When I first started this blog all I really wanted to do was share cool stuff I found through the course of my daily life with whomever would listen. :-) That really was the extent of the thought that went into it……in the beginning. Thanks to your input and participation in this website community, it has evolved into something much more, and while it’s been exciting and fun…it also gives me pause when I realize there is a very large audience of people who regularly are coming to this website for information that is relevant and useful for their lives.
So I decided to verbalize (or at least type out) some of the guiding principles that apply to the information I present on this blog:
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- Saving time, money and resources.
- Being your best self….physically, mentally, spiritually.
- Nurturing family.
- Being happy.
- Making life beautiful.
- Being a wise steward over the part of the world you are responsible for.
Of course, these aren’t set in stone. As life happens, changes and shifts in priority and focus are bound to happen. But for now, these are the areas that I will be trying to bring you the best information on in the coming year.
Today I’m going to be focusing on saving money. As I watched the evening news last night with all the talk of a “Fiscal Cliff” looming in the near distance…I was reminded of how many people are on their own personal fiscal cliffs right now. I know from the comments and emails that I get that the vast majority of people are wanting/needing to be more careful with their money and looking for ways to save in just about every area of their lives.
After hours of research on the subject…here is my list of things we can all do to save money in the New Year. Some are tried and true favorites, some may surprise you, and all of them I personally believe in.
1. Make Your Own Household Products
This one I think goes without saying, especially on this website. :-) I love making my own laundry detergent, etc. It’s MUCH cheaper than buying the commercial versions and much more satisfying! Not to mention eco-friendly!
2. Cook At Home
It helps if you have a menu plan, so you don’t give in to the temptation of eating out, because you don’t know what’s for dinner. (See “Menu Plan” below.) Also, consider freezer cooking if you tend to eat out, because you don’t have time in the evening to cook.
3. Use Store Discount Cards
You can shave an average of 18 percent off the cost of your groceries by using your stores loyalty/rewards card.
4. Menu Plan
Planning your meals for the week based on what’s on sale at the grocery store is a solid strategy (as long as you stick to your list). Make a careful plan of what you’ll buy before you go, then stick strictly to that list when you go to the store. Don’t put anything in the cart that’s not on the list, no matter how tempting, and you’ll come out of the store saving a bundle. If planning meals prevents just one last-minute call for delivery pizza, you’ll save at least $20!
5. Brown Bag It
You can save a LOT of money by taking your lunch to work. Even if you only did it HALF the time…the savings are substantial! And it doesn’t have to be boring sandwiches if you have access to a fridge and microwave at work. You can even plan your dinner menus with the intention of having leftovers to take for lunch.
6. Eat What You Have
Buy food that you are going to eat and eat what you have. You can drastically cut your grocery bill by eating the food you have on hand and not wasting any. Just putting a little bit of thought into your grocery list each week is an easy way to save money.
7. Invest In A Deep Freezer
A deep freezer, after the initial investment, is a great bargain. You can use it to store all sorts of bulk foods, which enables you to pay less per pound of it at the market. Even better, you can store lots of meals prepared in advance, enabling you to just go home and pop something homemade (and cheap) in the oven.
8. Avoid Bank FEES Like The Plague!
I can’t think of a more WASTEFUL use of your hard earned dollars than paying the BANK or CREDIT CARD COMPANIES MORE MONEY in ridiculously inflated fees.
- Pay your bills on time and avoid late fees. Get organized about your regular bills. If possible, automate the payments. If you find yourself forgetting to pay your bills on time, set up a free Google calendar and you can put reminders of when each bill needs to be paid. You can even set it up to email you to remind you to pay it on the correct date. This is what I did and it has helped me a lot!
- Be aware of your bank balance and avoid over draft fees.
- Avoid ATM fees. Be sure to use only those ATM machines where your bank will not charge the fees, or withdraw directly at your bank. If you’re out of town and not near your bank, it may be possible to avoid ATM fees by using your debit card at a nearby supermarket.
- Avoid credit cards with annual fees.
9. Improve Your Credit Score
Of all the painless ways to save money, improving your credit score is arguably the most important. From home loans and car loans to credit cards and auto insurance, a good credit score can save you a small fortune. Over a lifetime, the savings can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars.
10. Save Money At The Library
Public libraries are home to a wealth of resources. Of course you can borrow books instead of buying them, but they also often have large collections of popular CDs and DVDs. So, it can be a cheap (free) ways to catch a few good movies.
