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- Family Budget
Silly Little Ways to Save
Tips and Tricks are Everywhere
There are so many articles out there about how to save money at home; how to save money off your power bill, consolidate your debts, etc. These articles are wonderful, but many are written in a cold manner and are full of information that is quite simply everywhere. It's so repetitive! I will try to avoid a lot of the repetitiveness, and all of my tips come from personal experience. They are not necessarily related to each other - they range from saving power to saving on your vet bill - but they are proven, great ways to save here and there.
1. Coupons and Sales
The number one way I have found to save money is to utilize coupons and sales. There are coupons (manufacturer and store-specific) available for printing online, allowing you to find coupons that you will actually use in the comfort of your own home. Check out websites like or coupons.comthekrazycouponlady.com to find deals relevant to you and your lifestyle.
In addition, do a price comparison of grocery stores in your area. Most of us shop at the same place all the time because its conveniently placed in town or they sell a particular brand we've used for years. Your regular store may not offer the best deals in town by any means. Make a list of items that you buy regularly - necessities such as toilet paper, your favorite snacks, toothpaste, your makeup product, milk, eggs, bread, etc. Then go to your usual store and write down the prices for each item on your list. Add them all up for a total, and then go to another store in town and do the same. Keep in mind - just because a certain chain is well-known for its low prices does not mean that it has the most to offer at the lowest prices. Commit to doing your shopping at whichever store in town offers the most bang for your buck. You may also take into account whether or not a store offers a reward card - in my town we shop at Winn Dixie not only for the deals but also because their reward card earns us even lower prices and cents off fuel per gallon, and it didn't cost a dime to sign up for.
Whichever store you choose, make sure that you either check online for their weekly flyer or pick one up in-store when you shop. Try to plan your shopping around the flyer for better deals - it will also push you to try new brands and new foods or products!
Before you eat out, check online for which restaurants are currently offering deals or coupons. It isn't the most romantic approach for a date, but many restaurants will either offer online deals or have a portion of their menu that promises lower price for a certain entrée with pre-decided sides. It lowers your ability to be picky and customize your meal, but will save you a few dollars off your total bill.
2. Bills - Cutback and Cutoff
Smartphones are everywhere nowadays. And with a smartphone plan on any major provider comes the requirement that you pay for a certain amount of data. Well, if you're anything like me and my husband, and a good deal of Americans, you sign up for unlimited everything and have done. Well, unlimited texting and minutes are perhaps well worth it, especially if you use your personal cell phone for work or if you are simply a social butterfly. Unlimited data, however, contributes a good chunk of change to your cell phone bill and odds are you aren't even using a third of it. Take a look - either online or on your next bill - at your data usage and see if you can cut back your plan to reduce the cost without the risk of using more data and incurring charges. Even consider paying the bare minimum of what is required for your phone model and commit to using a computer for the rest of your surfing! Be very wary of apps and downloads - many of them run in the background and use data without your even knowing about it. Periodically go through your phone and either perform a factory reset or uninstall apps that you haven't used in a month.
Tips for saving on your power bill are everywhere, so with this subject I will be brief. Plug things like chargers and lamps into power strips. Even televisions and computers can be plugged in this way, and it can even be safer because many power strips double as surge protectors. When not home or not using anything on the strip, shut the whole strip off. A lot of chargers and devices draw power even when not in use or turned on.
Consider using ceiling fans for the majority of cooling your house if you can, and keep your thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees year-round. Put on a hoodie or sweater and wear warm socks to keep warm if, like me, you get very cold very quickly. I
t may seem obvious, but turn off lights in rooms you are not in. We are taught this as kids, but my husband still leaves the bathroom light on! Use energy-efficient bulbs and turn off lights every time you leave a room or leave the house.
Limit use of extraneous electrical items. Someone bought me a Scentsy for Christmas this year, but that requires energy for it to be plugged in and heat the wax, and the bulbs are not energy efficient. The Scentsy wax can be used with many incense burners that use candles for heat, or you could simply melt the wax all down and mold them into a homemade candle. You will still enjoy the scent without the use of any energy.
Cut out channels you do not watch from your cable package, or consider cutting the cable off entirely! Sites like Netflix offer streaming for a much lower cost than many cable packages, and there are plenty of ways to watch your favorite shows online. Pay instead for internet only - our internet costs us $44.95 per month through AT&T U-Verse, as opposed to paying for cable and internet, which often runs a bill up to $190 or higher per month. Shop around for deals through local providers and find out who offers the most for the least amount of money.
Consolidate student loans and ask for rate reductions on your debts. Many companies and lenders will offer these, but not freely. It isn't in their best interest, after all, to offer rate reductions to every customer who walks through the door or borrows with them. It is usually something you must bring up yourself. Refinance your mortgage and vehicles with your bank or credit union. At the very least, ask about it the next time you are there and see if it would save you anything. For most, it will save you at least a few dollars off your payments every month, and will cost you nothing at most institutions.
