Using Sense to save Cents
Most of us know the reality of our money not going as far today as it did ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. While we may make more per hour or annually, the fact is the dollar is worth less today than in times past. So due to the ever rising cost of living including fuel, rent, insurance (DON’T get me started on THAT!), utilities, and food we must watch our pennies when and where we can. So follow along with me on some of the items we can make a difference on and save a buck or two.
I know we shouldn’t, but they are just so darn good! Potato chips, beef jerky, cookies, and ice cream are a few of the not-so-healthy-but they-sure-are-good variety of snacks that continue to escalate in price. Matter of fact we just went to a store yesterday to purchase a few items for the house and found some goodies there. We bought a box of Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip cookies because we had heard they were really good. Individually packaged, there were eight cookies within the box. We paid $2.50 for the box of eight cookies. That’s 8, ocho, e-i-g-h-t cookies. Now they were good but really, how good do they have to be to warrant $0.30 per cookie? Better be one of the best cookies I have ever eaten, and I found them to be okay but not exquisite. I mean when dipped in a glass of cold milk and eaten I failed to fall down in a faint with the succulent goodness on my taste buds. I can get just as good a feeling eating the store brand of chocolate chip cookies that cost a dollar. And there are three times as many in the box! Oh, waistline can you see it coming?!?
So, what’s a better buy? Try baking your own. A mix which will make a couple of dozen requires an investment of perhaps $1.50 plus a couple of eggs and a bit of oil. All total, less than $2.00 and a bit of exercise in the kitchen and you have three times the cookies at a lower cost and you have the added benefit of a house that smells like fresh baked cookies!
TIP: If you are trying to sell your house, bake a few cookies before your open house. That fresh baked scent will make even the most obstinate potential buyer a bit more relaxed and possibly become a real buyer for your house.
The potato chip industry has been going crazy in the past few years, bringing out more and more varieties in an ever changing world of designer chips. I mean really, who needs Baby Back Rib Chips or Cheeseburger Chips if you are already eating baby back ribs or cheeseburgers? Regular old plain chips or normal BBQ chips are just fine with me (never was a designer anything and I’m too old to be one now). So, what do you do? Buy that bag of plain chips for $4.00 and eat them? You can, or you can try one of those off brand chips and give them a go. Most are fairly good and after a time of two you may not even notice the difference.
But what if you made your own? That’s right, slice up some potatoes and deep fry them, or maybe bake them if you are health conscious. You can get a ten pound bag of taters for less than $3.00 and that will make a lot of chips. If you want a flavored chip then try sprinkling some BBQ seasoning or maybe Sea Salt onto them after you cook them. Personally I am even growing my own to eat. Green Beans and new Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Potatoes, and some for chips! It’s all good! The cost is about $3.00 to $5.00 for around a dozen starter potatoes, each of which will make more than a dozen more ‘taters. The ground should be soft and well drained. Water daily and in about two months harvest and enjoy.
SALES AND COUPONS
Another way to save is price matching sales and using coupons. This past weekend saw a major brand of chips have a coupon on the bag advertising buy two bags get one free. Normal cost for these is running better than $3.50 a bag (ouch!), so buying two bags may run $7.00, but you get one free which cuts the price down to around $2.33 a bag. Decent savings, if you have a household of chip eaters like I do. But another store several miles farther away had a sale on the same chips for $1.87 a bag AND I used the coupon for the free bag. So what could have cost upwards of $10.00 for three bags saw a per-bag cost of $1.30 a bag.
They don't call me Titus Canby for nothing.
As it was a holiday weekend, we naturally decided to do some of our cooking on the grill. Now, I don’t know about you, but the ease of a gas grill pales next to the flavor of charcoal. Charcoal usually runs around $8.00 a bag now, and a two pack of 15 pound bags was $15.00. This weekend saw a sale of two 15 pound bags for under $7.00. We bought enough to cook on for the entire summer in one shopping trip.
