As we start seeing Christmas advertisements and more credit card offers in preparation for the holiday season, I feel compelled to share some of the tips and tricks we are using this year to make the most of our gift-giving season while feeling fulfilled.
Ways to Save Money:
Around the House
1.) Put your tv/entertainment system and Internet power supplies on power strips. TURN THEM OFF when not in use (including overnight). We saw nearly a $50 savings in one month from this alone.
2.) UNPLUG YOUR CELL PHONE CHARGERS and other device chargers when not charging the device. They draw power even if nothing is plugged in.
3.) Open the windows as much as possible to save on heating/cooling bills. Again, huge savings.
4.) If you must use the heater or A/C, use a programmable thermostat, and turn it up/down when there’s no one home.
5.) Instead of reaching for the thermostat, change your clothes or turn on a fan. In the cooler weather, put on sweats, socks, or even a stocking cap to keep warm and keep the heater down (like 68*). Plus, you can cuddle under blankets on the couch with your sweetie to stay warm!
6.) Unplug fans, lamps, Scentsy warmers, and anything else drawing power while not in use.
7.) Drop the expensive Smart Phone plan for your 10-year-old. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but smart phones are literally causing some families to go hungry. Read the article here: http://theweek.com/article/index/233979/are-smartphones-wrecking-family-budgets. Guitardude and I dropped texting from our cell phone provider and are saving $30 per month. We use Google Voice, a free download (www.google.com/voice.). It allows you to text and call for no charge.
8.) Sell old clothes to a consignment store or use an auction site, like eBay.
9.) Have a garage sale (weather-permitting). Literally pull stuff off the walls and get rid of things you don’t need. If you haven’t used it in the last year, chances are you don’t need it!
In the Laundry Room
10.) Combine loads of laundry in the dryer. You may have to wash darks and lights separately, but if the loads are small enough to fit in the dryer together, dry them at the same time. 1 dryer cycle vs. 2 = 40 mins of electricity pull vs. 80 mins. = SAVINGS!
11.) If you use dryer sheets, cut them in half or reuse them 2 or 3 times before throwing them out. Don’t use them on towels, btw – they coat the towels with stuff that prevents them from absorbing as much water as possible.
12.) Stop buying dryer sheets and commercial detergent. Guitardude and I have started making our own detergent – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-laundry-detergent-soap/ – and will make the fabric softener recipe as soon as we run out of the dryer sheets we have – recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-fabric-softener-dryer-sheets/.
13.) Use the clothesline (or drying rack) whenever possible. The point is to keep the dryer from running as often.
14.) Do only full loads of laundry. Be smart about your clothes – wear pants a couple of times before throwing them in the hamper.
In the Kitchen
15.) Get started on eMeals right away! Emeals is a program Dave Ramsey endorses that sends you a weekly shopping list and menu based on what’s on sale at the grocery stores this week. You can choose where you shop – Wal-Mart or Kroger, for instance – and other options, like Clean Eating or Low-Carb, etc. It tries to get your grocery budget (for 7 dinner-type meals) for that week at or around $60. Just two of us can stretch one week’s worth into two weeks and use the leftovers as lunches. So we are spending roughly $180 per month on groceries. I know – it’s crazy! Go to www.emeals.com to sign up now!
16.) Make as much as you can on your own. STOP EATING OUT SO OFTEN. I have the time (what a valuable resource, I’m discovering!) to make things like breads and home-cooked meals, so that is one way I can decrease our living expenses. Stay away from pre-packaged foods, which are often full of sodium and saturated fats.
17.) Buy in bulk as you can. I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at the beginning of this month, which was like paying under $1.00 per dozen. If you buy each dozen separately, you spend as much as $3 per carton!
18.) Use your freezer. Instead of throwing away leftovers, freeze what is freezable for later in the month. Here’s a list of freezable foods: http://www.simpleorganizedliving.com/2011/02/10/freezable-foods/.
19.) Do the couponing thing, if that’s what you love to do. I don’t love the goose-chase of it all, and plus, I don’t buy a lot of brand name stuff because the store brand is often cheaper, so I don’t do a whole lot, but after watching Extreme Couponing, I am determined to save a few $$ here and there on things I’m already getting.
20.) Make your own dishwasher detergent. Yep – it’s super easy and only uses 4 ingredients. Recipe here: http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-dishwasher-detergent-soap/.
21.) Stop buying cokes, candy, ice cream, and other things that aren’t good for you anyway. Just because Dr. Pepper is 3 for $10 at Albertsons doesn’t mean it’s any better for your body. Water is free!
22.) Do your oven cooking in the coolest parts of the day so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your house cool.
23.) Stop buying commercial cleaners. Vinegar, baking soda, and borax – these are pretty much all the things you need. Here’s a list of things you can clean with vinegar: http://www.diynatural.com/white-vinegar-cleaning-laundry-more/. It’s also healthier for you – no toxic fumes or worries about mixing harmful ingredients!
24.) Make your own wipes. We plan to do this in December, when P&J arrives! You can switch out the baby shampoo with a mix of vinegar water to make cleaning wipes for countertops, etc. Here’s the recipe: http://www.homemademamas.net/2010/07/homemade-baby-wipes.html.
25.) Try cloth diapers. Again, we plan on doing this when baby arrives. This might work best for SAHM moms like me, who are home to wash the dirty ones more often than someone who is working all day!
26.) Stop buying disposable Swiffer-type pads. You’re just filling up landfills with more trash! Just use a damp rag (or I’ve even seen a burp rag or receiving blanket you don’t use anymore cut to fit). You may even look into buying a robot vacuum to keep things clean when you don’t have time.
The biggest thing you can do to save money for Christmas is to get on Dave Ramsey‘s plan. He teaches you how to do a budget, which forces you to look at what you’re spending each month. As someone told me this weekend: the more you look at your finances, the scarier it gets! So don’t fall into the temptation of getting a credit card to pay for Christmas! You just have to be smart about how you use your money. You don’t want to be paying for those Christmas gifts in April! Go to www.daveramsey.com and check out everything he offers. See if you can find an FPU class in your neighborhood (ask someone in a leadership position at your church to look into offering a class) or buy the home kit and do it on your own.
Another note about Christmas: you don’t have to buy a whole bunch of plastic, commercial stuff for your loved ones. They would much rather have something handmade or semi-handmade that YOU spent time on. It’s not about how much money you spend. It’s not even about the gift itself – it’s about spending time together and appreciating each other! Guitardude and I have put back money each month for Christmas gifts this year, and we plan on making everything. Our theme this year is “Handmade and Resuable.” That’s right – I’m giving my friends and family some of these homemade recipes that work for us. That way, they save money, and they also learn how to do it themselves. As the old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. TEACH a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”
Here’s some links to sites I’m using for wrapping Christmas presents in a better way than that cheap wrapping paper that ends up in the landfills!
Mason Jars – http://www.diynatural.com/rediscover-the-glass-mason-jar/
Baskets – http://www.diynatural.com/homemade-holiday-gift-baskets/
Gift Box – http://craftyjournal.com/gift-box-packaging/
Creative/Green ways to Wrap – http://thehappyhousewife.com/frugal-living/frugal-gift-wrapping-ideas/