I thought it might be time to look at things that are a bit more broadly applicable, such as ways to keep your day-to-day costs down. We all have to eat, pay bills, use some form of transport, etc., so I thought I’d share some of the stuff that SO and I do.
1. Reduce (or give up) your addiction. You’ll notice that the addiction isn’t specified. That’s because we’ve all got one, whether it’s low-scale (I can’t walk past the chocolate counter without picking up a couple of hip-widening items) or more significant, such as gambling. Ultimately, all ‘addictions’ come at a cost – both financial and personal. I’m not going to go into the personal side here, but the financial side is pretty obvious. This is a difficult one, as weaknesses are pretty much universal, but it does save money. For example, in Australia, a 25-pack of cigarettes is about the $10 mark. That’s $70 a week, and over $3,500 a year. That’s a lot of money, in anyone’s terms.
2. Eat at home. Cooking at home is cheaper than going out or eating takeaway. Sure, it’s a pain to get home from work and have to cook. But not every meal has to be a gourmet three-course production, either. During the week, we eat a lot of meals of the poached eggs on toast/baked beans on toast/toast by itself variety. On weekends I’ll cook decent meals, with things like green vegetative matter included. We do get some vitamins in our lunches, as well – we can’t be bothered taking our lunch to work (well, only rarely, anyhow) so we tend to stick to things like Subway. Also, we take multivitamins. (I know, it’s not a substitute for real vegetables, but it’s better than nothing.)
One thing I do, if I’m cooking, is I tend to make extra. That way, I can take it to work. There are a number of dishes that taste better when they’re reheated (such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognase, really anything with mince it it). It’s easy, as you’re already cooking, and it’s convenient at work to just reheat something, rather than go out and get lunch.
Another thing I do in the kitchen – I compost all the scraps (except for meat and dairy). Perth has a Mediterranean climate, so this method works all year round – I don’t know how much luck you’d have if you’re in a colder area. I fill up a container with a lid (such as an old icecream container) with scraps, dig a hole, dump in the scraps, add a containerful of water to it, then cover it over with the dirt. In six to eight weeks, it’s broken down and helped fertilise your garden. Plus, it’s reduced the amount that would’ve otherwise gone to landfill. Since doing this, I’ve seen worms in our garden for the first time since we moved here (coming up to two years ago).
3. Don’t have expensive hobbies. Or if you do, control your expenditure. SO is an IT geek, both professionally and outside of work. However, we’ve only recently replaced his computer (bought in 2000!) for a new model. Sure, it has bells and whistles. But he hadn’t spent any money for seven years on his previous one, and he’ll probably do something similar with this one. You try finding anyone who works in IT who hasn’t done some kind of upgrade in that time.
My hobbies are pretty low-cost – blogging, napping, reading, playing and listening to music. So what with SO’s willpower to resist upgrading his first love, and my inexpensive hobbies, we spend very little of our money on pastimes.
4. Check out eBay. With all the potential downfalls (such as those people looking to rip off the unsuspecting buyer or seller), eBay is still a fantastic resource. You can buy literally anything. I recommend the stuff that doesn’t weigh a lot – I’ve bought some beautiful clothes in perfect condition from eBay sellers. And it’s a good forum to sell things as well – I’ve had success in offloading clothes that I *cough* grew out of. It’s definitely worth a look.
5. Check out your local community forums. I see local forums with items for sale as the perfect complement to eBay. This is the place to look for the bigger items, especially furniture. When we were furnishing our one-bedroom unit that we’ve just rented out, we kept our expenditure to under $1000 for all items. (I keep meaning to write a post about this – when I do, I’ll make sure I link to it here.) This is where people who are trying to offload stuff (often in a hurry) advertise. Plus, you know it’s going to be local, which is handy for picking up – no delivery charges.
6. Get to know when specials happen. I’ve found I do this automatically at the local supermarket. We buy the same stuff repeatedly, and so I know that every few weeks, the big packets of my cereal will go on special. When that happens, I buy up big time. The same goes for other staples such as cleaning products (which tend to be expensive), meat, and bread (freezes beautifully). I keep hinting to SO that I want a deep freeze so we can really buy up big, but he’s of the opinion that we don’t need it. The same applies to things like clothing and household items – keep an eye out for catalogues that advertise the end of financial year sales, for example.
Another avenue to explore is the factory outlets. These can be for clothing, electrical items, you name it. In Perth, these tend to be located around the Osborne Park area. (Table 8 factory outlet, anyone? My supervisor told me today that she got a cream coloured pants suit, in perfect condition, for $40 total. The original retail price was close to $500.)
7. Carpool, or use public transport. I must admit that I don’t find public transport appealing. I think it’s the years I spent in high school, commuting an hour each way every day. However, carpooling is ideal. I’m lucky in that SO and I both work for the same organisation, so carpooling really works well for us. But it can also work well if you and a neighbour both work in the same area. Not only does it save on petrol, parking and servicing costs, it’s also better for the environment. Every little bit helps.
8. If you can’t save money, try making more. This is looking at the other side of the saving coin, so to speak. If you really have a limited budget, look at what you can do to increase your income. Can you do a course to help you get a promotion at work? Can you teach something? I’m a fan of the teaching thing. I played a musical instrument for many years, and considered it as a profession. Teaching means I get to enjoy my passion, and make money from it, while seeing younger musicians develop their skills and get a kick out of that feeling of accomplishment. It’s an all-round winner. You don’t need to teach music – it can be craft, maths, almost anything. You can schedule it to suit your lifestyle, and you can do it from your own home.
I’m sure there’s plenty of other good ideas and approaches out there – I’d love to hear of your bargain-hunting tips and tricks.