Sunday, April 10

Common Cents - Some Tips for saving them

This recession has been on for a very long time. Now the government is having a "shut down" (leaving active military with only half a paycheck to work with until they get it together & pass a budget), some rely on supplemental security income, others are single income families, and Lord knows there are a million and one different reasons why families have to function on less than the ideal budget. Whatever your reason may be; I've been looking for and putting to use these tips & tricks I'll be sharing with you today.
These are suggestions, you may choose to use some or all of them, but I hope that if you do use them you'll consider that many of these suggestions take a little more hands on work, and while they don't take much time to make or put to use, they will save a very pretty penny. The following prices are based on California prices as of April 2011, The cost of a box of baking soda is anywhere between 1 and 3 dollars, a box of borax runs about the same, and a gallon bottle of vinegar is about $5 or so. These are the basics for most of the recipes here & a bar of soap is only a few cents to a dollar.

1. Making your own:

Soaps/cleanser: If you take a bar of soap, and grate it in to a bowl, then add enough distilled water (you can find gallon containers of distilled water for about a dollar in any grocery/drug store) to make it a thick liquid, pour it into a washed flip top bottle. You've made your own body wash. (Note: boys can use this for hair as well saving on actual shampoo).

By mixing a teaspoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, and some peppermint or your preferred flavor extract, then just enough water to make a paste; you can make very effective toothpaste. Put it in a small jar with a lid and mix it with a clean toothpick or the like before each use, put the same amount on your tooth brush as usual and brush away.

Laundry soap:
Grate a bar of Zote, Fels Naptha, or ivory soap into a bowl, add a cup of baking soda, and a cup of borax to it, pour it into a zip lock bag and shake or move around to mix well. Add 1 tablespoon to each load. It lasts a good while and cleans clothes just as well if not better than the stuff you pay $17.00 for at the store every month.

Carpet freshener:
In a jar with a lid, mix 1 cup of baking soda, and a tablespoon of your favorite spice such as cinnamon or ginger; shake the jar to mix well. Sprinkle this on your carpet then vacuum it up. It keeps your carpet fresh, eliminates any odors, and makes your home smell good as well.

2. Barter:

Offer a service such as babysitting, meal preparation, or something you are good at, in exchange for a product you need or a service you might not be so handy with. In this way both parties benefit because you'll have saved each other an expense that could very well mean saving either one of you from overdraw or other unfortunate hardship.

3. Change some cleaning methods:

Washing dishes
Fill 1 side of the sink with hot water, add a cup of white vinegar (don't worry the smell will not be there for long), sprinkle some baking soda on your dish sponge and use it to scrub your dishes, once all debris is un stuck place the dish in the vinegar water and when that side is full of clean dishes, you can remove them and rinse them before setting in the strainer or drying them and putting them away. Baking soda cuts grease better than anything I've ever seen & using this method I've cleaned pans I had long sense lost hope for. The vinegar is nontoxic so if water usage is an issue there is no need to rinse the dishes after dipping them in the water.

All-purpose Cleaner:
Fill a spray bottle with the juice from half a lemon, half a cup of vinegar, a teaspoon of baking soda and top it off with water; to clean everything from surfaces to vegetables. Baking soda is safe to use on glass surfaces because it's a fine powder just strong enough to remove grime, but gentle enough not to scratch.

After sweeping the bare floor, sprinkle baking soda on the area to be mopped, in a bucket of hot water add a cup of vinegar. Mop floor as usual cleaning up the baking soda as you go. It is interesting to have someone see the bucket when you're done, because the surprise in his or her voice is genuine.

4. Menu plan:

It's always a good idea to have some sort of reserve just in case. Some foods I like to keep in my pantry are basic staple items that can be thrown together in a pinch. Create a menu plan based on lower costing foods such as rice, beans, pasta with canned or jarred sauces, and canned goods. I like to keep these foods in my pantry for emergencies. Think about what foods you and your family enjoy and see if you can figure out a way to make those meals using lower priced ingredients.

Home cooking:
If you buy a burger you eat 1 time, if you make burgers at home, you're more likely to have left-overs and feed the family at least 1 more time before your food is gone and for the same amount of money. The same rules apply for most any other food you can think of. Save restaurant outings for big celebrations such as birthdays or holidays.

Well ladies and Gents, I'm going there. No, Starbucks. I realize that coffee shops and juice smoothies are simply awesome, if they don't feed the fam it's time to give em up for a bit. Buy coffee you can make at home then try adding your own spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg to your cup. It's just as easy to come up with flavors of your own, and who knows; you may even find that you like your creations better than the ones that cost 4 dollars a cup. Try brewing tea as well, grocery stores carry a wide variety of teas and there is bound to be 1 that you enjoy.

5. Shop with care:

Make a list and stick to it:
When shopping for groceries, make a list before hand of all the things you will need for your meals. Take that list with you and stick to it. It's tempting to grab that extra candy bar; bag of chips, or even soda on the way out, but it is not really a necessity so leave it for another time.

While I'd love to say go through your Sunday paper and clip out the coupons, I know that I couldn't do that if I wanted to because I can't see them. So, get online, google whatever company or product and then add the word coupon in the search field. You should be able to either print out coupons for these things or find online coupon codes you can use during checkout. Don't hesitate to ask friends or family to help you look for coupons and you can keep them in a set of envelopes labeled by category. Also, while a great bargain can be helpful, sometimes we buy things we don't really need because we can get them at a cheaper price. Instead, look for a bargain on a specific item you need & leave the rest for later.

6. Write out a budget:

Creating a budget allows you to see how much you have and then decide how much you can afford to spend on each bill. If you can set a certain amount each month, or each pay period you can save yourself time, stress and of course money. Take each bill you have and divide your earnings evenly amongst them. Be sure to add the category of groceries, savings, and household expenses. That way you can tell how much to spend on payday.

7. Reduce:

You can also reduce your expenses by calling the utility, gas, phone, cable companies etc, and asking about downgrading minutes, package plans, or baseline programs offered by the utility and gas company. Some of these programs may require a doctor's report, but it's worth the trouble to reduce the monthly cost. A LAN line phone company may also offer a reduced rate program.  Ask if your state has a telephone Accessibility Program. These are programs that offer free accessible adaptive phone equipment to people with disabilities.

There are so many ways a person can save from the simple common sense changes like turning off lights and appliances every time you leave a room to extreme changes such as making your own baby wipes (some people make wipes from flannel instead of buying toilet paper or cotton fabric napkins for dining and clean up) and using cloth diapers either for a baby or for feminine needs. If you can sew this may be an option you may wish to consider. But no matter what changes you make, always remember that money isn't everything and money is not what makes us who we are, it's our family and the time you spend together. Getting the kids involved with making soap, baking your own snacks, or just a good board game instead of cable TV can create some awesome memories. An added benefit, these are skills that our children can use in case they run in to hard times when they grow up, and they can pass them on to the next generation.

I hope you take these suggestions and recipes with you and that they help you save as much as they've helped me. I'm not rich, I'm not anywhere near it, but I still have enough to keep my family safe, healthy, and happy. I wish the same and more for you.

Do you have any tips to share? If you do, I'd really love to hear them. Please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Until next time, God bless you all and as always; make it a great day!