I was to make my long over due post about frugal meals, which will be coming shortly.
The past month has been spent with my dealing with the kiddos colds and flu. Oh the joys. While rocking the sicklets to sleep I was watching a lot of news and terrifying myself. World wide businesses are closing up, moving or downsizing. House prices have tanked and the price of everything crawls upwards. People have watched their investments shrink to nothing and finding themselves once again worrying about their futures. It is tough all around and nobody is really immune.
Okay enough doomsdaying...on to plan 'B'.
First off I take comfort in knowing I have a lot of great company and that I am not the only one freaking out a bit. Some of us just do it in our heads and others are talking about it to anyone who will listen. True Harper greeted us with smiles and said it is will be okay, we are going to spring back quickly yadda yadda yadda. With all due respect - NOT. I am not sure where he is going to pull 200 000 plus jobs out of his backside by the summer. If he does could somebody kindly post it on YouTube? This is a time to get your ducks in a line and fatten them up so you can eat them if need be.
I have done a great deal of thinking about this and have come up with my own little list of what I think could be helping people long term and these are realistic suggestions in my humble opinion. Some may apply and others may not.....
1. If you have a mortgage negotiate with your bank to be able to put an extra amount on your payment when you can, without penalty. Even an extra $20 or $50 a payment is going to make a big dent long time. A calculator I used on MSN Money worked out that an extra $100 a month on a $200 000 mortgage will save you almost $750 in interest. Don't want to commit to a bi-weekly or monthly payment - throw it in a high yield savings account for an emergency payment fund for your mortgage and use it for a yearly chunk payment - that $1200 annually could end up saying you over $6000 by the time you pay your mortgage off.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - $6000 a year with a $1200 investment
2. Can you go without cable? Rogers with basic cable, digital box and the movie channel is close to $120 a month. You can watch a lot of shows online for free. http://www.showcase.ca/ has Weeds, Trailer Park Boys and a tons of others for free. So does A Channel and several other sites. PBS is great for docs and basically every other Canadian channel allows you to watch shows the next day. If you are a techie I am told if you have a new HD TV there is some cable you can attach from the computer to the TV so you watch them. Don't forget libraries have really impressive DVD collections now. Plus there are many peer to peer sites that you can download from. Some say it is legal, others claim it is not. You make the call. All I have to say is I have never heard of the SWAT team kicking in the door for downloading the first season of Zoey 101 for the kids.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - $1440 a year
3. Cell phones - do you use all your time? I bet you don't if you are a regular user. That is a quick call from the kids or hubby reminding you he will be late. I was paying $40 a month for a phone. I switched to a pay as you go that allows minutes to roll over up to three months. Three months later I haven't spent my initial $10. Next month I will only pay for the $5 card and go from there. The phone plane I bought allows for texts that only count as 1 minute, so I text people and they can text me back. This is costing me about $3 a month..that is a savings of $37 a month my comrades.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - $444 yearly
4. Transportation eats into every one's budget. Think about getting a bus pass and then get the government write off for it. Offer to car pool with people from work, you can alternate weeks as to share wear and tear on the car. Post notes in the cafe at work to offer to drive people along your route for gas money. Drive your kid to high school - most would rather the ride and charge them bus fare - you are headed the same way. It may all sound a little cheap but you are offering a service and a time saver. You aren't out to fleece them, just to cover your own gas money for a trip you are making anyway. You can basically make these trips for free. Saving you half a tank of gas - which would roughly be about $20 a week for these trips.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - $1040 yearly
5. Groceries. Well, many of us frugalites are on top of these but there are still more savings to be had. Approach a fruit/veg wholesaler. Do you know many of them will sell direct to the customer as long as the order is above a certain amount. In my area it is $200. Get a couple families together and spend about 50% less. Being that stats say the average family spends $50 a week on fruit and veg that adds up. And I think a lot of us cut back on fruit and veg because of the prices. Or you can buy an order for yourself and can, freeze and dehydrate the lot.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - $1300 yearly
6. Gift giving gets really crazy. Holidays, birthday parties, baby showers - the list goes on and on. I am not telling you to stiff your kiddos but I am suggesting that everyone gets with the program. If my six year old daughter can, who has a wish list as long as me, any child can. I have made it quite clear one gift for each holiday and everything else they have to save for. They often get great gifts throughout the year, they just aren't brand new. Last week they got 5 almost brand new board games from Goodwill for the sum of $10. There is over $125 worth of games and puzzles there. Most people spend about $300 average per child on Christmas, I spent $50 for both and nobody is requiring therapy. Birthday parties I limit to true and actual friends and buy things all year deeply discounted - example Bratz doll with a computer games $5 - and have 'stock' on hand. They make the cards and we reuse wrapping paper or make our own.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - depends on family but at least $600 a year
7. Clothing can take a real bite out of a budget. Especially if hard to fit or you need business attire. Suits aren't cheap from what I hear. There are consignment stores popping up all over. A friend in Toronto bought a classic Armani suit for $50 and paid another $75 to have it altered. Grand total of $125 for a $800 plus suit. Goodwill and Value Village always have classic little black dresses and amazing vintage pieces cheap. My Goodwill has about six racks of men's dress shirts in near new condition for $5 each. Brooks Bros., Gap, old Navy, Lacosse - all the major labels. People gain/lose weight, get things that don't fit etc - most of it is like new. And if you live in a university town like I do most of these kids rather dump it then move it back home, usually many hours drive away. Always look for things second hand BEFORE you buy new. Also work on a basic wardrobe when cruising these stores. I have my funeral outfit, couple job interview outfits, a couple things to wear to a wedding etc. Beyond that jeans and sweats are just fine and all those I buy second hand.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - at least $500 a year for the hardcore fashion diva
