205 Ways to Save Money - This is an excerpt from my first book, Life or Debt. You won't be able to use every tip, but you'll definitely be able to use some!
Food and Grocery
- Fido for free. Why would anyone pay a pet store for a furry friend when there are perfectly wonderful dogs and cats for free (or nearly free) at the Humane Society? Not only are you getting an inexpensive companion, you could be saving a life! But remember before you take one home that pets can be expensive. An average-sized dog can easily cost you $25 per month just in food alone.
- Shop your pet food. Unless your dog and cat read or watch a lot of TV, they probably won’t complain about getting generic food. Read the labels, and you’ll find that name brand pet food often has the exact ingredients at twice the price! Buying in bulk could also be a good idea, and don’t forget to try online shopping too. You might be able to save up to 50% at websites like www.petsmart.com, www.petquarters.com, www.planet-pets.com or www.petmarket.com.
- Make your own pet toys. Pets are like babies. They’re more likely to enjoy the box the toy came in than the toy itself. You’ve got plenty of interesting, entertaining and chewable items lying around the house already. You can grow catnip or find it cheap at herb stores.
- Use free or discounted pet services. Odds are you’re already paying taxes to subsidize some basic pet health services. Call your local Humane society or county facility and ask about discounted inoculations or other services.
- Dump disposable diapers. Washing your own diapers can save you a couple of hundred dollars in a year and your landfill will be happier too!
- Make your own baby food. There are plenty of free recipes online and in library books for food that is better than name brand because it won’t have as much salt, sugar and preservatives. It’s also infinitely cheaper.
- Rent your baby clothes and supplies. Well, not actually rent perhaps, but practically. Buy your baby clothes, crib, stroller toys and other things at up to 75% off by shopping at consignment stores. When your baby outgrows them, consign them yourself and make part of your money back. You can even consign online: try www.kindercloset.com
- Keep abreast of the cost of formula. You can spend $1,500 a year on formula. Breastfeeding is free and according to many, healthier too.
- Make your own bibs. Cut the back and sleeves from an old kids T-shirt or sweat-shirt and you’re there. If you want to get fancy, stitch around the edges.
Food and Grocery
- Use coupons. But only for things you’d buy anyway, not to check out new products. Organize your coupons by expiration date and check them each time before you go to the store.
- Shop once a week. Repeated trips to the grocery store cost you gas money and time, and subject you to more impulse-buy temptations. Keep your trips to a minimum.
- Bend to win. You may have never thought about the way a grocery store is laid out, but let me assure you, merchants have. Why do you think staples like milk, bread and eggs are normally separated and/or found in the back of the store? That’s so you’ll have to run a gauntlet of impulse buys to reach them. And speaking of reach, more expensive items are typically displayed at eye-level within easy reach. Stoop and bend to find lower cost-per-unit items.
- Weigh to go. While you’re in the produce section, use the handy scales to weigh pre-weighed bags of bulk produce. For example, if you’re buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes, weigh them. Some will be nine and a half pounds, some might be 10 and a half. Same price. Which would you rather buy?
- Bring your lunch from home. That alone can save you up to $1,000 per year.
- Buy in bulk. Often warehouse stores are great places to stock up on large quantities of nonperishable items at very low prices. However, be careful not to go in to buy a sack of dog food and walk out with a new TV.
- Go to food stores for food and hardware stores for hardware. Mega-stores that offer everything under the sun may be convenient, but you’ll often pay for it. Light bulbs are a lot cheaper at Home Depot than the grocery store.
- Repackage. Put small quantities of leftover sour cream or other perishables in smaller containers. They’ll last longer. Cookies, crackers and the like will also last longer if stored in glass jars.
- Grate savings. You’re probably paying from one third to twice as much to have someone else grate your cheese for you. You’ll also save by cutting up whole chickens, slicing your own pickles, slicing meat for cold cuts and using a blender or rolling pin to make your own bread crumbs. Compare per-unit prices on items like this and you’ll quickly see how much you’re paying for other people’s labor. (By the way, do you throw away your chicken giblets? Fry em up for Fido. A tail-wagging treat!)
- Starch savings. Fancy boil-in-bag or flavored rices routinely cost 10 times the amount of the old fashioned kind. All it takes to make rice is the ability to boil water! Bags of smaller potatoes are often half the cost per pound of big baking potatoes. Bake two little ones instead of one big one. Your stomach won’t notice.
