- Personal Finance
7 Hints for Saving Money
In recent years I have seen prices go up on almost everything. It gets harder and harder to pay all the bills by the end of the month and still have a bit extra in the bank for the occasional emergency. Lately our emergencies seem to be coming closer together and have prompted me to take further action in the age old "cutting corners". The trouble is that soon I'm afraid there may not be any corners left to cut. That's where things could really get serious.
Each month I figure out about how much money is coming in and then try to stretch it against the bills that have to be paid. This is getting a bit harder as we still have some medical bills to be paid for my cancer treatment from last year and now we will be facing more medical bills for yet more cancer treatment this year. The bottom line on these medical bills is to simply pay something, even if it is a small amount. As long as there is an effort being made to reduce the debt, it should keep the bill out of collections. The effort to pay however must be regular and one must stay in communication with the doctors' accounting representative. Cancer treatment has made it impossible for me to work out of the house. There are too many doctor appointments and too many days of illness and such low white blood cell counts that it is dangerous to be around people for fear of an infection. So I have tried to find opportunities to work from home. These are not easy to find and although they can work, they grow very slowly.
With all that in mind I do have some ideas to help save money on just every day living.
Idea number 1: "The emergency piggy bank". This is an old fashioned money bank with a slot for coins. Every one in the house contributes money to the bank for the inevitable emergency. My goal is to collect as much as possible in that bank. So far it has saved our bacon multiple times. It paid for a new router for the computer, a part to fix our washing machine, a small generator for power outages, and numerous car parts. The amount of money fluctuates according to the number of emergencies but each week we make sure we add to the bank.
Idea number 2: We took $10.00 to $15.00 off of our monthly electric bill simply by putting up a clothes line. The laundry schedule can be rearranged to accommodate days of good weather and keep that electric dryer standing idle. The clothes even seem cleaner for being in the fresh air and the sun. I have also found that sunshine will bleach out stains that spot removers won't get. Another laundry idea is to wash in cold water only. We all think we need hot water for some things in the laundry, but I have found cold to work just fine.
Idea number 3: Do you have a gas furnace? Have you ever noticed that the little blue eternal pilot light stays on all year? Shut down that pilot light when it is not heating season and reduce your gas bills. Most pilot lights are easy to extinguish and re-light. Since we live in a warmer climate we only light the pilot light when we have an intention to actually use the furnace. This has greatly reduced our gas usage.
Idea number 4: We have an electric water heater, and have found two ways to save a bit with it. Don't set the temperature to the highest setting. This is dangerous as it can quickly cause burns and it also causes that water heater to turn on a lot more frequently thus costing more in electric usage. Another possibility for that electric water heater is to turn off the breaker at night after the last person showers and the heater has finished recharging. Turn the breaker back on in the morning and the water temperature will soon be just fine.
Idea number 5: Try to cut some services. In our area, trash pick up runs about $20.00 per month. This is for a weekly pick up of all the household garbage. There is no enforced recycling in our area, but we can separate the recycles at home (plastic, aluminum cans, tin cans, cardboard, catalogs, newspapers, and magazines) and take them to the local transfer station. They will take all those recycles from us for free so our county can sell them for revenue. We also started a compost pile for biodegradable kitchen scraps like fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. By removing the recyclables, and the compostables our actual garbage has gone to almost nothing. We collect three 30 gallon containers of garbage in about 5 weeks. These cost us $4.00 total to dispose of at the transfer station. This makes a savings of $16.00 a month.
Another possible service cut is pest control. We live in an area that is alive with creepy crawly things. For several years we had a pest control service that sprayed in and out of the house. They sprayed every other month and the bill was $30.00 each time. We purchased a garden sprayer and bought some insect controll at the local hardware store and saved again. The sprayer will pay for itself with the first usage, and you will find lots of other uses for it. This way too, we can put the spray where we want it and not where the tech says it should go (I don't like that stuff inside the house). We find we are much more pest free since taking over this job ourselves.
One more possible service cut is TV. We have never been big TV watchers, and literally raised our family without it, but about five years ago we decided to give it a try. Since we are surrounded by mountains getting TV meant signing up with a sattelite TV service. In that five years of TV service we have steadily declined in TV watching, so we have decided this is the next thing to go. We have a very minimal package but it will still save us almost $40.00 per month. Really one hardly needs TV any longer with internet streaming and free on line movies and shows.
Idea number 6: Watch the numbers! I mean where you keep your thermostat set. In the winter we add an extra sweater and keep the heat at about 64 degrees F. In the Summer (and it gets HOT here) we keep our cooling to an absolute necessity. Since we are in a dry climate we can use a swamp cooler. This uses a lot less electric than air conditioning and has a fan setting so we can bring in the cooler night air. Once the sun gets hot, we shut it off and close up the house. An added benefit of a swamp cooler is to collect the bleed off water and use it for watering the garden. Speaking of watering the garden, I don't have a dishwasher so I use a dishpan and when done washing add the old dish water to the garden also.
Purchasing sunblocking window tint can also help to keep the house cool. Along with planting tall trees or other fast growing plants to keep the house in shade. We have great luck growing bamboo. It grows very fast, is attractive to look at, and I think impossible to kill.
A few years ago our electric company installed digital meters. This makes it easy for us to read on almost a daily basis. Knowing when your meter is read and how much each kilowatt hour costs can reduce the surprise of an awful electric bill. Remember that some usage will really add up. Keeping a 1000 watt coffee pot going all morning will really cost compared to just making the coffee, get what you need to get going and heat any extra in the micro or on the stove top. Check the wattage on all your appliances and decide if they are worth the running, or just how long you really need to run them.
Idea number seven: Pack a lunch. You can make delicious and nutritious lunches at home and save the money normally spent at a restaurant. Also watch those coffee prices. Some trendy coffee shops are really pricey and although the drink may taste great, it can put a hole in the pocket book!
Once you get started cutting corners many more ideas will pop into being and the savings will continue to grow. Good luck with your money saving adventures and thanks for taking the time to read this.