Some money-saving tips
from Meridian Magazine online- by Carolyn Nicolsen
1. Get An Education This earns the number one position because it is truly the most important thing you can do. I don’t just mean attending college or a trade school, but learning skills that will help you save around the house. --Take a night school class at your local high school or community college and learn budgeting, computer skills, cooking, car maintenance, or anything that will help you to become more efficient and frugal in your home. Take advantage of online tutorials, books and friends who may be able to help you learn anything from tax preparation to plumbing to cutting hair. -- The more skills you have and the more you know, the more you save. Begin now by making a list of all the things you have paid people to do over the last year. Make another list of skills your friends and family possess. Make a third list of the skills you could teach someone else.
2. Don’t Spend Your Change When we were first engaged, we began saving our change each night in a jar. At the end of the month, I would take the change to the store and buy spices, pantry basics and cleaning supplies. When we were married and moved into our first apartment, the cupboards were stocked by pocket change. We could never have afforded as poor college students to purchase these basics all at once. -- You will be amazed how much money you have at the end of the month with such little effort. You will also be amazed that you don’t miss the money. We saved as much as $40.00 a month. If you have older children, have them participate too and put the money aside for a special item for the family or for a family vacation.
3. Pay with Cash Everything except your home or education should be paid for with cash whenever possible. Cash means currency, your ATM card, or your checkbook. It takes discipline, but it can work with a plan and teamwork. You will save thousands in interest charges.
4. Purchase Used Cars Instead of New Driving a new car is a great thrill, but may be foolish for many of us. Unless you are in a high tax bracket and your accountant says that leasing or buying new vehicles offers you essential deductions, you will be better off to purchase a good, low mileage used car, and save the difference that others pay in depreciation. -- There are many websites dedicated to helping consumers choose a good used car. Plan to have a mechanic check out the car if you are buying it from an individual or unfamiliar dealer. Retired fleet or rental cars can be a good buy, because usually they are still under warranty and have been well maintained. Auctions are a possibility, but it will pay to do your homework before buying a car there because auctions are not for the novice, or the impulsive, or the undisciplined. -- If you purchase from a private party, get a copy of the car’s service record and do an online search on the car's VIN number (there are services that provide a detailed car history) to make sure you know if it was a lemon or a salvaged car. -- Fifty years ago, a car was considered fully used up when it rolled a hundred thousand miles on the odometer. Today, many finely engineered cars are traded off or sold by their first owners within a year or two of being new, and can be bought for two-thirds their original value. With 80% of their useful life left in them, a late model used car allows you to buy a better quality car than you could afford to buy new. Treat it kindly, and it will take care of you and your budget for many years.
5. Put Down As Much As You Can When you are purchase a large ticket item like a car or home with borrowed money, put down the largest deposit you can afford. Don’t be swayed by the sales person or real estate agent who reminds you that you only need to put $xxx down and you can take the rest of your cash and use it on something else. You will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more over the life of your loan in interest charges when you make a small or no down payment.
- Eliminate Extra Charges- Examine your insurance policy, retirement funds, bank accounts, and so on, and eliminate any extras you do not need. You may be paying for benefits and services you will never need or use.
6. Determine the Real Cost of Purchases -If cable, for example, is $30 per month, think $360 per year. What could you do with $360? What about the newspaper? If you read it, by all means keep it, but if you don’t, consider buying only the weekend edition.
7. Look for Matching Funds- Take advantage of matching funds through your employer, if this is offered. This not only applies to retirement accounts but large employers may also provide matching funds for continuing education. Be sure to ask.
8. Take Advantage of Scholarships - Investigate scholarship opportunities for yourself or your child. Make sure you file a FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) form. This can be obtained from any high school counseling office. This form must be completed for all financial aid and almost all scholarships. --- Ask your high school for a list of organizations that offer scholarships to graduating seniors. Some will also provide scholarships to those returning to school after a lengthy absence. Check on the internet for other opportunities, but never pay for a list. Go to a good bookstore where you can find a book with a list of national scholarships. -- Use these same strategies to find scholarships for your children. Begin the hunt during their sophomore year in high school as there are many scholarships available to high school juniors, and too often, the list of applicants is very short because other parents and students are not as proactive as you are.