- Protein savings. The simple proteins found in beans are better for you and obviously much cheaper than the complex ones in meat, fish and poultry. In other words, eat less meat!
- Pay attention. Always compare unit pricing, always consider generic products (which often come from the same factory anyway) and always try to avoid the word “convenience.” Pre-made and preprocessed foods are expensive and often not as good to the taste or the body. If it’s convenience you need, make your meals from scratch on Sunday and freeze them. Avoid fast food. It’s horrible for you, costs a ton of money and doesn’t taste that hot anyway.
- Milk your budget. Milk about to expire? Freeze it. You can thaw it out and use it later.
- Dialing for Dominos? Make your own Pizza. It’s cheaper.
- Don’t pop for Orville Redenbacher. Use generic popcorn with an air popper. It’s cheaper and better for you.
- Keep up the pressure. Pressure cookers cook in much less time and in many cases seal in nutrients.
- Something cheap that’s sweet to eat. Freeze fruit juice in small paper cups and add a spoon. Instant Popsicle!
- Freeze your flour. If you don’t use it often, put it in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. While you’re at it, chop up those leftover onions and put them in the freezer too. That way they won’t stink up the frig and you’ll always have chopped onions on hand. You can also freeze parsley, tomatoes, garlic and other things that might otherwise be rotting in that vegetable drawer.
- Butter up the cheese. Lightly buttering the edge of semi-hard cheese makes it less likely to form mold or dry out.
- Extend yourself. Adding cottage cheese to hamburger will enhance the flavor, add protein and allow you to increase servings from four to six per pound. And speaking of ground beef, buying that expensive extra lean beef isn’t necessary. As you broil your burgers most of the fat is burned off anyway.
- Don’t be individual. There is almost no situation where individual serving packages are as economical as larger containers. Buy big and divide the stuff into your own smaller storage containers.
- New life for old bread. Leftover bread and rolls can be toasted in a toaster oven and chopped up into croutons.
- A recipe for savings. Nobody will sue you if you alter your recipes a little. You can substitute cheaper veggies (sliced carrots) for more expensive ones (zucchini). You can probably slightly reduce the cheese or sugar in your baking without noticeably altering the taste. (Keep in mind that recipes often will “round up” ingredients to make them easier to measure.) When you read a recipe, look for ingredients that might just be included to enhance the color instead of taste and try eliminating them. There are ways of stretching just about everything. Make your cookies and muffins a bit smaller and make more of them. Add a little more water to your concentrated juice. Add extra potatoes, beans etc. to stretch casseroles and soups.
- Dress for salad success. Mix ½ cup of vinegar, 1 and ½ teaspoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, ½ teaspoon of dry mustard, 1 minced garlic clove and one cup of salad oil. Delicious salad dressing at a fraction of the cost.
- Grow your own! Next time you buy fresh garlic, save the four inner cloves. Plant them about ½ inch deep. In less than six months, you’ll be in garlic city! There are many other herbs and vegetables that you can grow yourself.
- Don’t buy water. Paying for expensive water is further proof that enough advertising can make people do just about anything. If you really have concerns about water quality, buy one bottle of expensive water and a cheap water filter. Then you can make your own “bottled” water, pour it into your fancy bottle, look cool and save money.
- You are what you eat. Which would you rather be: an apple or a candy bar? One of the best things about saving on food is that what’s cheaper is often what’s better for you. Apples cost less than candy, are more filling and much better for you. Water is not only healthier than soda, it’s nearly free. Legumes are cheaper sources of protein than meat and better for you as well. Bottom line? Convert your junk food junkies into fruit freaks and you’ll not only save money on food, you’ll save it on healthcare as well.
- Be a migrant worker. If you live near an area that grows fruit or produce, go to a pick-it-yourself farm for bargain prices, fresh air and a reminder of why you work in town.
- Be vigilant. Barcode scanner rip-offs aren’t just possible, they’re common. Check your receipt before you leave the register.
- Creative leftovers. Nearly every meal ends up with a few odds and ends of vegetables and/or meats. Keep two lidded plastic containers in your freezer. After every meal, put the veggie bits in one and meat bits in another. You can then periodically sprinkle the bits of meat on your pizzas, or combine the two and make a great soup!
- Lettuce keep our lettuce longer. Wash your lettuce thoroughly, then go outside and swing it around in a pillowcase to get rid of the excess water (and to amuse your neighbors.) When you’re done, put it in an airtight container and it will last at least two weeks in your refrigerator. ( repost.us )