- Personal Finance
Cutting Costs in Everyday Spending
The biggest ticket items for almost everyone are housing and cars, but these are also one time decisions. Once you buy or rent your home, and buy or rent your car, those expenses will be the same each month. Since they are the largest, look at making changes there first. But then comes the rest of your spending, which involves many small decisions you need to make daily. This hub is about how to cut costs in that constant stream of money always leaving your wallet.
One simple rule will do most of the saving: avoid items with a lot of processing or packaging, and foods with big advertising budgets. More of your dollar will go to pay for that processing or advertising, and less on food value. Breakfast cereal is a perfect example. A marketing campaign and a good looking box jack up the price. Also beware those individually wrapped portions whenever possible. A large container of oatmeal costs much less per serving than a box of packets of oatmeal. Same holds true for meat: a whole chicken costs less per pound than chicken parts, a roast costs less than steaks.
Almost all coupons are for brand name, processed food. You will never see a coupon for a 5 pound bag of flour. Instead, check store sales. Every week a grocery store will have some items which are loss leaders, things they offer inexpensively in hopes of luring you into the store, where you will be convinced to buy all sorts of expensive items. Build menus around loss leaders.
Stores like CostCo or Sam’s Club where you buy in bulk will save money, just be wary of a few pitfalls.
· Waste. If some of it goes bad, you might be losing money.
· Processed foods. CostCo carries a lot of these.
· Impulse buys. There’s always something new. And it always looks so good.
A great website to make the job of efficent shopping easier: http://www.howdoesshedoit.com/menu_planner_about.php Here you can enter recipes, then when you want to do a shopping trip for your White Chicken Chili, Quick Mac 'N Cheese and Beef On a Bun, you choose those recipe cards, and print out the shopping list of ingredients needed. Can save extra trips running back for that can of diced tomatoes you forgot. And if you're short on your own recipes, the site has plenty of ideas.
If you are buying less processed food, more work needs to be done to prepare it. The benefits of homemade food: costs less, tastes better, has more nutrician. Here are some approaches to make the work lighter:
· Appliances. Do you have a breadmaker or a routisserie cooker stashed in the garage? A crockpot, a blender, a coffeemaker? Don’t buy new appliances, but take advantage of what you have. A crockpot, loaded in the morning, will have dinner ready when you return from work and don’t feel like cooking. That coffeemaker can save you a tidy sum in Starbucks’ dollars.
· Cooking as an activity rather than a chore. Make cooking a way to connect with family & friends. Kids love baking cookies. Make a meal with friends, rather going to a restaurant together.
· Make meals in bulk. Instead of one lasagna, assemble two and freeze one. Make extra large pots of chili and soup, and store some in plastic freezer bags. Some nights you will have a homemade dinner with minimal work.
In a word: don’t. Restaurant meals are very expensive, especially considering the quality. Bring your lunch to work, make lunches for the kids. For a special meal check a few cookbooks out of the library and make a surprise.
Great places to get clothing very inexpensively: garage sales and Goodwill. Individual Goodwill stores differ quite a bit in the quality of items they carry. Familiarizing yourself with those within driving distance is worthwhile.
The next step up is resale shops. Some of these qualify for boutique status, and by getting credit for clothes you pass on to them your costs come down even more.
eBay carries plenty of clothing, and has some real bargains, but no opportunity to try anything on. Knowing brands you like helps: if you have a Garnet Hill size medium sweater that fits, you can feel confident bidding. Always remember you are taking a risk, and factor that into what you are willing to pay.
Retail is the last resort! Check all other venues first, and what you absolutely need and can’t find anywhere else, buy retail. (But find it on sale.)
Giving gifts feels good, everyone knows it. A well chosen, high quality gift is a tangible demonstration of your esteem of a person, your personal knowledge of what pleases them, and your thoughtfulness. Presents can also come to resemble a kind of mutually assured destruction where each party feels obligated to match or exceed what was given to them.
We are all better off without extravagant gift giving, at least gifts from the mall. The best gifts are still thoughtful and show your knowledge of the person, but that can be done with low expenditure. Do something: clean your friend’s house, help replace some fence boards, invite a few people to a home cooked meal. Make something: a CD with favorite songs, a DVD of old family or college movies, a hand knitted scarf. This type of gift is priceless.
You don’t have to give up hobbies in a difficult economy, just find ways to lower costs. Here are a few ideas:
Crafts: Stores that specialize in crafting are expensive. Lots of crafters start out with good intentions to knit that sweater or hook that rug, but after a year the unused supplies transmit guilt messages no matter how far back in the closet they are stashed. These supplies can be found at garage sales, eBay and Goodwill for pennies on the dollar.
Scrapbooking: Switch to designing photobooks online. Snapfish and MyPublisher have good reputations. Unlike scrapbooking, no supplies are needed. Best of all, you can have the joy of designing your books, and the site will save them indefinitely. You can purchase in a few years, when times are better.
Movie night is now in your living room instead of the local theatre, and inviting friends just makes it better. Popcorn and candy are much cheaper, and the floor much less sticky.
Very helpful in cutting expenses:
Your local library. The library is a great place for books with large photos, like art and architechture books. The kids get to pick out a few things and take them home: it feels like going shopping.
Garage sales. The least you will pay for anything, and a morning of garage saleing can be a family excursion or a girl’s day out
Some helpful cost cutting links:
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