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20 Tips for Saving Money in Today's Economy

Updated on May 23, 2013

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In today’s economy, well, actually since I’ve had a family (the late 1980s), I have found many ways to keep expenses to a minimum and still be able to get things that our family needs or wants. Some have been created simply out of necessity while others have been due to principle. In any event, here are some of my favorite ways to save money:

1. Ebay, or a similar website. This is a great place to find bargains, but you have to be careful. Always check a department store first to make sure you are really getting a deal. For example, I found a set of plates that I loved and they were, at buy-it-now price, four times more expensive than Wal-Mart or Target. Usually, however, Ebay is the way to go.

2. This brings me to another website, Esnipe.com. With Esnipe you pay a very minimal fee for credits. And this way, Esnipe will come in at the last minute and bid on Ebay for you. A few hints: Look at Ebay to see if the others bidding are new to the system, these buyers tend to get into bidding wars. In this case, use Esnipe and bid really high. You will generally not pay your bidding price because the newbies do not know about Esnipe and they tend to quit bidding towards the end, attempting to use Ebay’s version of sniping. Watch towards the end, because you can always cancel your Esnipe ahead of time without charge if you need to. Also, bid at the last second. I have only lost twice in the last seven years and only once did I feel I overpaid for an item.

3. There is probably very few that do not know about second hand stores. This is a must in economic hard times. But expect to spend some time there because you have to pick through clothing. Also look for “dot” sales, which mean that anything with particular colored dots will be on sale that day. There was a time when you could buy really great antiques and collectibles for little-to-nothing. That is no longer the case because “they know their stuff.” Be careful when choosing these items and make sure you are not overpaying.

4. There are 36 different ways to make mac n’ cheese. Use them. But be careful. I am teaching my son, a father, to cook. I told him to get “some meat” and put it in shells or rice. Well, his meat was four cans of tuna (a can per person), but then he decided to turn it “Thai” (whatever that means) and put in ginger. A lot of ginger. A whole lot of ginger! By making casseroles, you save a fortune on food. Cut down your meat to half of what you think you need. And then cut it down half again. This is what you really need. Meat is expensive – groceries have doubled over the last two months and before that had quadrupled over the last two years. I make what is called refrigerator stew. Sometimes, if I add more water, its fridge soup. Here is an example: One night we have chicken and noodles. I save the leftovers and the next day add dumplings. Then, the third day I put in some veggies (canned is cheaper) and have stew. Day four is simple. Put all leftovers in an oven pan, throw in some potatoes too. Let it heat up and then put biscuits on top to rise and cook making a “pot pie.” That is four days’ worth of meals for under ten bucks!

5. While on the subject of food – dish out portions. If you allow your husband or teens to make their own plate, there are no leftovers. If there are leftovers that you can create new meals with, make sure that’s well-known in your house. Leftovers are not generally used for the next meal with teens, but are “snacks.” Also, keep one shelf for “things they cannot touch”’. Leftovers and other items you use will be there if you take this simple step. Use water to fluff up eggs instead of milk. By the way, use tap water. It is filtered the same way as bottled water.

6. Add water to your shampoos, cream rinses and hand soaps. They work just as well and kids use a ton of this stuff.

7. Make your children and yourself hang your clothes up. They can usually wear them more than once before a washing. Cuts down on a lot of water and soap. If your washer has a quick cycle and the clothes are not that dirty, use it.

8. Vacuum once a week. This saves energy and quite frankly, vacuuming more than that ruins a carpet. If there are big pieces of stuff on the floor, those who dropped it need to hand pick it up.

9. Install automatic light switches in high-traffic areas of the house, such as kitchen and bathroom. The lights will turn on and off at random. Just do a room at a time because they're a little high-dollar. Invest once a month in a fluorescent twirly lightbulb. They last forever.

10. Also, I remember a water drought in California in the late 1980s when everyone was allotted only so much water per day. The State had a bathroom motto: Yellow’s mellow, brown goes down. That’s cool and I still use it today in my household of eight people. Be aware that this method works great with one or two people, but with a large family, yellow is not that mellow for very long.

11. Do NOT use credit cards. Sorry, just don’t. Now, it’s ok to have one for an emergency, such as tires or repairs. The new IPod is not an emergency. Neither is the liquor store. If you buy one Big Mac Meal and paid minimum payments, I read that this meal would cost over $2,000.00 before it was paid off. In any event, if we cannot pay for it in cash, we do not need it, minus emergencies, of course. We may always be broke, but everything we have (except the house) belongs to us. We take pride and feel secure in this.

