Living on next to nothing

The prolonged recession has forced many of us to get creative when it comes to stretching a dollar.  I mean really creative.  I recently came across a great profile on of a couple who did just that.  In the eighties they lived on $13,000 a year, with several children and a stay at home Mom.   They went on to write a book about the experience, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams.

I feel sure there are tips here to help all of us.  I know there are some to help me.

1.    Eat in.  Go the grocery store less.  Cook with leftovers.  All make perfect sense.  Save for restaurant meals.  Don’t just charge because you think you deserve them.  You’re going to have to pay for that meal someday…and with interest.  The second item I personally have some trouble with.  I love the grocery store, but I go too often, thus spending more money than I should.  According to The Food Institute, the average family of three spends 13% of their budget on food.  Are you above or below that?  For the ultimate in savings try to spend less than 10%.

Don’t buy foods you’re hungry for, buy foods that are in season, and thus cheaper.  It will save you a ton of money.

Never overlook coupons for good savings. In the paper and online

Invest in effective food storage/freezing systems.  The column recommends Vacuum-sealed meats.  Keeps them fresher, longer.  This allows you to stock up when things go on sale.

Yes, you should buy things when they’re on sale, but I also want to caution you to not fall for every sale.  The big grocery store chains where I live, puts certain foods on sale every two to three weeks.  Let’s use boneless chicken breasts for example.  Almost like clockwork, they go on sale for $1.99 a pound every couple of weeks.  Don’t buy every time they go on sale.  Don’t treat a sale like it will never come again.  By avoiding some sales, you will avoid extra trips to the store.

2.    Not everything online is cheaper.  Second hand shops, yard sales (YES), even church rummage sales provide great opportunities to save money on clothing and housewares.

Garage Sales Rock!

3.    Reuse products that can be reused.  Not just recycled, but reused.  The authors of the book even reused the aluminum foil that they used to wrap their baked potatoes.  Very smart idea indeed.

4.    Turn in your recyclables for cash.  In many states you pay a container recycling fee for plastic or glass containers.  Rather than just sticking these in a recycling container, take them to a facility and keep the cash for yourself.

Don’t buy water.  A water filtration system that hooks to your faucet will save you hundreds of dollars a year.   Rather than buying a bottle of water every day, buy a thermos, fill it each day from home and re-use that.

5.    Cleaning.  Clean with reusable cloths.  Don’t pull off a new paper towel for every chore.  Use vinegar and water as a cleaner, baking soda and lemons are also good cleaners and deodorizers.

6.    Climate Control.  In the summer use your air conditioning sparingly.  Buy a fan and you’ll be surprised how much it helps and how much money you’ll save.  In the winter, wear a sweater and turn the thermostat down to 68.  Stay away from electric heaters as well.  Not only are they more expensive to operate, but they’re a safety hazard.

7.    Do you or the kids like jelly?  Make your own in strawberry jam when in season.  It’s much cheaper than buying from the store and it stays fresh for months in the refrigerator.

8.     What else?  Make your own clothing.  But don’t stop there, try tackling repairs you can do for yourself around the house rather than calling in a specialist.

One of the most effective things you can do to control your spending is to change your attitude.  You have got to tell yourself “no.”  And, you have to do it often.  Don’t just buy something or go to a quick dinner because it’s only $20 on the credit card.  You’re going to have to pay it back at some point.

And finally, don’t carry your credit card (s) with you.  The best way to keep from building your balances up, is to stop using them.

Savings are all around you; you just have to keep your eyes open.

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