Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some REAL money-saving tips...

I am a sucker for "how to live cheaper" articles, and Yahoo Finance has many. I've read them all. They don't apply.
We don't have a cable bill to cut. We don't drink Starbucks. We don't go out to movies. We don't eat out but once in a great while. When we want pizza, I get a three-dollar frozen one. So tips such as "A sack lunch at work can save you $35 a week!" ARE USELESS, as are "Brewing your own coffee rather than stopping at Starbucks" and "Renting movies instead of going to the theater".
So here is how WE live cheaper.
Honestly, it starts with There's not an application or income level requirement, it's not food stamps (but you can use food stamps to buy it!), it's just very cheap food, great if you don't qualify for food stamps but are tired of beans and pasta. It's almost a month's worth of groceries in one shot. I budget about $50 a month for the regular package and one special, and plan the rest of the month around what's in the freezer and pantry. There's frozen meat, frozen vegetables, some canned stuff, a quart of shelf-stable milk, a dozen eggs, it's a variety of things, all of which keep in the pantry or freezer. The rest of the month, I go to my freezer and pantry first, to see what one or two ingredients I need for a complete dish, and then buy just that.
Shop N Save, or at least the one near us, has a clearance basket up at the front of the store. Whatever is in it that's useful, I buy, whether or NOT I have a use for it right then. Cans with torn labels, boxes that got dented or cut while unloading, bags that sprang a leak. Then later when I'm low on ideas, I have things in the pantry I wouldn't normally buy, but which might prove inspiring.
Getting really, really serious about sales and coupons helps too.
When it comes to cooking, a white sauce made of margarine, flour, and powdered milk stretches a can of cream soup to feed a family (if you have some miscellaneous vegetable or something to add). If you just make a sauce and dump in whatever canned vegetables are in the pantry, presto, dinner's done. It costs pennies, but tastes good, and doesn't FEEL like a cheap meal.
Recycling and composting as much as possible have kept us to one can of trash a week (our hauler charges by the can). This is EVEN WITH a baby still not out of diapers, and we do use disposables (I'm nowhere near organized enough to do cloth just yet).
If you're diligent and have a green thumb, garden - if you start your plants from seeds, your initial investment is almost nil.
Having one car can make schedules inconvenient if the husband needs it for work but I have somewhere I want to go during the day. But, we've found that having a bus pass and walking has cut our gas cost in half. You'd also be surprised how many errands can be put off until the husband's next day off, or at least until he returns from work, when the alternative is an hour round-trip on the bus. And shopping at somewhere like Walmart or the other big stores where things are theoretically cheaper only saves you money if you don't have to drive there. Walking is free!
I'll post more as things come to mind!


donald423 said...

Yeah, sometimes those finance articles are for people who have more finances than us. I loved the "best ways to get cash urgently" article that was all about which kinds of investments cost you the least for cashing out.

sharqi said...

Yes, I love the tips that help wealthier people save money. Hoo ha!

Dumpster diving is an option, although not for everyone. Kumler Methodist Church gives away leftover Panera bread (and no one ever wants the rosemary foccacia for some reason).

Although we were lectured majorly, getting rid of our health insurance has helped a lot. We were in the position of not being able to go to the doctor because we couldn't afford the deductible, and yet we were paying a couple of thousand dollars in health insurance premiums each year. That didn't make sense!

Not having a car really saves money. Not only is there the money to purchase a car, but the maintenance, insurance, gas, license & all that.

We really skimped on food a while back, getting down to feeding we two adults on $80 per month. I still have a hard time eating rice and beans, though. It was a ten cent meal! Growing a garden rulz.

I find not going shopping very often really helps save money, especially on impulse buys.

We've made a real effort at skimping on our electricity and gas, and water. That seems to have paid off also. We don't run an air conditioner.

Obviously freecycle is awesome, curbside "dumpstering" is nice. Goodwill and other clothing resale shops (especially Just Kids in Sherman's $1 rack) are nice to have.

So is a caring community, sharing and helping!