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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....."

Plan for the Future Tip #1

April 20th, 2007 at 02:12 pm

Everybody knows that you should have a will and name beneficiaries for your insurance policy. I know that, sure. I had a will made at least 20 years ago naming my mother as my heir. At some point in our lives, mom thought each of us kids should have a simple will and we signed them. Don't you know that two years ago when she died, that was still the only will I had? It took me a year and a half to get around to doing a new will. Well, now it's another half year since, and today I signed a new beneficiary designation for my Roth account. Folks, don't wait and assume you'll outlive your old estate plan documents. Review them as life changes happen and make sure your wishes will be carried out when you die.

Try This for a Diet Tip

April 16th, 2007 at 10:15 am

I have been on diets many times. At one point in my life I lost 45 pounds on the NutriSystem plan; but couldn't do without all the pats on the back when the weight had been lost and so gradually put it back on. I'm fine with diets for the short term but haven't been too great in the long haul. My current plan is to go as natural as possible (primarily vegetables, fruit and whole-grains; little or no meats, dairy or fats).

Some of the most successful dieters swear by writing down everything you eat. Weight Watchers (I tried that too) is big on this. I just couldn't make myself do it. I have been looking at better ways to put some of the more beneficial things in my life on autopilot: For example, I have amounts deducted every paycheck to be put directly into my 401k account and what I call the "house savings" account, which covers real estate taxes, insurance bills, repairs and emergencies. This makes the process of saving work in spite of myself. So why can't I get that to work for a diet?

So here's a tip: I have made a checklist of the good diet stuff that should be done every day. I have added some non-diet things, like decluttering and savings activities, too. Some of these items include:
8 oz water
8 oz water
8 oz water, etc.
1 cup vegetable
1 cup vegetable, etc.
1 pc fruit or cup juice
10 minute walking
Note or letter written & sent
Cleaning/decluttering action
Savings reserved-dollar jar or deposit
Money saved-skipped purchase or asked for discount

There are more items, and the list is growing as I think of new things to add. I figure, I can easily check off the stuff I DO and am more likely to keep up!

Looks Like Blogging Isn't Really My Thing

April 14th, 2007 at 04:54 pm

I do like to write, but it seems like I either don't have the time to do a decent job at something I'm working on, or I revise, revise, and yet again revise, never reaching a final acceptable result. The moral of this little story is: Just Do It. I will never produce deathless prose. Maybe I'll regret not fine-tuning something I've put on paper (or in this case, on screen), but if it never gets written it was never going to be of use anyway. This won't help anyone save - heck, it's not helping me save either. But I'm in the process of trying to work out some of the kinks in my life: Weight, clutter, career stuckedness, and of course, the desire to do better with my finances. All of it has become related in a sort of "personal clog" and I've been working on a grand plan to get all of it unstuck. More later. For now, I'm throwing caution to the winds and posting an entry to say, I'm still alive, still kicking, still trying to figure out "what's it all about?"

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.

Missing in Action

November 3rd, 2006 at 09:29 am

I can't believe it's been so long since I had a chance to post an entry here. I've been missing in action since early summer. If anyone read my first two entries and was hopeful for more, I hope to get back on track now. I have a number of topics I've been thinking about; I just haven't had time to put them into print!

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.


June 9th, 2006 at 09:21 am

I am not an extremely frugal person; I refuse, for instance, to wash and reuse ziploc bags, However, I do like to save money wherever I can. I am the daughter of a very frugal man who left brand-new shirts in his drawers when he died because he hadn't yet worn out the ones he was wearing, and who was comfortable shopping at rummage sales for old radios (he had dozens) and used books (he had thousands). Saving's in my blood. The one thing I wish my dad had taught me was the magic of compounding and how to invest. All I ever saved for once I got out of college was a down payment on a new car. Somewhere in my mid-thirties it occurred to me that I had absolutely nothing saved for retirement. I bought a house, and it became important to put a little money aside each month in what I call my "house account" to accrue funds for the inevitable improvements and repairs that crop up. I also began to save for retirement at a furious rate, after reading some articles that convinced me that I would be doomed to poverty in my dotage if I didn't start saving. At my current savings rate, I will probably be okay, but everything I read about saving for the future tells me that the earlier you start, the more your account will be worth when you're ready to retire. I'm trying to make up for that lost time. In future posts, I'd like to talk about some of the books and financial authors I have read, and discuss a few strategies that work for me. Some of my methods may not be suitable for everyone: For example, I always pay my credit card bills every month - why pay interest if you don't have to? And you'll never catch me at Starbuck's. I'm too cheap to spend so much money for a cup of coffee. Still, I have picked up some great suggestions over the years, so I'm going to jump in and post some here in future blogs.