9. Use Your Deductible - Take the highest deductible possible when having taxes deducted from your paycheck if you normally receive a refund. Consult your tax advisor on how to do this.
10. Buy Savings Bonds If you have young children or grandchildren, buy them savings bonds. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase and are better than a saving account because they are tax free when cashed in to be used for post-high school education.
11. Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance - Once you owe less than 80% of your home’s value your lender no longer requires mortgage insurance. Keep a close eye on when you reach this level and cancel the insurance. Usually it is a poor value.
12. Shop the Sales - I never pay full price for anything. Be patient. Everything goes on sale eventually. There are times of the year when certain items are always on sale. Everyone knows eggs are cheapest the week before Easter. Storage boxes are on sale in January, when everyone is cleaning up from the holidays. Summer clothes are on sale about two weeks into the summer season. Keep a journal of the sales at your local stores and see what their pattern is. Don’t be afraid to ask when an item will go on sale. See Meridian article: The Self Reliant Shopper
13. Make Friends Where You Shop - If you have a favorite store, develop a friendship with a clerk and ask him to let you know when items are being marked down or there is a sale scheduled. Some stores have a regular day of the week when they mark down items.
14. Purchase Gifts Year Round - Take advantage of end-of-season sales and purchase items for Christmas in July. I recently purchased workout clothes for 70% off. They are appropriate to wear year round and will be appreciated Christmas morning but they cost me much less than if I had waited to purchase them in November. The same is true of home decor items, linens, photo albums, and year round clothing such as belts and jeans. -- Other added advantages of this approach are that you will spread out your purchases, thus preserving your budget and allowing you to avoid all the hassles of the crowds in November. Consider doing this for weddings, shower gifts, birthdays, anniversaries, and baby gifts.
15. Shop after a Holiday - If you won’t be seeing family or friends until after a holiday such as Christmas, purchase last minute gifts after the holiday. For example, you could make up a food gift basket with candies wrapped in Holiday wrapping, pasta shaped like Christmas trees and an ornament or two, all for 50% to 75% off.
16. Re-Gift - OK, so Miss Manners may say this is over the line. I am not suggesting that you give someone a gift you rejected. On occasion, you will receive duplicate gifts at a shower or for a special occasion that can’t be returned. If you have a new, unused item that you love, but don't need, I see no problem with re-gifting it to someone who needs or who will really appreciate it.
17. Make Your Gifts- The only limit to what you can accomplish is the limit of your imagination. I made dress-up costumes for my grandchildren last Christmas from remnants of fabrics I had around the house and a couple of old curtains. One of the curtains was given to me by a friend who discovered what I was doing. The grandchildren loved the costumes, and we had lots of fun watching them dress up and play. -- Think about giving your favorite dessert, a dinner, home made rolls, a sketch, a poem, a personalized gift basket — the list goes on and on.
18. Pool Your Gift Money - Think group gift. Whether it be for a wedding, shower, or for a family member’s birthday, why not pool your money and get a nicer and often more needed gift than you could afford on your own.
19. Make Wrapping Paper - It is crazy that we spend so much on greeting cards and gift-wrap as we do. Make your own! For gift-wrap, you can purchase rolls of newsprint at paper stores and decorate it using stickers, stencils, stamps, or just splatter paint. Kids will think it's great fun. The same is true of bags. Purchase plain white bags and decorate. For a real country look, purchase a roll of brown paper in the paint section of your home improvement store. Tie the gift with a gingham bow or even twine, add a homemade card and you are done. This is even cheaper than buying it at the dollar store.
20. Make Gift Cards - Find a local paper supply store that sells blank cards. They will also have cards ready to print that are designed for thank you notes. These are the perfect size for gift enclosures. A box of 100 cards will usually cost less than $10.00. The same number of gift enclosures would cost $35.00 or more.
21. Utilize Your “No More Than a Dollar” Store - There are so many of these stores now. You can get really great buys on everything from gifts to cleaning supplies. This is a great resource when planning a party or compiling gift baskets. It is also a great place to take children to pick out gifts for friends, grandparents or others or even to shop for a reward for themselves. You will need to check these stores often, because their inventory varies. Don’t forget to ask the clerks if they know when an item you are searching for may be scheduled to arrive.
