Friday, August 6, 2010

Little Tweaks

Everyone seems to have small suggestions for ways to cut expenses without sacrificing much, if any, comfort. Some ideas are good, many are far too extreme or labor intensive and some just don't make sense. Over the years I've adapted a few ideas and noticed a marked savings.

Adjusting the temperature on your water heater:
We've all heard this one before, but I am a staunch convert. I moved into my current apartment a year ago, and for some reason it took six months for the gas company to find me and bill me for all the gas I'd been using. The bill was antonishingly high, and I didn't even know what gas powered besides my stove. Turns out, water heater. I was paying $50 a month, and never turned my shower's temperature above the halfway point. Now I'm paying $20-$25 less a month, and am not inconvenienced in the slightest. If you simply love a scalding hot shower, at least adjust the temperature over the summer months, you'll still feel hot.

Cut food waste by any means necessary:
There is no reason to waste food. You eat several times a day, and there's no reason that you can't eat something two days in a row. Throwing out food wastes hundreds to thousands of dollars per year, plus, it's wasteful. I've found several ways to cut out food waste painlessly and easily.
  1. Eat your leftovers. You made it, eat it. Unless a dish turned out really poorly, there's no excuse for not eating your leftovers. Bring whatever you had for dinner for your lunch the following day. If you really can't stand eating the same thing two days in a row, freeze it. Portion out single servings of whatever you made, and put it in the freezer immediately. That way you have ready-to-eat meals, and a little bit of time to want to eat them. Just don't forget that they're there because even frozen food only lasts about six months before it's not so good. Label them with a date, and maybe even what they are.
  2. Make less food. This seems like a no-brainer, but calculate how many you're cooking for, and alter you recipe accordingly. If you live alone, you may not want to make 12 servings of corn chowder. Yes, cooking is messy and it may seem like a waste to dirty all those dishes for a little bit of something, but when you're on day five of eating the same dinner, you'll understand.
  3. Re-purpose leftovers. Get a bit clever with your food. If you're looking at your leftovers and they won't freeze well, but you don't want to eat the same thing twice, get creative. Add a few new ingredients and turn it into a whole new dish. Leftover stir fry= stir fry omelet. Wilting spinach=creamed spinach. Leftover pasta=cold pasta salad, pasta bake, pasta stir fry, etc. If you're ever at a loss as to what to do with something, ask the internet. Someone out there probably tried something.
Use Craigslist or Ebay:
If you need to buy something, check these places first and see if you can get it for cheaper. If you're getting rid of something, list it first, and see if there's any interest. It stands to reason that if you can make a little money on something you were getting rid of anyway, you might as well. Yes, it's a little more work, but the savings can be huge.

Example: A few years ago, I was a member of a gym. I liked the gym, but my work/class schedule made it such that I could never really make it to any of the cardio classes, plus they closed at 8pm each night, which is about the time I'd like to start working out. This was a gym where you pay for a whole year up front, and when I got a bill for $600+ for the next year, I actually laughed out loud. When I thought about what I used at the gym, it was really only the treadmill. I got on craigslist, found a used treadmill for $75, and I've had it for almost two years. I'm all about gym memberships, but if you examine how you use the gym (if you're actually using it), and find a way to replicate that at home for cheaper, who not try it? You can rent workout DVDs from netflix or get them from the library, you can find cheap weights and cardio machines on craigslist, you can get outside to run, walk or hike.

Change your brand:
I drink a lot of coffee. I like good coffee and cannot drink the weak crap that is usually (surprise!) the cheapest. As a result, I am always on the lookout for a good quality coffee that doesn't cost too much. Usually, I load up on Starbucks when it goes on sale at Target (Target's coffee prices consistently beat my grocery store's per pound); if my boyfriend gets a free pound of Dunkin Donuts coffee for donating blood, I mix that with a darker roast to make it taste decent; and I buy strange brands that I find at Ocean State Job Lot or TJ Maxx. I've been burned, to be sure, but occasionally you hit on a brand that tastes fantastic for a fraction of what you normally pay. Those are the magical times.

Recently, I brought home a variety of coffees from Trader Joes, and I think I'm sold. I can get them in whole bean, which is increasingly hard to find, there are a variety of roasts, they all come in a very nice cardboard canister that I can potentially re-use, and they are up to $2 less per pound than the Starbucks I always felt guilty buying. We have a winner!

1 comment:

  1. Food waste is such a huge problem in this country. I try to think of throwing away food as literally throwing away money. This is especially true with ingredients that have gone bad before you can eat them. I try to by things in smaller portions instead of bulk. It's more expensive up front, but you save money by not throwing some out that went bad.

    Only buy what you know you can eat!