If you are already making your coffee at home and squeezing a couple more years out of your cell phone then hopefully you will appreciate some of the other, often overlooked ways to save money.
1. BYOB. Yes, bring your own (water) bottle. I have a couple of BPA free water bottles that I’ve had for over 5 years. I fill them from my own faucet every day and never have to buy a bottle of water when I’m out and about. I even carried a Brita filter bottle around Disney World and filled it at water fountains because that made the Florida water taste better and I wasn’t shelling out $2.50 every time someone got thirsty. I once found myself at JCPenney wearing one dark brown boot and one black boot, but I did bring my water bottle. It’s all about priorities.
2. Do less laundry. Laundry is one of those never ending chores, but I cut at least a load or more per week by wearing my jeans another day and hanging up my bath towel and reusing it for the week. I am not wearing anything that is visibly dirty or smells bad, I’m just getting an extra use out of it before washing. That also saves your clothing from wearing out too quickly. The electricity and detergent I save adds up over time. I hang my clothes out on the line to dry from May to October. If you don’t like the “crunchiness” of line dried clothes, you can toss them into the dryer for about 5 minutes to fluff them up or just convince your family that the hard towels are an exfoliation treatment.
3. Get rid of paper products. I do draw the line at toilet paper because as hardcore as I’ve been accused of being, even I won’t go there. I have not purchased paper towels, plates, cups, wipes, or an other disposable items in over a decade. I use old wash cloths for spills and cleaning. I have cloth napkins that my mother sewed for me several years ago that I have used repeatedly. I would rather wash them and reuse them than buy something that will just add to the trash. And before you refer me back to #2, the amount of space taken up by wash cloths and napkins is very small compared to jeans and large bath towels.
4. Highlight your own hair. 2-3 times a year, I pull my hair through a cap (my husband does the back for me) and I mix up the bleach and developer. I buy the caps, bleach, and developer all at Sally Beauty for approximately $35 and it averages out to $5 per application. It’s not difficult, but please follow the directions and have someone help you.
5. Get out of your comfort zone. I know many people who want their thermostat set at 72 degrees all winter so they can be comfortable in a t-shirt. I would rather wear a sweatshirt (or my bathrobe over my clothes) and keep mine on 66 degrees to save several gallons of oil. We have a programmable thermostat that is set on 58 while we are gone or asleep. No one has froze at those temperatures, ever. Ironically enough, those are the same people who crank the AC down to 66 in the summer.
6. Stop buying mass amounts of cleaners. I only buy vinegar, a large box of baking soda, Ammonia, and Dawn dishwashing soap. Those will cover your entire house. From windows and shower doors to BBQ grates and toilets. A couple tablespoons of baking soda and a splash of vinegar in the toilet creates a scientific reaction (think volcano at the science fair) and it works really well. Ammonia is only used for the greasiest of jobs and is effective, but tough. The rest do a great job while still being gentle. If you hate the Vinegar smell, you can add a few drops of essential oil or lemon juice, but if you wait a while it will go away on it’s own. It’s so much better than breathing in all of the chemicals.
7. Don’t pay for trash pickup. Spending $35 every month to throw trash away is a huge no-no in my book. I recycle everything I can, don’t throw food in the trash, and don’t buy a lot of disposable products. In embracing those 3 things, I discover that I have way less trash than the average person. I have, on average, two 13 gallon trash bags per month and I’m certainly not paying $17.50 per bag to throw them away. Every other month or so, a trip to the landfill is only a few dollars.
8. Use cloth diapers. Though I’m beyond this stage in my life, it really saved a lot of money and was part of how I was able to become a stay at home mother. If your child is in daycare, your daycare provider is most likely not going to embrace this decision. If you are taking an extended maternity leave or planning to stay home full or part time, it’s really not as bad as you think. I bought FuzziBunz with snaps, they were well worth the extra upfront cost and saved thousands of dollars.
9. Stop sending Christmas cards (and all other mail). If you read my post about Valentine’s Day, you already know that I’m not a card person. In an age where you can Skype and FaceTime with people all over the world, why are we still buying cards and sending them through the mail? Tradition is a big reason. I don’t want you to get into hot water with your great aunt who isn’t on Facebook and only sees you every 5 years. By all means, send one to her, but don’t just sign your name, make sure to write a note and include a photo of the family. Everyone else that you see everyday on Facebook, send them an electronic Christmas card and you’re done! You’ll save a lot in stamps, as well as actually buying the cards. I also pay 99% of my bills online. It normally takes me 2 years to use an entire book of stamps.
Like I’ve said before, it’s a lifestyle. It’s making a commitment to saving money. If you remember to take a water bottle 3 times, you’ve saved $5. If you remember to take a water bottle 300 times, you’ve saved $500. It’s my whole philosophy of it’s never “just a dollar”. Getting ahead is not about leaps and bounds, it’s consistently taking small steps in the right direction.