Surviving Tough Times:

My Story: 14 Ways We Save Money

contributed by Mary


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Years ago when my children were small, we had a serious money problem. We began to do the following things to lower our bills. It helped tremendously.

  1. Change all of your 100-watt bulbs to 60 watt, and leave a few burned out bulbs in lamps that take three to five bulbs. Use your booklight for reading. Most are guaranteed for one year and only cost about $7 each. You can save about $10 a month with the bulb change-out.

  2. Instead of eating out once a week, invite three other families over for a "pound party." Each person brings a pound or more, depending on how many are coming, of their favorite food. Take turns making the main dish. You have your company to talk to and share food with and yet you only furnish one dish for everyone. You can save $100 a month just by doing this once a week.

  3. Get your friends and neighbors together once every three months for a clothing swap. Everyone bring clean, pressed, repaired clothing, including shoes, to swap. If you swap at the end of a season, it will be a whole year before you wear the clothes you swapped with and no one will remember who wore what a year ago! Each person gets to trade as many items as he/she brought. The more people swapping, the more selections you have. This can save you several hundred dollars per year per family member.

  4. Shop off season at high class re-sale shops. My brother wears nothing but leather Italian shoes. He goes every season to shop at the biggest re-sale shop there is. He always looks like a million bucks. The bigger cities have bigger high class stores. Another several hundred dollar savings.

  5. Barter, barter, barter! Find a local place to begin a bartering billboard. Make four columns on a large chalkboard: one for your first name, one for your phone/contact number, one for what you need (list everything here from items to services needed), and one for what you have to barter including items as well as services you can perform. That could include sewing, gardening, housecleaning, babysitting, auto repair, oil changing, or even typing. Once a week check the bartering board. You can put this up in a church, neighborhood grocery store, laundromat, etc. I have bartered many things. Make sure you feel good about the barter, and make sure the items or skills to be bartered are plain. I had a lot of fabric scraps and saw someone needing valances. I bartered by making the valances out of my leftover fabrics and the other person gave me fresh produce and a hand-made game board for Wahoo in exchange. Bartering is priceless.

  6. When you rent movies, trade rentals with a friend on Saturday or Sunday morning, and return to friend by Sunday night, in time to take back to the store that evening. You get to watch double amount of movies that week. Saves about $10 a week by renting only half the amount of movies and swapping.

  7. Don't forget the public library has many resources including book talks, reviews, book clubs, book sales several times a year, and CD and DVD movie rentals. This can save you hundreds per year.

  8. Never go to the grocery store hungry. Stick with your list. Make your list and week's menu from the sale flyer from the grocery stores. Find the cheapest meats per serving, instead of per pound, and build the rest of your menu around the veggies and fruit, etc. that's on sale. If you find a leader item, an item that is ridiculously cheap, buy $10 worth even if you have to take the whole family and each one go in and buy the limited amount. Always have $5-10 each week for those leader items in the circular. You can save about $100 a month by doing this.

  9. Appoint different people in the family to be head of saving in one particular area. For example, even a small child can be appointed to keep all the lights turned off in the whole house that are not being used. Someone else can be in charge of wastefulness and/or keeping doors closed when using air conditioning. You would be surprised how active children will get in this when they are head of something. It also builds character. Remember to have a family meeting to decide how the saved money can be spent on something more tangible and needed. The children will surprise you. Don't exclude them in this. You can save approximately $700 a year with this trick.

  10. Have a family contest to see who can plan/cook the cheapest balanced meal. Do this two times per week. Or get your friends involved. Save another $20 a week.

  11. Cook outside whenever possible. It saves energy and cooling bills. Find solar box cooker instructions on the Web and make one for free. They really do work and it gets the whole family involved and out of the kitchen. Saves $65 a month on cooling bills.

  12. Eat raw foods in the summer. Enjoy fresh salads, tomatoes, veggie plates, and fruits, even cold cuts that are on sale. Eat outside by lantern.

  13. Don't forget to make sun tea or sun lemonade.

  14. Keep the blinds and curtains pulled all day during the sunshine and open the windows at night to let the cool air in.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@stretcher.com

Take the Next Step:

  • Visit your local library to see what surprises you may find, such as videos, music, puzzles, and computer software. Not to mention a good book!
  • The author recommends that you "find the cheapest meats per serving, instead of per pound." Use The Dollar Stretcher's free online tool here to calculate the cost of meat per serving.
  • Take control of your finances. Subscribe to our weekly "Surviving Tough Times" newsletter. This free html newsletter will provide ways to survive in this challenging economy. Each issue features nine articles to help you stretch your dollar!

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