It is a rare day indeed that we pay full price for our meat. Any steaks, roasts, or burger we get on clearance better than 99% of the time. We purchased an additional freezer a few years ago just for this reason. When we see it, we buy it. Savings run to the 30% or more area. If we do decide to buy a special steak or two, we have a local smokehouse/butcher outside of town where we get better steaks for much less than in the superstore or grocery store. Example: we decided to cook out on Memorial Day and wanted a couple of good steaks. We went to the smokehouse/butcher location and got two BIG bacon wrapped filet mignons for less than what the in town stores wanted for one! In town cost was upwards of $15.00 a pound; we got two ¾ pound each filets for $13.00. While it was an extravagance, we only do this perhaps once or twice a year, and when we do we shop at this location.
GAS and FUEL
How in the world do we save money in this area? We have to drive to work; we have to drive to the store; we have to drive the kids to school. As Steve Martin said in the movie Parenthood “My whole life is have to.” Sometimes it feels that way, doesn’t it?
First, pay attention to where you buy your gas. Keep a little notebook on where and when you buy gas. Also how many gallons and how much per gallon you paid. If possible, fill up each time; don’t nickel and dime yourself to death by only putting in $20.00 or $25.00 per time; fill it up! Then you can track how many miles you travel and when you fill up the next time, divide your miles by the gallons to get your Miles per Gallon (MPG). Trust me, when you keep track your driving habits you will also modify your driving habits to maximize your driving. Maybe instead of driving into town every other night to go to the store, you make one or two trips a week. Each trip cut saves you money.
Now, after you have filled up a few times (and this may take a few months) check to see what station you got the best mileage at. For me, Casey’s delivered the best mileage by a long shot. Up to almost twice the mileage over the worst station I filled up at. Stop and think: if you get 200 miles to the tank at station A, and you get 350 miles per tank at station B, where are ya gonna fill up? B of course! I don’t care what the reason is; the reality is I save money at station B.
Another cost savings you may not realize is that our wonderful auto manufacturers have placed the fuel pump in the gas tank in most cars. If you get below a quarter of a tank, they begin to heat up. See, the fuel in the tank cools the pump. If you run below that quarter tank you are continually making your fuel pump hot. In time, they will burn out. Cost to replace a fuel pump? Oh, say north of $400.00 if your mechanic is nice to you, or a dealership might charge you upwards of $500.00. So, make sure you fuel up when you are between a half and a quarter tank, especially in the hotter summer months.
THE SNEAKY FACTOR
The sneaky factor. If you don’t pay attention, those stores will slide this by you and you won’t see it coming; you won’t see it leaving; and you won’t even see what happened to your money! Say it with me s-l-o-w-l-y: cost per ounce.
Look at the ounces of whatever you’re buying and then the price. Some stores are really helpful and put that on the tag on the shelf for you. USE THEM!!! An example I look at all the time is tomato sauce. Now, when I make chili I make enough for a few days. We eat chili, chili dogs, chili burgers, chili nachos, and frito chili pie. I use a particular brand of tomato sauce because I feel it makes the best chili. I used to get the big can of it, like 96 ounces for $2.50 or so. Then the stores in our area discontinued that size, so I went to the next largest can I could get: 56 ounces. This can costs about $1.98. The next sized can is 29 ounces and cost $1.28; next is 15 ounces for $0.89. The smallest can is 8 ounces and cost $0.20. So if I buy two cans of the 56 ounce size I pay about $4.00 and get 112 ounces; cost per ounce $0.035. Four cans of the 29 ounce size costs a little over $5.00 and I get 116 ounces which makes the cost per ounce $0.044. The 15 ounce size means I get six cans for a cost of $5.34 for 90 ounces and a cost per ounce of $0.059. But the smallest can takes twelve cans; I get 96 ounces and only cost $2.40, thereby making the cost per ounce $0.025. Not a huge difference, but if you look closely a lot of those “mid-sized” containers, the most popular sized ones, have the highest cost per ounce. That costs you money! Look closely and pay attention, you might be shocked to see how in the little things like this you are paying far more than you should.
I hope this helps you a little bit. In today’s world that old saying “A penny saved is a penny earned” is even truer than it was in the past. Save those pennies, nickels and dimes; they will add up.