Wendy from Maine is back again to share some of her frugal living tips and this time around she is sharing 6 easy ways to save money.
Here are Wendy’s Six Easy Ways to Save:
1. Get rid of the clothes dryer.
Interestingly, when I talk about money-saving endeavors that are also very environmentally conscious choices, the one that gets the biggest push back is line-drying clothes. I’ve heard a lot of different excuses. The funniest is the person who won’t hang clothes on the line, because one time, there was a bug on a sheet that got put on a bed and then the bug crawled into the laundresses ear. I’d probably be a little wary about putting clothes on the line, too, if that had happened to me. Or, I would shake out my sheets a little better.
The most often heard excuse has to do with Homeowner’s Associations. HOA’s hate clotheslines, apparently, which means that a lot of people who live in the suburbs are prohibited by neighborhood covenants from having an outdoor clothesline. In that case, there’s not a lot one can do, except use a portable drying rack, which can be used and removed, as needed.
Scratchy sheets and/or stiff clothes is the second most common complaint. There are a few techniques that can be used to alleviate some of the stiffness and scratchiness, like adding vinegar to the rinse water, but the reality is that, unless one lives in a very windy area, clothes put on the line outside will never be as soft and fluffy as clothes put in an electric clothes dryer.
That said, if saving money is more important that fluffy clothes, ousting the clothes dryer and using a line or an indoor drying rack is one of the best and easiest changes one can make.
According to the Saving Energy site, the average dryer load costs about $0.36 to dry. I wash, at least, five loads of laundry per week (more if we’re fostering puppies). By not using the clothes dryer, I save around $100/year.
Money Saving Bonus: The heat from a clothes dryer breaks down the clothing fibers, which means clothes wear out faster. Line drying clothes makes them last longer, which means less money spent replacing clothes that have been damaged by the dryer.
2. Take your pets to a vet clinic, or if you have multiple pets, use a mobile vet service.
When I was a youngster, I loved to visit my grandmother, who lived deep in the mountains. We moved … a LOT … and so we never had pets until I was in junior high school, but my grandma’s house was always a fur-fest. It was like Noah’s Ark of domesticated animals: cats, dogs, horses, cows, pigs, chickens … and at one point, my uncles even had a couple of rabbits outside in a hutch.
My grandparents cared about their animals, because they served a purpose. The horses plowed the field. The cows provided milk, butter, and meat. The pigs provided meat and lard (for cooking). The chickens provided eggs and meat. The dogs went hunting and served as protectors for the farm. The cats provided pest control.
But they weren’t pets, and vet care wasn’t part of the package for most of the animals. In fact, medical and dental care for the humans was a few-and-far-between reality in the lives of these rural mountain-folk.
Things are different for my family. Medical and (especially) dental care is part of our regular routine.
We, also, have several dogs and cats, which live inside the house (my grandmother would be horrified) and whose purpose, mostly, is to eat and sleep and let us take care of them. Sure, my dogs bark to alert us that something’s happening outside, and my cats will occasionally catch a mouse that was silly enough to come out of the walls, but mostly, they are companions, members of the family.
Veterinary services can be incredibly costly, even for people who have only one pet. Just flea and tick preventative costs $10/month for one pet (usually purchased in multi-month packs). Multiply it times six, and we’re nearing the costs of a car payment, just to keep our pets free of blood-sucking parasites (and my family safe, also).
Flea and tick preventative is available over-the-counter and can be purchased in bulk at a reduced cost online. Other vaccines and treatments, however, require the care of a veterinarian, and that’s where the bill starts to mount.
Many veterinary practices and animal shelters will offer low-cost clinics for pet owners. A local vet opens the last Sunday of each month for a clinic. Pet owners can bring their pets to this clinic, which is first-come-first-served. The usual check-up fee (which can be between $65 and $110 per pet) is waived, and the cost of the other procedures (vaccinations and tests) is reduced. With six pets, it’s still a pile of change for us, but we paid less than half the cost of taking them in during regular business hours.
Then, one day, I was having a chat with my mother, and she mentioned that when their elderly cat was failing, they were able to call a mobile veterinarian, who came to their house to provide hospice care for Miss Kitty, who was given the opportunity to pass peacefully in the comfort of her own home. With six pets (one of whom is an 83 lbs male chow-chow who doesn’t like other dogs or most people), just transporting all of our pets to the veterinarian can be a challenge. So, I researched my area, and sure enough, we have a mobile vet.
