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How To Save Money On Just About Everything

Welcome to My Saving Place where you will find an abundance of tips, tricks and good advice on how to save money on just about everything.

Happy Savings,
The Saving Lady

Stop Wasting Food To Save Money – Week 2: Know Your Refrigerator

Do you know where in your refrigerator to store ketchup, mustard and salad dressing? Do you know where to store leftovers and bottled beverages?  If not, then you really don’t know your refrigerator, and knowing your refrigerator is a key factor in stopping food waste.

what to store where in refrigeratorNo matter the size of your refrigerator, it’s important to understand how it works. There are super high-tech refrigerators that have built-in temperature monitors to keep optimal temperatures throughout the refrigerator and freezer sections. Most, however, have an adjustable scale that goes from  “cold” to “coldest” or one that goes from 1 to 5, and which automatically sets the temperature in the freezer. Rarely in less expensive refrigerators does the freezer have a separate control.  But you have to know that 40 degrees is the optimal temperature to keep things from spoiling and to keep delicate items like lettuce from freezing. At that temperature, the freeze is also set for its maximal temperature.  In order to do this with an adjustable scale, you need a thermometer. Any inexpensive thermometer that you can find at a kitchen supply store will do. Place the thermometer in the middle of the refrigerator until the reading stops climbing. Then move the temperature gauge up or down in small increments, waiting again for the thermometer to reach a fixed temperature. Keep doing this until the optimal temperature of 40 degrees is reached and maintained.

Once this is done, the refrigerator will still be warmer at the top and cooler at the bottom, so it’s important to know what to store where. Less perishable foods like yogurt, bottled beverages, leftovers and ready-to-eat foods should be store on the upper shelves. Uncooked meats and seafood, milk and eggs should be stored on the bottom shelves where it is cooler. The door is the warmest place in the refrigerator. This is where you want to store items that aren’t much affected by temperature like ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, butter, mayo and even batteries.

The freezer is the best way to stop wasting food. It’s where you store leftovers that you won’t be eating in the next couple of days. It’s where you store extra batches of spaghetti sauce or homemade soup.It’s where you store those TV dinners that you create yourself for days when you don’t want to cook. It’s the place where you can store a half gallon of milk for four days while you’re off enjoying yourself on a long weekend. In fact, the freezer is so important that the one in your refrigerator alone is never big enough. Many people, therefore, purchase a separate freezer only to hold the many items for which there simply isn’t enough room in your refrigerator’s freezer. Think how much you would enjoy the taste of soups, stews and chili made with the vine-ripened tomatoes from your summer garden that you froze and put in your freezer, or bell peppers, onions, corn, and any number of garden-grown delights that, when defrosted and cooked, taste almost as good as fresh picked. Or how about that Thanksgiving dinner that you get a craving for after the new year. Freeze those leftovers and enjoy that dinner in the future without all the fuss.

Stop Wasting Food To Save Money – Week 1: Unrealistic Purchases

I was shocked to read in my local paper this morning that Americans waste 35 million tons of food every year. That represents about 40% of the food we produce. Of course, this includes all thefood waste food that grocery stores throw away that isn’t sold by a certain date, food that restaurants throw away for the same reason, food that is left rotting in fields because it was too wet to pick, and food that is damaged in transit. But a whopping 21% of food waste occurs in the home. To put it another way, if you spend $100/week on groceries, you would be throwing $21 a week into the garbage can. That’s $1092 each year. Invest that sum at a modest 5% interest rate, and in 20 years it would be like throwing away over $40,000.

Because this is perhaps the one place that can make the greatest impact on your grocery budget, and because each of the components of food waste takes more than a couple of sentences to define, I’m breaking this into four weekly entries beginning with unrealistic purchases.

rotten lettuceWe’ve all done it. It happened to me today, in fact. I had a BLT for lunch because I wanted to use up some lettuce I purchased last week before I had to throw it out. As it was, I did have to toss more than a few leaves that looked pretty ugly. I will probably make myself a small salad tonight even though I may not want one. Otherwise I will be throwing away the rest of the lettuce, and that’s throwing away money.

