Just because money is tight doesn’t mean you have to live any less. Cutting down on utilities and things used around the home in excess would be the first place to look and make improvements. Let’s take a general look first at utilities.
Do you leave things that you’re not using plugged in to wall outlets? If you do, you are wasting electricity! Certain phone chargers, laptop chargers, and other devices constantly draw electricity even when they aren’t in use (and some, even when turned off with a switch, have a secondary circuit which leaves them on and drawing power from a socket if left plugged-in). Unplugging devices and appliances not frequently used is one way that you can help cut down on your electricity bill at home, and save money by not using more than you need to. And of course, keeping doors and windows closed while using air conditioning, turning off lights, fans, and other ac-powered devices that don’t need to be used will always keep it to a minimum as well.
Leaky faucets can put the drain on your pocket book when it comes to water. Be sure that none of your faucets in your house leak , especially outdoor faucets with hoses attached. All those drips of water can significantly go from pennies to dollars and add a lot more water to your bill than you are actually using each month.
If you’re washing dishes, try to avoid running your dishwasher too much! Dishwashers are really convenient, but they use a lot of electricity and water at the same time. If you can do the dishes by hand, then you can save electricity even if you use close to the same amount of water.
You can use even less water while doing dishes by hand if you don’t leave it running between drying them off and putting them away. Everything adds up, and water usage is no exception. Whether you are washing dishes, showering, shaving, or even filling up a water dish for a pet…being careful enough to not leave a hose or faucet running more than you need to can save you money every month.
While some places use gas or coal to heat and cool their homes, others use electricity. Regardless which one you use to service your home with, you will need proper insulation, an accurate thermostat, and to make sure that you are not leaking anything or leaving anything wasteful on more than you need to. This will keep your monthly bill to a minimum, and also help to keep the way that you do use to heat or cool your home as efficient as possible.
The costs of cell phones and communications are also a really important area to reduce costs. Here’s a little story as to why:
My last roommate was in love with his i-phone. In fact, at the karaoke clubs they would say it was his iPhone-girlfriend, because he would spend more time with his head down texting than he would paying attention to singers or talking to women. Recently he lost his job, and was not able to keep up with his phone bill. Said roommate had no car or means to get around outside of using his bicycle or riding on the local city bus. I questioned him one day and asked him why he felt that he needed to pay $119 a month for his i-phone when he could get an unlimited phone from Cricket or BoostMobile for about $50 a month instead. He claimed that he had more coverage in other cities and states. I looked at him like he was crazy and asked: “Since when do you ever go out of state? Since when was the last time you really traveled or went to another city? You don’t use half the features on your phone, and you are paying nearly twice as much as you would for mine!” Needless to say, he recently decided to go with a monthly unlimited plan that lets him do his texting, use the web, email, and everything else for less than half of what he was paying for his i-phone. He’s still not been social at the karaoke venues, but at least I was able to save him some money.
So here’s how this has to do with you:
Most people own cell phones today. Chances are you own one. Most people who own them are still paying way too much for them and for all the features that they don’t really need and/or seldom if ever use. If you happen to have a cell phone and your bill is over $60 a month, chances are you paying way too much for the majority of the services you are using, and also the probability is high that you can get all the things you need from at least 3 or 4 other carriers for less and with most of the same coverage.
In fact, with Boost Mobile (which I switched to from Cricket last month) there is a way to use their $40 cell phone with their $50 a month plan to get free internet for your laptop or desktop. Sure, you can get “4G” speed from your Verizon/blackberry phone that will be a bit faster…but is it really worth paying twice as much as you would already pay for cable modem or DSL service at home to get it? And do you really need 4G speed when you won’t be able to download torrents or large files with it due to the limitations imposed upon cell phone data-band traffic? Why not get the free internet at half the speed from boost and save $50 to $75 a month on your cell phone bill?
Now that we’ve covered most of the general needs for around the home…what about on your way to work or out and about on the town? Here’s a few more tips for you there:
Gas prices go up and down. As the global economy plays their games, the prices seem to rise more than they fall over time. But you don’t necessarily have to sit on the sidelines at their mercy and always play along with the games. The easiest way to defeat the general high prices of local travel is to utilize car pooling, public transportation, and similar systems. They save everyone money and get them to where they need to go quickly. The less money you spend on gasoline, the more money you can save, put toward food, entertainment, or other bills.
