25 Ways to Save Money in a Tough Economy (Part 1)

Jen Knox, who blogs at Automatic Moms, is sharing her tips on saving money in a tough economy in this two-part series (check out part two tomorrow).

Like everyone, I’m noticing big changes in the costs of nearly everything I purchase lately. This topsy-turvy economy has everyone a bit worried. What can you do to easily save money on everyday purchases and help put a little extra money in your pocket?

1. Save money by saving gas. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and that your oil has been changed recently. Both measures help to ensure that your car is running smoothly and efficiently, and an efficient car is a car that uses less gas.

2. Collect all of the change in jars, pockets, drawers and purses and put it to work. Bring the change to the bank where you have your savings account and deposit it. It does nothing for you sitting in an old jar or at the bottom of your purse. If you’re a customer with an account, most banks will waive the change-counting machine fee for you. If they don’t, ask.

3. Use what you have before you buy more. If you have half-empty shampoo bottles and partially-used tubes of lotion, make a point to use up what you have already. One hotel-sized shampoo bottle is usually enough for two to three uses. Put away all other bottles and use only the little ones or the partially-used ones before bringing a new one out. Waste of product is a waste of money.

4. You’ve heard it before…switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Sure, they cost a little more to buy, but they last much longer and in the meantime use less energy. Buy them in multi-packs if you can and look to your local energy provider for rebates and other incentives.

5. Use rechargeable batteries. If you have kids, you know how everything seems to run on batteries. Again, there is a small financial outlay at first to buy the batteries and charger (look to price clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club for bulk deals on batteries) but in the long run you will purchase fewer of them and help save on batteries ending up in landfills.

6. Bottle your own water. Not only will you help save the planet by producing less waste, but you’ll save money too. Purchase a faucet filter or pitcher with a filter and refill a plastic sports bottle instead of buying water in small bottles.

7. While you’re at it, make your own coffee. I know, this is sacrilege for some people, but it can be done. Even if you splurge on the fancy creamers, you’ll still save money over buying your coffee at Starbucks or another fancy coffee place. Consider buying your favorite coffeehouse coffee beans or grounds at the grocery store with coupons if you still feel the need for name-brand coffee.

8. Hang your laundry. Most people can hang their laundry outside in the sun and warmer weather. Hang just three loads of laundry a week in the great outdoors, and you’ll save over two hours of dryer time a week.   That’s a nice chunk of electrical savings each month. Live in a colder climate? Buy an inexpensive clothing rack and dry your clothing in a warm laundry room or bathroom.

9. Quit smoking. If you are a smoker, let’s face it: you’re not doing yourself any favors here. Not only are you spending money on cigarettes ($1,600 a year for most people) but you’re probably increasing the premiums for your life insurance (most ask if you are a smoker) and possibly even your medical insurance. Quit for good and reap the money and health savings for life.

10. Cancel your gym membership. This is a tough one for some people. For those who actually use it, you might think that there is no other way to work out. Run outside, play with your kids, ride your bike, or even purchase a piece of equipment used on Craigslist and work out at home. The average gym membership is over $50 a month for just one person. That’s $600 a year. Most people who use their gym tend to use the same pieces of equipment every time they go. Purchase used versions from the newspaper or Craigslist and you’ll likely spend less than your yearly fee just once and reap the savings for years to come. Plus, more than one person can use the equipment, saving even more money on memberships.

11. Buy stuff used. By “stuff,” I mean anything and everything. Craigslist is a great place to find almost anything used. Your local community might also have a free stuff giveaway board like Freecycle.org. Things I’ve personally found for free or cheap on boards like these include a $600 oak desk (in perfect condition and complete with executive’s desk chair…both free!), a high chair for my son ($40 instead of $100) and other items. On Craigslist, you can also see listings of local garage sales, and many sellers will post what they will have at the sale and let you inquire and ask questions by email before trekking to the sale. That’s how I found a $75 travel baby swing for just $25 (and in perfect condition).

12. Sell used stuff. This is the flip-side of tip #11. Use that tip and turn it around to get rid of gently-used items either via a direct sale on the board or by advertising your garage sale. Typically, buyers expect to get at least a 50% savings off what the item would cost new, and if you’ve had good use of it, a 50% refund on your purchase is better than letting an item get old and out of date and not getting anything for it at all. Plus, you’ll be helping someone else save money in the process.

13. Call and ask for discounts. Call your mortgage company, your credit card companies, cable company, phone company…all of them….and just ask for a discount. If you have been a good customer, simply state that in order to remain a customer, you’ll have to save money on the service and that you would like to ask for a discount. If you are refused, stay polite, but ask to speak to that person’s supervisor and ask politely again. I’ve personally done this several times and have only been turned down once. In all, my requests over my adult life have probably saved me thousands in fees, interest and overall costs.

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Jen Knox knows how to stretch a dollar and run an efficient home and small business. For more tips and articles on saving money and time, visit her site at http://www.automaticmoms.com.

Your turn: What tips do you have for anyone wishing to try any of these ways to save money

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