I recently read Start Over, Finish Rich; 10 Steps to Get You Back on Track in 2010, by David Bach (which I really liked and highly recommend, especially if you think Dave Ramsey’s tone is a little too harsh for you). At the end of the book, Bach offered suggestions for how to shrink your budget temporarily so you can save money. I was excited to hear it, but once he got into it, I started to get disappointed. It included tips like “Cancel your premium cable channels” and “stop going out for lunch every work day”. Um, yeah, what if I’ve never in my life had premium cable channels (hell, I didn’t even have basic cable until I was 22 years old), and I always, always, always pack my lunch? What about tips for those of us who already don’t waste our money on those kinds of frivolities?
Well, I started thinking about what such a list might look like, and I thought I’d share it with you.
1. Grow your own food – In whatever space you have, grow some food. A see packet costs two to three bucks, tops, and you’ll get literally pounds of produce from each seed packet. This can help to supplement your food budget. Even if all you have is a window sill, you could still grow some tomatoes, some herbs, or maybe even a small citrus tree (my boyfriend’s parents keep a lemon tree in their kitchen, its awesome!)
2. Preserve food – Once you’ve grown all that food, preserve it. Dry it, can it, freeze it, etc. Also, if you can buy a bunch of food on sale, in bulk, managers special, etc., preserve that too. Make cheese and yogurt out of managers special milk. Make jelly out of fruit about to go bad. Get creative!
3. Make bone broth – cooking with broth is super good for you and improves the flavor of your food. You can replace water with broth for all sorts of things to add protein and reduce the need for fatty flavoring (ever tried cooking rice in broth? You can eat it plain when you do, I’m not even kidding). You can make your own broth with the left over bones from your meat. Just put the bones in a big pot of water with a pinch of salt, and boil for several hours. Take the bones out, and use or freeze the broth for future use.
4. Go to the library – Your local library can replace Netflix (or other movie rental options), book stores and magazine subscriptions for free. I know Netflix is cheap, but the library is FREE. Free is better than cheap.
5. Buy things used – Buy everything you can used! Especially kids clothes. Hey, they’re just going to spill blueberries on them and then grow out of them in a month. Why spend lots of money on them? Go to Goodwill. Children’s consignment shops are even too expensive. Do I ever buy kids clothes new? Yeah, but at least half the time, I buy them used. You can also find nice adult clothes used at upscale consignment stores. Rich people are suckers, they buy new clothes every season, and dump their three month old stuff in consignment stores. Check it out, its awesome. For good used shopping, check out
- Thrift stores like Good Will for
- Kids clothes
- Kids toys
- Dishes and kitchen ware
- Picture Frames
- Knick knacks
- Costume Jewelry
- Consignment stores
- Adult’s and Kid’s Clothes
- Kids toys
- Kid’s furniture/equipment
- Garage sales – ANYTHING! People sell all kinds of crazy stuff at garage sales. I got a beer making kit at a garage sale once. Spend a day tracking sales, check out the site YardSaleTreasureMap to get a map of garage sales in your area.
- Craigslist – ANYTHING! See Garage Sales.
- Ebay – ANYTHING! (but for the record, I don’t think Ebay is that great)
6. Dilute personal care products – Look at the ingredient label on your shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. If the one of the first three ingredients is water, you can put more water in to make the product last longer. You may actually find it works better that way too.
7. Dilute drinks – especially juice. This will save you money and calories.
8. Quit drinking soda – its bad for you anyway. Read the ingredients for it sometime, its just sugar and water. Actually, its just high fructose corn syrup (a cheaper sugar alternative that metabolizes differently and contains mercury) and water. It costs them two cents to make a can of soda, can and all, and you pay 75 cents for it. What a rip off.
9. Quit drinking bottled water – The standards for cleaning bottled water is actually lower than the standards for tap water. Most bottled water is just tap water anyway. And bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline! Just drink tap water. Get a water filter if you want. This will save you hundreds of dollars. Carry around a reusable bottle.
10. Process food at home – don’t buy canned biscuts and premade cookie dough. Pull out a recipe book and make that stuff from scratch. Its easy and way cheaper. Not to mention healthier.
11. Eat less calories – studies show people live longer on slightly reduced calorie intakes (like 1800 a day for men and 1600 a day for women). It also goes without saying that these people spend less on food too.
12. Eat less meat – lets face it, meat is expensive. Especially the good quality stuff. Everything else is cut with saw dust anyhow, so its not really meat. Don’t waste your money on that at all.
13. Keep your thermostat low in the winter, don’t use the AC in the summer – with the exception of places like Arizona, where you really need it. Although, one must question the efficiency of living in a place where you need air conditioning and non local food to survive.
14. Buy clothes that are likely to stay in fashion a long, long time – We all want to be on the cutting edge of fashion, but being on the cutting edge usually means buying a lot of clothes. Could you maybe be on just a little bit of a duller edge? Maybe get clothes that are a little less trendy, more likely to be wearable for a couple of years? Hell, I’ve got clothes still that I was wearing in high school. Not any of the super trendy stuff, but the polo shirts and plain jeans are still just as fashionable now as they were then. While you’re at it, buy dishes, furniture, etc. that will last a long time.
15. Buy products that will last a long time
16. Use less disposable products – cloth towels, washable plates, cloth diapers, cloth napkins, real silverware. All these things can be washed and used over and over and over again.
17. Hang clothes out to dry when it’s nice out
18. Don’t be too theme specific with the big pieces in your kid’s nursery – we painted Elijah’s crib with an under the sea mural. Now either every kid I ever have is going to have to have an under the sea nursery, or I need a new crib next time. Not that the mural isn’t totally awesome, my mom did a great job designing and painting it. She has a lot of artistic talent.
19. Drink at home with your buddies, don’t go out to bars – Price of two beers at a bar, $7 + tip. Price of a six pack at the liquor store, $7.89. You do the math. Plus, in your home, you control the music, the smoking situation, the volume, etc. And you don’t have to drive or get a taxi. Sure, you’re probably not going to meet anyone. Sign up for Match.com. I assure you, it’s cheaper to meet members of the opposite sex there, and you’ll have a lot more of them at your fingertips.
20. Quit smoking – This should go without saying.
21. Replace personal care products with cheaper kitchen products – Oil makes a great lotion, baking soda can be used as deodorant, toothpaste and shampoo (that probably works best for people with short hair), peroxcide makes a great mouth wash (do one part water, one part peroxide, it also whitens teeth), lemon juice and honey will give you natural high lights. There are lots of home made personal care recipes out there, check it out.
22. Replace house cleaning products with cheaper kitchen products – Baking soda, vinegar, plain soap and water is just about all you need to clean any surface in your house. Including kitchen counters where meat has been handled.
23. Freecycle – get signed up for your local Freecycle group and start getting free stuff from people in your community. Also, get rid of your old junk.
As time goes by, I might add things to this list. What money saving tips do you guys have?