Spending less

This page is only indirectly related to building a house. This is about saving a few bucks in other areas that can perhaps be applied towards your new home. Money saving hints will be added from time to time.

The major areas of expenditure for the ordinary western family are housing, food and clothing,transportation and entertainment.

Reducing housing costs will likely be limited to finding ways to save on utility costs as it is difficult to change rents, mortgage payments or taxes without changing your residence. The way to save on utility costs is to use less. There are several ways to do this but some require an investment and will need a period to effect payback. I will try to separate ways to save which require only effort from those that require a dollar investment.

Don’t use heating that you do not need. You will likely even sleep better if you turn your thermostat down at bedtime. Lowering the setting several degrees will not affect your comfort and can mean considerable savings. If no one is home during the day it is another opportunity to lower the thermostat. If you are leaving for several days the temperature can be lowered drastically or perhaps you can turn the heat off entirely if there is no danger of freeze ups. Wearing warmer clothing when at home could mean lowering your settings a little will still be comfortable. Replace furnace filters regularly.

Spend a few dollars to caulk air leaks and to replace damaged door and window seals. This is quite inexpensive and besides saving money on fuel will increase your comfort by decreasing cold drafts. A programmable thermostat could be useful if your family follows a regular schedule. If attic insulation is insufficient adding blow in loose fill insulation can be a do it yourself project that will have a fast payback. The equipment needed will usually be available from your insulation supplier. Try for R50 or R60. Other things such as replacing inefficient furnaces, water heaters, windows or doors are effective but likely to have quite long payback periods.

Of course nearly everything above applies to cooling as well.

If you are paying for water by usage you could save by taking showers instead of baths. This also saves on fuel to heat the water. Do not over irrigate your lawn and garden and sprinkle in the cool evening or morning hours to reduce evaporation loss. Run dishwashers and do laundry only with full loads. Fix all drips or leaks, they can waste a surprising amount of water and energy.

Low flow shower heads are an inexpensive. Replacing toilets with models that require less water to flush can save a lot of water. The same is true of front load washing machines. Payback periods may be long and it depends a lot on water and energy costs and on the size of your family if you are to realize a saving in a reasonable time.

Reduce electricity use by using fluorescent bulbs and turning lights off when not needed, obvious but often neglected. Using power bars can make it easy to turn electronic devices completely off. Many use electricity even with their power switch off.

Question whether you really need all those cell phones or TV channels that you are paying monthly fees for. Communicating by email may be cheaper than using your phones.

Most of the above suggestions will result in less pressure on the environment as well as cash savings. Of course with a few exceptions every dollar you save also saves the environment in some way. Perhaps we could use our savings to plant trees.

Spending less on food and clothing is more a matter of modifying buying habits, your tastes and recognizing the difference between wants and needs. Style, appearance and status will be more important to some than to others..

You can save large amounts on clothing by foregoing designer brands and prestige stores. You can save huge amounts by shopping used clothing stores. Many of these are operated by charitable organizations which you will be supporting. You can even donate the clothing back to them when you tire of it. Often new items may be found that have been donated from other stores. There is no need to tell anyone where you bought your clothes. As always, watching for sales can pay good dividends.

When shopping for food, try to do it after you have eaten. Expensive goodies are hard to resist on an empty stomach. The less prepared food you buy and the more cooking you do yourself the lower your grocery bill is going to be. When I was in the supermarket business customers often complained about the price of meat. I would reply by comparing the price of a T-bone steak to a box of cornflakes. The meat was usually cheaper by the pound. Another complaint was that they didn’t seem to get much for the dollar. A look at their cart usually revealed very little actual food but often a couple cartons of cigarettes (about 40.00 per ctn. at the time), a case or two of soda pop, candy, paper goods, pet food, hardware items, health and beauty care and magazines and movie rentals. A few extra dollars might be spent on lottery tickets. There is a good reason grocery stores sell much more than food.

Try to cut down on these items, they are expensive and you probably don’t need much more than the toilet paper, kitty chow and a bottle of aspirin.

Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season and avoid off season price spikes. Use as little as possible of prepared or packaged food, they are more expensive and less healthy. You pay a considerable premium for convenience. Packaging puts more demand on our resources. A small garden can provide fresh tasty produce and give pleasant exercise at the same time.

Meat can be a significant portion of our food bills. You could try using less by using fillers or substituting eggs or other high protein sources. If you have freezer room buy on sale. You can often find larger cuts that may be cheaper and that you can cut yourself to more reasonable portions. Some stores will have frozen meats or single muscle cuts in vacuum packaging at lower cost. Don’t be be put off by a less appetizing appearance but watch for freezer burn indicated by excess frost crystals inside the packaging. Be careful when buying bone in cuts as they are difficult to carve and you can’t eat the bone. This is not to say that you shouldn’t treat yourself to ribs on occasion. Steaks that are discounted because they have darkened are often more tender than the nice red appetizing ones.

Store brands or unbranded products sold by most supermarkets are often a good quality alternative to popular brand name products. The price difference may be significant.

Taking a box lunch to work rather than eating in restaurants will effect large savings

Saving money on transportation is mostly common sense. Walk or bicycle when you can, use public transportation when you can, buy smaller vehicles and drive at slower speeds. Savings can be dramatic and the environment will thank you. Slower driving is safer and saves on car maintenance as well.

Spend less on entertainment by making a budget and sticking to it. Some may prefer to entertain with beer and burgers by their BBQ while others may like to have elaborate dinner parties with expensive wine and live entertainment. I am not condemning anyone for wanting to go whole hog. I have done it myself on occasion. However we are talking here about saving money and expensive tastes do not really fit. I don’t think you should feel too guilty about lavish parties though. I doubt that they have a much more adverse effect on the environment than the backyard BBQ. Inviting friends for cards and a drink or two is much cheaper than the bar scene. Movies at home are an inexpensive diversion. When dining out you can avoid expensive wines and it is not necessary to order the most costly item on the menu. Museums cost less than amusement parks. A picnic at the beach or a nearby park is pleasant and you can throw in some outdoor games. It is also a good way to get in some healthy exercise without spending money on the gym. You don’t have to be a monk to save money but you may have to adjust your lifestyle a bit until you have reached your goal.

Save money by using a credit card. Yes it can be done but it is important to pay the full balance each month. I have a card that gives me points towards grocery purchases (about 1%) and also gives me 7 cents towards grocery purchases for every liter of gas I buy. The savings are considerable.

Now that you have saved all that money, what are you going to do with it? Why build that dream home of course. Well maybe retire to the Caribbean and live on the beach. Tough choices.

The thrifty Rick

Hint- Instead of buying casing, base and other moldings make your own with a router and table saw and building up details. The savings are huge and the results can be unique. Use MDF  (Medium Density Fiberboard) if they are going to be painted.

Hint- Buy large boneless beef roasts when they are on sale and grind them for hamburger meat. The quality will be much better and it can be considerably cheaper. An adequate electric grinder can be purchased for around 100 dollars. You can also cut stew meat and shish kabob pieces (keep it lean and gristle free). keep out roasts in the size that is convenient for you.

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