Wacky Ways to Save Moolah

After 50 Ways to Trim Your Budget didn’t give me a whole lot of new ideas, I decided it was time to think outside the box – way outside the box…

1) Get a hair cut

My hair hangs to mid-back. Even with coupons I spend probably $10 – $15 a month on conditioner. A few snips and I’ll be able to cut that cost in half. Just think: less mousse, shampoo, hairspray, more time…

2) Speaking of hair, cut the kids’ hair yourself

A few months and you’ll probably get okay at it. It’s winter. They’ll be wearing hats, scarves, hoodies anyway.

3) Go on a diet

No, not Jenny or NutriSystem or whoever. I mean, an honest-to-god, eat-less diet. Smaller portions, less cost, teenier waistline…

4) Wear fewer clothes

Yes, I know it’s winter. I mean change into the same outfit every night for a week when you get home from work – same ol’ sweats.  Remember, it’s winter. You’re not stinking them up. Less clothes = less laundry. That’s less detergent, water, electricity, fabric sheets, bleach. Savings could be big. Let’s face it, the TV doesn’t care what you’re wearing. Neither do the kids. If the spousal unit does, lucky you!!

5) Eat out

I know, I know, this goes against every frugal tip. They’re just not looking at things correctly. Hit the happy hour buffet. Fill up. Leave immediately. (This is totally negated if you order a drink.) If you have kids, visit people at dinner time. Parents and grandparents are great options. If you try this with friends, you better have a lot of them and quit answering your own doorbell around sunset.

6) Clean less often

Truly, you don’t like to do it anyway. Let the kids draw in the dust. Saves on paper and crayons, too.

7) Bonfire!

Extend the shredder’s life and save electricity. Everyone can warm up around the fire place, fire pit, whatever when you ignite your weekly junk mail. Given my pile, that’s good for 30 minutes of heat. Add the week’s papers and you’ve got an hour. Not so environmentally correct, but hey, what ya gonna save first – your money or the planet?

8) Burn candles

This is a triple woohoo! Provides light and romance (that comes after you’re done using the melted wax to clear your upper lip or do a Brazilian bikini thing.)

9)  Family won’t eat leftovers? Good. Quit buying dog food. Pups prefer table scraps anyhow.

10) Exercise

Twenty jumping jacks per commercial break. Fifteen squat thrusts between shows. (Fifty pushups can be substituted, twenty-five at each) You’ll be warm and have the buffest family on the block.

11) Don’t floss.

It’s not the cost of floss – it’s the cost of visiting the dentist when that crown falls off… No gum either. Same issue.

12) Skip the dry cleaner

Do you really think most guys dry clean a suit after one use? Pfffft. Skip the Dryel sheets, too. Toss everything in the dryer for a few minutes with a regular ol’ dryer sheet to freshen it up. Good for most of the season unless you’re sloppy. If you are, stick the outfit in the back of the closet. May not fit next year anyhow.

13) Dry cleaning part II

Another way to take out the whiff-factor? Wear the outfit while you’re using air freshener in a room.

14) And another freshening idea

Put your cologne/perfume on in the car. No more of those little smell good, hangy things necessary.

15) Rub-a-dub-dub

Think community tub. Jacuzzis are great for this. Kids think they’re having fun, not bathing. Every few days a lack of soap won’t kill ’em. Their skin won’t dry out, which means less lotion, too. No Jacuzzi? Joint baths. Just make sure you separate by sex. Don’t want Child Protective Services knocking on the door.

16) Speaking of lotion…

Skip it. Scaley works. No one’s gonna see those legs again until spring unless you’re a lucky you (see #3).  However, that’s only if the lights are on. Turn ’em off – you’re conserving, remember!

17) No more breath mints

Go to the bank. Grab ’em off the counter. Same at restaurants – take handfuls. If you’re running low, don’t invade anyone’s space. Talk behind your hand because, “I think I’m catching something and don’t want to expose you,” cough, cough.

