Thursday, March 26, 2009

common $en$e tactics for this economy

Isn't it annoying how the phrase "in this economy" now seems to infiltrate every other sentence? One thing I've observed over the past year of financial hysteria is that we Americans usually seem to view spending in terms of black and white. There has been no middle ground. In good times, people were spending $200 on blue jeans, eating out every night and borrowing against their house so they could buy an even bigger house that they then had to furnish, heat and maintain. Now, newspapers and TV shows run stories on saving money ad nauseum. Some of the tips so basic ["Don't eat out every night, buy generics, pay off your credit card bills"] that I wonder just which planet I'm living on.

I'm not gloating, but I have always been a saver– a by-product of being raised by two parents who grew up during the throes of the Great Depression. If you save and live within your means during both the good and bad times, then chances are, you'll be less likely to ride a financial rollercoaster. Since you will have stockpiled your resources at the lowest possible prices [and in turn, socked away all the money you saved] you'll feel a sense of financial stability, even "in this economy." As a special added bonus, things that are good for your wallet are usually also good for Mama Nature.

But Rome was built – or refinanced – in a day. To get you started, here are 5 ideas you can consider this month to start thinking more frugally and creatively. The point is to tailor these kinds of tactics to fit your own lives, and then take them to the next level.

1. Make your own cleaning products. Use a sprinkle of baking soda instead of abrasive cleaners. Use vinegar, lemon and elbow grease instead of other more expensive and toxic household cleaners. Most homemade cleaning products are naturally vegan and biodegradable.
Baking soda: $1 for a 1-pound box
Soft Scrub: $5.50 for a 24-oz bottle
Savings: $4.50

2. Buy in bulk. This does not mean you have to buy 25 pounds of dried beans or 5 quarts of maple syrup. Bulk is a relative term; it simply means buying the largest size you can afford, store and use by the expiration date. Generally speaking, the larger the size, the cheaper the price.
Single-serve, 8 ounce soy milk: $1.75
Half-gallon (32 oz) , generic organic soy milk: $3
Savings: $4

3. Trash pick. Yes, trash pick. I am proud to say that my apartment is graced with the following trash-picked items, to name just a few: wicker dining room chairs, several antique etchings, large cement gargoyle which everyone compliments me on.
2 dining room chairs from Pottery Barn: $320
2 perfectly fine trash-picked dining room chairs: Free!
Savings: $320

4. Reinvent your own trash. Don't throw away that plastic mesh onion bag. Scrunch it up, secure it with a rubber band and voilĂ : you have a new pan scourer. Look at all your trash with a creative eye and see if you can resurrect it. [I read this hint years ago in Amy Daczycyn's The Tightwad Gazette and am still inspired by the possibilities.]
Store-bought scour pad: $2
Homemade onion bag scour pad: Free with purchase of onions!
Savings: $2

5. Go shopping in your friends' closets. Let's face it; we all get tired of our clothes and shoes. When this inevitable symptom of living in a material world kicks in, it's time to host a clothes swap dinner, otherwise known as a Posh Nosh. Invite about 10 friends over and ask everyone to bring a pot luck dish and at least 20 items they no longer want. These can include clothes, jewelry, shoes, handbags, outerwear, etc. [Please leave the undies at home.] Arrange all the items on the floor in three piles: small, medium and large. Then take turns foraging for "new" duds. You can then donate any unwanted items to charity. This same concept can be applied to any number of items: tools, CDs, non-perishable food, housewares, memorabilia, etc.

New coat: About $150
Swapped coat: Free!
Savings: $150 or more

26 comments:

Cynthia King said...

These are some great ideas!

jrsimon56 said...

Love the onion bag idea! I'm totally going to try that :)

Melody Polakow said...

Great tips here! I love the onion bag idea... I am sooo going to use it!

Also, like you said, feast or famine in the good/bad times.

I, too, have always been a saver (fortunately because if I wasn't I would be in HUGE trouble right now given the fact I haven't worked since Dec. 1).. and some of my bulk purchases I made two years ago are STILL paying off. Especially the TVP I got for 1/lb. Now it has tripled in price and I'm still using mine..