For traveling locally, abroad and overseas, try sites like Travelocity, Southwest Airlines, Greyhound, and other safe, well-known mass-travel specialists. In some states (like New York), you can ride on the subway and get where you need to go fast and reliably for cheap.
Another common way to help you save money is the use of coupons. The stores are always giving them out as incentives for you to buy things, so why not use them?. Why not benefit from them by getting what you need (or extra) and save money at the same time?
If you’re near a relatively rural area (or an area where produce vendors on the streets are plentiful), you’ll find a lot of different options for your fruits and vegetable purchases. Sure, the selection isn’t always quite what the supermarkets may have, but it’s often the same or better quality, less expensive, and without as many (or any?) preservatives or pesticides. It varies from farmer to farmer, but depending on where you live and what type of food or stock you are looking to have, you can get a lot more bang for your buck by buying local, and you can be sure that you are helping your own local economy more than a foreign economy that you might not be aware you’re paying when you make store-bought purchases.
Replacing your bulky desktop with a compact laptop, or even a netbook, is a great way to save a bit, too. There are a lot of advantages to have a laptop over a desktop these days…more than just economically and to be frugal. Laptops use a lot less electricity than a desktop does, yes. But it also saves space wherever you decide to put it, and if the power goes out? You usually have a chance to save your work automatically without the use of a UPS backup battery (like you would need to be attached, on, and working on a desktop). You can use it to grab free-wifi wherever you may be at outside of the home (which, if you do this enough and often or only need to check email and do things online while away from home or at work, you might be able to eliminate a monthly internet bill at home saving between $20-$60 per month). And best of all, you don’t have to spend a dime on electricity at all if you can find a place to charge your laptop at work or even at a restaurant like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Applebees, or Starbucks to name a few. Any coffee shop or small café is usually equipped with a few free outlets nearby. Some outlets at such places are even reserved for people who are likely to bring their laptops in as an enticement and encouragement by the owner or management to get customers to buy something, stay a while, enjoy the product or service provided to them, and use their laptop for work or pleasure and recharge for free while they do.
If you have the type of cell phone that recharges from a usb port, you can use your laptop to simultaneously charge your phone and your laptop. If you have an ipod, creative labs zen stone, or any other usb-powered/usb-enabled portable music player, you can usually charge them too the same way (and charge them at the same time for as many usb ports as you have on your laptop). When you get home, you can continue to use your laptop computer off of its battery if you wish and get at least a few free hours of electricity for free, since you stored it up while you were at the café, coffee shop, etc.
Be sure to save the plastic bags you get from grocery stores when you can. A lot of people throw them away, but you can save a lot of money over time by using them to line small bathroom trashcans and for smaller clean-up situations and putting those out with the trash in a trash bin than paying a grip of money for trash bags and trying to put all your trash into one big bag only. Sure, you’ll still want to use the large trash bags for general trash. But when you can, try to use the smaller plastic ones, tie them up when finished, and send them out to the street. You might even want to have a trash box (half-sized box that you use to hold all the smaller grocery-plastic bags that were tied up). When the trash box is full, you can take it out to the curb just as you would a large trash bag, and about as easily. A lot of times, you can keep a trash-box like this under the sink or at a pantry closet and reuse it several times. If you need a box to get started, ask your local Giant Eagle, Safeway, or Kroger store if they have an extra box or two that you know would be big enough to hold a few bags, but fit at your pantry or under the kitchen sink area. They’re usually happy to help and donate a box that would otherwise be thrown away to your environmentally friendly cause.
They say that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That adage is seemingly true. I have seen great stuff for sale on ebay (and unique items not available anywhere else). I’ve found cool stuff at garage sales for cheaper that I could get it new or shipped to me though online, and using craigslist I’ve been able to find perfectly good items and things that people are giving away completely for free because they don’t want them to go to waste before they move, or don’t want to have certain items (like bulky computer monitors, beds, or anything else that occupies space) around the house when they need the space more than they need the item. By taking it off their hands for cheap or for free, you can get what meets your needs without it being obtained for a lot of money simply because it is new or store-bought. You simultaneously help people clear up space without having a guilty conscience of having thrown away an item that someone out there really needed. Mutual wins are always ideal for this.
These are just a few great ways that you can save a few hundred to a few thousand dollars every single month. Now that the wheels are turning, feel free to launch a text editor on your computer or get out a pen and paper and see if there are other ways, specific to your own life and lifestyle, where you can save money on things and still accomplish the same things without little or any loss of efficiency. I look forward to any suggestions, and best of luck!