18) Stuffed up?

Forget the decongestants. Anything they use to make meth can’t be good for you. Think hot – sauce, soup, chili. Think vigorous exercise. Try a good cry. All of ’em make your nose run. 

19) Take a page from your kids’ playbook

Wear headphones – ALOT! If you don’t hear it, no response required, ie. no cash outlay. This is especially successful with teenagers when their friends are around.  Show enthusiasm for the tunes by boogeying down  – The Swim, Twist, Mashed Potato. Mortified teens don’t stick around.

20) Invite yourself

Everywhere! Neighbor mentions they’re running to the store? Respond, “Oh, can I join you? I just need to pick up a few things,” as you drag out your three page list. Saves gas & vehicle wear & tear. Co-worker’s chatting about the potluck they have planned? You say, “Sounds wonderful. What can I bring? Is there anything you think I should avoid for the children’s sake?” That last part gets the info on whether this is a free family feed or just a night out for you & the spousal unit. If kids are out, invite them to sleepover – at someone else’s house. No babysitting costs and you still get everyone fed for the price of a dish.

21) Borrow stuff

The more expensive, the better. Baking makes great holiday gifts, but spices, molasses, vanilla – those things are expensive and you’ll use like one teaspoon or whatever. Suggest you and a friend/neighbor bake together (their house, of course.) Take only the essentials. Saves you all that high-dollar stuff. Need a holiday outfit? Pfffft. You gotta tap a lot of sources, but you can end up with the dress, shoes, earrings, purse, shawl that you need and spend zippo. (unless you’re sloppy. May require one dry-cleaning bill. Be neat & it’s just a dryer sheet.)

22) Give the fridge a break

More stuff in it means it works harder.  That’s a shorter lifespan. That’s more electricity. It’s winter in some places. Store stuff in the garage. Let nature keep it cold.

And, the 23rd wacky idea for saving money is…

23) Accept your age

Martina McBride had it right. You earned every one of those lines. Quit letting people tell you to slap on all that gooey stuff to get rid of ’em!

Laugh more. Check the stock market less. Know that you’re not alone in this financial fiasco.  

And, Vote November 4th!

Let’s Start Trimming… The Budget!

Yes, I’m in holiday mode already. But even after I Let Santa Help, I need less month or more cash if I’m going to survive the upcoming season. This article offered me 50 ways to trim the budget. I was ecstatic. FIFTY!! Wow! Must offer some new crevices to pull cash from; some new nooks and crannies to wrestle back a few bucks.

And, it did. Air dry clothes, open/shut blinds to regulate temperature, wash only full loads of clothes/dishes, raise your home/auto deductibles – easy fixes I don’t think we’ve discussed. Under food and transportation, we’ve covered most of those. Healthcare and Clothing offered some new insights. Personal insurance and retirement? I’d love to be worrying about saving $ there.

But it disappointed to. The 2006 stats show annual household expenditures of $62k with average income at $82k (gross.) 2006 stats also say 50% of Americans make less than $32k a year.  That’s AGI folks, income tax $. That’s joint-return bucks. And, yes, I know all about deduction and shelters etc. that make Rich Robby look poor. But the reality is, the average American is strapped! He’s making $62k, which he doesn’t bring home, and living on $62k. No wonder we’re spending 120% of our income. No wonder the next crisis coming is credit card debt.

Gain what you can from this article, but if you’re drowning in debt, perhaps a free evaluation will be more useful. Debt counselors field questions from 9 – 9 ET Monday thru Friday. Post your question or learn from what others have asked. You might also want to check out this article on budgeting. Getting a handle on your financial crisis requires a multi-pronged approach:

 – Know what you make

 – Know where you spend it

 – Slice and dice expenditures like a world-class chef does onions (yeah, it’s gonna bring some tears)

Until you match dollars out with dollars in, no fix will be long-term. Using credit cards for monthly expenses or 401k loans to pay off the credit cards you’re using for monthly expenses is simply a hiatus from facing the truth: You aren’t rich. You can’t live like you are.  This holiday season is a good time to start putting that reality into action.