Nobody wants to waste food. The reason we do is because we buy too much in the first place, usually by overestimating how much we will cook and underestimating the number of times we’ll eat out, carry-out or reheat leftovers because we’re too tired to cook. Most of us never check to see what we have on hand before heading out to the grocery store. So we end up buying cottage cheese when we already have an unopened container in the fridge. All of this contributes to overbuying.

It is essential to have a plan before heading out to grocery shop. Check cabinets, pantries and the refrigerator before making a grocery list to see what you already have. Allow for two or three lazy days when you might order a pizza or dine out. Create a meal plan for the other days. Buy only what is on your grocery list. Don’t be distracted by end-of-aisle displays that lure you into buying something that isn’t on your list. If you’ve planned well in advance of shopping, that should never happen.

Next week: Know Your Refrigerator

Millenials Living Minimalist To Save Money

The housing crisis of the past decade brought about a sea change of how millenials or Generation Y (those born between 1982 and 1994) think about and handle money. With the highest student debt of any generation and a high rate of unemployment due to double economic catastrophies — 9/11 and the housing bubble — they have ridden a financial seesaw. Their dream of having money is no less than that of every generation, but many are more willing to do without to achieve that goal.

One such millenial, Stephanie McConnell,  is a good example of how to walk the walk and talk the talk by turning all the negative characteristics of Gen Y – greed, entitlement, narcissism, laziness – into positives to reach those Gen Y goals of early retirement with more than enough income to lead a hedonistic life. An example is, “10 ways to keep your entertainment budget under $100 per month” – even in New York City where the cost of a 200 sq. ft. studio apartment can be upwards of $2000 per month.

People of all ages should know that as of right now  the minimalist lifestyle is considered chic. Whether is will be that way in 20 years remains to be seen. I personally downsized three years ago and can tell you that I would never go back to the way things were. I am always conscious of clutter and “stuff,” and always shedding more and more. It is extremely liberating, so much so that at times I find myself with absolutely nothing to do.  That’s a wonderful feeling for someone that loves to read. I can now do so without guilt.

So why not jump on this bandwagon  and discover life.

Check Out Thrift Stores To Save Money on Halloween

A few days ago I dropped into my local Goodwill store to see if I could find a cheap lamp shade. I was surprised to find the store packed with Halloween shoppers. It was as if someone flashed a banner across the sky and told everyone to head to their local thrift store to get Halloween costumes, and they came in droves.

As budgets get tighter, the need to get creative becomes greater. In addition to having a large selection of gently used, ready made Halloween costumes for sale, the store is a virtual supermarket for the creative among us to conjure up a cheap costume.  Having trouble thinking of costume ideas? Head over to Pinterest  for some really creative DIY ideas or try any one of these 101 ideas for clever, and cheap.

If you’re into decorating for Halloween, look no further than your local dollar stores which stock hundreds of items for every holiday.

Get creative, and no one will ever know you did everything on a budget.

Slow Cooking Save Time and Money

slow cookerNo matter what the season — summer, fall, winter or spring — a slow-cooked meal saves both time and money. Before leaving for work place all ingredients into a slow cooker, set the time and temperature and forget about it until you get home. Then, without any muss or fuss, sit down to a delicious home-made meal. Yes, it’s that simple.

Today, people lead very busy lives. It’s the biggest reason fast foods and prepared foods in supermarkets have become such big items. It’s also what adds to the cost of groceries. Slow cooking from scratch costs half as much or more than buying prepared foods.

Of course, there is still some preparation time involved with many slow cook recipes which usually consists of peeling and slicing vegetable. This can be done the evening before or you can get up a few minutes earlier in the morning. The slow cooker does the rest of the work.