12. Talk to your family. You will be surprised how much they are willing to give up for the time being. They watch the news, even the little ones know what’s going on. They all want to help. They just need to know the truth.

13. Finally, change the attitude. Once I did this, life was so much easier. I was chewed out by our cell phone company because the salesman could not understand that while I was renewing my contract, I did not want a new cell phone. Yes, it had been two long years, but my old cell was not broke. “Why trade it?” I asked. He responded, “because if you get a new one now, you can get a $400 phone for only $99.” My response (especially since I’ve never seen a mail-in rebate actually occur) was, but I have a $49 phone that I paid nothing for two years ago and it still works.” We are a throw-away society and besides waste and spending money, there are ecological and human rights issues created by that society that we overlook because we want everything now and cheap.

14. All change goes in a jar, unless we desperately need it at that moment. Once it’s in the jar, it is not allowed to take any out. It’s there for good. That is our savings.

15. We have money pockets tucked away in various places and a list of those places and the amounts are in my computer. Many times, this has taken care of emergencies or paid for Christmas.

16. Look for bargains. Do not buy until you find that bargain. This means, you really don’t need a new couch yet – the children are in training and will ruin it anyway. So, go to a garage sale and get a nice one for under $100. We just bought a sleeper couch and two recliners for a total of $60.00. The one recliner and the sofa had a couple of cigarette burns in them. But otherwise are in great shape for training children. They are solid and if we need to host something spectacular, we can easily put slipcovers on the furniture to hide the burn marks.

17. Do not buy the cheapest satellite or cable package and then get premium channels half price for six months. Nor should you rent movies off the satellite or cable. Once I sat down and looked at my bill and what my satellite company offered, I realized that for $15 more a month, I could get all the premiums (not just the two I had). This prevents the need to rent movies as well -- if you wait a month or so, it will be on the premium channel.

18. Sounds corny -- but get back to family time. We go to the park and bring drinks and snacks. We take walks and garden and just talk and wrestle on the floor. Be creative: If your child wants to go Chuck E. Cheese, give everyone a glass of water before you go, then order a small pizza. And, when the ticket money is gone, its gone.

19. I cannot stress this enough: Do not buy stuff you do not need. I know how fun it is to buy the "latest, greatest". But remember, Justify the decision not to purchase it by reminding yourself that the "latest, greatest" will be old in six months and you want the newer one. A trick I use is when I go shopping, I find what I want, fight myself, leave it in the store and go home to wait three days. If I still want it, i.e., I can still imagine what it looked like, I go back and get it. Nine times out of ten, I do not go back to the store. Consider the cell phone story above, I did not need a smart phone. I had a two-year old phone that still worked and a netbook. Those together accomplished what a smart phone would for my situation -- I could learn to really want a smart phone, but have no real use for it.

20. This is not your daddy’s economy anymore. We cannot expect to live with this new economy by following the old rules of the 1980s and 1990s. We must constantly be ingenious and creative. We must have the attitude that “this too shall pass” and we must separate out what are real needs and what are real desires.

These are just a few things we do to sustain life in an unforgiving economic situation. I hope that some of these very basic concepts work for you. While some seem like “duh” ideas, the purpose of this article is that you will take the spirit of each idea and apply it to various aspects of your lives whenever you possibly can. Saving money is a life-style that comes from re-evaluating priorities and by doing the best you can with what you have. As Sheryl Crowe sings, “I don't have digital, I don't have diddly squat, It's not having what you want, It's wanting what you've got.” Karre.

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    • Karre profile imageAUTHOR

      Karre Schaefer 

      5 years ago from Eskridge, Kansas

      Thanks Liah. It took me a while, but I finally "got it". Yes, now the family. :-)

    • profile image

      LiahTurner 

      5 years ago

      I think your touched on the secret - change the attitude. This is the start as well as the hardest. Convince the family to change expectations.

    • Karre profile imageAUTHOR

      Karre Schaefer 

      5 years ago from Eskridge, Kansas

      Thanks patchoearth. I appreciate your comment and am glad it inspires you! Thanks for following me too. :-)

    • patchofearth profile image

      Rebecca Long 

      5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

      What an inspiring hub. A lot of great ideas, too.

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