Ways to Cut Back and Save Money (Without Feeling Like You're Missing Out!)
Feeling the Crunch
If you are anything like me, you've been the feeling the weight of your finances lately and it hurts. With the less-than-ideal state of the economy, the doubling of student loan interest rates, and many other recent financial changes, it is sometimes hard to keep one's head above the water. Debt is often the greatest source of stress in our lives today and because I know exactly how you feel, I've decided to let my readers in on some little secrets that might save big in the long run.
I am not going to tell you to walk everywhere to save money on gas, or make your own toilet paper. These tips that I've included below are things that I've tried in my own life, and ones whose results have often been met with pleasant surprise.
Eliminate the "Luxuries"
I like to call the things included in this section "luxuries" because, well, you don't really need them. Extras such as cable television, high-priced gym memberships, and even a land line phone can be unnecessary.
Having a home-based telephone is really great for people who either spend most of the time indoors or for those who really enjoy being relentlessly harassed by telemarketers. Either way, a land line phone is typically not needed when a cell phone is already being used. Many companies such as Comcast bundle services such as internet, cable television, and land line phone service together, but eliminating the phone service could save you a bit of money on a monthly basis: the difference between Comcast's Double Play bundle and their Triple Play bundle is $30.00, a little extra that could be applied to a credit card or savings account.
Gym memberships are great. But sometimes it's just not feasible to pay an extra $20-$30 a month to exercise. I dropped my gym membership recently and began walking outside in my neighborhood. I also invested in some inexpensive hand weights, yoga DVDs, and a Pilates kit. Overall, my workout bundle only cost around $50.00, which will pay for itself in two months. There are other alternative ways to exercise daily; sometimes, it just requires a little creativity and some extra effort.
I am also in the process of eliminating my unnecessary and burdensome cable television. I recently realized that I don't even watch it most of the time; in addition to this, I noticed that my cable and internet bundle is costing me $100.00 a month. That's a lot for a broke college student! So, instead of keeping the cable, I've decided to invest in a magical little device called the Roku. The Roku is a streaming player, which means that it streams data directly from the internet and delivers it to you via the connection to your television, and it costs the one-time purchase fee. It comes with a remote control—like one you might use for a cable box—and it is easy to operate and understand. The device requires an internet connection; however, when using it, you only pay for what you watch to watch. Netflix and Hulu cost a flat rate of $10.00 each on a monthly basis. So, in addition to the price of your internet connection, you would only be paying $20.00 for movies and television shows. Several other streaming programs, such as Crackle, are free with the device. Personally, the Roku will be saving me about $60.00 a month when I am finally able to cancel my cable contract and just continue to pay for the internet connection.
Saving on Groceries
What is the worst thing that can happen to a person who is hungry all the time? Rising food costs.
I have witnessed this uncomfortable trend for several years now. Produce costs have risen exponentially, with global food prices as a whole rising almost 3% last year alone. And economists have predicted a steady increase of these prices 10-40% over the next 10 years.
Groceries are a huge chunk of a family's monthly income; it is incredibly easy to walk into a grocery store and just pluck things off the shelves, and then dying of a heart attack an hour later when you see how much everything costs.
There are several apps out there in the cyber world that can assist with this issue. Digital shopping lists are easy to use and organize, and often provide the perks of compiling recipes for you depending on the items on your grocery list. Some of the more popular grocery apps are AnyList and Smart Shopping List A La Carte. For those of you who have an iPhone, Siri can add any item to your shopping list for you after installing the AnyList program.
For the coupon-savvy, Coupons.com offers a wide variety of coupons for everyday needs. From food to household cleaners, simply select the coupons you need and print them out. Almost any major retailer will accept these coupons. There are also several available in your weekly circular. Some people save money by only buying things that they have a coupon for. This can be time-consuming, but it's probably worth it in the long run!
The important thing to remember here is that you will need a viable plan in order for you to maximize your grocery savings. Start with a list, and find some coupons for some of the things on that list. Take the list to the store and do not deviate from it. I cannot stress this enough! Only purchase the items on your list. Buying extra things will most certainly deter you from saving any money at all while shopping.
Grow It Yourself!
As an answer to rising produce costs, I decided to plant my own organic container garden this year. It consists of 10 plants that I purchased young and planted myself. I have tolled, toiled, and sweated under the hot sun that reflects all too well off of my back patio. Yet my hard work has paid off, and I have a decent garden that produces a modest but healthful harvest when it can.
As I mentioned above, food is expensive. But planting your own doesn't have to be. After purchasing the containers, plants, and dirt, I only spent about $40.00. I planted my garden about two months ago and it's provided me with fresh herbs and vegetables whenever I want them. I can't describe the feeling of being able to walk out back, snip off a stem or two of cilantro or oregano, and throw them in to whatever I'm cooking. You can also use kitchen scraps for re-planting (shown above), which is an inexpensive way to stretch your food budget just a little more.
Not only will you save money by growing your own food, but there are several uses for the many kinds of herbs you can grow right outside. Did you know that your average household fly loathes the smell of the basil plant? Plant several next to your doors and watch the flies mosey on down to your neighbor's.
Mint and catnip repel ants and mice while rosemary disgusts mosquitoes. These plants grow beautifully and are inexpensive in addition to extremely useful, from ridding you of insects to providing the right kind of flavor in your cooking.
What would prevent you from buying a space heater or standing fan?
Using Air to Your Advantage
Heating and cooling a home can be expensive. Especially when we're in the middle of either winter and summer and we're content to just let the heat or air conditioning run all day. Have you ever really examined your electric or gas bill after a particularly brutal season? I have, but I kind of wish I hadn't.
Fans are viable alternatives to consistently heating or cooling a home. In winter, space heaters are particularly useful to heat rooms. I use one small heater in my living room and one in my room, and both work well. I am rarely cold, the dry heat from my radiator doesn't clog up my sinuses, and I have a few more dollars in my pocket.
The same goes for summertime. Fans help move around the hot air that can accumulate inside of a home. I like to place a fan in my kitchen and one in the living room and open the windows in both rooms. The fans recirculate the hot air throughout the door rooms, cooling it as it passes the fans. Definitely a less expensive way to staying cool in the summer.
Fans and space heaters have come a long way. Some of them are decorative and look completely unrelated to their clunky, heavy relatives from another age. Some even come with remote controls, different settings, and sound-smothering technology!
Park your car in the shade; the sun can literally evaporate some of the gas from your gas tank.
Shop around! Some insurance companies give you better rates depending on where you live.
Half of your energy bill is due to heating and cooling costs.
Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees and save up to 10% on your water bill.
Sell clothes, books, jewelry, and other unwanted items for extra cash!
Shop at discounted grocery stores to get better prices on the items you need.
Double recipes to ensure leftovers. Lunch tomorrow!
Use cold water to wash laundry- it requires less energy!
Support your local farmers' market!
Pay your bills online! It cuts back on paper usage and some companies will give you a discount.
Pack your lunch and take it to work.
Carpool with a coworker or friend to save on gas!
© 2013 Jennifer