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Thursday, February 11, 2010

8 Simple Ways to Save Money Now

It seems that many conversations among friends focus on ways to stretch budget dollars. Everyone knows someone who is out of work or whose income has been reduced. And even for those whose situation is stable and comfortable, the recession has made frugal and thrifty everyday words. There are hundreds of ways to save money ranging from practical, hardly-noticeable adjustments in everyday tasks to major lifestyle changes. Here in today's Thrifty Thursday post we'll look at 8 of the easiest ways to save a little money:

  1. Make your coffee at home or in the office. Instead of buying your morning dose of caffeine at a drive-through, convenience store, coffee shop or vending machine, brew your own. The average American drinks 3.2 cups of coffee a day with prices ranging from $.79 to $5.00  - the average price is $1.38. By contrast, the cost of the average cup of home-brewed coffee is $.10  based on an 11.5 oz. can of coffee priced at $3.00. (I buy coffee that is usually priced at $4.99 for an 11.5 oz bag, so my one cup a day sets me back about $0.12.)  If the average coffee drinker pays the average price per cup, he shells out about $4.42 a day, which translates to $22.05 per work week. The thrifty coffee drinker will spend $1.60 for the same amount of coffee during that work week. When you add the savings up over the course of a year, it's more than trivial.  To make it easier to adopt this thrifty practice, invest in a nice thermal, stainless-steel coffee travel mug.
  2. Wash your clothes in cold water; then line dry. This isn't one of those big-money savers, but why spend money if you don't have to? Heating the water is the bulk of the energy costs in washing clothes. By using only cold water, the average yearly savings will be about $61. Air drying takes a little more effort and won't work for everyone all the time. But just about anyone can air dry some items some of the time. We air dry underwear, washable sweaters, sweatshirts and just about anything made of cotton using a drying rack, hangers, bathroom towel racks and the shower curtain bar. In the summer, I also air dry just about everything outside - I love the smell of laundry that has dried in the sun! If air dried clothes are too "crispy" for you, try air drying them until they are only slightly damp, then giving them a quick spin in the dryer to soften them up.  According to Project Laundry List, the average family can save around $300 a year by air drying their wash. And there's a bonus: your clothes will last much longer.
  3. Take the junk out of your trunk.  Did you know that for every 100 extra pounds that you carry around in your car you lose 1% fuel efficiency. Right now, I'm guilty of having too much stuff in my car: the folding table I used at a broker's open house; a couple of bags of clothes that I plan to drop off at a charity thrift shop, 2 pairs of boots (I always carry 1 pair because I frequently show farms and land in my job as a real estate agent - but I really don't need 2 pairs), 2 or 3 umbrellas, and a box of cardboard from the office that has to be cutup for the recycling bin. I know all this stuff is reducing my car's fuel efficiency and that's just wasteful. Tomorrow, I'm going to get that junk out of my trunk!
  4. Drink Tap Water. Bottled water bought by the case costs about $.30 a bottle. When purchased singly at a convenience store or vending machine, the price may be triple that, or more. And much of the water in those bottles is municipal tap water! Most Americans have access to clean, potable tap water. Take advantage of it! Pour water from your tap into reusable containers (but first make sure that the container you use is BPA-free - you can read about BPA in an earlier post). If you don't love the taste of your local water, get a water filter. Our water tastes a bit of chlorine so we use a Britta filter for most of the water we consume (making ice cubes, cooking, drinking, making coffee and tea). The filter costs about $.83 a day (based on a $5 per filter cost and a useful life of about 60 days each). Even with the price of the filter, it's far less expensive than bottled water. Eliminating plastic water bottles from your life is also a great step in the green direction.
  5. Quit smoking. I'm probably preaching to the choir on this one. But there are still plenty of smokers out there (on Tuesday, I saw three of them huddled outside the back door at my office). Smokers with a pack-a-day habit are spending around $5 each day for their cigarettes...that's over $1,800 a year.  If you quit, not only will you save money, you'll improve your health, which, in the long haul, will save even more.
  6. Avoid ATM fees. ATMs are a great invention. They make having access to your money easy. But, all too often, the cost can be alarmingly high. At some ATMs, you may pay as much as $2.00 per transaction, no matter how much of your own money you withdraw. So, if you take the maximum ($200 in one business day is typical), you might pay $2.00 or 1% to access your own money!  And if you've only taken out $20 (this is common for young people who don't have large balances and take money out of their accounts prior to going to the movies or out for pizza), then the "interest" on their money is a whopping 10%! To avoid ATM fees, you can take the advice of Some of the suggestions include moving to Iowa or Connecticut where ATM fees are illegal, switching to a bank with no ATM fees and that has branches that are convenient for you, and by looking for ATMs with a "No Surcharge" label. Check out for tips on finding ATMs that don't charge fees.
  7. Use cloth napkins. This is one of those small money-savers that is in the "why spend money if you don't have to" category. Over the course of a year, the average family might spend about $50 on paper napkins. You can pick up attractive cloth napkins for $4 a piece. Say you buy 8. That's $32. With the cost of laundering the napkins, it's probably a wash over the course of a year when compared to the cost of paper napkins. But the cloth napkins will last for more than a year. I have some that are 10 years old. Cloth napkins are even less expensive if you make them yourself out of fabric remnants.  
  8. Keep the freezer full.  A full freezer works more efficiently because it takes energy to cool empty space. We tend to fill up our freezer in the late summer and early fall with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Then as the winter progresses, the freezer starts to empty out. To keep it working efficiently, you can add plastic milk jugs filled about 3/4 of the way with water. These will freeze and help keep the temperature even.


    1. Such great ideas and some are so easy to enforce. We just got a bill for $450 dollars for gas and electric. Our house(gas) is usually set at 59 - 60 degrees (thank heavens for the California sun to warm us) but the electrical cost really eats - Warren has tons of computer servers in the garage. We just got rid of the big energy computer hogs, but we really need to get on the bandwagon for solar panels.

    2. Hi Nadine,
      It's hard to get away from our energy needs..for you, it's electricity-hungry computer equipment. For me, it's endless filling the gas tank for all the driving I do as a real estate agent. That makes it so much more important to cut where we do have some leeway. It's not easy, is it!!!

    3. I'm good on all of these except #8. I find all the rest of the tips to be money saving factors for me, too! So I can vouch for you if needed! ;) I knew about the full freezer...but never have the heart to just go buy food to sit in the freezer. I really like fresh food. But...plastic milk jugs filled with water...soooo going to do that!

    4. Hi Amber, thanks for visiting. I only recently learned about freezer efficiency. An old high school friend encountered on Facebook shared the milk jug trick - it was something her dad used to do. If you have other money saving tips, I hope you'll share them with me in the future!

    5. As a young mother I find the cost of disposable diapers outrageous! It also strikes me that cloth is the eco-friendly solution. If you rinse them thoroughly and use the sink you also avoid a lot of unnecessary detergent and hot water! I find the twins' rashes only occasionally flare up.

      Cloth diapers not only saves money but you can use the fecal matter in the garden. The roses have never looked better.

    6. Hi Christie,
      lol - you had me for a minute!