8. Planning ahead can save you a bundle. DD birthday is once a year, though she insists it should be twice a year. I found a dollar store going out of business, everything was 75% off. I bought everything for her birthday, except for a few odds and ends, for about $5. I also stocked up on school supplies and was able to put together a couple emergency kits for the kids who couldn't afford these things. I managed to get 24 Crayola pencil crayons for .25. would have been silly to buy one pack, I bought 20. Good for school, gifts, loot bags and donation. Did the same with scissors, paper, erasers, note books, journals etc. I am set for about four years. True I spent almost $45 on this stuff, but the pencil crayons alone would have cost me $80. Always think ahead when you see good deals or post holiday sales.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - average $500 to $1000 a year depending on family size
9. Thinking outside the box can save you a lot of money. For my candy needs I hit a candy manufacturer in town. I get wholesale sized boxes for $2, this is usually penny candy and such. I like sending grab bags for each and every holiday for the class. I can do it for about $3 per holiday per class. And they are big bags too - needless to say I am a popular momma with the elementary school crew. Many places like Kellogg's, Cadbury's etc have staff store. Sometimes they are open to the public once a month, sometimes never. But even the ones that aren't you can sometimes sweet talk them into a once a year visit. If not ask if you can make a group purchase. Cash and Carry places will sometimes let you have a visitor's shop as well. I went to one place that let me shop once. I planned it, went with cash and saved up before hand. spent $200 but will not need to buy saran wrap, tin foil or other such things for about 5 years. Too excessive for you? Split with a friend or several families.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - about $400 a year
10. In these lean or soon to be lean times it really pays to stock up where you can, even if that means sometimes paying a bill late. Hear me out on this one. I am not saying pay a bill months late, I am talking a couple days to a couple weeks, before you pay any interest. Example - No Frills had their dollar days sale a couple weeks ago. They had toothbrushes, brand name, on sales for $1. I didn't have any money for a week, but had my gas bill money which was just due. To me it makes sense to take that money and buy something at a lost leader sale and pay the bill a few days later. I went and bought 20 toothbrushes. Same toothbrushes this week would have cost me $64. I saved $44 plus tax. We change our brushes every three months so for us it made sense. I buy major bulk of all nonperishable items when on sale, to the max my budget allows. Yes I look odd buying 30 bottles of dish soap but hey, when I am getting it for $1 and it is usually $3 or $4 that is a huge savings. And of course you usually run out when it is not on sale lol. It also keeps those budget eaters at bay when you are having a short week.
POSSIBLE SAVINGS - depends but I save about $1200 yearly
So with those savings do you realize that is well over $10 000 a year you could save. Okay, true many would not want to take those drastic measures. But IF you have to, due to loss of employment or other such situation, you know you can trim a lot of fat from the budget, that at the moment seems like meat. Think of it as your survival plan.
Other cost cutting ideas -
- call your credit card company and demand they lower your interest rate, if they don't want to shop around and look for a 0% balance transfer or even better if you have a good relationship with your bank, get a line of credit and pay them all off, carrying the debt for about 3% interest rates and lower monthly payments
- call your telephone company and tell them that you are going to switch if you don't get a better deal or perks. A friend did this, they refused to budge, so they called Bell. One year free features and a smoking hot new HP flat screen monitor. Rogers responds well to threats of jumping ship too. And if they don't in about 3 months they will call you offering you an amazing winning back program.
- ask for a discount EVERYWHERE. I get discounts at walmart, shoppers, pretty well 9 out of 10 times. I look for slightly soiled clothing - like where makeup has rubbed off when somebody was trying it one -, crushed or faded boxes, hair care products that have been squeezed etc. I also have gotten wise to my local grocery stores mark down scheme on meat. I go early, grab what I want that I know is going to be marked down and ask them to do it on the spot. Yeah, kind a pushy but I was able to fill a 21 c.f. freezer with meat for about $100 which is getting me through these couple uber lean months.
- ask to trade. I was walking down a street by me and started talking to this really sweet old lady. I made comment on her fruit trees. She told me most of it rots because she can't pick it. So I offered to pick it for her in trade for half of what I pick. She was thrilled, I am thrilled. Free apples, plums and cherries. Plus it is a nice visit and she loves the kids tagging along. They like the pop and cookies she gives them. We all win. I also asked a potato farmer if he would give me a good deal if i dug them up myself. He told me I could come after the plow went through and take what I could find. Well I had enough potatoes for 6 months, and never a better potato did I have.
- ask to borrow. But you have to be willing to lend as well. This is especially great for tools and camping gear.
- just do without. Sounds harsh but in these times wants sometimes have to give to needs. I want new throw pillows, I don't need new throw pillows. I could really use some new towels but what we have is working, they are just a bit sorry looking.
- shop around for insurance rates. I tore back this old shed in the back yard and I noticed it was on my household insurance for $25 000 replacement cost. WTF????? Called and told him it was gone, my insurance dropped by $20 a month. Not driving to work, reduce that car insurance. Installed an alarm system or security feature? That saves you on your household insurance.
Next time I promise it will all be about cheap and healthy meals. With web sites and all the goodies you need to feed your family on nest to nothing.