The government claims that inflation isn’t a major concern in our economy right now, but anyone who has filled their tank or been to the grocery store lately knows that prices are rising. Where prices aren’t rising, it is usually because portion sizes have shrunk. Everything is more expenses and average wages are not rising at the same rate. So, what is a family to do? Sometimes you just have to plan everything out, make sure you’re not spending money you don’t know about. For that, see our article on family budgeting. The other method is to cut costs. Unfortunately, everyone still has to eat, get dressed, and the kids still need school supplies, etc.
10. Repurposing household staples.
Thriftyfun.com suggests making your own cleaning supplies. They recommend using re-usable towels for cleaning instead of disposable, mixing ammonia and rubbing alcohol (50/50) to make your own window cleaner. In addition to their recommendations, you can also fill a used foam pump bottle with an ounce of dish soap, then fill the rest with tap water to make your own foaming dish soap. Suddenly one bottle of Palmolive can last for a year.
HouseCleaningCentral.com suggests using cheaper household items to make more expensive cleaners. Baking soda can be mixed with liquid detergents to make a nice soft scrub cleaner. It can also be used to deodorize carpets. Want that lavender sent? Put a couple of drops of lavender oil in a bag of baking soda, mix, and let sit. Plain White Vinegar can be used to cut grease and leaves no residue. They also suggest a mixture of vinegar or lemon juice and mineral oil to make furniture polish. 1/2 teaspoon mineral oil to a quarter cup of vinegar or lemon juice.
9. Buy in Bulk
Everyone knows that when you buy in bulk you get a better price. Warehouse stores such as BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Clubs can be found in most moderately sized cities around the United States. If not, local co-op stores can still be found sometimes. At your local grocery store, the larger boxes of cereal, the bulk or family sized portions of meats, and the bulk beans, etc are all better bargains. But there is the trap. Many families buy in bulk, but throw out the excess food that went bad. Our family noticed that we were sending too much of our hard earned money to the dump in the form of spoiled food. So, we purchased a deep freeze. In addition, we still buy in bulk, but when we get our bulk purchase home, we will divide everything up into portioned freezer bags. This takes a little extra time in putting away the groceries, but has helped us reduce our grocery budget by 30% or more.
We are lucky in that we live in an area with several good sized farmer’s markets. You may be surprised to learn that you can get some great fresh, local produce cheaper at a farmer’s market than you can in your grocery store. And buying in bulk works here as well. Many chopped vegetables freeze well.
8. Reduce your cable subscriptions.
Several families we know have eliminated cable entirely, relying on Netflix streaming devices to provide their TV entertainment. That’s great for them, and it suits their lifestyle, but it may not work for everyone. But consider this. Most cable and satellite companies now require you use their boxes or CableCARD’s to view any broadcast content. Unless you’re using an over-the-air antenna with a digital converter box, you almost have to have the cable box. Everyone of those cable boxes now comes with a rental fee. This can be anywhere from $5 to $20 per month! Also consider that many American homes have multiple televisions. You or your kids, or both may have televisions in their rooms. Nielsen, the company that is synonymous for tracking TV viewing habits reports that the Average US Home has more than 3 televisions! So, this means that you may be paying an additional $15-$60 per month just for Cable. The cost of a video streaming plan is much less, and Roku and other streaming boxes would be paid for in just a few months by switching all but 1 of your TV’s to streaming devices instead of cable.
7. Bundle your insurance
It’s amazing how many people I’ve spoken to have told me that they have several different insurers for home, auto and life. Many insurance companies offer comparisons that show your rates, but don’t factor in the savings you can get by bundling. It’s like buying in bulk, you get more for less.
6. Carpool and Public Transportation
One of the best decisions I made for my family was ditching the SUV and buying a VW Jetta TDI. It’s a diesel engine and gets fantastic gas mileage. Over the life of the car, I expect to save thousands over the fuel and maintenance cost of the gas guzzling SUV. We need to drive. Living in the suburbs is great, but most stores and work is not within walking distance. If it’s available to you, public transportation is a great way to save money on fuel costs. In larger metro areas not only is mass transit cheaper than driving (and paying for parking) but it is often much faster as well.
The American Public Transportation Association (yeah, they’re probably biased) estimates that bus riders can save $9200 per year over drivers. This just doesn’t work for everyone. This is where carpooling helps. RideShare programs are growing in popularity and availability. From commuting to work to trips out of state, people are joining up to save money.
Don’t want to ride with a stranger, get to know your neighbors. Go to a neighborhood meeting. Offer to drive the first time.
5. Stop Hoarding Things You’ll Never Use
From old electronics to movies to CD’s. Many Americans are awash in things that they do not need or have not used in years. We occasionally participate in neighborhood or community yard sales. Our rule is that if we haven’t thought about it or used it in the last year, we probably don’t need it so it’s in consideration for the yard sale. Millions of people use EBay every day to buy and sell old and hard to find items. Who knows, someone may be looking for that Atari 7600 in your closet.
4. Grow Your Own!
Food is expensive. Every week it seems like it gets more expensive. If it’s not the dollar losing value, then it’s the cost of fuel raising the cost to get the food from the farm to the store to your table. And then there is our mandate that food be used as fuel, eating up the supply of what can be sold to us. You may not be able to grow enough food to sustain your family, but if you’ve got access to some sun and a few pots, you can grow vegetables and herbs, indoor or out.
Squash is currently about $1.99 per pound at my local supermarket. Last year we grew about $100 worth of squash and zucchini in a 3 foot by 6 foot raised garden bed. We also managed dozens of pounds of tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, and peppers. We did all of that in two garden beds totaling less than 60 square feet. Don’t have land? You can do something similar with garden pots. Many people enjoy the use of Smart Pots, soft sided pots in sizes from 1 gallon up to 30 gallons.
For more ideas, I recommend checking out some urban garden websites such as this one.
3. Like to Read?
Go to the library? Own a Kindle? Kindle has a lending library available to members of their Prime service. Many public libraries will also lend out electronic copies of books, including audio versions. The Baltimore County Public Library System not only offers digital books, but also digital magazines that can be downloaded to your pc or tablet.
Prefer to have and to hold real books. The library still has the real thing too. Want to own it? The library often sells used and excess copies of books after the initial post-release rush.
You could also visit a used book store. These stalwarts of brick and mortar commerce can still be found in many cities and towns and offer a great opportunity to get great books for huge discounts off of retail, but also the opportunity to put your used copies of books back into circulation in exchange for cash or store credit.
2. Be On Time
For many Americans living close to the edge, paying bills on time can be a challenge, but every late fee is money flushed down the toilet. Being late on a utility is bad enough, but being late on credit cards could trigger automatic interest rate increases, credit downgrades, and fees. The effects of this are slightly reduced by the 2009 CARD Act, but the fees and penalties are still a major reason to always try to BE ON TIME with your payments. If you can afford to pay your cards off, do that. Most cards give a grace period on new purchases without interest. You can save a lot of money by not wasting it on interest charges and overblown late payment fees. Caveat – most late payment fees are not as bad as a bounced check fee. If the choice is one or the other, take the late payment fee.
The Federal Reserve reports that approximately half of US Households maintain credit card debt month after month. As of December 2012, that was estimated to be about $15,000 per indebted household.
CreditCards.com reported in May 2013 that the average credit card annual interest rate was just under 15% at 14.93%. What does this mean? It means that the average indebted household is paying about $186.63 per month in interest. What is worse is that the average debt per household has actually increased since 2011 by almost $1000.00. So, not only are these families paying more than $2,000 per year in INTEREST charges (not to mention penalties, fees, etc) but they are not getting any closer to getting out of debt.