22. Reinvent an Item - Think of a new use for an item you already have. You could turn a basket upside-down and use it as a plant stand. Clean and paint your picnic table and bring it inside to use as a kitchen table. We have an old Arts & Craft style glass door mounted against the wall as a dramatic headboard. What can you invent?
23. Plant Fruit Trees-You can pick these up from nurseries who supply farmers with their orchard trees, for much less than at retail. Most trees will not bear fruit for four or five years, so plant now as an investment in the future. The fruit you harvest can be eaten, preserved, frozen, or sold at a farmers market or from a card table on your front lawn. Citrus fruits can be eaten fresh, squeezed for juice or the juice can be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in freezer bags for use later. --If you live in a warm climate plant citrus trees for winter harvest, and fruit and nut trees for summer and fall harvests. Be sure to plant the fruits your family likes. Grapefruit trees will be of little use if your family does not like grapefruit. Be sure to check at the nursery, because some trees need two varieties planted together in order to pollinate. Peek over the fence and see what trees the neighbors have, or talk to them about planting some that will pollinate with your trees. The biggest mistake most people make is to plant too many trees of the same variety.
24. Plant a Garden - Like the fruit from your trees, you can preserve or freeze your garden harvest as well as eating it fresh. You can also earn extra money to supplement your grocery budget. Everyone loves fresh vegetables, and in many areas, they are difficult to find. During World War II many families dug up their yards to plant victory gardens to feed themselves and their neighbors. If you don’t have a yard you can plant many vegetables in pots and planter boxes placed around a front door or on a balcony. Many good books can give you directions and help you learn the tricks.
25. Make Your Own Mulch - Composting will improve the yields you get from your vegetable gardens and fruit trees. It will also save you money on fertilizers, and make your flowering plants even more beautiful. There are many online sources with details on how to make compost from leaves, yard clippings, kitchen scraps and such.
26. Glean -- If you cannot plant your own trees or gardens, keep your eyes open for orchards or fields that are being harvested. Often farmers will allow you to glean the fruits and vegetables that are left after the commercial harvest is over. Ask permission; they will usually say, “Yes, go ahead.” Also, keep your eyes open for neighbors who have trees that have fruit going unpicked. Many times you can pick the fruit for them in exchange for half the fruit. This is not only good for you but can be a huge help to people who are elderly or handicapped, or just too busy, and cannot do this for themselves.
27. Trade Garden Stock - Divide plants and trade with friends. It is really amazing how often friends need to thin their garden plants or houseplants. Learn how to root cuttings or divide root balls and trade with friends. Soon you will be operating your own little nursery.
28. Barter -- Make a list of the skills and talents that you would be willing to share with others in exchange for talents you don’t have. You may be a great baker and can make holiday pies and breads in exchange for haircuts for your family. -- Do you know a family who has children your children enjoy playing with? Rotate babysitting on Friday nights. Can you tutor math or teach piano lessons in exchange for auto repairs? Sit down and brainstorm all the skills you and your family have to share. When you have finished, start a second list of all the people you know who have skills you need. You may be surprised how willing others are to trade with you, thus saving money for both of you.
29. Dumpster Dive-- Got your attention with this one, didn't I? OK, so I'm not suggesting you hang out behind the supermarket or a popular restaurant, but look for locations where someone is discarding things that may have value, but are no longer needed. I have seen beautifully appointed retail cabinets, perfectly good stuff, literally ripped out and hauled away. -- Watch for contractors who are remodeling and have torn out moldings, cabinets, fences, doors, or fireplaces. All these salvage items are potentially useful to someone — maybe even to you and your project. Our basement was finished with new carpet that was literally free — a friend who lays carpet pulled it from a new home where the buyer wanted a different color, and it only cost us the price of our friend's time to lay it down.
30. Salvage Scrap at Construction Sites This is an especially good resource when a large development is being built. They will always have a pile of scraps they are going to haul to the dump. The more you take the less they have to discard. Talk to the foreman or contractor. With luck, you can find great scrap lumber for making small shelves, step stools, doll cradles, window boxes or anything else that requires shorter pieces. If nothing else, it provides kindling to heat your home or for camping.
