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10 Ways I Save Money

10 Ways I Save Money

Kind of catchy, huh? Everyone I know is either going through financial struggles or working hard to meet some financial goals. In our case we are working to buy a house. 🙂 Yay!

In honor of our shared desire to save money, you and I are going to chat about how to get sneaky with the budget. I have decided to share my various tips and tricks over the next few posts. Some are obvious, some are very, VERY strange. (Be forewarned.)

Today’s tips:

  1. Recycled Vinyl Record Sleeve Gift Bags: Basically, you get crafty with a charming old (but worthless) vinyl record sleeve. Make sure the opening is at the top instead of the side (using colorful tape, or however you want to do it); attach handles; a “to & from” card; tissue paper; glam it up however else you choose; and voila– you have a unique gift bag for the price of a few minutes spent doing a craft. Look around… What do you have that can be recycled into something new?
  2. Menu Plan: This one is kind of obvious but we all might need to be reminded. I know what we will eat for the next week, and have planned my grocery shopping accordingly.  Leftovers go in the freezer in individual servings for my husband to take to work. Almost every day for lunch we eat either leftovers from dinner or a quick sandwich. Writing down my menus ahead of time has saved me a lot of time and money! When I forget–that is when I find myself running to the store for a tub of sour cream and come home bearing a dozen impulse items because I shopped on an empty stomach.
  3. Finish your food: My girls can be pretty picky eaters. I have had it. If they don’t eat it for breakfast, I will cover it and save it for their lunch. No sense in letting wholesome food go to waste. Most of us spend many hundreds of dollars in food every month–why should we let it go in the trash?
  4. Men, (Beware this warning will be in caps. I am serious.) PLEASE LEAVE THE CONVERSATION AND COME BACK TOMORROW. THIS TIP IS NOT FOR YOU. I SAY THIS TO PROTECT YOUR FEELINGS. In the future my tips will be friendly for all ears but this one pertains to a monthly occurence which applies only to us ladies. OK I think I can proceed now. Diva Cup: Yes, I said that. It is kind to the environment, very comfortable (spoken like a true veteran) and more reliable than most tampons and napkin, and inexpensive.  http://divacup.com/  about $22 plus shipping, this is a steal compared to what most of us pay for disposable female products. In the past I experimented with recycled flannel/jersey “things”–which work just fine for a lot of women. Since it is already recycled (from an old sheet, t-shirt) etc. one can feel better about either washing or throwing it away. Either way it is kinder to the environment, health, and budget than the usual disposables. After trying cloth for a while I decided I wanted something lower maintenance with less chance of, errr, spillage. The Diva Cup is easy to use (simply rinse and re-insert every 12 hours) which is more my style.  See risks for conventional feminine hygiene here http://femininecare.mercola.com/   The point is, spending around $60 per year on disposable feminine products is neither ideal nor necessary.
  5. Hankies:I don’t know if you are still listening, or if totally shocked you with that last tip. but this one is real and can be very kind to a raw nose when getting over a cold. Who needs to spend $10 or so on a multi-pack of tissues that feel scratchy anyway? Not to mention unkind to the environment. I recently took some 100% cotton flannel and cut it up into hankies. A little stich on the edges with the sewing machine to prevent fray, and I have over a hundred reuseable hankies for under $11. So soft. Do I need over a hundred hankies for my family? Certainly not. What was I thinking? (another tip: buying too much flannel is not a way to save money.) 😛

That was 5 out of 10 Ways to Save. I will continue to share both my strange and common money-saving strategies.  Please also let me in on your tips.

Cheers,

Western Woman

Bring Your Own Lunch

Eating out accounts for almost half of the average food budget.  If you make $20K, you might spend $2600 annually on food (according to the typical 13%). 46% of total food budget for eating out comes to $1196. That is a hefty amount for any budget and waistline!

Personally, I never eat out—unless it is a quaint coffee shop with yellow siding, handmade pottery, and “valet parking” which simply must be experienced by me and my sisters. Or perhaps a family-owned little sandwich shop with organic ingredients, a peaceful setting, and reasonable prices for the occasional splurge.

We all know how to make coffee; it’s not hard. I could show you how to make virtually any coffee drink at home, in less time than it takes to wait in line, pay, and find a table. So consider it a dare on this on this fabulous Money-Monday: Bring-your-own-lunch, and save-your-own-money.

  1. Coffee: Make your own to enjoy and share. Healthier, cheaper, and every bit as deliciously as what you will find at your local bistro. (Tip for the amateur: Use good cream!)
  2. Work lunches: How much time does it take to run over to a restaurant or drive-thru on your lunch break? You can pre-make a salad or sandwich at home in about 10 minutes. That saves you at least 20 minutes to call Mom or read the paper.
  3. Family/Friends get-togethers:  Just because you want a “neutral” setting doesn’t mean you have to eat out. Go to a park with a picnic, potluck, or even just dessert; or agree to meet for a different activity such as bowling, dancing, or a museum. You will find your dollars enrich you and your friendships more by engaging in a memorable activity, rather than centering the encounter around food.
  4. Track the money saved. Do this meticulously, or it will fall through the cracks. Put it first toward debt, then savings, and finally toward a goal like a kayaking trip, a car, or a garden.

Bring-your-own-lunch: Can you do it? You bet. You already read this article, which shows you have the want-to. And that’s really all it takes, want-to and persistence. Go get ‘em.

Here are a couple ideas for lunch on the go. What home-made recipes do you rely on?

Egg Salad Sandwiches

(the easiest, nutrition-packed option I know of)

Make enough to last 2-3 meals for the whole family, so count out one egg per sandwich.

  1. 1.       Boil eggs and water 10 minutes
  2. 2.       Peel eggs while still warm
  3. 3.       Add mayo to taste (homemade mayo is the best!)
  4. 4.       A squirt of mustard
  5. 5.       A dash of Cayenne pepper
  6. 6.       Add whatever else you want… diced onions, celery, spinach, pickles, you name it.
  7. 7.       Store in an air-tight container in refrigerator. Make sandwiches fresh.

Make sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, or spinach leaves to separate the bread from the egg salad, avoiding “soggy sandwich” by lunchtime.

You can adjust this recipe for tuna, chicken, or grape salads. As a variation to the sandwich, you can add to a bed of fresh greens for low-carb salad.

Chicken Pasta Salad

(When making hot spaghetti or macaroni, plan to make extra pasta to save time on the salad.)

  1. 1.       Grill or bake chicken; cool and cut into thin strips.
  2. 2.       Mix chicken with cooked, cooled pasta (2 parts meat, 1 part pasta)
  3. 3.       Add fruits and veggies (3-2-1; so, three parts fruits and veggies) Use grapes, apple, diced celery, onion, bell peppers, peas, black olives, black beans, etc.)
  4. 4.       Mix is blender ½ clove garlic, salt, and equal parts balsamic vinegar and extra vigin olive oil. Add to salad and mix well.

Store in individual serving-sized containers for a quick lunch. Bring an apple for a healthy dessert, and to clean your teeth.