As another means of trying to save, I subscribe to an online newsletter called Dollarstretcher. com. The ezine is filled with helpful hints (sent in by real people) to get you on the saving track. I’ve scoured several of the installments I’ve received over the past months and have reprinted them here. Check them out and if the shoe fits, by all means, try that sucker on.
- Homemade Mixes – A great way to save time, money and eat healthier is to make your own mixes for cookies, pancakes, quick breads or anything you bake in the oven. I save the 32-ounce yogurt containers I buy and then I put a piece of masking tape on the cover to label the mix. I measure all dry ingredients into the containers (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt, etc.). I alter my recipes, substituting with healthier flours (soy, pea, whole wheat, buckwheat). Once a month, I create the mixes we’ll use for the month. It is such a time and mess saver, and we don’t use store mixes, which can get expensive.
- ‘Frugalize’ your gift giving – Instead of buying yet another toy that will be forgotten, give kids “gift certificates” good for lunch with dad or mom, miniature golf trip, batting cages trip, etc. Make it something your kid always wants, but you feel is a splurge.
- Cheap Mattress Protector – If you have a child who is toilet training or just needs a mattress protector, why not buy a shower curtain at about $2 instead of the terribly overpriced “store bought” protectors? They work extremely well with no leaks and are also fully washable.
- Don’t buy plastic zipper bags – Don’t waste your money on food zipper bags. Many items purchased at the grocery store come in zipper type bags, including deli meats, tortillas, cheese, raisins, frozen items, etc. They can be washed and used again and again. It’s a good ideas to use an anti-bacterial spray, too.
For items that do not have to be completely airtight, use produce bags, bread bags, cereal liners, etc. These are also great for freezing meats into smaller portions and then placing all the contents into one larger zipper bag.
- Cheap Chips – We love to eat tortilla chips with our homemade garden salsa, but cheap chips are often greasy and unhealthy. The low-fat baked chips are way too expensive for us! So we get white or yellow corn tortillas in a package of 36 for about $1.50, cut them each into eight triangles (this can be done quickly in a stack and with a pizza cutter) and spread them on cookie sheets. I sprinkle them with water to make them crispy, add seasoned salt or whatever other seasoning we have around, and then bake them at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. These chips are very low fat, high in fiber and taste great! Best of all, they cost much less than the national brands of baked chips.
- Shower Moisturizer – I take an inexpensive pump container of body lotion (after about half is gone) and then add some baby oil, shaking it up very well. Then after showering, while still in the tub and before toweling off, I rub it all over myself. Then I “pat dry” so that most of the lotion mixture stays on. It works as well as expensive shower moisturizers and also leaves your towels smelling great! Also, it doesn’t make the bottom of your tub slick like straight baby oil due to the much thicker consistency of the lotion.
- Make the salad yourself – When shopping in the produce department, I usually buy bagged pre-washed salad to save time and money because it is just the right amount for a family of four. This week I compared prices and the cost of a bag of leaf lettuce was half as much and would make twice as much salad. By dividing it up after washing, we can have salad for two meals and save on the cost. Also those carrots that are “mini” are much more expensive than the carrots that need to be washed and peeled. Now we can have our greens and save some green too!
- Free Mailing Packaging – I save the extra tough plastic-like mailing bags from packages that I receive in the mail and turn them inside out to reuse. They look like new and are free.
- Discount Student’s Instruments – When my son was taking clarinet at school, I determined that I didn’t want to rent one and I didn’t know enough about the instrument to make a wise choice of buying one. So, I called the company that provides the rentals for the schools. They were happy to sell me a refurbished clarinet for far less than the cost of a 9 month rental. The staff there knew what the school’s requirements were, the kind of instruments the teachers wanted the kids to use, and were very forthcoming. I saved a lot of money by purchasing that used instrument on my own rather than going thru the school’s rental program.
- Children’s Party – For your child’s next party, consider having a “book exchange” instead of gifts. Here’s how it works. Each child who attends the party brings one wrapped book (age appropriate of course). At the start of the party, all of the books are put into a bin. Then, when the party’s over, each child gets to choose a book to take home as his or her party favor. We tried this for our daughter’s fourth birthday party recently and it worked great. The parents all loved the idea because they didn’t have to worry about what to buy for a gift. And it freed us up from having to buy or make goody bags, which usually just consist of candy and/or cheap plastic toys anyway. At our party, everyone remembered to bring a book. However, I’d recommend placing two or three wrapped books in the bin yourself in case anyone forgets to bring one.
- The Eating Out Bank – I recently started my own “Stop Eating Out” plan. I used to stop at Starbucks and get coffee and a sandwich every workday. Then at lunchtime, I drove to various fast food places for lunch. No more. I started bringing lunch, embracing the concept of small meals with the right amounts of protein, starches, veggies, and sweets for my sweet tooth. When I do this, $5 goes into the piggy bank. So I’m sort of “paying myself” to not eat out! And I think I’m eating healthier, too.
- Homemade Non-Stick Spray -I bake a lot. Instead of buying expensive cake release or nonstick spray I make my own. It’s just equal parts of flour and shortening plus a little bit of vegetable oil to make it more spreadable. I usually use one cup of flour, one cup of shortening and two tablespoons of oil. I mix it up and store it in an airtight container. Just brush it into your pans. The results are great.
If you have any other money/time/sanity saving ideas, please leave a comment letting us know who you are and what your tip is.