Dollar Stretcher: Tips to save you money
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One way to force myself to stick to my shopping list is to go to the store shortly before closing. That way, I don't have time to shop around. I hurry to get what’s on my list before the store closes. There is no time for distractions.
Unexpected senior discounts
My wife and I live on Social Security and a small pension, so we look for savings everywhere we can find it. I’ve discovered that many places don’t advertise a senior discount but will give you one if you ask for it. I don't know if it's a policy or if they're just being nice, but I always ask.
It seems like everyone is boycotting one store or another for various reasons. I’m boycotting because we need to spend less. This month, I’m going to boycott my grocery store for two weeks. My goal is to feed my family with what I already have in the freezer and pantry. I guess I’m making a political statement to my finances.
The scrub free kitchen
I've found that the simplest way to avoid a lot of kitchen scrubbing is to soak cookware in water. I just fill my sink with water and let the pan or whatever has baked on food soak for a while. Usually an hour is all it takes, but if something is really nasty, I leave it overnight. This is much better than buying expensive sprays and cleaners.
My boyfriend and I really want to get our finances in order this year, so we’ve cut spending to just the essentials. We even reduced the speed on our internet. However, we’re both getting frustrated with the sacrifices that we’re making. This weekend, we’re going to treat ourselves to a date night movie. We both love movies and haven’t seen any of the new releases. I’m hoping that if we allow ourselves to do something special every couple of months, we'll be able to stick with our frugal plan.
Buy like the pros
Look for a janitorial supply store to save big money on cleaning and paper supplies. They sell concentrates for cleaning. I’ve been using the same gallon of bathroom cleaner for nearly a year. And the paper supplies (toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels) are cheaper than at the warehouse clubs. You can buy whatever quality you want. They have stuff from the very cheapest all the way up to fancy. You do have to buy in bulk, but that stuff never goes bad. You just need a place to store it. I used to buy that stuff with my groceries. My grocery bills have dropped since my cart isn’t full of cleaning supplies and toilet paper anymore.
My wife and I like takeout pizza. We both work long hours and one of us stops to pick up pizza every few weeks. We used to have leftovers that we bagged up and took to work for lunch the next day, which saved us buying lunch. Then one day our favorite pizza place had a special. If we bought one pizza at regular price, we got a second, identical one at half price.
Therefore, we bought two. We had plenty to take to work for lunches. Now when we see a special, we often buy a second pizza just for lunches. One pizza is good for about four lunches. That’s easily $20 in lunch savings.
Against financial apps
One of the reasons people get into financial trouble is because they pay so little attention to what they’re spending, when they are spending, and how they are spending. In fact, credit card companies are hoping that we'll just merrily spend away. Consequently, I didn’t find automatic budgeting apps helped me much. I still wasn’t really looking closely at what I spent.
Instead, I did an Excel spreadsheet with total per year and total per month, and I had to enter each and every expense independently. Doing so forced me to watch the totals change and look at everything regularly, and that’s what finally got me paying attention.
I frequently travel out of the states on business. Until I heard this idea, I was always afraid that my passport would be lost or stolen, and I’d be facing a nightmare in a strange place. Now I scan my passport and email a copy to myself. I also take a picture on my phone. If something should happen, I can present either to the U.S. consulate to prove who I am. It’s also handy if I just need a bit of information from the passport (I don’t like carrying it with me all the time).
Deep cleaning shampoo
My long hair tends to build up shampoo and conditioner. I asked a hairdresser friend of mine what I should use. She knows I’m frugal, so she suggested I mix a little baking soda with my regular shampoo. I keep some baking soda in a water-proof bottle in the shower. I squirt some shampoo into my hand and sprinkle in some baking soda. Then I just shampoo like usual. After a little conditioner, my hair looks great.
I discovered something new this week. You can be addicted to something good and still have it hurt you. I've been an avid couponer for years. This week, I was putting away my groceries and realized that I had 14 jars of spaghetti sauce. Every time I found a coupon or BOGO, I’d add to my inventory. It’ll take us a year to use that much sauce. So even if it’s something that I know we’ll use, I limit the quantity I buy. Once I work it down, I don’t ever want to have more than four jars of spaghetti sauce on the shelf. There will always be another coupon or BOGO. I don’t need to conquer them all.
Do you have a tip that you’d like to share? Just send your suggestion to Tips@stretcher.com.