Guest Contributor: Heather Solos is the founder of Home-Ec101.com where she tries to make life skills accessible and entertaining. She’s eagerly anticipating the launch of her book Home Ec 101 in the spring.
We’ve all heard about the lady that knits her own lingerie from her pet’s hair. Sure it’s cheap, but who really wants to go there? Here are 25 manageable ways to begin reining in your spending (without terrorizing your cat)
Entertainment Money Saving Tips:
1. Cut the cable.
With Hulu, Netflix, ESPN Streaming there is no need to pay for hundreds of channels you don’t watch. Some will say sports are still lacking, but in the next two years that will be changing. Cut the cord now, you’ll miss it less than you think.
2. Use the library.
Libraries have more than just books, most also loan CDs and DVDs, too. During hot or cold weather, take advantage of the free heat or AC, unlike the mall there’s no temptation to spend. Additionally many branches now let you download audio books to your computer or mobile phone. Just don’t rack up fines, that totally negates the effect.
3. Pool a sitter
This works better when the kids are bit older. You don’t want a young teen trying to care for 3 toddlers and an infant. However once children are semi-self-sufficient three or four couples can use one or two sitters. Just rotate who has to play host, the sitters and kids might hit the snack stash a little hard.
4. Rediscover sharing a night in.
Take a note from the hipster crowd and embrace the vintage and campy; it’s more fun that you may think. Invite friends over for a movie, poker, or game night. If they ask if they can bring anything, say yes.
5. Check out your community calendar.
Community theater, high school sports, concerts in the park. . . don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
Bonus Points: Learn your spending habits, if you can’t be trusted with cash, don’t carry it. Skip the morning $5 coffee -brew your own for pennies on the dollar- and stay out of convenience stores as much as possible. It goes without saying, but a soda here and a coffee there adds up, bring a water bottle, for your health and your budget.
Eating Money Saving Tips
1. Learn to cook.
Few things are as freeing as developing this skillset. Not only do you take control of your diet and grocery budget you may discover it’s a new and rewarding form of entertainment.
2.Watch your portions.
To put it bluntly, overeating is nothing more than flushing money down the toilet.
3. Reduce your meat consumption.
I’m not telling anyone to go vegan. I’m an unapologetic omnivore, but ounce for consumable ounce, seasonal vegetables are cheaper than lean protein. You can also stretch meals by adding beans, rice, or oats to many recipes, without compromising nutritionally.
4. After cooking, store leftovers before serving the meal.
If you take your lunch to work, go ahead and pack it with the leftovers. Not only does this reduce waste, it helps keep people (you or others) from going back for seconds or thirds they didn’t really need. Otherwise freeze leftovers for a future meal or make plans to turn them into something new.
5. Each week check the refrigerator and pantry for items that will soon expire or spoil.
Ensure these items are cooked and eaten promptly to prevent waste. Think of it as your own personal Iron Chef Challenge.
Food Shopping Money Saving Tips
1. Have a plan.
Use a list and shop alone. When there’s a partner or kids involved items have a way of sneaking into the cart.
2. Many produce departments have a quick sale bin for fruits and vegetables past their prime. Soups, stews, and casseroles do not need picture perfect produce and freckled bananas have more flavor in baked goods.
3. Watch for sales or “hot prices” in the meat department.
This one has a caveat, you must freeze or cook these items immediately or you’ll lose the savings.
4. Don’t stick only to the grocery store.
Ethnic stores and bargain shops like Big Lots can be a great, alternative for some items like spices. In my area, gas stations and drug stores often have cheaper prices for milk than the grocery store. Investigate your options.
5. Always check your receipt.
Cashiers are human and they make mistakes. Just be polite when you call attention to the error.
General Cleaning Money Saving Tips
1. Most cleaning products are a matter of personal taste.
Investigate homemade options like vinegar, baking soda, and good old elbow grease.
2. Drop the disposable items.
If you can’t ditch the Swifter altogether switch to rags. The same goes for dusting cloths, “Lone Ranger” socks make great dusting mitts.
3. Keep a rag bag.
Having rags on hand to clean cuts paper towel consumption significantly and there’s no guilt if a mess was just too nasty and the rag has to be tossed.
4. Sweep and vacuum often.
Dust and grit not only make a place look filthy, it damages your flooring. Dirt weakens carpet fibers and scratches linoleum and hardwood.
5. Ditch the drop in toilet cleaners.
A toilet brush is a one time investment and doesn’t damage the flushing mechanisms. If your toilet is running due to a slow leak, fix it and reduce your water bill significantly.
Common Sense Money Saving Tips
1. Pay your bills on time.
Late fees can create a vicious debt spiral.
2. Replace light bulbs as they burn out with their more efficient CFL or LED counterparts.
3. If you have a programmable thermostat, use it.
Otherwise try to remember to turn the heat down when you’ll be in bed under a blanket anyway.
4. Use ceiling or portable fans in the summer.
Just moving the air helps a room feel cooler.
5. Occasionally do an energy audit.
It’s easy to Make sure appliances are running when they shouldn’t. Always double check windows and doors to be sure they are closed tightly. Do you have a fireplace? The damper should be shut when it’s not in use. etc.