“Finding Money around the House,” Ensign, Sept. 1990, 67–68
How many times have you wished for a little extra cash so that you can retire your debts and build your savings? You can find “excess funds” by looking around your house for ways to cut expenses. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Turn the Screws
Learn to make your own repairs and improvements. How-to books and pamphlets and community education classes can help you obtain the necessary skills.
Fix leaky faucets.
Paint exterior wood surfaces to prevent deterioration. Preventive maintenance costs less than replacements or repairs.
Check want ads and garage sales for good buys on furniture and appliances. Be certain appliances are in good working condition, and have that fact stated in writing on the bill of sale.
Try to buy wholesale. Sometimes distributors will sell directly to you for their price plus tax.
Preventing Cold Feet
Ask local utility companies for pamphlets or counsel on ways to cut waste.
Clean furnace filters every two months, and replace them when they start to plug up.
Close vents in unused rooms or buy a programmable thermostat to turn down heat and air-conditioning when you are asleep or away.
Make sure your home is insulated properly.
During the summer, use a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer.
Turn your water-heater temperature down.
Teach your family—and yourself—to turn off lights, the television, curling irons, and other appliances they are not using.
If you don’t own a water-saver toilet, put a brick or bottle of water in your toilet tank.
Chewing the Fat
If you can, buy a phone instead of renting one.
Avoid phoning long-distance impulsively. Plan your calls when rates are lowest.
Write letters instead of making long-distance phone calls, and send a postcard rather than a letter whenever it will suffice.
When you ship packages, compare prices to find the least expensive method.
Keeping the Clothes on Your Back
Buy good-quality clothes that will wear well, that will not go out of style soon, and that can be mixed and matched with other items in your wardrobe.
Choose clothes that can be worn year-round to save the expense of having to maintain two wardrobes.
Shop around for quality “look-alikes” rather than buying name-brand apparel.
Shop at factory outlets or discount stores—but be wary. Some places that advertise themselves as discount stores are not. Know what various articles of clothing cost before you shop.
Ask for clothes and shoes with minor flaws in them. The quality is usually the same, and store managers will often give you a discount on them. Also, ask for seconds at outlet stores.
Call a six-month moratorium on buying clothes.
Trade clothes you don’t wear with family members and friends.
Learn to alter clothes so that you can wear them longer.
Learn to make your own clothing.
Bringing Home the Bacon
Remember that no one grocery store has all of the cheapest prices in town. As your time permits, shop around for the best buys.
Watch the ads, and plan menus to correspond with sale items. To help you determine good buys, keep a list of items you commonly buy and their prices in several different stores.
Use coupons only if they are for items you use or if the product is the lowest-priced brand.
Make a shopping list, and stick to it. Eat before you shop, and leave your children at home so you’re not tempted or coerced into buying extra items. If possible, shop only twice a month.
Use as few convenience foods as possible. Buy a cookbook that has recipes for homemade mixes so you can still make quick meals.
Avoid waste. Freeze leftovers in serving-size portions so you can eat them at a more convenient time.
Use less-expensive cuts of meat, and stretch meat by making more casseroles, skillet dishes, soups, and stews.
If you have a freezer, buy meat in bulk at good prices. Be sure to price the beef already cut and wrapped rather than “on the hoof.” Make certain that meat packers don’t substitute hamburger for steak.
Get day-old bakery goods from discount stores.
Buy 1-percent milk, or mix dried milk with whole milk.
Curb your consumption of junk foods. They are usually the most expensive and the worst for you.
Analyze whether it is more costly to buy hot lunches at school or work or to make sack lunches. If you decide to pack lunches, include foods that you know your family will eat.
Buy food in bulk or in “car-load” sales.
After you have acquired a year’s supply of food, maintain it. Then you need buy items only when they are on sale.
Within just a few months of implementing some of these ideas, you’ll find that looking for ways to save money comes almost automatically.—Lyle E. Shamo, West Jordan, Utah