Having her come to our house would have been reward enough, but the cost of care was also a bonus. She charges a fee just to come to my house, but her per-pet cost is only two-thirds what the veterinarian practice charges for a regular visit. If I had only one pet, the cost might be more than the vet visit (although the convenience, in this case, might be worth the extra cash). The other costs were comparable.
The super bonus, though, was that I didn’t have to walk into a strange building where there are other dogs, strangers, and odd smells, and then, be moved into a tiny, windowless, box of a treatment room that is ripe (especially for my dogs’ sensitive noses) with smells of previous fear-filled occupants to wait for some stranger who parades in, as if she owns the place (which she does, actually), and startles my already agitated, 83-pound dog, who lunges at her, and then, is required to wear a muzzle through the visit, because the veterinarian is, now, afraid of my dog.
With the mobile vet, my dogs and cats waited in their home until it was time to see the vet, and then, we carefully introduced them prior to any examination taking place. It was a complete joy.
I’m hoping, in my near future, that there will be a people doctor in my community who will offer the same service.
Money Saving Bonus: Transporting three big dogs and three cats would take a vehicle larger than I own, or I would have to go by myself, which couldn’t happen, because handling three large, agitated dogs on a leash, while juggling, three cats in carriers with a combined weight of 40 lbs (not including the carrier weight) is beyond my physical capabilities.
As such, it would require multiple trips, each of which costs me time, gasoline, and wear-and-tear on my car. The closest veterinarian is 8 miles from my house. It saves a gallon or two of gasoline if I have the veterinarian drive to me rather than driving my pets to an office.
3. Visit the Farmer’s Market or Farm Stand instead of the grocery store.
Going to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning used to be a regular errand. It got to where some of the vendors actually looked forward to our weekly trip and would comment if we weren’t there. One vendor was a particular favorite. He sold vegetables, but he also sold seafood (the only one in the plaza who did). He was a crotchety old guy who actually looked like he was probably the one out on the lobster boat. I loved chatting with him every week, and his favorite topic was usually some customer who had balked at his prices, because, as he tells it, they always said something akin to, they could get the same thing at Shaw’s around the corner. To which he would reply, “So, do it.”
I was always sure to tell him that those customers were not getting the same thing at Shaw’s – in spite of what they might believe. There’s no comparing fresh picked and locally grown produce to the imported offerings at the grocery.
But here’s the thing, while his customers may have been correct that they could get potatoes or lettuce or strawberries for less at the chain supermarket, they are incorrect in thinking they’ll spend less money if they buy it from the store, because they won’t leave the store with just the potatoes, lettuce and strawberries. In fact, the stores count on it. Every part of the store has been designed so that you will spend more money. The best way to save one’s dollars, therefore, is to stay out of the stores.
Stopping at the grocery once a month for staples (flour, rice, oats, sugar, etc.) and buying everything else fresh at the Farmer’s Market or farm stand can save quite a few dollars.
Money saving bonus: The bonus is that buying and eating fresh produce is much better for our health than processed food, which will, ultimately, save money on health care costs and medications.
4. Park at the far end of parking lots nearest the exit of the lot and walk to the store.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but consider that we pay for gasoline by the gallon. Gasoline usage is measured in miles per gallon (mpg). When we look at a particular car’s gas mileage, the potential miles per gallon will be higher on the highway than in the city, and the reason is that in the city, where there are a lot of stop lights, there is a lot of idling for lights, and a lot of stopping and going.
The fact is that sitting with one’s car idling equals zero miles per gallon, and will, ultimately, cost a lot more money. So, driving into a parking lot, where the foot traffic is heavier and where there are more cars trying to get into and out of parking spaces means doing a lot of sitting and waiting with one’s car idling. Parking closer to the exit means that one’s car engine is burning gasoline for a shorter period of time.
It’s a little thing, but as Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette asserts, the little things really do add up.
Money saving bonus: Many of us spend hundreds of dollars per year on health club memberships. Doing a little extra walking has been proven to have long-term health benefits, and so parking at the far end of the lot and walking actually have benefits beyond saving a few pennies in gasoline. There is also the added benefit of getting some exercise.
5. Turn off the television.
I read an article a few days ago … I wish I’d earmarked it, but I didn’t. It was something like 5 Habits of Rich People and went on to discuss several ways that people who are wealthy behave as compared to people who are not. One thing that rich people do not do is spend much time in front of the television. In the morning, before work, the article states, the rich person will rise early – well before heading to the office – and take some time for personal enrichment.