Take a look at your healthcare. A lot of people sign up for a family plan, but through many providers it may actually be cheaper to sign members of the family up for individual plans. For example - my husband and I have separate health insurance plans. Mine costs roughly $200 per month while his is roughly $165 per month. Not only does this method allow us to choose levels of coverage we actually need, but it would have cost nearly $500 per month if we shared a plan. Find out what kind of coverage your workplace offers, if any, and what it would cost. Some companies will offer a plan to their employees that costs less out of pocket than having a private plan. It may cost more to add more members of your family, but you could lower the cost of your own, if not eliminate the bill entirely (many healthcare jobs and companies offer free health insurance to their employees).
3. Make Your Own/Do-it-Yourself
There are many recipes available online for products you can make yourself at home for much less money than buying the brand-name product in the store.
For example, you can make a batch of your own laundry detergent, which will wash over 100 loads of laundry for a few dollars, versus purchasing brand name detergent for upwards of $6 for 30-40 loads.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 bar of soap (whatever kind you like; I used Lever 2000 because we have tons of bars of it from a case we bought a while back)
- 1 box of washing soda (look for it in the laundry detergent aisle at your local department store it comes in an Arm & Hammer box and will contain enough for six batches of this stuff)
- 1 box of borax (this is not necessary, but I’ve found it really kicks the cleaning up a notch one box of borax will contain more than enough for tons of batches of this homemade detergent – if you decide to use this, be careful)
- A five gallon bucket with a lid (or a bucket that will hold more than 15 liters – ask around these aren’t too tough to acquire)
- Three gallons of tap water
- A big spoon to stir the mixture with
- A measuring cup
- A knife
- Put about four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling. While you’re waiting, whip out a knife and start shaving strips off of the bar of soap into the water, whittling it down. Keep the heat below a boil and keep shaving the soap. Eventually, you’ll shave up the whole bar, then stir the hot water until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.
- Put three gallons of hot water (11 liters or so) into the five gallon bucket – the easiest way is to fill up three gallon milk jugs worth of it. Then mix in the hot soapy water from step one, stir it for a while, then add a cup of the washing soda. Keep stirring it for another minute or two, then add a half cup of borax if you are using borax. Stir for another couple of minutes, then let the stuff sit overnight to cool, and you’re done.
Look around on Google; some of the home items you can make on your own cheaper are:
- Skin care products
- Bathroom and kitchen cleaners
- air freshener
- Dog/Cat food
Love to take care of your nails? Have a DIY manicure! No doubt you already have a small manicure set, if not you can buy one for a few dollars at Walmart. What you can also buy at Walmart or online are gel manicure kits. The one I have is made by Sensationail, and the starter kit cost around $40 (roughly the cost of a manicure at a salon in town). The colors do cost more in-store, but the company website offers promotions now and again, and many of the colors can be bought on Amazon for $2! Thus, I have a home gel manicure that, with a care and a little practice, looks just as good as if I had it done in a salon, and the polish lasts about two weeks, damage-free.
Many things can be built or jury-rigged for your home to help you save. A clothes line, for example. There are many available that you can purchase if you wish, but if you have spare PVC pipe and pericord or strong fishing line, you can make one for free. I didn't have any piping, but there are a lot of trees in my backyard, so I ran some pericord tightly between two of them. Clothespins are cheap and reusable, and you will save money in the summer on running your drier if you choose instead to hang your clothes out to dry. Remember that in this case you will want to add a fabric softener to your homemade detergent, make a separate softener, or simply buy a small bottle. Add it to your load in the washing machine because dryer sheets have no use on a clothes line.
If you have a project you want done in your home or a good idea, check around online for ways to do it yourself or at least save money on having it done before you commit to a plan.
Sensationail Home Manicure
Consider how much you spend on pet food, veterinary bills, grooming, toys, and treats for your pets. There are most definitely ways to cut back on these costs without depriving your pets of the lifestyle to which you have made them accustomed.
Consider making your own pet food at home, or at least treats. There are a lot of great recipes out there, and books at the bookstore. Many of these options are even healthier for your pets than the store-bought food, and are most certainly cheaper.
Is there a Tractor Supply Co. near you, or another farming supply company? They often sell vaccinations for your dogs and cats off the shelf (make sure that your state does not require a vet prescription for vaccinations), at a much lower cost to you than the vet visit. If you do not have such a store near you, there are also websites that will sell and ship you doses of the vaccines and syringes/needles to go with them. There are many videos available online as well as articles that will instruct you on how each vaccination should be administered. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of vaccinating your own pets. you might consider at least purchasing the vaccinations yourself, and asking your vet to reduce the cost to you since you did not cost them their own supply.
Pet toys cost a good deal, especially if you have puppies or hyperactive animals that tend to destroy their toys quickly. If you have old stuffed animals that you don't want or care for, give them to your animals. Make your own cat toys from a stick, fishing line, and craft feathers/glitter. My dogs enjoy tug-of-war toys that I made from two old tube socks tied together. This is yet another good time to check out a thrift store near you...so many things can be bought from their shelves for much cheaper than in the original store, and most of them are only gently used.
Don't forget to check if your local pet store offers a rewards card that will earn you discounts - PetSmart, Petco, and Pet Supplies Plus all do, and they can all be used online as well.
What item are you most willing to make at home?
References and Links
The laundry detergent recipe was found here: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-detergent-and-save-big-money/