Money saved. Time saved. And there’s a slow cooker to suit everybody’s needs and budget. There are slow cookers of every size to suit one person or families large and small. In fact, if you don’t want another kitchen gadget to take up counter or storage space, a simple dutch oven will serve the same purpose. You need only set the time and temperature on your stove’s oven.

And there is no lack of recipes for this versatile cooking appliance. Here’s a few to tickle your taste buds.

Bulk Up Your Wallet With Bulk Purchases

No, I’m not talking about stocking up on 100 rolls of toilet paper or 100 pounds of ground beef just because prices are cheap. Rather, I’m suggesting you look at the bulk food section of your supermarket. And if the market you shop at doesn’t have one, maybe you should start looking around for one that does.

bulk-food-bins-in-a-grocery-storeBulk foods can be real money savers, especially when you need only a small amount of something. Take spices for example. It’s not unusual to pay $3.00 and more for a small jar of cardamom that you may only use once or twice a year. The spice itself may only cost a very small amount, but the fancy jars and pretty labels make up the bulk of the price.  Instead, cardamom in bulk costs only a fraction of what you pay for it in a jar — and you only have to buy as much as you need.

The same economics apply to cereals, pastas, flours, sugars, lentils, nuts, candies, and a host of other priducts in bulk. Over the course of a year, the savings by shopping the bulk food section could amount to hundreds of dollars.

Wondering how you’ll store all these new-found purchases? Get creative. Save the jars from the spices for which you overpaid. Old mayonnaise jars are great storage containers. All those plastic containers from sour cream and cottage cheese are perfect for holding nuts. For cereals, flours and pastas, you’ll find 2.5 quart plastic paint containers with lids at Home Depot for less than $2.00, or hop over to your nearest dollar store for some really cheap storage containers.

Want to save $1378.00?

Of course you would. Who wouldn’t?  And, no, you don’t have to buy anything to save this kind of money, but you do have to commit to taking a certain amount of money each week and putting it away into a cookie jar or, better yet, a savings account that pays a high rate of interest.

If you agree to take the 52 Week Money Challenge and succeed, you will have saved $1378 plus interest in exactly one year or 52 weeks. The premise behind the Challenge is that it takes 66 days for form a new habit. One year is more than enough time to get into the habit of saving money.

The savings can come from any number of places. It can be taken directly from your paycheck. Or it can be derived from money you saved grocery shopping based on your budget. For example, if you budget $150/week for groceries and you spend only $140 in week No. 10 of the Challenge, you have just saved the $10 needed to be saved for that week.  Whatever you don’t spend based on your budget, is money that can be used to reach you weekly savings goal.

There are multiple ways to play the Challenge game. There are advocates of the Reverse 52 Week Challenge.  Other forms of the Challenge opt for shorter time periods and options for those that get paid bi-weekly.

Whatever way you choose to take the 52 Week Money Challenge, you will, hopefully, after all is said and done, have become an expert at saving money.

Saving Money Is Hard Work

Everybody says they want to save money, but it’s easier said than done. Even the very wealthy profess to wanting to save, even if it’s for a just cause like reducing landfill waste or stopping global warming.

Humans over centuries have gone from consuming simply food, clothing and shelter, to consuming everything on the planet and beyond and wanting more even before it exists. The entire global economy is based completely on consumption. Consumption has been bred over these centuries into the human genome. It is now an integral part of our DNA, and as such, saving even a penny has become very hard work.

We are born to consume with or without the means to acquire our consumables. We go deeply into debt to get what we want — both people and businesses. And some become overwhelmed with debt forcing a bankruptcy — both people and businesses. If consumption stops in a country, whole economies crumble. If a person stops consuming, his life does not crumble. In fact, he will probably be better off than he ever thought possible.

