Oil $139 a barrel? Gas $5 a gallon by July 4th? Forget everything I said last time and just send that stimulus check to your gas card. Well, maybe take out enough to buy a bike or fix the one you have. $600 is only gonna fill your tank maybe six times. You better have another mode of transportation ready.
Okay, glass is half full right? This could actually be a godsend for the chubbiness of America. I can see the headline now, “Forced to ride bikes, America becomes the most svelte nation in the world.”
Not for you? Well, I did a little research. Gas is up 81.9% since June ’07, which means it went for about $2.12 a year ago, leaving us with the need to make up almost $2 for every gallon of gas we use. http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/gdu/gasdiesel.asp)
Now, June ’07 the minimum wage was $5.15. In July it moves to $6.55. That’s a 27% increase, an additional $1.40 an hour (well, not really cuz after taxes…) Let’s just say we see an extra $1 an hr. Still $1 a gallon light and I’m not calculating gas at $5. Better plan for finding $2 a gallon in your budget.
Let’s say you fill up once a week, we’ll use 20 gallons for this exercise. That’s $40, or $160 to $200 a month. Where is it going to come from?
1) The most obvious answer is, we have to use less gas. Whether it’s carpooling, riding the bike, walking, skipping trips, or efficiently routing trips, you may be able to save 2 gallons a week. We’ll say 10 gallons a month, or $20 we pocketed. Only $180 more to go…
2) Cell phones aren’t a necessity, but once you signed that contract, you’re stuck. If you have any extra services, delete ’em. If your kids have those “add a line for 9.99,” do they really need it? If you’re going over on minutes, stop. Let’s face it. You’ll be home more. You can actually talk to your kids, use the regular phone, or instead of texting all those thoughts that cross your mind, send an email. If you have a regular phone and cell phone, maybe cancel the the regular one. We’ll say you found a $20 savings. ($160 left)
3) Cable. Because you’re home more, this may be hard, but drop the premium channels. Go for a walk, play catch, do a puzzle with the kids, read. Actually, I have a use for that time coming up. Savings: $15 a month. (Down to $145…)
4) Barter. “As the economy slows, a growing number of consumers are trying to find a wider market for their goods and services by offering to barter them.” http://www.azcentral.com/business/consumer/articles/2008/06/04/20080604biz-GoodsBarter-04.html
Craigslist is great for free postings. Can you offer some service in exchange for something you need? Babysit for a tuneup? Do lawncare for a computer upgrade? Cook or grocery shop for someone housebound in exchange for your own babysitting? If you have a talent, someone else will need it, and their budget looks like yours. Find them and you both benefit. Here’s hoping you dented that gas bill by another $20. (My God, still another $125 to go…)
5) Swap stuff with others – green in more ways than one. USA Weekend (5/30 – 6/1) offered some sites to help you save the landfills. I see the potential to save some green, too. Neighborrow.com lets you trade or borrow items you don’t use often, and on Freecycle.org people ‘gift’ items they don’t want anymore. I don’t know what you can save here, but for some, probably a decent amount. I won’t give it a value, so $125 and holding.
6) School is just around the corner. Many probably counted on the stimulus checks to fill the kids’ closets. Why not get to know your neighbors and have a clothes swapping party? “Yeah, right. My kid won’t wear hand-me-downs!” you sputter. If they’re old enough to complain, they’re old enough for a little lesson in finance. Use it as a math lesson, Have them do the calculations. Start building a fiscally prudent individual now and you’ll save them years of pain later. Besides, if all the neighbor kids are doing it, it’ll go down easier. Just bring all the clothes together and let them pick. Again, I’m not going to give this a value, but offer it as another way to ‘find’ money. (Getting nervous here, where am I going to find that $125?)
7) Cook. Take your lunch. Fast food is out. It’s a trip you don’t need to make, calories you don’t need, and expensive. Just taking your own coffee or soda for the trip to work and skipping the convenience store will save $20 a month (or more.) Brown bagging it? Probably another $100 easily. We’re down to choices here – convenience or gas? Because I’m guessing, frugal that you are, you’re already limiting this cash vacumn, we’ll estimate you found another $25. Just $100 to go.
8) Sweat. Check out this site for tips on how to save on cooling, which is 16% of the total electric most houses use. http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cooling.html. Your skin will glow, toxins will leave your body, and cash will stay put. Let’s say your “sweat” equity from these tips is $10. Whew, under $100 – $90 more to find… This is tough folks. (Yeah, like you didn’t already know that.)
9) Food. With everyone telling us food is ALSO going up, how do you save here? Be flexible. Eat what’s on sale. Skip anything processed – no chips, cookies, crackers, ready-made whatever. If you don’t have to cook it or can’t eat it raw, don’t throw it in your basket. (well, tp’s okay, I mean, we’re talking food) Be diligent with the coupons – not just using them, but matching them to sale items for more bang. Be creative. Rice +meat + a canned veggie or soup (or both) makes a casserole that goes further and costs less than if you serve mean & rice seperately. Bake – it’s a fun thing to do with the kids and costs less than prepackaged snacks. Make koolaid pops instead of buying ice cream. Drink water instead of soda. Things you may have counted as necessities before (like my Diet Pepsi) are going to have to become treats. You can do it! I see another $20 staying in your wallet (that’s only $5 a week.) $70.
10) Gifts. With Father’s Day next Sunday, I searched yesterday’s ads for a Frugal Find. Which got me thinking. The media has trained us to think love, appreciate, devotion, etc. require a big expenditure. Time to retrain our brains that time, not money, can equate to those things. Instead of a $4 card, make him one like you did as a child (another great bonding project with your own kids, too if you have them help.) Put together a picture album of memories you have with him and tell him what they meant to you. The same concepts apply to any gift giving occasion. Make your effort the gift. Send a free email card – send ten of them. Overwhelm them with what really matters – you, not J.C. Penney’s. Most of us can save $5 a month with this change in attitude. $65…
11) Use the thrift store. Clean out your closets and consign all those great clothes that don’t fit anymore. Sell stuff on ebay that you really don’t need. Maybe you and a neighbor can co-purchase a lawn mower. Or you buy it and charge him $5 a week for lawn service. You’re gonna have to think outside the box for ways to save and/or generate cash. A second job, often the first thing that comes to mind during financial stress, can actually reduce your cash flow – more gas, additional babysitting costs, higher taxes. If you go that route, make sure you did the math exercise and your net cash flow is positive.
12) If you use your stimulus check to pay down bills, you have that monthly expense reduction. If you sent it to the gas card, you saved yourself $200 bucks for three months, or $50 a month over the course of a year. Pay the $150 each month and use $50 from the gas card. You just about cover the $65 shortfall.
And, that leaves me speechless. I can’t think of anymore ways to find that $65. Hopefully, I’ve underestimated your savings and you’re flush. Hopefully, you have tips to share that will cover that deficit and maybe put us in the black. Let’s face it – this isn’t a short-term problem.
Remember: A Frugal Fiction book? Just $3.99 Reading to your child 15 minutes a day? Priceless!
(Hiding from financial realities in fiction? A great way to save your sanity for a few hours.)