On the list of To Dos in the morning was reading (usually financial pages or some such) and exercise. In the evening, rather than going home and sitting on the couch with a cold beer and reality TV for the next three hours until bed time, the rich person often volunteers for some community program.
So, how does this save the average person money? Well, in a lot of ways. First, television commercials are designed to make us want. They appeal to our emotions in ways that are hard to ignore, making us feel like we are inadequate of we don’t have A, B or C product, or that we are depriving our children the key to their eternal happiness, or whatever the emotion the commercials evoke. Make no mistake, advertisers are professionals in psychological manipulation. It’s their job to get you to want whatever it is they’re selling, and they are completely unscrupulous in the actions they will take to make you believe that what they have is what you need.
In addition, this article makes some good points about, not just commercials, but about the television shows themselves. Using the example of the popular sitcom Friends. In the show, the twenty-somethings, who are minimally employed (a waitress and a sous-chef) are somehow able to afford a sprawling loft apartment in New York City. Certainly, if they can have it, why can’t we? When we start down that road of thinking, the result is our spending money we don’t, and won’t ever, have to maintain a lifestyle that’s not even real.
The best way to avoid the temptation is to not expose oneself to it.
Money saving bonus: When people talk about the money savings options related to televisions, most of the time the advice is centered around cost savings from not having cable television, and not paying a cable bill will certainly save dollars, but what very few people ever consider is the cost involved in operating the television to begin with. We talk a lot about saving electricity by changing light bulbs or by using power strips, but what about by not turning on … indeed, not even having … that energy-sucking television? It uses electricity, which costs money, and by not having a television set, one actually does save money on one’s electric bill.
At least, that was our experience when we gave away the television set and DVD player and switched to watching movies or whatever (commercial-free) stuff on our lap top computers – which use an nth of the electricity needed to power the television set, the DVR box, the DVD player, and whatever other peripherals are required.
If that’s not enough, remember that rich people don’t watch TV. They’re out there doing stuff instead of being brainwashed into spending more money.
6. When it comes to heating and cooling, think small … no smaller.
The last couple of days here in S. Maine have been in the 70s and a bit cool. No one was complaining, though, because the week before, it was in the 90s with heat indexes up over 100°, and really, for most of the people who live here, anything over 85° causes bodies to melt. I know, all of you folks down south (which is everything beyond the Pisquaticus bridge in Kittery ;)), are laughing at us up here, which is okay, because when it snows a 1/2″ and your schools and businesses close, we’re laughing at you ;). Just kidding … not really.
Up here, during our recent heat wave, the Grid operator here in New England cautioned people not to crank up the AC in response to the increased temperatures, which I’m sure is pretty much what happens down south when there’s a cold snap and people crank up their furnaces (which in many modern suburban homes is electric). The grid has a hard time when there are spikes in usage, and in fact, I recall from my days living in the suburbs of Alabama that schools and businesses closed one year because there was a snowstorm (ha!), and the grid couldn’t handle the power surge.
The problem is that we are trying very hard to heat or cool all of it – the whole house, and that’s a mistake. We need to start small, and probably a lot of people are pretty certain I’m going to say something about space heating or cooling, but I’m not. By small, I mean start with our bodies. If we can keep our bodies warm or cool, the air temperature isn’t as much of an issue.
Warming techniques include: drinking warm beverages, wearing layers of clothes, and keeping hands and feet covered in heat-holding and moisture-wicking fabrics (like wool).
Cooling techniques include: drinking cool beverages, wearing loose-fitting breathable fabrics like cotton and linen, wearing frozen rice packs around our necks, and frequently soaking our hands and feet in cool water.
Keeping the thermostat at 80° in the summer and at 60° in the winter would result in a huge cost savings.
Money saving bonus: It’s no mistake that both the warming techniques and the cooling techniques begin with drinking something. The best way to regulate our body temperature is to be sure that we are well hydrated, and there are other health benefits to staying well hydrated. Improving our health while also staying cooler or warmer means we can decrease the cost of expensive medical treatments and pharmaceuticals.
And that’s a huge bonus!
Saving money isn’t hard, and, as Amy Dacyczyn, famed author of The Tightwad Gazette and self-proclaimed frugal zealot, asserts, being frugal shouldn’t be something we do just to weather the bad times. If we’re frugal and thoughtful with our money all of the time, especially when we have plenty, then, if we hit hard financial times, it won’t feel like a struggle – it will be just how we do things.