The same reason I hate the word “diet” is why I am repelled by the word “budget.” Makes me feel like I’m starving and undernourished. However, as someone who now is being forced to trim costs in this economy, I have found some painless solutions to increase your cash and save you sleepless nights.
Plus, they’re so easy that, once you accomplish them, you will feel virtuous and safe.
1. According to the Department of Labor, the average American family of four will spend $8,513 on groceries per year. But prices have soared — milk is now twice as expensive as last year — at a time when we need them to be reduced. Making bigger shopping trips less often, however, will slash what you spend and reduce waste. Most of us go to the market at least three or four times a week and according to the Marketing Science Institute, buy 54 percent more than planned. Make a list and stick to it. The average impulse buy is $10 - $40 a week. You could be saving as much as $160 a month.
2. When at the grocery store buy generic. It saves you a fortune — as much as ten cents to a $1 on each item ranging from cereals, canned tomatoes to club sodas. You can also have similar savings on items at the pharmacy ranging from aspirin to mouthwash. Another money slimmer is buying in bulk at places like Costco once a month. This is where I have loaded up on items like detergent, paper towels and dog food. But as divorced moms, if you are also doing triple duty as soccer mom, career mom and gymnastics mom, another solution is using the delivery services like Stop n’ Shop. They charge a little extra for delivery but drop off all the bulk items so you save time and costs of transportation and lugging all the groceries to your house. As long as you buy a huge amount at one time — and they do have good savings there — it is truly worth it.
3. When you use the washing machine, use the cold cycle. Makes no difference on whether the clothes are clean and saves a whopping 50 percent of energy costs. Also since as much as 60 gallons of water is used for each cycle, make sure that the washing machine is full. Ditto for the dishwasher.
4. According to Kiplinger’s, appliances that include a clock or operate by a remote, as well as chargers, are sucking electricity even when you're not using them. Of the total energy used to run home electronics, 40% is consumed when the appliances are turned off. The obvious way to pull the plug on so-called energy vampires is to do just that — pull the plug.
Or buy a device to do it for you, such as a Smart Power Strip ($31 to $44) which will stop drawing electricity when the gadgets are off, and pay for itself within a few months. By the way, an unused toaster uses 1000 watts per hour compared to a laptop that uses 75 for the same period of time.
5. OK ladies, enough with the lattes. I know, you love your morning mojo. But going to Starbucks for a $4 coffee should be eliminated. That’s $20 a week and $80 a month on coffee that you could get for pennies by brewing yourself. If you are so stuck on Starbucks, buy the beans for less than $12 and make it yourself. At the office, have staffers share the cost of a bag. We’re all in this together and need the morning pick me up without price gorging. And the $80 you save could go into buying google stock or stocking up on a sweater on sale that will last forever.
6. ATM alert. How many times do you take out money and spend the $1.50 surcharge? Not worth it. If you take out a certain amount each week and stick to your budget, you save money on ATM’s and don’t overspend. Furthermore, when you spend in cash and not on credit card, you will be more savvy in evaluating whether a purchase is worth it or not. Look at using cash as cachet.
7. Fridges and freezers account for up to 33% of the electricity bill. To keep them efficient, ensure that the metal grids and coils at the back have enough space for air to circulate, and that they are dust-free.
8. Invest in heavy curtains to keep the heat in and close them each night. Up to 25% of heat escapes through windows if they are not double glazed.
9. Turn the heating thermostat down by just one degree and save up to 10% of your overall electricity bill.
10. Get No-Interest Checking. No-interest checking is so old fashioned says Kiplinger’s. Instead, give your money more opportunity to shine with an interest-bearing online checking account through such reputable companies as Everbank, Charles Schwab, E*Trade and ING Direct. They currently pay between 2.25% and 3.25%.