11. Unplug Appliances: Save Energy AND Money
Some appliances use power—called standby power—even when they’re turned off. Biggest culprits: Televisions, computers, printers, VCRs, DVRs, and power tools. If you leave town for a week, unplug everything possible. The rest of the time, use power strips to switch off power so you’re not constantly plugging and unplugging, which risks fraying cords and causing another set of problems.
12. Entertain Economically
Consider having friends over for dinner rather than going out. Assign everyone something to bring. Search for knock off recipes, so you can have your favorite restaurant food at home, for half the cost.
13. Get Your DIY On!
For very little money (or possibly for free) you can take a course at your local college to improve the skills needed to tackle most household repairs.
14. Buying “Pre-Owned” Stuff
This is one of my favorite ways to save money. I love going to our local thrift store and seeing what treasures I can find there. Sometimes you don’t even have to PAY for stuff. Send out an email to family or friends, or just ask around. You might be surprised at what people have sitting around that they would love for someone to take off their hands. Freecycle.org and craigslist.org are also good places to look.
- You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing prices at different stations (Use gasbuddy.com to search for the lowest prices), and using the lowest-octane called for in your owner’s manual.
- You can save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to their proper pressure.
- Fill your car up when you’re down to a quarter tank of gas. You won’t be stuck going to the nearest, most expensive gas station when your car is on empty.
16. Stretch Your Clothing Budget
Swap hand-me-downs with friends (especially helpful with kids’ clothing), don’t be afraid to shop at thrift and consignment stores, and mend clothing instead of tossing it.
17. Plant A Garden
Gardening is an inexpensive hobby if you have a yard. Just rent a tiller, till up a patch, plant some plants, keep it weeded, and your new hobby will produce vegetables for you to eat at the end of the season that are MUCH cheaper and better-tasting than store-bought!
18. Find Fun, Free Stuff To Do
Dig into your community calendar. There are often tons of free events going on in your town that you don’t even know about. Stop by the local library or by city hall and ask how you can get ahold of a listing of upcoming community events.
19. Don’t Spend Money To “Relax”
To wind down from a stressful day at work, sometimes it’s tempting to go shopping! Instead of spending to de-stress, try some basic meditation techniques, stretching, or yoga. You’ll feel much happier than blowing all that cash.
20. Drink More Water!
Not only does drinking plenty of water have great health benefits, water drinking has financial benefits, too. Think of how much you could save by replacing your soda and coffee drinking habits with water! Also, drink a big glass of water before each meal, and not only will you digest it better, you won’t eat as much, saving on your overall food bill.
21. Avoid impulse buying!
Use the 48 hour rule. Make a commitment to wait 48 hours before making any unplanned purchase. Often the urge to buy will disappear after a few hours. If it doesn’t, find out if you can borrow it, get it used, or wait for a sale, before you pay full retail price.
22. Become a Landlord
23. Take Up A Money-Saving Hobby
Hobbies not only open your mind to new experiences but they also take up your time – important if you would otherwise spend it in the mall shopping away your hard earned money. Think about it. Take up painting. Go fishing.
24. Avoid Extended Warranties
Electrical goods are more reliable than ever. If your new radio won’t last three years perhaps it’s not worth buying in the first place. Think about it: how many times has your fridge broken down in the last five years? If you need additional warranty, use the extended warranty feature for free on your credit card.
25. Gift-Giving From The Heart (Not The Wallet)
When it comes to gift giving, the gifts we remember most are the ones that made us feel the best. A gift of service — whether it’s an evening of babysitting, lawn care or boarding a loved one’s pet — costs nothing, and for the recipient, it means you really thought about their needs.
26. Make A Budget
(One of the hardest things I’ve ever done! But SO worth it!) When money in a given category is gone, don’t spend anymore. Here are some guidelines for how much of your money should be going towards what:
•30 percent: Housing and debt (mortgage/rent, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc.)
•26 percent: Living expenses (food, clothing, utilities, transportation, medical, entertainment)
•25 percent: Taxes (federal, state, local, and property; FICA and Medicare)
•15 percent: Savings and retirement (401(k), stocks, mutual funds, college savings, etc.)
•4 percent: Insurance (life, health, disability, auto, homeowners, etc.)
Last but not least….
27. Stop Trying To Keep Up With The Joneses!
Trying to keep up appearances is a costly proposition. Remember, you cannot judge someone by what they have because you don’t know how they got it. Chances are they’re in more debt than you are!
Of course this list is not all-inclusive…but it’s a good start! I would LOVE to add YOUR ideas to the list! What are your best money saving tips?