Penny Pincher: Tips for Everyday Saving
Most of us know that clipping coupons can help you save money. But what to do when clipping coupons isn't quite cutting it? Here are some ideas to help you find news ways to pinch those pennies:
Ditch your cable
While many families feel that TV is a necessity and end up paying dearly for services, what they may not realize is that there are ways to save on home entertainment and still catch your favorite shows.
- Create a media PC. If you have more than one computer in the house, think about turning one into a media PC that can store downloaded shows and movies and stream them to your TV. There are different types of free software that can help you accomplish this.
- Get an antenna. Sure, this will be a up front cost, but in the long run, you will save big bucks over cable. Make sure to get an antenna that can reach the signal from your closest big city to ensure the maximum number of channels.
- Consider Hulu, Vudu and Netflix. Hulu, Vudu and Netflix provide digital content, meaning shows are streamed on demand. If you have a gaming console or a Tivo, you are all set to get one of these services going for a fraction of the cost of cable. You can get access to full seasons of your favorite TV shows along with movies-- direct to your television.
- Look at Slingbox or Monsoon (Hava). Slingbox and Monsoon (formerly known as Hava) are devices that stream your regular TV through the internet. If you have a generous friend with an extra TV, you can easily stream shows to a device of your choice. If you have a media PC, this could then display on your television. Added bonus: you can watch your TV anywhere with an internet connection!
Stretch your cleaning supplies
You probably already have what you need to keep your house clean for the next month or so, right? Whatever you may have already, you can easily double it without spending a dime.
- Just add water. Most of us use more soap than necessary to wash hands, clothes, etc. Adding water to your liquid soaps can extend their use and sometimes double the value. Especially useful for hand soap and dish soap, if you keep the ratio of soap to water at 2:1, you probably won't even notice a difference.
- Create your own foamy soap. Soaps that come in a dispenser that makes them foam can be made at home with cheaper soap and water. If you already have one of these dispensers, note the consistency of the soap and mimic it by mixing liquid soap from a refill container (which are usually more value for the dollar) and water. Pour them in the dispenser, shake it up and voila!
- Buy refills. Most cleaning supplies come in either a dispensing container (like one with a spray nozzle) or a refill container. Usually, the refill containers will be a better value. So don't throw away your empty window cleaner, just refill it.
- Try vinegar, baking soda or lemon juice. When our dishwasher wasn't doing the best job anymore, we put off buying a new one until we could afford it. In the meanwhile, we just added a cup of vinegar in the bottom of the washer before running it to keep our glasses crystal clear. Vinegar is much cheaper than name-brand rinsing agents. Investigate using other household staples in a new way to save a little here and a little there.
- Reuse! One trick my mom taught me was to reuse everything possible. If your Ziploc bag held pretzels, it can easily be refilled with something else. Wash out your Glad storage containers-- most of them are even dishwasher safe. An old toothbrush makes an excellent scrubber for hard-to-reach areas. Shopping bags make excellent garbage bags for smaller bins. Be creative!
Massage your food budget
It can be tough to work with a food budget that already feels stretched to the max. Perhaps there are some ideas you haven't considered yet.
- Use filler. This may sound bad, but using cheaper food to fill in for a more expensive food (like meat, for example) can really help your budget. Add extra beans to that chili-- they are a very good value! Make your stew with a little rice thrown in to make it heartier.
- Eat your leftovers. One thing I always think about when I cook is how the dish will taste the next day. If you only make things you are likely to eat again, you will waste less food. Taking leftovers to work for lunch also saves money over buying lunch.
- Make it from scratch... or don't. Sometimes making things like bread from scratch can be much cheaper than buying ready-made. However, some things are actually more expensive to make yourself. You'll have to compare prices and figure out at what point it makes more sense to buy pre-made.
- Abandon brand names. This is a tip for any type of shopping. Brand name goods are usually more expensive, even if they are on sale. It will take a really good promotion plus coupons to make that Tide a better deal than the store brand, in most cases. Store brand goods are usually the same quality as name brand for a fraction of the cost.
- Re-think your habits. One woman likes to put ice cream in her coffee every morning (true story!). The cost of a pint of ice cream can be double a pint of regular creamer. Sometimes switching little things can make a big difference. On the other hand, if you can kick the habit of a daily soda with lunch, you'll save much more every day! Take a look at the extra things you consume on a daily basis. Maybe there are things you can cut out. Your pocketbook, and maybe even your waistline, will thank you!
Other savings around the house
Most of us know that turning off the lights and switching to energy-efficient bulbs might save in the long run. Take it one step further with these other savings idea for around the house:
- Take out some bulbs. If your chandelier has 6 light bulbs, see how you feel using just 4.
- Close the doors, lower the shades. Living in Arizona, we often notice one part of the house gets much hotter than the rest. We close doors in that part of the house to keep the AC from running overtime. Of course, we checked to make sure there wasn't a thermostat in that part of the house! We also make sure to keep the shades down and the sun out. Lowering the shades can also work when it's cold, helping to keep warm air in and cold air out if you have drafty windows.
- Cover up! Speaking of the cold, simply wearing more clothes can help you keep your heating bill down in winter. You can keep your thermostat lower if you stash blankets or decorative throws around the house to keep you cozy while watching TV. Wear socks and slippers to keep your tootsies toasty.
- Shower versus bath. Generally, taking short showers saves more over taking a bath. But if you are looking for a long, relaxing bathing experience, a bath may be smarter for your budget.
- Fill your fridge. A full refrigerator uses less energy to stay cold than a half-empty one. The same is true for your freezer. Try filling empty soda bottles 3/4 full with water and storing them in your freezer and fridge to take up any empty space you might have. If you use filtered water, it'll make your fridge more efficient and be an emergency water source at the same time.
Any other ideas?
What tricks have you found to save money? Share ideas in the comments!