Over the years, from graduate school to mid-life crisis, we all develop our own ways of saving money. Saving is individual – everyone has different priorites for spending. I don’t always stick to these rules, but they are the best ways I’ve found to save.
1. Always shop for quality. Don’t buy anything because it’s on sale.
2. Buy whole chickens when they are on sale. When you get home, immediately cut the chicken into parts, wrap separately or in cooking amounts and freeze until needed. Save necks and back to make chicken broth to freeze. Much cheaper than buying chicken parts!
3. Cook a bone-in ham half, butt portion. Ask people you’ve been meaning to invite for dinner, and if guest offer to bring something, accept a salad, dessert or bottle of wine. Ham is a great meal-stretcher! After the party, cut all available meat off the bone and freeze slices or cubes in small plastic bags. Save and freeze the bone. Use the small bags of ham to make potato casserole, ham and eggs, deviled ham for a quick appetizer, ham and beans, green bean casserole with ham. Finally, use the bone to make split pea soup. Place the bone in a pan with bag of peas, cut carrots, dried onions, celery and a bay leaf. Cover with water. Cook until peas are mashable.
4. Buy fat-free refried beans instead of bean dip. It’s less expensive, and less fattening!
5. Make a pact with a neighbor that when you see “2 for 1” at the grocery store, but you don’t want the whole thing (say, a ten-pound bag of potatoes or 2-for -1 dozen eggs,) you will bring it home and split it.
6. When buying wine, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson to recommend the best inexpensive wine. Set your price range – for example – “under $5.00.” Many cheaper or boxed wines are just a good as the more expensive wines, and wine merchants are usually happy to help.
7. When clipping coupons, try to cut only those for items you would normally buy anyway. Keep in an envelope in your purse. When you shop, just before check out, go through the envelope and see if there is anything you can use the coupons for. This way, you will not be tempted to buy a product just because of a coupon.
8. If there is a coupon for brand name item, but the generic or store brand is less, buy the generic.
9.When shopping, practice saying “Do I really want this?” We tend to spend more than we think on “little” purchases, like magazines, trinkets, cards.
10.Avoid “impulse” buys. The more expensive the item, the more time you should take to make up your mind. I had a friend who looked for months for a couch, and couldn’t find one she liked. She got frustrated and bought one on impulse – and didn’t like it.
11. Save energy. Open the curtain in winter, close them in summer. Use fans as well as air-conditioning. Make sure your house is insulated properly.
12. Save water. Don’t let the water “run” while you are brushing your teeth. Soak dishes before loading dishwasher instead of rinsing each by hand.
13. Plant mostly perennials – plants that come up every year. Share and trade them with neighbors.
14. Grow your own vegetables in summer. Tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers will grow in patio pots.
14. Repair tings – shoes, purses, coats.Don’t replace a winter coat or pair of slacks if the zipper breaks- get the zipper replaced. Cuffs that are worn can be reversed.
15.Save interesting textures and shapes of packing materials – foam, net bags, plastic grids, corks. Use them to make a “collage” with the kids.
16. Pick up interesting natural shapes such as pine cones, bark, seed pods. Use them to make potpourri, Christmas ornaments, firewood starter.
17. Look for store coupons on internet sites, as well as the newspaper.
18. Save money! It sounds funny, but payroll withdrawal works much better than piggy banks. Make sure part of your salary, however small, is put into savings each payday. Where you can’t get it easily!
19. Share magazine subscriptions with a neighbor- you buy one, she buys one.
20. Shop for gifts in antique malls, vintage shops – you can often find a very unique gift that will be more meaningful than something from a store.
21. Buy magazine subscriptions for birthday or holiday gifts – usually not that expensive, and makes a lasting impression.
22. Bring your lunch or a lunch “extender” – a snack for before or after.
23. Keep a stock of your favorite snacks and drinks at work, so you don’t have to go to the machine or snack bar.
24. Don’t buy gifts, clothing or anything else to “impress” people. Buy the nicest thing you can honestly afford.
25. Don’t feel pressured to add a patio or new landscaping because your neighbor does – stick to your budget.
26. Make gifts – almost everyone loves cookies!
27. Do you really need cable TV , a cell phone, a gym membership or other monthly services? See how much these are costing you, and prioritize.
28. Use the library instead of buying books and magazine. If they don’t have a new book you read about, request it.
29. Enjoy free features in your city – parks, museums, concerts -ask the reference librarian where to find them.