The Great Debate – Did They Ever Answer a Question?

Up, down, up, down. The market’s making me nuts. And, just as many of you are learning about frugality for the first time, you’re also becoming more politically astute. Admit it. You watched the debate, not because you needed to add more negatives to your day, but because you wanted someone to tell you how government is going to fix this mess. And, therein lies the problem. Government fix is an oxymoron.

Anything we get from government, we pay for. Let’s look at healthcare. Whether we get $5k from McCain, or join the government plan as Obama proposes, neither is free. Taxpayers will foot the tab. And, as much as both candidates are telling us it won’t come out of our pockets, come on. We know better. It will. If government takes it from big business, big business takes it back in higher prices so stockholders are happy, which means the market quits going south, which means our 401k’s don’t implode which means… It’s a circle, and as part of the circle, we face Newton’s law – every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Fixing it is up to us.

I checked this morning for some ‘wow!’ insights to help. Frugal Fanny has 6 tips for stretching her $5,416 monthly income. (Let’s not get testy, there. She’s an MIT grad. Personally, I figured she’d make more.) Her big wow? How she thinks about money: Saving vs. debt; putting her spending facts on paper; not worrying about what the neighbors are doing; no bulk buying. I think we covered this in needs vs. wants, which this statistic says we better get our heads around:

  • A growing number of Americans view debt as a lifestyle choice, according to Robert Manning, author of “Credit Card Nation,” living on as much as 120% of their incomes. (italics me) Anna has no personal debt besides her mortgage; her committed expenses come to only 73% of her income.
  •  

    73%? Then she saves 15% and budgets $400 for FUN? Damn!

     

    But, we’re beyond that. No one provided us such wisdom (or we didn’t listen) before we consumerized our life. Still, we’re learning. We’ve cut back on big-ticket spending. And, food prices are coming down, as are gas prices. That’s big help IF we don’t turn around and hand it back to the Holiday Fairy. Which is already stressing us out. Which is already making us ask, what else can I cut? Which makes us worry about how disappointed the kids are gonna be…

     

    Here’s a thought. Let’s give our children or grand-children a truly great gift this year: values about balancing budgets and living within their means. Let’s teach them about stretching dollars to pay for needs and saving for wants. Let’s teach them they’re ok, good, whole, wonderful  – even if they don’t own THE  toy of the season or some fashionistas’ latest, greatest (for the older kids).

     

    Last year we had the grandkids for a sleepover. We made cookies, toured some mega-sports store, ate subs (used coupons of course). Then, we went to Walmart where they chose Angels and picked out items for those Angels as their Christmas gift from us. Our six-year-old now separates toys out for the poor kids. The others (ages 8 – 12) have all asked if we can do it again. Kids aren’t too young to learn, to understand, to start gaining financial values that I wish I’d have figured out sooner. The challenge is breaking their little hearts. Who wants to say, “No Virginia, there is no Santa Clause,” (or whatever that quote was)?  

     

    No problem. This year, you can Let Santa Help. It’s a unique idea that will probably reduce a lot of stress this season. But, whether you use this site or not, I hope you’ll think about the benefits both you and your kids can realize when financial responsibility joins the list of critical values a caring parent teaches. 

     

    Vote November 4th.

    One of them will be spending your money. You should help decide which one.

     

    Recession, Depression – Exasperation!

    Woohoo! Market’s climbing, climbing, climbing… Thank God! Bill Gates is probably worth more than Warren Buffet again. People stopped panting, began breathing. Still, warnings are everywhere – it ain’t over. Five minutes ago, the market cleared 10,000. Now, it’s back at 9,300. I HATE roller coasters…

    But, I loved this article, partly because it offered some tips I’ve already suggested  (hey, who doesn’t enjoy affirmation), but mostly because its #1 suggestion is a killer way to embrace frugality: Act like you lost your job. Whatever you’d cut then, cut it now so you can pile up cash for the financial turbulence ahead.

