Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days to Financial Freedom, Day 15: Everyday Ways to Save

We can all do a little bit everyday to help us save money.  Small amounts add up to huge amounts (like $117.14 spent on soda and candy bars at the gas station).  The typical breakfast I would eat at work would cost me $1.49, five days a week.

$7.45 a week.
$34.27 a month.
$411.24 a year.
$2,056.20 for most of the time I have worked here.

See how it escalates?  By changing little things we do every day (and making note of those changes), it can help us reach out goals much faster.  So now, instead of buying my bagel with cream cheese and a carton of milk at work, I bring bread and a jar of peanut butter from home.  I buy a half gallon of milk to keep in the refrigerator, or I just drink water (better for us anyway!). 

We all know the financial benefits of eating at home versus eating out.  Spending $7 per day at lunch is a waste of money.  Buying a $4 cup of coffee when you can make it at home is a waste of money.  These are habits that we must break.  I'm not saying it's never okay to eat out for lunch or buy a cup of fancy coffee, but these are things that we should be rewarding ourselves with for a job well done, not a benefit of waking up in the morning.

Pen and I have set short term goals for ourselves.  When we reach those goals, we reward ourselves with things we should have always viewed as "treats".  For example, we set a short term goal of saving up $800 to pay off the coach that's sitting in the furniture store.  Well, this Friday we will have done just that.  And to reward ourselves?  We're stopping by our favorite Chinese restaurant on the way home and picking up some take out.  It generally costs us $25 for two entrees and an appetizer (my mouth is watering just thinking about it . . . ), but the point is, we reached a short-term goal and we're rewarding ourselves with something we just felt entitled to previously.

Since the $800 will clean out our savings account, our next short term goal is to replenish it, and then some.  Once we have $1,000 in our savings account, we'll pick something else to treat ourselves with.  It won't always be food.  Other rewards may be a trip away with just Pen and I (something we haven't done in 4 years!), a trip to an amusement park, etc.  It should take us about 2 1/2 months to save up $1,000 (we save $400 per month).  Once that goal is met, we'll decide on something special to do.

There are everyday ways that we can save money, which will allow us to reach the $1,000 mark a little faster. 

  • Americans spend a ton on gas.  The average American spends $2,000 a year to fill up their tank, according to a Huffington Post article I read back in March.  That's $4,000 for our household.  By driving less, we're saving big bucks.  Last month we spent $257 on gas, $167 for Pen's car (his drive to work is about 25 minutes, so he uses more gas), and $90 for mine (mini-van).  However, that was not filling up our tanks.  I only budget $50 per week for Pen's car, and $30 for mine.  Yes, I know during the winter our tanks should be full.  So . . . driving less will help save.
  • Turning off the engine instead of idling.
  • Warming up the engine before driving (this doesn't apply to newer cars I hear though).
  • Opening up the windows instead of running the AC if driving in town.
  • Driving 55 instead of 65 on the highway.
  • Getting rid of unnecessary weight in your car (like the bookshelf that has been banging around in the back of my van for the past month).
  • Not tailgating.
  • Keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure.
  • Walk or ride bikes when you can.
  • Bring your breakfast and lunch instead of buying it.
  • Making enough dinner for leftovers for lunch the rest of the week
  • Ditching frozen, prepared meals in favor of not frozen, prepared meals (macaroni and cheese in the box, frozen lasagna or other frozen meals, garlic bread, etc.)
  • Eating what you have (how many moldy strawberries have I thrown away in my lifetime?!)
  • Turning off the flippin' lights when you leave a room
  • Keep your furnace down to 65 and your AC up to 75
  • Use a surge protector to power down your TV and gaming consoles (we don't do this for our TV and DVR because if you unplug your DVR, your shows won't record, and I don't think I can live with Dr. Phil, Ellen, and Gilmore Girls during the day).
  • Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (if every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road.  On top of that, replacing one regular light bulb with an approved compact fluorescent light bulb would save consumers $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.)
  • Borrow books and movies from the library instead of purchasing or renting them.  Our son has borrowed How to Train your Dragon every Saturday for the past two months.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, doing dishes, or giving the kiddos a bath.
  • Don't overfill your refrigerator.
  • Save your clean, used aluminum foil, and or use a cookie sheet to cover casseroles in the oven.
  • Buy the bigger container of yogurt instead of the individual packaged kind and use a Tupperware container.
  • Reduce the amount of laundry detergent you use by 1/2, unless the clothes are really soiled.  We've been doing this for a while, and the clothes are still clean.
  • Cut your dryer sheets in half or even fourths.  It still gets the job done, and that box of 250 sheets will last muuuuuch longer.
  • Use dish towels instead of paper towels.
  • If it's yellow let it mellow.  If it's brown flush it down.  Ew.
  • If your pillows are flat, cut open a portion of the seam and re fluff or add more stuffing as necessary, then sew up the seam.  It won't matter how tidy your seams are, because it will be inside a pillow case!  You can also launder pillows in hot water, then dry on high.  This will fluff pillows as well as kill all the gross-ola stuff that lives in there.  This has reminded me to wash our pillows.
  • I pluck my eyebrows instead of waxing them.  This saves me $4 every month at the salon.  I wouldn't recommend this if you wax anything else though.  Ow.
  • SMOKING.  Seriously.  Who wants to light their money on fire?
Ok, I'm going to go wash my pillows now.

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