Bianca said...

Great advice! Though I tried a homemade cleaner suggestion in Ani's Raw Kitchen that called for dissolving baking soda in warm water as an alternative to purchasing all-purpose spray. And it left streaks on everything! So I went back to buying my $4 a bottle Seventh Generation stuff...sigh...

Carrie said...

Good tips. I am waiting for my stash of cleaner to run out so I can take a stab at making my own.

Theresa said...

Hey UV, thanks for these tips! Most are things we do, but the onion scourer is such a great idea! And clothes swap parties are not just a great way to save money, they are fantastically fun. Plus, by hanging out with your friends at a home with a potluck meal, you're saving more money because you're not meeting them in a restaurant or bar. Double score!

DJ Karma said...

Great ideas! Unfortunately, I haven't always been smart with my money, and am still paying for it now- but that's great advice about always living within your means and saving for the future.

TavoLini said...

Smart idea with the onion bag!! I hadn't heard of that one :)

buffalodick said...

I've said it before- by cooking and not dining out, you can save thousands..By fixing a car instead of buying a new one- thousands...

Zucchini Breath said...

I bought a bag of onions last night and threw the old one in the trash. Then i read the onion bag hint and RAN to my trash can, dug the old bag out and did my dishes. Worked a CHARM!

Cheers!

vko said...

brilliant onion bag idea- I have always hated having to throw those things out because you know those bags will sit in a landfill long after we are gone...hmm, maybe time to start making some cute pot scubbers via onion bags/trader joes veg bags for christmas stocking stuffers!

Carrie™ said...

You have a cement gargoyle? Awesome!
Great ideas - I know what you mean about "in this economy" I'm getting a little weary from it too. We have to watch our pennies a little more closely, but like you said, most of the "tips" they offer are common sense. Like everyone else, I think the onion bag idea is terrific!

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I totally agree, live within your means and you'll be fine. I love your money saving ideas!

Erica said...

My father was a boy in germany during the war, my mother ate canned meat grandpa killed and dandelions from the yard all year. I was raised on food dad got from dumpsters (when we could afford to buy it) and have always felt blessed that I have parents who not only knew the value of money but taught me, too!

Tanya Kristine said...

i agree. i'm not much of a spender but sometimes I am. i just make adjustments. i always live wihtin my means. tha'ts why i need teh lottery so i can REALLY leave within my means.

Trish said...

I Love "Trash Picking" I've actually turned my husband on to it..

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I read this last week and found myself quoting it to people this weekend! <3

T said...

I love ALL these ideas! As for cleaning products, its amazing what a small arsenal with vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils can do. Not to mention its much better for your skin.

Lisa -- Cravin' Veggies said...

Excellent post! I love the onion bag idea!!

I am a saver, repurposer, recycler, and also admit to have trash picked. :o)

Many things we own are second hand -- not because we can't afford new, but because the items were either better quality or just a perfect match for us! We were able to save what we would have had to spend on new items AND I feel better having kept this stuff from being dumped in a landfill.

New isn't always better...!

christinalovesdogs said...

love your savings ideas! never thought about the onion bag... such a great idea. i do love me some baking soda!!!!

wingraclaire said...

Thanks for the great reminder about the Tightwad Gazette. I subscribed in the 90's and really learned a lot that still applies today! For instance, when I get off the computer I'll be packing tomorrow's breakfast.... bottle of soymilk from the big half-gallon, small container of cereal; dinner leftovers for lunch, etc. I never met Amy personally but I think of her often!

wingraclaire.livejournal.com

mamapasta said...

in France, I buy my organic food by weight, no bulk , no plastic mesh..
i just re-use the paper bags on day after the other...till they colapse!
It is not an economic matter, it is for the earth !

Fred Smilek said...

I like those ideas alot. Especially the Onion Bag idea...a must try.
www.fredjsmilek.com

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