    If it’s too late to “act like you lost your job,” this article summarizes options that may help. My suggestion: Don’t wait until you’re desperate.  You are not a failure, a free-loader, or a freak because you need assistance. Remember, every bit of help you learn to accept now will extend the time-line before accept turns into require.  Chances are, you already “paid it forward” when life was good. When things improve, give it back. That’s in $. Give it back now in time. Volunteer at food banks, shelters, Goodwill, your church, your school. They’ll be strained in the months ahead trying to meet the ever-expanding needs of people needing for the first time. Like you.

    For those needing for the first time, you’re probably angry, confused, overwhelmed, embarrassed. Gotcha. Been there. All those times I smugly thought, “Not gonna happen to me.” No matter what tips and suggestions you implement, those feelings will eat you alive if you don’t add one more to your I’m-drowning-in-debt-I-need-money survival bag: Gratitude.

    If you’re saying, “Oh come on, I’ve lost my job, I’m broke, I’m going bankrupt,” etc. etc. and think there’s nothing to be grateful for, think again.

    You have eyes to see this and the education to read it.  You have access to a computer and know how to surf the net. These are skills for finding a job. You’re breathing. You have family or friends. Or you don’t. All your body parts work. Or they don’t. The weather’s good. Or it isn’t. Personally, I think it’s getting cold. Some think this is the best time of year in AZ. Grateful me says, “At least I don’t have to worry about snow.”

    Everything depends on your attitude. Be the down-trodden, sour, I-don’t-deserve-this-why-me? each day, or find 5, 10, 20 things to be grateful for and start each day reminding yourself of them. It’ll show. Truthfully, if you’re the one hiring, which face do you want to add to your team?

    Vote November 4th. It’s our kid’, grandkids’, great-grandkids’ money…

    (Sorry, ours is already gone!)

     

    A Frugal Truth: Needs vs. Wants

    Despite rally, stocks end worst week ever” is an MSN Money lead. Last week I said, another bad day and the market would be under 9,000. Now, it’s just above 8,000.  A few days ago someone (I can’t find the link) suggested a market at 7,000 would be the balance point. That’s half where it was in October 2007. HALF!

    For many, the stock market is only paper money. It will be years before their portfolio’s value matters. But, for others, those living on investment income, it matters now. Comfort has moved to crisis in just over a week. And, crisis usually challenges our decision making. It brings panic. Panic sets us up for even more dire consequences. Tempers get short, depression sets in, confusion reigns.

    Those already accustomed to frugal living are better prepared for what lies ahead. Those experiencing financial strife for the first time, or the first time in awhile, aren’t. Today’s blog is for you.

    Those who live frugality most successfully understand a basic life lesson: We have needs and we have wants.

    We need air. It’s still free, although, granted, the quality certainly varies across the country.

    We need water. We want bottled water, or soda or coffee or sports drinks. 

    We need food. We want Micky D’s or 5 star dining or pizza delivered.

    We need shelter. We want a two-story, six bedroom…. (fill in your blank.)

    We need clothing. We wantdesigner, brand new, hip, sheik & trendy duds.

    We need transportation. We wanta new car with a DVD, GPS, 6 CD changer…

    We need health. We want 6 pack abs, size zero, aren’t-I-hot bodies.

    Financial issues rank #4 among top marriage killers; #7 here. Money is the #2 cause of stress. State of the world and intimate relationships are #7 and #9 respectively. Personal health is #3. Stress leads to heart attacks, clogged arteries, substance abuse, infidelity – mostly nothing positive. All of which leads to the #1 thing people must do to adjust: Change your expectations.

