Now, most of you out there know how expensive it is to be alive today. Whether you have kids or not, the cost of living has soared since our parents youth. Tuition, rent (especially here in BC; whuddup to living across the straight from the most expensive city in Canada in which to buy a home), utilities, gas, food costs even are higher than ever. In fact, UBC researchers have found that young families today have it harder financially and deal with a standard of living that has declined substantially from the days of the baby boomer. In fact, they call us, "a squeezed generation."
Now, as the hipster of modern economics (I was poor before it was cool), I've noticed the rest of the Western world returning to financial strategies that were absolute necessity when I was young. Along with walking to school in the freezing snow, uphill both ways, when I was young, no name brands were always in our cupboards, second hand books and toys for Christmas were standard, and hand-me-downs the rule. So seeing these suggestions in internet articles aiming to help me save money really doesn't give me too much of a rise. That being said, I think there's always room in the Internet for one more list of ways to save money in a depressing economy.
1) Bottle returns. I know what you're thinking, it seems kind of obvious... but you'd be surprised how many people either don't care about their own impact on the environment, or do but can't deal with the hassle of bringing them for trade-in. The way I see it, the deposit is tacked onto the price you pay for the product, so why on earth wouldn't you want to get it back?? Not only does taking in my bottles (and anyone else's who doesn't feel like doing the depot thing, and doesn't mind missing out on the money I get for them) help the environment, and make me a tidy $20-$60 every month or so, but it also nets me a cool two hours of GLORIOUS alone time, driving up to the depot, organizing my recyclables, and going to pick up whatever small groceries I require! And as a SAHM of two children under three, NO alone time is to be taken for granted!
2) I'm a woman who has experienced quite a few Christmases and birthdays. That means I have an overabundance of bath sets in scents I either don't care for or absolutely loathe. But it's not all bad! Shower gel that would otherwise sit moldering in some bathroom cabinet has been repurposed in my house as bathroom hand soap! Since going through my extensive bath product collection almost a year ago, when The Other Half lost his full time job, I haven't bought soap since. In a pinch, I've even used it as shampoo! (Yes, I was desperate that day. :/)
3) I admit it...I used to be a speeder. I loved flying down the highway doing thirty over the limit at best... granted this was when I was working graveyards so there wasn't much traffic at the times I would take these joyrides, but that doesn't make it excusable, or any safer. As a mom, I slowed down a tad, but thought nothing of punching it when alone in the car, or sometimes just to get through a light. As a Mom working full time bringing in the only household income, this past year, I learned finally that driving the limit is not only safer, but will save you a bundle on gas costs! Gladys (my sixteen-year-old white, unassuming Corsica) has always been good on gas, but since adopting this one moronicly simple trick, Gladys has been able to stretch quarter tanks for weeks. You read that right. Weeks. Side bonus for your wallet: you don't get tickets, bank-breaking vehicle impounds, points on your license or insurance premium increases driving the speed limit.
4) Making meals from scratch is a healthy, often cheap alternative to eating out or buying processed, pre-packaged foods. Making more than you need for one meal yields next day lunches or subsequent meal components. Buying meat products in bulk and freezing them in bags, one meals worth at a time makes weekday cooking faster. When your toddler won't eat her dinner, if you're like me you might be tempted to leave her at the table until bedtime, or the dinner is gone, especially if you watched her happily scarf down the exact same meal two weeks before. Instead of turning dinnertime into an unwinnable battle, simply let her down, and package her meal separately in tupperware for the next day. When the Booger Pile gets obstinate about her food, I tell her, "You don't have to eat it now, but you do have to eat it." And then I offer the left overs the next day for lunch. Combining leftovers with fresh meal and snack components is a healthy, thrifty way to avoid throwing away ANY food. One thing I've found since cutting down our discretionary spending is that an empty fridge right before payday need not be looked negatively. It means you're wasting nothing that you spent your money on, and isn't that the very definition of value?
5) Consider planting veggies... easy ones to start with include cucumber and tomatoes. Herbs and spices can cost an arm and a leg for tiny little bottles in the grocery stores, but many widely used herbs grow perfectly happily on the kitchen window sill. My goal this year is to learn how to preserve foods from my grandmother. She has multiple fridges and freezers stocked full of frozen berries, preserved vegetables, and a cellar full of canned foods like jam, pickled beets, applesauce, and more. When you grow and preserve your own food instead of buying it, you can be sure about whats in it. Who knows, you might be saving yourself a nasty (and expensive, after medication costs, not to mention loss of income from missing work) bout with salmonella, E coli, or some other food bourne illness.
Anyways, those are my best ideas so far for holding onto my pennies in a world that seems bent on taking them away from me. What are your tricks for saving money today?