As some people may or may not know, my hubby has been out of work since March. I try not to talk about it much, as it’s a tough subject all around, but I think in this day an age, it’s important to share these things.
One of the best way to frame this time of struggle is as a learning experience. I consider myself to be a creative master in the art of saving a dollar – but I’m still learning. I’ve received a lot of great tips and advice in addition to my own school of hard knocks education. I’m hoping if I share some of my money saving techniques, that hopefully I can give someone a new tool to save money in their own rough patch, or that maybe someone can share some ideas that I still haven’t thought of.
So here’s what I do to save a buck or two:
* Become an electricity Nazi – Every light left on, every appliance left plugged in drains precious money right out of your pocket. I know this is a no-brain-er, but before I leave the house in the morning, I turn off power strips, unplug appliances, and make sure all lights are off. Taking a few extra minute to “patrol” can really help reduce your electric bill.
* Skip the dryer – Drying your clothes in the dryer uses a ton of electricity and is one of the biggest culprits of high electric bills, especially in a house with more than two people. I recently bought a couple of drying racks at Wal-mart for around $17 a piece and set them up in the laundry area. While hanging clothes to air dry is definitely more time consuming, it’s a big money saver.
* Don’t be afraid to be cold – This time of year here in Maine heating fuel is one of our biggest expenses. Because we rent, we can’t convert to a pellet stove or another cheaper form of heat as many people have suggested. Instead, we keep the heat turned down t0 55 F. While it’s not fun, it’s bearable. Slippers, sweaters and blankets on the couch while watching TV are all free.
* Cut anything you can live without – Our contract finally ran out with our satellite provider, so we got rid of our service. The kids have not been thrilled, but with services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, they can still access most of the shows they enjoy at a price that’s incredibly affordable. We still have a contract with our cell phone provider, but have downgraded to the cheapest plan available. Watch for those “cheap” monthly accounts that you can live without, such as subscriptions to magazines, audio books (guilty), and other fun extras.
* Do it yourself – Eating out has always been one of our favorite family activities, but this was one of the first things to get cut out of our life as the finances dwindled. Luckily we’re good cooks, and cooking as a family can be just as enjoyable as eating out. You can take that approach with a lot of things, as we have with delving into growing our own food and raising chickens as well as other self-sufficiency projects. Not only does this save money in the long run, it also provides a point of pride, and a lot of entertainment value – I can’t tell you how much I love watching my chickens There is a plethora of things you can do yourself that are far cheaper than the alternative - get creative! Pack your own lunch, dye your own hair – go nuts!
* Look for freebies – There are a lot of great free resources out there if you look. We attend a free community dinner every Wednesday at the local teen center, and we have a great community center that often hosts a lot of fun, free family activities. A lot of companies do sample giveaways of new products and there are several groups on the web devoted to finding these freebies. My idol Mavis features great free ebooks and other coupons on her blog regularly.
* Coupons – All right, I’m not really that into coupons, but they sure can help. I have a friend who buys coupons on eBay and I’ve seen her score some great deals. Local Sunday papers also offer, not only the traditional coupon insert, but a lot of coupons to local shops.
*Shop around – Check out weekly fliers and plan your spending carefully. Going to the same store for all of your needs because it’s convenient could be costing you precious dollars. This goes for all services you use or things you buy. After a little research, I just cut my car insurance bill down by $14. I’ve scored a great deal on toilet paper on Amazon. Don’t be afraid to check out discount stores, bulk stores, and second hand shops these are real treasure troves.
* Plan – When I go out to run errands, I do so with lists in hand, and a driving route. This may seem ultra-stingy, but wasting gas is a big no-no in my life. When I go to the farm to visit, I also go to the butcher shop along the way because they have great specials on meat, then stop at the little convenience store, also along the way, to pick up the 10 lb. bag of potatoes thy offer for $2.79. It’s this kind of neurotic planning that keeps me going.
These are my biggies right now. I won’t get into the truly depraved money savers like watering down the milk, or trying to make laundry detergent from a recipe on Pinterest – I’ll leave you to imagine the finer details of my thriftiness.
Please feel free to share any penny pinching tips I may have neglected.