    If you want that 6 bedroom house, rent a room in someone else’s. Or, if you’ve got that six-bedroom, which you probably can’t sell right now, have the kids share a room and rent out one or two bedrooms. My two sisters and I survived childhood sharing a 10 x 10 room. No lasting scars (ok, maybe a couple…)

    If you want that new car, forget it. There’s no financing right now, even for the 800 FICO club. This is good for you. You have transportation. Extend its’ life (and reduce your gas costs) by riding the bus, carpooling, biking, walking. For some people, these are the only forms of transportation they know. 

    If you want to eat out, arrange neighborhood potlucks or one of those have-a-different-dish-at-each-house parties. If you want  bottled water, skip the tap, buy that .50 a gallon purified water from those machines at the store & refill your bottles. (That saves the landfills, too!) If you want soda or sports drinks, look for coupons, find it on sale, and stock up. Make it a treat, something to look forward to. Have a glass, not the whole bottle. Add that flavored creamer to your coffee for a not-quite-a-latte, but better than coffee fix.  

    You can A) continue to want what you can’t have (right now) and be miserable. Or, you can B) take action to get it, which will give you a lift while you’re striving. But, if you can’t achieve it, you’re back to miserable. OR, you can C) look at things differently. You can’t have that new car, but since that saves you a $500 monthly payment you can have dinner out occasionally, buy the kids a new outfit, take a class to improve your career, and still put a few hundred in savings each month. Less stress is sitting right there, between your ears. What’s that worth?

    For a feel-good story from someone who’s already learned this lesson, check out this article:

    http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/archive/2008/10/08/think-this-is-the-end-write-yourself-a-new-beginning.aspx

    Formerly Known as the Bailout

    Like many of you, I followed the bailout plan this week, renamed the Economic Recovery Package when it failed to pass. Now, lacking a degree in economics, I’ll admit, the ramifications are beyond me. That’s a macro position that I am not equipped to analyze. I’m too busy in my micro position worrying about, well, ME!

    But, I have to tell you, I’m not thrilled. When the market dropped 777 points, one for each of those billion dollars our government wanted to give away, I thought poetic justice. Since the market dropped another 157 points AFTER the bill passed, guess I’m not alone in my disgust. It’s not that the package doesn’t affect me, believe me, I know it does. But that effect is “out there,”  and trust me, today is all the struggle I can handle.

    In my early career I managed a credit department. Here’s how things went. Companies started up. They bid on jobs. They got lots of business, usually because they bid too low (poor management.) They went broke. Other companies bid well and secured jobs. But they had lots of toys – trucks and boats and motorhomes – (greed.) They went broke. The smart companies bid well, completed jobs and lived like there wouldn’t be another job for awhile. They saved. And, they’re still in business today, probably with lots of toys because they managed well and saved for them.

    Bailing out AIG means rewarding poor management and greed. It means tacking another $770 billion in deficit onto the backs of our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. It means that our politicians found a way to get all their earmarks in one place by turning 3 pages into thousands. It means, once again, the taxpayer got the shaft.

    You might say, well, what about the lost jobs if AIG failed, or what about the people who invested in AIG who’d lose everything? I bet we could have written each of them a check to cover their losses for a whole lot less than $770 billion.

    Let me ask you, if you overspent (poor management) and bought things you couldn’t afford (greed), who is bailing you out? As I recall, not too long ago our government tightened bankruptcy rules because our fiscal foolishness was costing companies too much money.  Yet, their  financial failings become another cost to you because somewhere, somehow, $770 billion has to come back to the coffers. That means a tax increase.

    So, while AIG and friends keep making millions running (into the ground) their companies, many of us will find that all our efforts to cut coupons, use the buddy system, do without, take the bus, walk, or bike to save on gas, and buy second-hand aren’t enough. Increased taxes, tightened credit, more “rightsizing,” and spiralling costs will force us into bankruptcy court. Where AIG should have been. But, like I said, I don’t have a degree in economics.

    Vote November 4 – it’s your money!