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Saving by Buying Only The One You Need

June 5th, 2007 at 08:17 am

I usually like to save money by buying in bulk and when an item's on sale. I have a big problem, however, with the excess inventory! I bought little notebooks when they were on sale, but I never seem to be able to find one when I need one, and when I don't need one, they're in my way. I'm on a campaign to clear the clutter out of my home, including boxes of stuff I bought at yard sales for great prices or at clearance sales because I like to have impromptu gifts on hand. These impromptu gifts once filled an entire closet, and I found it a pain to pack them all when I moved a few years ago.

Now I'm trying to get my mind around a radical concept: Buy only what you need and save time, money and space not having to store the extra. Sure, it will cost me more to buy an item when I need it if it's not on sale, but if I store it and can't find it or the basement floods (which happens) and it's ruined, it's wasted money anyway! I will always try to keep extra gifts on hand, and those I can't use are great to donate for Christmas toy drives and similar opportunities to share. I will probably always find clearance sales a temptation, but I just need to remind myself of the extra work of maintaining the stuff - If I don't have a specific purpose in mind for the item, it's not worth getting.

Saving Change

May 3rd, 2007 at 10:43 am

Some time ago, I read an article by Jeffrey Strain entitled "The Money Jar Trap", which appeared in an issue of the Dollar Stretcher e-zine. The article is at http://www.stretcher.com/stories/06/06apr17b.cfm. The article suggests that saving pocket change in a jar and then regularly depositing the money into a savings account may actually cost you money, since many banks and machines at grocery stores now charge for counting and taking the change. Instead, he suggests in the article, it's better to save not the coins, but the dollar bills you receive in change. I took to this idea with great enthusiasm, and have been saving most of the dollar bills I receive in change for cash purchases. I recently noted a savings tip from somewhere out on the Internet that suggested saving $5 bills whenever you get them in change. I like both ideas, and it's certainly easier to deposit the funds into savings when the jar gets full (or in my case, to dip into the dollar jar for a very special occasion).

I'm still left with the puzzlement of what to do with the coins. It takes so long to count out exact change when I buy something that I usually take the change rather than hold up a line by fishing for pennies, nickels and dimes. I also keep a eye out for older coins (dad was a lifelong coin collector and I still have the habit of watching for the older ones), so it takes a while to verify that the coins you're carrying around are OK to spend. I am thinking of using very small ziploc bags (found at craft stores) to sort a standard amount of change that I can have ready to put in my purse when I leave the house, but otherwise, I find myself throwing the coins into a coin jar after all because I don't have the time to go through them.

How to Stop Yourself from Buying Something

April 25th, 2007 at 10:18 am

This is a little frugal savings tip that works for me every time. Let's say I see a hand-painted "Home Sweet Home" sign at a craft show I've gone to with my two sisters-in-law. I think it's just the right thing for my living room. It costs $40.00, and I'm wavering on whether to buy. One sister-in-law says, "you like it, buy it!" The other sister-in-law says, "well, it's very nice but I wouldn't pay that much. If it were only $5.00 less, I'd get it, otherwise I'd pass". I can't tell you how much money this sister in law has saved me. This is just enough incentive for me to let purchases go. Time and time again, I say to myself, as my sister in law did: "If only this item were $10.00 cheaper, or even $2.00 less...." and I decide, yeah, I don't need it that badly. Although this works best where price is a subjective thing, I've used it everywhere I shop and have put things back down after saying "if only it were $1 less....."

Sometimes It's Better to Save Time Than Money

January 3rd, 2007 at 02:24 pm

I finished 2006 somewhat in the red. During the year I replaced all the windows in my house with more energy-efficient ones. While I could have struggled with the old double-hung windows a few years longer (some of them had to be wrestled open with a screwdriver), I really, really wanted new ones. I have a neighbor who used to be in the window-installation business. I bought my kitchen cabinets used from him when I moved to the neighborhood and he gave me a great deal. He and some friends earn a little extra money doing the occasional window installation job on weekends. I could have bought the windows myself and my brother would have installed them, but he has plenty of work to do at his own home and while I would have saved a lot, I would have waited months, perhaps years, for the job to be completed. So I spent the dough and I'm glad I did. There's even a small tax deduction I can take for doing an energy efficient improvement to the house. While I hope the windows will eventually pay for themselves in energy savings, I'm still pinched by the expenditure.

I also opted to have a contractor replace the gutters on my house instead of doing it myself (that is, asking my brother to do it). My brother replaced the soffits and fascia, which were either in bad shape or nonexistent, and while it took about 2 months for the contractor to get around to the job and I got poured on every time I went in or out the door when it was raining, again it seemed prudent to have the professionals get the job done in one day. They did beautiful trimming and ran two of the downspouts into a trench drain my brother dug over the summer. The gutters on my garage are old steel ones that have rusted through, so my brother saved the old aluminum gutters from the house and will eventually put them on the garage.

I guess I'm not being terribly frugal, but sometimes it just seems to make more sense to get something done well and quickly than to putz around hoping to save a few dollars by cobbling things together or getting it done in fits and starts.

When Should You Pass Up Free Stuff?

June 14th, 2006 at 12:09 pm

I've been thinking lately about the fine line between prudent frugality and rank scavenging, when it comes to the opportunity to get something for free. I ride a commuter train into the city every weekday morning, and I feel it's eminently practical to pick up one of the daily newspapers left behind by other commuters at the end of the trip. The paper's free for me, and that's one less getting trashed or having to be recycled. But I'm in a quandary about how much stuff I ought to take for free. There are two city papers, a suburban one, a couple of national papers, even occasionally a tossed magazine, that I can pick up if I am willing to fish through the trash bin. I've gotten over the creepy feeling that I look like a homeless person poking through the papers, but how much can I read each day anyhow? Truthfully, I'm happy enough with just one paper.

A week or two ago, some promo people were on a downtown street handing out gum samples. One guy, instead of passing out a package or two to a customer, held out a cardboard box full of gum packages and said "take all you want". So I grabbed a huge handful. Such a deal! The only problem is....I don't chew gum! So I gave away lots at work and saved a few to give to my nieces and nephews. But again, I wonder - should I take something that's free if I won't use it? Why not pass on it and let someone else - gum chewers - have the opportunity?

So I'm going to try to pass on the free stuff unless I really plan to use it. My home is cluttered enough with not only the things I use but with the stuff I don't. I'm on a campaign to reduce the mess - although it's very hard (for me) to throw out something that isn't outright trash yet. There are other options, donation (and tax deduction, perhaps), re-gifting, and recycling. The point is, if I don't need it, it's wasteful to accept it, and maybe I should pass it by.