Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Penny Saved

So, one of the goals for 2012 is to get that budget more under control.  At our house, it's an ongoing mission to find ways to cut expenses, no matter what's going on with the economy.  Maybe this is your goal, too - at least it should be.  All of us can afford to go on a "spending diet".

Here are some ways we use to trim ours:

Shop after the holidays - it's true!  One year Hubby bought a huge box of wrapping paper (like the kind they use on endcaps in the store - FULL of rolls of paper) for $1.  What to buy?  Anything that's red, green, silver and/or gold.  Red and green cover the next two holidays in the spring, and silver and gold are great for any occasion.  Think of how many gold decorations you see in the fall, and silver ones in the winter.  Also, buy next year's ornaments (watch out for anything with a date), garland, craft supplies, etc.  Anything that is actually Christmas themed.  When I worked outside my home, I used to do this for the Secret Santa exchange at the office.  I was able to give my secret pal a gift every day of the exchange this way, and something really nice on the last day for a FRACTION of what I would have spent otherwise.

And you can do that for any holiday - recently I had my eye on these really cute metal turkey baskets at WalMart.  They were $16.99, which isn't bad.  Before Christmas they are on clearance for a whole lot less.  I'm still waiting to see if they have any left after Christmas, and snag one for even cheaper.

Buy on sale and with a coupon - is anyone else addicted to the show "Extreme Couponing" on TLC?  I am always amazed at what these ladies can pull off at the checkout!  It's worth your effort when you can save that much.

An example of both of these:
To put this in perspective, this is my dining room table with the leaf in it.  These items were purchased 12/26/11 at our local Michael's: 40 1" foam brushes (20/$1), 3 packages of silver snowflake mini-ornaments, 1 Christmas ornament that looks like our dog, 1 snowman mug with lid ($1.49), 21 mini loaf pans (50 cents/each), 3 giant Super Savers, 4 regular Super Savers and all those balls of cotton yarn ($1.49/ball).  That really long white thing in front is our receipt.  We purchased only Christmas items, yarn that was on sale, used a coupon ($5 off every $25 you spend) and my teacher discount (15% off entire purchase).

Buy in bulk - anyone with gluten issues who has to shop at Whole Foods TAKE NOTE:  Case lots are 10% off.  Wait for your items to go on sale, then buy them by the case.  Just as good as on sale and with a coupon.  Oh, and WF has coupons on their website, you can get them through MamboSprouts, and at manufacturers' websites.  One time, I got little bottles of juice that my kids like for about half price using the case lot and coupons when the juice went on sale.  You may also be able to find a health food co-op in your area that will allow you to buy in bulk to save money as well.  I buy most of my spices this way.  And my newest trick from another blog I follow - buy vanilla beans in bulk on eBay.  I bought 30 organic beans the other day for the price I pay for one bottle of organic vanilla.  Now I can make my own extract for a fraction of what I'd pay at the store.

I must warn you, however, to be cautious with joining a warehouse club.  Make sure that a) you make space in your house for your items, and b) if you decide to join a warehouse club that your savings will offset the cost of membership. Also, find out if they take coupons, and compare their prices to what's on sale elsewhere.  You may be surprised.

Do the same for your pet(s) - When our little doggy's canned food goes on sale, we buy it by the case.  Even though the pet store doesn't offer case discounts, we still take advantage of the price.  If you use a commercial brand of dog food, look for coupons as well.

Start saving and using jars for packaging - really!  This year I made some mental notes about what left my house in jars.  Most of it was unprocessed (i.e., not boiled in a canner), so I didn't really need the canning jars I put it in.  If I had saved my spaghetti sauce and salsa jars and used those instead, I could have saved over $20.  While that may not sound like much, an extra $5 on your mortgage every month shaves off YEARS of payments over time.  That was 4-months-worth of extra mortgage.

And you can use Pringles (brand) tubes, too - This tip is from a family friend who bakes and ships cookies for gifts.  Only make items that will fit in the tube after they have been rolled in bubble wrap.  Remember the tip I shared with you about using round cutters for baking cookies?  This friend will only use cookie cutters that will make cookies that fit in a Pringles tube.  You'd be amazed at what else fits in one of these babies, too, like t-shirts, socks, scarves.  They are also incredibly easy to wrap.

Stop the little things that are eating holes in your budget - These tend to be things we think we can't live without.  You don't have to live without them, you just have to find a way to do it cheaper.  Start with your morning coffee.  If you don't have a coffee maker, pick one up at a thrift store or on sale (we bought ours for $5 on sale at Walgreen's).  You can buy a bag of organic free trade coffee for the price of 3 deluxe coffees out.  You help your wallet, you help the environment, and you help farmers in developing nations get a good price for their hard work.  You are a superhero!  I usually get 3-4 POTS of coffee from this little bag.  And I double my use for each pot.  Did you know you can do that?  You can use each filterful of grounds twice.  Yes, the second pot will be weaker, so use less water if you need strong coffee.  I usually use my second go as a reheat of the coffee I didn't finish the day before.  Are flavored coffees your thing?  Put cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in with your grounds.  Make simple syrup and flavor it how you like.  Mocha or white mocha latte?  Add SPH Hot Cocoa Mix or hot white cocoa to a half cup of hot coffee.  Stir and sweeten if desired.  Then fill your cup the rest of the way with milk.  This will help you stick to your diet, too, because you can control the ingredients (no cheating and ordering whole milk instead of skim).

And all those magazines and newspapers?  I used to get 8 magazines a month.  I now only get 2.  That saves us about $100/year on subscriptions alone.  I get them from the library now.  The only 2 I subscribe to are either not carried by the library (which I'm working on), or I need the material in a more timely manner than waiting for the current issue to join circulation.  Of these 2, one will not be renewed this year when it expires.  If you absolutely HAVE TO HAVE your morning news, consider online subscriptions which are free or at least cheaper or going in on a subscription with someone else, maybe a neighbor or co-worker.

By the way, we've actually saved more than that $100 because 3 of the subscriptions were craft magazines. As a crafter with new patterns in my hands, I would frequently be in line at the craft store with fabric for at least 2 quilts, yarn for crocheting and knitting projects, scrapbooking supplies for cards and other papercrafting projects - you get the picture.

Speaking of new patterns, I try to get mine for free on the internet.  I've reached a point where I can find pretty much all the inspiration and patterns for a new project with a quick Google search.  If I can't find what I'm looking for, or I'm making a garment, then I'll pick one up at the fabric store when it's on sale for $1.99 or less.  Every brand carries basic skirts, shorts, and simple dresses.  It's the fabric and details that make them unique.

Wow, that's a lot, but there are even more ways.  Take a look around and see what you can come up with.  Those pennies add up in a hurry!

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