10 Simple Money-Pinching Techniquies from a Small Town Girl
Everyone wants to save money
You, me, that wierd old guy down the street; we all want to put a little more cha-ching in our pockets. But that's not always an easy thing to do. People like to spend money. Advertisements make spending money appealing. Then there's that lovely problem of gas prices.
Here's a little list of some decent saving ideas I've come across, and a couple of hints I've been told.
1. Don't put all your money in the bank.
This may sound a little whacky, but it's true; putting all your money in the bank can lead to more spending. When you put your entire paycheck in there, your brain may get this funny idea that usually sounds like, "Oh, hey, I have money! That means I can spend more!"
DON'T LISTEN TO THAT LITTLE VOICE!
By setting aside a few bucks every time you have money, you'll be able to save more. This technique will take time, though. Then again, most money-saving techniques take time. Build this little habit and you'll discover more moolah in your wallet pretty quickly.
2. Invest in a piggy-bank.
Childish? Not at all. Piggy-banks are a great way to save money because you can't see it. You don't know exactly how much is in there, unlike a bank or your wallet, so you won't be thinking, 'Well, I have this much, so I can spend this much.' Going along with that say-no-to-full-banking idea, put that extra dough in your little piggy's belly. Trust me when I say it works wonders, because it has worked wonders for many people I know.
It's also a wonderful place for those spare coins you don't want to lug around. Yeah, I suppose you could use almost anything to hold those clunkers, but again, you can't see how much is in the piggy. My family used an old cookie bucket for a long time; everyone dumped their spare change in there, but we could all see it, too. So whenever Mikhail (my brother) and I wanted to ride our bikes to town and we needed a little more money than what we had, we would shove our little hands in the bucket and count out as much money as we thought we could get away with. This goes for glass jugs, too. While they do make wonderful door-stoppers, they're easy to break and get into if you think you need that money now.
Did I mention how awesome piggy-banks can look? I got one that looks like a Santa Piggy!
3. Avoid eating out.
Kind of a no-brainer, but fast-food fact is, people spend a lot of money eating out. Whether you're on the go, on break, or just looking for a quick nibble, they're convenient and reliable in availability. But you have to really push yourself to stop. I have an extremely hard time with this, since both my jobs require a lot of driving, and I don't always have time to eat at home in the mornings/between jobs/at night.
Consider packing yourself a meal-to-go. Sandwiches are pretty easy to whip up, along with salads and trail mixes. If you're going on a trip, bring along some granola bars or chips. Bottled water is always cheap, and you can recycle the bottles yourselves by saving them and filling them up with tap water from home. Ah, how I love my well... If you don't like water with every meal, you can use milk, too. Just be sure to wash out the bottle, because milk is not pretty when it's old and warm and full of nasties. Juice is also a wonderful substitute, but if you're really going for the penny-pincher and prefer juice, try Kool-Aid packets or Lemonate packets or whatever-juice packets. They're cheap and they come in decent amounts per box.
4. Stop smoking!
Not only is it pretty bad for your health, but you WILL save money with this! And I feel like the biggest hypocrite right now, but I can't stress enough just how good this really works. You'll save anywhere between $100 to $400 a MONTH (and maybe even more, depending on how much you smoke) by tossing that habit in the can. If only it were that easy...
Cold turkey is your cheapest stop-smoking technique, but it is the hardest one to follow. Many people take up smoking again with this because it really is that hard.
Did I mention how big of a hypocrite I feel right now? Here I've got a cigarette lit in my hand, and I'm telling you to stop smoking. But I wouldn't tell you if it weren't a real money saver. And boy, do I know it.
Another way you can quit is with those Nicotine patches or gums. They work, to an extent. It all depends on your view and how well you can stick to the plans they have set out.
Don't substitute candies for tobacco. While it generally works, it doesn't help your health or your teeth. Nor does it help your waistline. If you want to do this anyway, go with the sugar-free stuff. It might not taste as nice, but it'll give you the same effect nonetheless.
I can't make you do something you don't want to do. This is only a recommendation.
5. Do a search on the cheapest gas near you.
There are a number of websites you can look at that will tell you where you can find cheap gas close to home. With gas prices rocketing upward (with the occassional downward jump), this is the worst place to skimp on saving.
The only thing you have to be careful of is the quality of gas you're getting. The highest-priced station doesn't always have the best quality, and the lowest-priced one might have the best. And while I'm not bashing Wal-Mart, be careful of their gas stations; they've been known to put water in their gas to save money and give you better prices. I've seen them do it, but I can't tell you if that's true for all their stations.
Some station companies will try and pull you in with great deals. Be wary of those. While their deals seem nice, they might not be as grand as they're made out to be. One deal I've seen is saving such-and-such per gallon when you buy a car-wash. Now, if you're just topping off your tank, don't do it. If you have a small car with a small tank, don't do it. If you're not gonna use that car wash, don't do it. They'll charge you for the wash, making it a not-so-grand deal in the end. But if you have a vehicle with a 15 gallon tank or more, and you're fillin' 'er up to full, it's not a bad idea. That wash is almost like a little bonus.
6. Generics aren't the worst products.
You can seriously save a bundle by buying generic, or even store, brand items. Food, clothes, furniture, makeup, automotive supplies, housewares, home improvement items, pet foods, hair products, medicine; almost all of these have generic brands, and those that don't will come in store brands. And sometimes, the generic/store brand might be better than that other guy.
If you're looking to save in the freezer aisle, go for those little $1.00 Michelina's frozen dinners. They are a life saver! Seriously, I swear by those things. Though you might have to whip up two to fill your gut, that's still a decent value compared to some of the other frozen dinners out there.
