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10 Things you can do to save money, now!
Get ready to save money!
We all want to have more money for the things we really need and want. The tips I am offering here not only can save you money, but may bring you closer to other people, to nature and to your own consciousness through awareness. It is only by paying attention, for instance, that I remember to turn off a light when it's not in use. That awareness can bring me closer to the present moment; and that in turn may help me notice consciousness. We all want to save money and be happy, and I hope these ideas will inspire you.
Park your car.
It's easy to do, whether for an afternoon, a weekend, a month, a year or for good. Start small, and experiment with different modes of transportation, or just staying at home instead. When I went to Arkansas in 2003, I parked my car for all the 8 months that I was there. I'd turn it on every couple of weeks just to keep the rubber from rotting in the gas lines. I had to rely on the other people who lived in the valley with me, mostly just one other person, for our weekly ride to town. I split gas costs with her, and saved money it would have cost me to operate, maintain and insure my own vehicle. Additionally, by giving her money, it spread the wealth around. I've heard it estimated that the average car costs its owner $8000 per year. I know the civic I drive now costs at least $2200 per year, and that's a conservative estimate.
Cut your overhead.
This might involve moving to a new, cheaper home or apartment. Or, it might mean taking on a renter at the place you are living. I currently live at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Ann Arbor, and while it's not the cheap rent that keeps me there (I'm thinking of leaving) or that initially got me there, it is a natural extension of living with other people. We all share various expenses, including the electrical bill, housing and food. Additionally we cook for each other and each have our own chores to keep the common living areas neat and tidy. It definitely saves money when you live with other people. Now, when I moved to Arkansas, I was living there as a work exchange person, and so I didn't pay for rent at all. There are lots of opportunities like that, especially if you are single and willing to move. Another option is to seek out a cooperative house; there are lots of them in the city and the country.
Cutting your overhead can be one of the most challenging and most rewarding things you can do to save money. When I was younger I went the route of living out of my van for a couple of years. I never worried about money then!
Cut your own hair.
If you don't cut your overhead (or even if you do) another thing you can do to save money is to cut your own hair. In this video, I helped a number of people to save money this way. It's fun and easy to do; and if you don't feel qualified, you'd be suprised how many people cut hair for their friends and family. Just ask around, you might find someone who does.
I haven't paid for a haircut in years!
Found at the library!
Get books and movies from the library.
This is a great way to save money, run into friends and family members; and have a great time once you get home. You'll be surprised at how up to date your library may be when it comes to movies. And of course they are a treasure trove of books, on all subjects, whether it's the DIY project you're thinking of doing, that recipe you'd like to make; or just a fantasy or sci fi read. Additionally, many library's offer internet service, and if you are willing to curtail your internet use to library hours, then you could unplug from your cable service at home. And that could lead to saving hundreds of dollars per year!
Using less of products you buy means spending less money over the course of time. There are lots of items that you may be over using. One common example is dish soap. One or two squirts is plenty if you are washing by hand. If you are using a dishwasher then you can fill the soap compartment half full. Some items, like water and electricity, come into our house at the turn of a faucet or flick of a switch. So don't forget that it's like money going down the drain (or out the window) when you overuse these two commodities. When I lived by my self in for four years recently in a mobile home, I got a chance to see just how much water and electricity I use on a day to day basis; and got a chance to learn to use less. I put a bottle filled with sand in the toilet tank. I took sponge baths. I turned off appliances when not in use, and unplugged appliances that had a ghost load, like that clock built into the microwave oven. There are lots of opportunities to spend and there are just as many opportunities to save! One way to do both at the same time? Make your own necessities.
One of the right livelihood principles of the Spring Wind Sangha, the Zen Buddhist Society that I belong to, says, in part; "Pause before buying and see if breathing is enough". While it may not always cause you not to purchase something, it may help you to get in touch with your motivations to buy. Also, when I do this my self, I often find that indeed, breathing is enough. It's curious how often I want to buy something just to try to change my mood or sense of self. Consciously paying attention to the breath will have the same effects, it's cheaper and gets at the root cause directly. So the next time you're getting ready to buy something, take a breath. You might just save some money that way!
When it comes to buying a new item, say a shovel to help get your garden going; or a table, or bookcase; or really anything that you want or need to buy; you have many more options then just going to the hardware store, or Ikea, or where ever to but it new. You can buy most items second hand, saving quite a bit of money in the process; giving the money directly to another individual, and likely getting a higher quality item (like the table saw I got a few years ago) then you would at the store for the same price. Another option is to borrow what you need. For instance, when I was working on my house and bought the table saw, I also borrowed a number of items that I needed to complete the project; including a reciprocating saw.
Another thing that can be done, rather than buying new, is to trade items. Right now, for instance, I have a G5 Macintosh Computer that I would like to trade for recumbent bicycle. It would be a great situation, both for me, and the owner of my very powerful computer! Trading items can help build community too!
Cook your own food.
I almost always eat at home, or at Riin's house; and we cook our own food. I'm continually startled by how much money it costs to eat out. Even a cheap meal out costs 4 or 5 dollars. That's like 2 or 3 meals at home; and the ones you cook at home will be better to! I generally eat organic; and have a say in what ingredients go into the food: no MSG, no unpronounceable chemicals, no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils. I eat more vegetables and fruits; whole grains and beans than I did when I used to eat out more. And the food is generally much better. If you're really adventurous, you could learn to can your own food!
Grow your own food.
This can be one of the most rewarding things that you do to save money. You can grow just about any vegetable. Right now, there are three types of kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, two types of beets, thyme, mint, carrots and peas growing at the temple garden. Earlier in the year we had strawberries. Watching vegetables grow, tending them, and then eating them is one of the true pleasures in life. I especially like kale. It is hardy, often overwintering here in Michigan, tastes different at different times of the year; doesn't need a lot of tending too; and grows abundantly. It is a lovely green color, and is really good to eat! Just try stir frying some up in olive oil with a little soy sauce! Very good!
There is always the opportunity to take a simpler path, and it is invariably cheaper. Consider entertainment as an example. One could either go to the library and get a book, which would put some wear and tear on your shoes, and might incite you to buy something else - because of a store or advertisement you passed on the way there - or, you could kick off your shoes and just look out the window at the antics of squirrels or other animals that might be out there; or re-read one of your favorite books at home, or talk with your spouse or neighbor. If there is one thing that will save you money again and again, it is to live simply; and it will bring you closer to the greatest resource of all: yourself.
I hope you have enjoyed reading these ideas to help you save money. I've tried many of them myself, and hope to try others of them in the future. By saving money, and more importantly, using less, we help create a more sustainable and equitable world for everybody. Each of our actions has reverberations and reactions of which we can only be dimly aware. Take heart, by living simply, you create beauty and bounty for everyone.