FoodTo break the endless cycle of consumption, one must get back to basics — food, clothing, shelter. Originally, man lived off the land picking berries and hunting fish and game in order to feed himself. Then he learned to farm and raise his own food. Today we have supermarkets with tens of thousands of products to choose from instead of a farm. Think about your ancestors and how they were able to sustain large families just on what they raised on a farm. Try to replicate their menu — fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh cut meats, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, flour, honey, etc. They didn’t have Cheetos and Fritos and Fruit Loops and Trix. Simply eliminating processed foods from your grocery list will cut your grocery bill significantly.

Animal skins were man’s first clothing. Fashion was created by the wearing of skins from different animals. Thousands of years later we are still wearing animal skins in Classic Clothingmuch the same way, but aside from animal skins,  fashion today has gone to the extreme. If you stand on a busy street corner and look at what people are wearing, sure you’ll notice the over-the-top dressers, the Taylor Swift look-alikes, the latest and greatest fads. I guarantee, however, that the person who will stand out the most is the one wearing clean, straight lines in neutral shades of high quality. It’s called classy. It’s a look that stands apart from everything else. It’s a look that turns heads — in a good way. It’s a looks that can be achieved for a lot less than a wardrobe that replicates all of the day’s fads, and one that will last year after year — sort of like animal skins. And this applies to  both men and women. Go for the classy look instead of the “in” look and you will save thousands of dollars on clothing.

Small HouseIn the 1950’s, the average size of a home was just under 100 sq. ft. Today, the average size of a home is closer to 2500 sq. ft. Funny thing, families today are smaller than they were in the 1950’s yet homes are 2-1/2 times as large. Does this make sense? It doesn’t to me. Caves were the original shelters. Some caves were larger than others because they housed multiple families. Others were smaller because there were fewer residents. Well, we don’t live in caves anymore, but it seems reasonable to configure your shelter to the size of your family. Three people do not need to live in a 5-bedroom home unless you’re operating a B&B.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the larger a home the more expensive it is to maintain. Reduce the cost of your shelter, save the difference, and you might be able to retire 10 years earlier than you plan.

Saving money is hard work because as consumers we inherently have to spend money. And, of course, we can’t stop spending money, but we can spend it more wisely. This probably will require changing some very bad spending habits. In the process, however, you will find that saving money becomes easier and easier because if you get back to basics, ironically, there is simply more money to save.

7 Ways College Students Can Save Money

Well, it’s finally back to the old grind for college students, and if you’re like most, money is always tight. You need to stretch those dollars as far as they will go. Here are a few money-saving tips to help your dollars go farther.

1. Before you even leave for school, make out a budget. When you get to school, stick to it.

2. Don’t buy books at the college book store (unless you absolutely can’t find them anywhere else). Check out Amazon to see if the text books you need are available to rent as an ebook. Renting can be half the cost of buying. Also check used books. They may be even cheaper.

3. Don’t eat out. It’s expensive. Repeat – EXPENSIVE!! Most schools have a cafeteria meal plan if you live in a dorm. Buy a used mini-fridge for your dorm room to store snacks and more. If your school allows, also buy a used microwave. Whole meals can be made in a microwave in minutes at any time of the day or night. Check Goodwill or other thrift stores for these items.

4. Many establishments in the vicinity of a college or university offer discounts to college students. Find out who they are and check their prices first. They may be your best deals when you need something.

5. Avoid Starbucks or other coffee shops like the plague. Learn to make your own coffee. Boiling water in that microwave will help you out here. Or purchase a used coffee pot. For the price of 4 grandes, you can make four 12-cup pots or more.

6. Preferably use cash for all of your purchases. It’s too easy to run up debt on a credit card that you can’t pay off in full when the monthly statement arrives. A debit card can serve the same purpose as cash as long as you always know what your checking account balance is. If you don’t have the money for something, don’t buy it.Simple!

7. A local dollar store can be your best friend for a lot of things. Your next best friends are local thrift shops. Shopping at these stores is more than being frugal; it’s being smart with you money.

And if you haven’t left for school yet, here are eight more ways to save.