Oh, another good food buy: Ramen. Ramen Ramen Ramen! CHEAPEST NOODLES YOU WILL EVER BUY. Well, not the Ramen brand, anyway, but the generic equivalents are EXACTLY the same, if not better. Also, those little Ramen cups are not worth it. They aren't nearly as tasty.
For cleaners, I would have to say Buyers Beware. Some of those generics aren't as good, and you might have to use more to get the same oomph as, say, Windex or Commet. I've never tallied it out, though, so I can't tell you for sure if they're cheaper in the long run.
Also, don't skimp on toilet paper or paper towels. Generics are almost never as good. At least, I've yet to find any as good.
Worried about nutrition? Grow your own garden. If that doesn't save you money, I don't know what will. Just know your area's growing capacity first before you go all Farmer Brown on us. Some regions can grow almost anything all year round, while others have too much snow on the ground during the winter.
7. Don't drive everywhere if you don't have to.
Depending on your current living situation, this can either be simple as pie or hard as heck. Do you live in a big, buzzing city, or a little blip-on-the-map town? Most cities have public transportation, such as busses, subways, monorails, trains and taxis. And while they'll still cost you, they're cheaper than that darn gas pump.
Own a bike? Well, ba-bing, there you go! Bicycles are THE CHEAPEST MODE OF TRANSPORTATION, next to walking, of course. And if you live out in the boonies like me, walking's really not an option unless you like walking 10+ miles to Wal-Mart... Then again, if you don't own a bike, you might be a bit out of luck here. If you do decide to get a bicycle, you're gonna want a bike lock. And even though bikes aren't cheap and the lock will set you back a bit more, it's a wonderful investment if you really want to save on gas. Plus, buns of steel are always nice. ;-D
8. Go with the cheapest wireless plan.
Do you really need unlimited texting? While teenagers think they do, they don't. Ever since some moron decided to take pictures of kids in locker rooms and send test answers through text messaging, cell phones have become absolute no-no's in schools. And, last time I checked, school takes up roughly 7 hours of a student's day. Which leaves a whole whopping 6-8 hours where they'll either be doing homework, school activities such as sports and clubs, watching tv, playing video games, or hanging out with their friends. Let's calculate this out, shall we?
School: about 7 hours.School activities: about 2 hours a night, usually every other night.Homework: well, let's give them 2 hours of that (about the average).TV time: about 2 hours as well.Video Games: another 2 hours.Hanging out with friends: anywhere between 3-6 hours.
Not all kids do all this, though, so given the average teen layout, they'll have ROUGHLY 13 hours of social interaction where they just might not be texting. And since kids need about 8 hours of sleep, that'll leave 3 hours of notihng-time.
Thus, you don't need unlimited texting. I do suggest you get unlimited weeknight/weekend minutes and texts, though. Some kids don't actually sleep at night. :-P
"Well, I don't have kids!" Lucky you. My question to YOU is, do you really need all the extra stuff you're getting? If the answer's no, remove them from your plan. They're costing you more money than you should be paying. On average, wireless providers get our hard-earned cash for all the stupid things we don't need and all the extra blahblahblah they put on our bills. I've had friends who've been charged $300 in one bill in false charges that the provider never mentioned (or decided to tack on after the fact). The fun thing is, there's not a lot you can do about it. You can call them up and complain, but that really won't get you anywhere. Sure, there are laws against that kind of thing, but it doesn't stop corporations from doing it. File a law suit against your service provider if you're seriously having this problem.
9. Opt for water.
Caffeine junkies. We need our caffeine. We NEEEEEEEEEED it. NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!
... Wait a second, no we don't!
You don't need that cup 'o joe in the morning. You don't need that first soda (pop, coke, whatever you call it in your area). You don't need that energy drink to pick you up.
Try a glass of water.
It's free, it's healthy, and it doesn't stain your teeth or leave you with extra calories to burn later. Got nasty-tasting water? Well, sucks to be you, mine's amazing. Go for the cheapest bottled water at your local gas station or buy a manual water filter. There are bottled waters for under a buck at every gas station. Just because it ain't Aqua-frickin-fina doesn't mean you're gonna die. It means you're going to save a lot of money. Buy a couple of those, get yourself a water filter, and bottle your own water for later use. It works wonders, and I've been doing it for years.
10. Do you really need all those lights on at night?
Answer is, probably not. When you leave a room, turn off that light. Heck, turn off all the electrical crap you have running if you're not using it! While sufficient lighting is better for your eyes, you don't need a whole lot to see where you're walking, and you don't need any to see where you're leaving!
Those electricity-saving lightbulbs do work, by the way. It's not a hype. They can save you quite a bit of money if you use them correctly. And they're super bright, so you won't need as many turned on. Sometimes we invent some pretty nice stuff, and believe you me, these bobacious bulbs are a very nifty invention.
Another idea would be to get a small flashlight. Batteries are nice and cheap, too, and if you REALLY want to save some green, you can whip out your torch and walk around without worrying about your electric bill! It's kind of a silly idea, but it does do wonders. I personally use my cell phone's backlight when I come home late from work. Even cheaper. :-D
Well, there you have it. My 10 little money-saving techniques. Take it or leave it, folks! I wish you the best of luck in your moolah-engrossing endeavors, and I hope this gave you a couple of ideas you hadn't thought about!
In order of appearance:
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- http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fcd/nutrition/ewfl/module3/images/generic.jpg - jamesseay.com/2008/06/02/is-your-brand-generic/
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- http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3103/2299440187_c7b6572a40.jpg?v=0 - http://flickr.com/photos/8586443@N03/2299440187
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