In a time where everyone, not just Americans, are feeling the pinch to their wallet, out come article after article on how to save money. Today I was at the local library when I noticed the current edition of Real Simple Magazine, tempted by an article titled Act Small, Save Big: Everyday strategies to save $5,000 this year, so home it came with me. I will say first off I have never been a fan of this magazine, but most of the ideas in here are nothing I would suggest to someone needing or wanting to save serious money. Here’s my take on the article and my suggestions for saving real cash.
Food and Drink
- Cereal: We are told to get coupons from the Sunday paper and buy name brand cold cereals. My suggestion: First, cold cereals aren’t the healthiest option for breakfast. They are loaded with sugar and not much in the way of nutrition. Secondly, there are many better choices for breakfast. A couple of my regulars are either fruit, or long cooking oatmeal with an apple cut up and cooked with it. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness so I don’t need sweeteners. I can buy a 5 pound bag of organic oatmeal for under $4 versus the box of cold cereal which the article states retails for $5.60 each. The 5 pound bag will last much longer too.
- Seltzer water: The article suggests instead of buying bottled seltzer water to purchase a SodaStream and make your own. My suggestion: Forget this product. The initial cost is $100, if you want to add flavorings they start at $5 each. I enjoy my water, from the tap using a Pur faucet filter. I would have to purchase a lot of seltzer to recoup the money from this machine.
- Bread and Baked Goods: We are told to go to the store around closing time to purchase discounted items from the bakery. I don’t know about you, but the stores in this area have yesterdays items on display all day. My suggestion: Bake your own. Bread is actually easy to make as I taught myself years ago when raising two teenage boys as a single mother. While the cheapest way to have baked goods is to buy all the ingredients in bulk, second best would be to buy inexpensive package mixes found just about everywhere. If you are a Walmart shopper you can find mixes for 99 cents. Turning an oven on in the winter if you live in a cold climate will help offset some of your heating needs as well.
- Juice Drinks: Again we are supposed to clip the coupon from the Sunday paper and buy the large bottles of juice. My suggestion: If you have a coupon and really want to buy juice go ahead. But a trick I learned years ago will help you save much more. I only bought all natural juices with no added sweeteners for my children, we found the flavor was quite strong. I began diluting the juice 50/50 with water. This tasted just right, and you will get double the juice for your money.
- Prepared meals: The article suggests you download an app for your phone for getting coupons for frozen dinners and purchasing deals from the hot foods section. My suggestion: Forget the frozen dinners and the hot foods section. You pay a premium for these foods. Frozen dinners are high in sodium and fat, and none (in my opinion) taste like what I can make at home. Want to know more about frozen dinners go here Instead of the hot mac and cheese, make it yourself with pasta bought in bulk. It’s easy to make a pizza crust from scratch and the entire pizza will cost you about $3 for your entire family. If you are strapped for time, you can prepare a larger batch of foods like potatoes, rice, pasta and save the leftovers to be added to another nights meals.
Other ways to save
- Saving on the cost of movies: Here we are told to attend free pre-screenings of movies and to attend a matinee which is a movie before noon where you pay only $6. My suggestion: Free pre-screenings are not an option where I live because I don’t live in or near a large city. As for bargain matinees, $6 per person to take a family to view a movie is to me ridiculous. Do you really have to see a movie as soon as it comes out? What will happen if you don’t? Wait for the movie to come out on DVD and rent it from a Redbox for a dollar. If your family watches a lot of movies consider paying $7.95 a month for Netflix.
- Bottled water: They suggest we purchase bottled water at chains like Target which sell it cheaper than single bottles from convenience stores. My suggestion: Forget buying bottled water. There is very little regulation on this industry, so you have no guarantee you are getting anything other than tap water. Next, the cost of making those disposable bottles uses more water than what we drink from the bottle. This product is a huge waste of money and natural resources. Get yourself a reusable bottle and fill it from your tap. You can buy them for less than $5. For a little more you can purchase bottles with a filter in them which will filter water on the go. I have one of each.
- Wine: Did you know you can save 30% off the cost of a case of wine when you buy 3 or more cases? I didn’t. My suggestion: If you enjoy a glass of wine, great. But if you are really in a budget crunch this may be one thing you choose to eliminate from your budget for the time being. I can’t see a time when I would want to shell out the money for three cases at one time, how about you?
I can go on, but I think you get the idea. To save $5,000 a year from the suggestions I found you would have to be upper middle class and do a lot of shopping. I would love to see a magazine live up to the hype of their cover stories. Remember the name of the magazine is Real Simple, with that name I would have expected better than what I found, so glad I didn’t spend money on this.
So here are a few tips I would suggest to someone who needed to save money right now:
- Eliminate credit cards: It is too easy to spend money you don’t have when you use a credit card. Same with 90 day no interest. What if you lost your job, how would you pay for the large ticket item when the bill came due? Try living the way our parents or grandparents did, save your money until you can afford the item and pay cash.
- Cut the cable: We really don’t need all those channels. Actually, I have found I don’t need any channels. If you do enjoy a few shows check out Hulu, there is no cost to viewing any current television program. The programs air the next day and can be watched at your leisure on the computer or with a game system right on your TV like Netflix.
- Wait to buy: Have you ever wanted something so badly, but once home you regretted the purchase? I think we all have. Instead of buying something the instant you see it, go home and wait. If you still want it the next time you are at the store buy it, you won’t regret the purchase this way and will save money by not buying the items you would have regretted.
- Schedule a day to shop and use a list: I’m not sure when people began stopping by the store daily, we used to shop once a week, getting everything we needed. Anything we forgot went on next weeks list and we did without till then. Avoid stopping at the store often, it’s a sure way to pick up those incidentals we didn’t intend to buy and which will add up quickly.
- Look for free entertainment: I may live in a small town, but there is plenty of free entertainment to be found. The local coffee shop has once a week outdoor acoustic music, the town itself has a music and art festival for a weekend in May, The local farmers market has free music once a week all summer long, this is in addition to the hills which can be used to sled, trails for hiking…. Want to watch the local high school football game? If you wait until half time most school don’t charge admittance. The list is endless. Look around your town you may be surprised what is available to you.
I have shared with you ways I save money today, how do you save money?
For more ideas check out: