Thursday, August 18, 2011



Over the years I have collected a growing list of ways to save money, ways to not spend money and ways to spend less money. Lately, I’ve had discussions with friends regarding couponing, environmentalism and just plain being careful with our financial resources. Yesterday, during one of these discussions the light bulb popped on that perhaps I should put a list together of some of the ways I try to accomplish as much as possible with as little money as possible, at my house. So here goes:
1. I don’t buy paper towels. I have a stack of old dishtowels, old washcloths, and microfiber cloths that get washed and re-used. At a roll used per week I estimate that this item saves me at least $52 a year on things that get thrown away.
2. Pay attention to the drugstore ads. I match up my coupons with the ads from my local Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens. If it’s on sale and I have a coupon, it might very well be free. I get all of my toiletry items this way. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, shaving cream, shampoo, soap and deodorant have all been free this past year. I wrote it all down for about six months and discovered I could save my family over $500 that isn’t coming out of my grocery budget for these items.
3. Birthday parties are great fun for the kids and can be a tremendous waster of your family’s money. Go several times a year to Wal-Mart and Target and grab several 80% off toys from the clearance aisle to put in your birthday party stash. Not only will this save you when you get the invitation the day before the party but it will also cut down on how much spending you do for these numerous gifts. My three children go to at least five parties each per year. If I went and bought even a very simple gift each time one of these parties happened it could easily cost me $15-$25 for each party. Those stockpiles of clearance items average $3 - $5 a gift (items originally $15-$25). No one at the party knows you were smart and bought it on clearance. This saves $300 a year.
4. Re-usable water bottles are an investment worth making. If you think they are too expensive you really aren’t paying attention. The Nalgene web site has a 50% day every year when you can get even the super fancy bottles for less than $5 each. One of my local discount stores, Ocean State Job Lot, also had the largest quart size bottles for $2.50 this year. If you are buying 24 disposable bottles of water a week at the grocery store even at a sale price of $3.99 then you are losing over $200 a year and putting tons of extra plastic into your local landfill. I bought 4 new Nalgene bottles this year at $2.50 a bottle. I spent $10 and saved $190.
5. Free shipping codes are everywhere. If you know you will be purchasing an item online then take five minutes to search for a free shipping code before you buy. If shipping typically costs between $5-$10 an item then it is completely worth your time to look for a code first.
6. Don’t pay for things you can do yourself. Mow your own lawn, trim your own bushes, clean your own house, do your own laundry. Don’t be lazy and you will save yourself big bucks. If you are paying $30 a week to have your lawn mowed, $200 a year for the trimming, $35 a week for cleaning and $25 a week in laundry then you just wasted $4000 last year. Wouldn’t you rather work a little harder at home and get to go on vacation and have fun? I know I would.
7. Before you buy something, ask your friends. Most of your friends will be happy to pass down clothes, toys, and children’s items just to get them out of their house. If you need size 8 pants for your ten year old then ask your friends. This recently happened to me and I was rewarded by two friends saying that they had plenty of outgrown size 8 pants to share. When you do get solid hand me downs then wash them immediately and organize them by size, season and gender so when you get to that size you know exactly what you have. Because of this strategy, I typically buy very few clothes for my children. You could easily spend $500 per child at the mall for new clothes each year. What a waste. My family has what they need (and then some) and we buy very little each year. I estimate that I spend probably $100 or less each year on each child for clothing. That’s a $1200 savings each year and all I have to do is spend a few minutes asking my friends if they have anything to share.
8. Pay attention to your bank account. Free checking still exists and there is no reason to pay atm fees or other extra charges. These items can accumulate quickly and have no value in your budget. Because I was paying attention this last year I saved my family from two sets of bank charges equaling $45 because a retailer charged me incorrectly. The error was fixed but I can’t help but wonder at the money that could be wasted if I wasn’t watching so carefully. If you go to the out of network atm and use it once a week for a year and the fee is $3 then you just wasted $156. Wouldn’t you rather use that money to have some fun with your family?
9. Gas is a necessary evil in most of our lives. Because this is a repetitive item in your budget it should be easy to develop a strategy of which station to frequent in your area. Most of us have many choices along our regular routes to work, practices, lessons and church. Pay attention to which stations have the best prices and plan a few minutes to get your gas when you are going by them anyway. Don’t go too far out of town to get your gas. You’ll waste your savings on driving there. The gas in the town I work in is typically ten cents a gallon more expensive than the town I live in. Therefore if I buy 10 gallons of gas a week every week for a year that’s $52 I’ve saved by buying my gas near home instead of near work.
10. Filing rebates on items may seem like a pain and a serious waste of time and stamps. In the last five months, I’ve taken the time to file those rebates on items we buy anyway. My reward: $125. Not only is that worth a few stamps but it helps me buy the things that I need for my household that never seem to go on sale.

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