31. Use Coupons -- This is a tried but true method of saving money on food, cleaning supplies, medications and merchandise. There are many sources of coupons including your local newspaper, magazines, box tops and the internet. Save coupons only for items you actually use. You may form a co-op with other families and share coupons for items they may be in need of but for which you have no use. A good example of this would be diapers. Not every family need them, but when you do they are an enormous expense. I know of one Relief Society where they share coupons by passing around a basket with coupons that are not going to be used by the donor and others can take what they can use.
32. Rebates -- Rebates are available on many large ticket purchases, and require the discipline to fill out paperwork, make copies of receipts, and mail them off before the expiration date. Establish the discipline to fill them out and mail them within 24 hours of a big purchase, or risk seeing your savings evaporate with your good intentions. We're talking real money here.
33. —Sign Up For Mailing Lists any of your local and chain retail stores have mailing lists. Most use these lists to mail circulars on store specials and discount coupons. Many of these are not available to the public, and you need to be on the mailing list to take advantage of the savings. We have a local furniture store that holds midnight madness sales twice a year. They have great savings at these events, but you must have the invitation they have mailed you to get in the door.
34. Take Your Lunch to Work -- This is so much healthier and can save you hundreds of dollars over a year's time. You don’t need to tale peanut butter and jelly, although you could. Create your own lunch by starting with a plastic container and adding leftovers or a salad or nachos, a variety of cheeses meats and crackers; the possibilities are endless and taste so much better than the same old sandwich from the neighborhood deli — or worse yet, fast food. If you save just $2.00 a day times how many days, that's mucho dinero in a year! Save it and eat healthy!
35. Send Lunch to School -- When I was a kid, the school cafeteria served a hot meal, but the kids with lunch boxes had better food. It's still true. It is much more healthy for your child to take a lunch than to purchase one, and also much less expensive. There are many fun ideas for lunches as simple as using cookie cutters to make fun sandwiches, to making your own “lunchables.” I have been teaching After School Recreation classes for the past three years — teaching latchkey kids to cook. I have discovered the kids will eat lots of things they thought they never would, if they are presented correctly. Their favorites are wraps. Simply pack a tortilla and ingredients in a sandwich bag. Think salad in a tortilla and pack shredded carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, meat, pickles, olives and of course some kind of dressing. Let them assemble it at school and they will be the envy of their friends. This is great for kids in high school and college as well.
36. Drink Water Make it a practice to drink water instead of juice or milk, at least one meal a day. Water is much better for you and will cut calories as well as save money
37. Order Water When you eat out, order water instead of soft drinks. You could purchase a whole liter of soda, enough for the whole family, for the price of one drink ordered at a restaurant. If you eliminate ordering just one drink a week, you could save over $50.00 a year. Sodas are where fast food restaurants make their profit, not food. If you currently order a soft drink every day, you could save $300.00 a year.
38. Keep a Food Stash in the Car Have you ever had the kids say, “I’m so... hungry,” as you pick them up from school? You still have errands to run and soccer practice, so you find a drive-thru and buy snacks. Don’t do it. Get a small cooler and stock it with snacks. Choose items that won’t melt, and the next time the kiddies complain, tell then to check the snacks. If you know you will be gone from home for a longer period, add an ice pack to the chest and add drinks and fresh fruit or cheese sticks and you are ready to go. If you spend just $3.00 a week buying fast food snacks, you could save more than $100.00 a year by making your own.
39. Recycle Water Bottles Wash your used water bottles and rinse them well. Fill them with water about half full and freeze them. As you head out the door, fill the bottle the rest of the way with fresh water and you will have a cold drink that will last a few hours. When you have leftover juice or lemonade, fill an empty water bottle and freeze or refrigerate it. Use these in lunches as a cheaper alternative to bottled drinks. This also works well for milk. I do chocolate milk for long trips; it's more nutritious than sweetened juices and still fun. You may have heard rumors that reusing water bottles is dangerous. This is one of those urban legends, which grew out of a master’s thesis that was not subjected to peer review or scientific study. It has been refuted by the bottled water industry.
