Painless Ways to Save Money

There are many simple ways to save money that most people never consider. More than that, when presented with these concepts they often underestimate the amount of money they can save. With gas prices ready to climb above the $3.00 mark permanently and the resulting rise in the price of everything else in order to offset the higher costs of transportation-not to mention the fact that Pres. Bush’s economic plan for America basically seems to revolve around sending all the good jobs out of the country-now is exactly the time to start saving a dollar here and there. Those extra dollars will come in handy when the next depression hits.

Most of us simply don’t do as good a job as we should keeping track of our money. We may have Microsoft Money or Quicken installed on our computer, but it just takes too much effort to break down every single dollar we spend in order to keep totally accurate track of where it’s going. It is highly advisable that you start using the report features offered by Microsoft Money, Quicken or whatever computer checking program you have. If you are diligent about creating specific topics and entering your financial transactions-including debit cards and cash transactions-you will find yourselves amazed at how much money is going out on things you can do without.

How often do you rent movies at the video store? When you go there looking for a specific title, how often do you come back with something else? Does your video store of choice have a dollar night? My family avoids Blockbuster Video like the plague because they are a leading figure in the fight to turn America into a Christian theocracy. (When The Last Temptation of Christ was released, they refused to carry it; at the same time you could walk into their stores and rent I Spit On Your Grave, however!) Most of the time we rent from Albertson’s grocery store down the road, limiting rentals to Monday and Thursday because new releases are all a dollar on those days. We figured out last year that we saved over $100 by not renting those movies at the regular price. And for most people that figure would rise, since we don’t consider too many new releases worth renting even at the bargain rate. Most libraries now carry DVDs you can borrow for up to a week, and in many cases they have more new releases than you might suspect.

Saving money doesn’t mean cutting back on your lifestyle. It just means looking for alternative ways to keep living to how your are accustomed. Do you eat a lot of red meat? Do you usually get the same cuts of meat? Did you know that by buying a different cut of steak, you can save at much as a couple of dollars and actually get more meat for your buck? A multitude of web sites exist on the web that can explain in far greater detail than I can do here just what to expect from each cut and what kind of prices you may expect to pay. The point is that you are probably used to buying a specific cut of meat without even knowing why. If you shop around, you may not only save money, but you just might find that you’ve been missing out on a more delicious cut of meat. Another thing to consider is buying meat in quantity. If you have a big freezer, this is an especially good way to save money.

When it comes to chicken, most people buy according to parts. They may like chicken breasts or chicken wings or chicken thighs. You can broaden your horizons while saving money by buying a whole fryer or roaster. This may come as an incredible shock to you, but did you know that you can save as much as $3.00 a pound when you buy a whole chicken instead of pre-packaged boneless and skinless chicken parts? If you think that preparing a whole roaster is more work than frying up chicken breasts, boy are you wrong. Here is all the work that is required to cook up a whole piece of chicken that costs you less than a few breasts: clean it, marinade or season it, put it in a pot, put the pot in the oven and then do whatever else needs to be done around the house. Voila! In a few hours you’ll have your pick of drumstick, thighs, wings or breast for less than a third what the same amount of what pre-packaged chicken parts would have cost.

Do you buy pre-cut vegetables? Buying whole lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, cabbages, etc. and taking the little time it takes to cut or slice it yourself will save money. If you eat lots of vegetables, it could save you a lot of money. When it comes to bags of vegetables like potatoes or onions, however, it gets trickier. It’s true that a bag of potatoes or onions is cheaper than buying them individually, but when buying by the bag, you are typically buying five or ten pounds worth of food. Will you eat all those before they go bad? Both onions and potatoes have pretty short shelf lives and if you have a history of throwing away soggy onions or potatoes that are sprouting, then you will probably save money more by buying them individually.

If you paying for satellite TV or deluxe cable packages, review your television watching habits. How often do you really watch those extra channels you are paying that hefty price to receive? The simple fact is that most people don’t really watch enough of those extra channels to justify the cost. We won’t even get into the fact that even those special channels you are paying for typically show the exact same shows that you can watch with a basic package. Obviously, if you are an independent film fan and you’ve got access to both IFC and Sundance, it’s probably worth it. But if you are paying for home and garden shows, or certain sports packages, chances are you rarely take advantage of them enough to justify the cost. Same thing goes with the premium movie channels. Why do you think HBO and Showtime have moved toward creating original programming in recent years? Because most of the movies they show air a thousand times a year and suck besides. Save your money and rent movies if you aren’t paying simply for The Sopranos or other original programming.

Want to know a terrific way to save money quickly? Eat at home more. If you do have Microsoft Money or Quicken, keep track of how much money you spend eating out. Do more than that, however. Split it up into fast food and restaurant dining. Take a look at just one month of spending and you will probably be stunned by just how much you spend eating out.

Another fantastic way to save money is to shop elsewhere. My wife will kill me for writing this because she wants to keep her bargain treasure trove a secret, but she’s constantly amazing her friends and co-workers with tales of buying Jones New York and other brand name clothing for under a dollar at Bealls. Yeah, you read that right. She has often come home with several bags of clothing-brand name, high fashion clothing-for less than ten dollars. She’s even showed me how much these clothes cost in regular stores. The exact same clothes-not knockoffs, not returns, not damaged merchandise-that she may pay a few dollars for at most are being bought by her friends for over $100. Now that’s saving money! (Please don’t start going to Bealls and buying them out, though. I value my life.)

If you are really looking to save money, you can do so buy avoiding certain household products. Most brand name cleaning products can be made very easily at home using ingredients you probably already have, such as ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, water, etc. It requires a little more effort, true, but with the money you save at the end of the year, you can probably treat yourself to at least a little weekend vacation somewhere.

Finally, one of the best and easiest ways to save money is by cutting your own hair. Let’s face it, the haircut industry is ridiculously overpriced. By going to a dollar store like Family Dollar, Dollar General or Dollar Tree you can buy a perfectly serviceable hair cutting kit. And it’s not as difficult to cut hair and still stay stylish as you might imagine. At the very least, you can do a little trimming before it’s time to go in for a full styling.

Saving money is more important than it’s been in a long time. Whether it’s banks charging you for the privilege of allowing them to keep your money, or the rising costs of the entertainment industry, every dollar you can save today may be worth ten dollars when the Bush depression finally hits.

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