How small savings can add up to big results

Small Savings

by Lynn Bulmahn


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On many gift-giving occasions, I give gift baskets filled with items that I have collected bit by bit throughout the year. They may be free samples of toiletries, ink pens, note pads, and small miscellaneous items that I add to the paid-for bigger items in the gift basket or Christmas stocking. Of course, I never pay the outrageous prices for store-produced gift baskets, which typically have packaging material making up about half the high-priced contents. I make my own, and they're stuffed full with goodies, some of them freebies I've found. People love them! Bit by bit, I collect these items until Valentine's, Mother's Day, someone's graduation or birthday and then combine them into a really good present.

At Halloween, my candy cache includes peppermints given to me by certain fast food restaurants when they give me my bill. Again, I save them bit by bit throughout the year. The servers usually give several pieces of candy each time. I eat one piece and then save the others for the bucket in the pantry. This stash is used whenever candy is needed. I've never had a spook on my doorstep (or anyone else) reject the treats I've collected bit by bit.

When I was walking my dog, our trek included a parking lot. There, I saw a perfectly fine plastic tubular coat hanger on the pavement. Yes, I picked it up. At home, I wiped it clean and it is now in the laundry room awaiting use with all my other hangers. Instead of buying a hanger or other necessary item, I keep my eye out for some and collect them bit by bit.

When working in offices, I always take off the paper clips before throwing away a bunch of papers. And, if I see one on the floor, I pick it up. I collect paper clips bit by bit, too. They all go in my desk drawer awaiting use and save my bosses a little bit of money, since they don't need to replenish my paper clip stash at the office supply store.

In all of these cases, I save money by collecting things bit by bit. It's a frugal trick you need to acquire.

Pick up pennies, and bit by bit, you will save dollars.

Find thick tree branches and logs left at the curb with the brush, and bit by bit, you will have enough wood for your fireplace next winter. (It may have to season a year before using, however.)

Save ribbons and bows from your gift packages, and bit by bit, you'll have enough for all of your holiday gift-giving occasions, without having to buy new package decorations. I've even volunteered to clean up after the office holiday party in order to grab discarded bows before they hit the trash.

A maintenance man at my university did the ultimate bit-by-bit collecting. At the end of each semester, he had the dorm workers call him anytime a student resident left behind concrete blocks. The blocks, commonly used in "bricks and board" bookshelves, were a problem for the garbage men to pick up. But the maintenance man collected them. Bit by bit, he was acquiring enough free concrete blocks to build himself a storage building at his farm. Smart fellow!

Two other students commonly raided the same end-of-semester trash piles. Bit by bit, they got enough discarded stuff to hold a garage sale. That's how they raised extra cash for college.

Bit by bit, people collect cans and other items for recycling. It adds up. Depending on the metal prices, they can turn the soda cans, tin cans, or junk metal into a pocket full of money. One pickup truck load recently earned my friend more than $91.

Sometimes, a cash windfall does not come to you all at once, but bit by bit. What other ways can you think of to save or earn money a bit at a time?

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