40. Eat at Home -- It is so much cheaper to eat at home instead of eating out. If you love hamburgers, get a good recipe for gourmet hamburgers, invest in a small grill and cook them at home. You will be amazed at how much your family loves them, and they can all have them exactly the way they want them. -- If you think you are too busy to cook, try making some meals ahead and freezing them. If you think you can’t cook, get a basic cookbook, or check one out of the library and start practicing. If you eat out less and save $15.00 per week, you can save $780.00 a year!
41. Eat Out for Lunch, Not Dinner -- If there is a special occasion and you want to celebrate, then do your restaurant dining at lunch time. Lunch menus often include most of the same meal choices as the dinner menus, but at a smaller price. This is an especially good tip for vacations. Eat your large meal at lunchtime and have sandwiches or pizza for dinner.
42. Learn How to Properly Store Foods -- There are many items that can be purchased in season or grown in your garden that can be canned for future use. If you have never canned, ask around and find someone who can teach you. They will probably know someone whose family has grown who will be happy to share their extra canning jars. Vegetables, some fruits, nuts, even eggs and milk can be safely frozen. There are many good books that will teach you to preserve and store food.
43. Freeze Meals -- Compile a number of recipes that will freeze well. These are great for the nights you are too tired to cook or have other problems arise during the day. It will help you avoid the temptation to run to the restaurant or for fast food. Take a Saturday or weeknight evening and spend a few hours making casseroles or other main dishes to freeze. -- Purchase several oven/microwave-proof glass casserole dishes and use these. This will save lots of money over buying disposable ones. Make sure they are the same size and they will stack well in your freezer. Be sure to cover the food with plastic wrap before you cover with foil and then remove the plastic wrap before cooking. Label each dish on the foil with the cooking directions. This can be lots of fun to do as a family and it will teach your children or grandchildren culinary skills
44. Take Food -- Whether you are planning a road trip to Grandma’s or a trip to Disneyland, plan to take food with you. When our children were young, we would take food for two meals a day with us when we vacationed. This was the only time I purchased sugary cereals. We would eat fruit and cereal in the hotel room for breakfast and have cheese and crackers or sandwiches for another meal. Allow for one treat a day to be purchased at the beach or theme park and it won’t seem like a sacrifice to eat meals out of the cooler.
45. Buy in Bulk -- If you feel you can’t use 12 rolls of paper towels, find a friend who can share the items with you. If you purchase large packages of cereals or ingredients like flour, divide it into plastic containers with lids. Be careful and compare the price per ounce, because large quantity items are not always the best buys. Meat, for example, is usually not a bargain at a warehouse type store. There are many catalogs and other sources to purchase party supplies, paper goods and even linens in bulk. Ask friends, and check online for sources.
46. Get Your Food Storage -- Purchase extra canned fruits, vegetables, sauces, soups, and other nonperishables when you shop each week. Don’t forget to purchase cleaning supplies, toiletries, and other non-food items you buy on a regular basis. As your pantry gets more and more full of items you routinely use, you will begin to save 25%-50% on your grocery budget. Once you have a supply you need only buy items when they go on sale. If you do this on a regular basis, you will always be feeding your family and handling household needs at last year’s prices. To begin the process, try placing your change at the end of every day in a special jar. At the end of the week purchase items that will store well and are on sale, with that money. Do this in addition to your normal purchasing and do not use your storage items, but continue buying as though they were not there. Don’t forget your pets; their food and supplies go on sale, too.
47. Stretch Your Food -- When buying frosted corn flakes, mix them with a box of unfrosted corn flakes to reduce the sugar as well as the price. Do the same thing with chocolate milk by adding half white milk; stretch orange juice by combining with less expensive lemonade.
48. Shop at the Farmers’ Market- -- Farmers’ markets are a great place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The best time to go is late in the day. Often when booths are closing you can make deals, especially if you are buying large quantities, so take orders from the neighbors or plan to can or freeze the extras.
49. Buy Store Brands --- If you are in doubt about the quality of a store brand, buy just one and try it. Most store brands are packaged by the major food companies and are of good to high quality. Some of the store brands are actually better than the name brands. But if you really hate the store brand, by all means buy what you love. Spoiling yourself on a few little luxuries is the spice of life, and the reward for being frugal — isn't it?