By Kimberly Blaker
Keeping entertained doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg — or anything at all. Make visiting your library a regular activity. Libraries offer a wide variety of free entertainment, including books, newspapers, magazines (print and digital editions), DVDs, music CDs, and more. If your library doesn’t carry the item you’re looking for, ask about its interlibrary loan program.
Local, county and state parks offer a variety of scheduled activities and programs from bird viewing and nature hikes to concerts and festivals. Parks also provide paved biking trails, hiking and nature trails, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.
Dress for Less
Save on household and clothing expenses by trying these money-saving ideas. You’ll be helping to protect the environment, too.
• Hit the end of the season sales and save 60% to 80% on clothing.
• Visit resale shops for super savings on like-new clothing. You can find these stores locally as well as online resale shops. If you like designer clothing, look for an upscale resale shop in luxury communities.
• Reel in savings the way people of all ages and income brackets are doing today. Hit garage and estate sales for clothing and other household needs. You can find top-quality, top-condition items, for next to nothing.
There are many ways to keep your driving expenses down. Try these for starters.
• Increase the deductible on your collision to $1,000, unless you’re accident-prone. The cost difference can be significant. Also, carefully review all the other charges on your policy. Insurance agents often prepackage or tack on unnecessary coverages or higher coverage than you need.
• Avoid purchasing a brand new vehicle. Opt for a low mileage model, one to four years old. You’ll save a fortune on depreciation.
• Despite the rising cost of food, this is one of the easier places to cut costs. Coupon clipping can net substantial savings—as long as you only buy items you’d purchase anyway. For the best savings, look for grocery stores that offer double coupons. But do your math at these stores to make sure they don’t have a higher markup, or else your savings will go down the drain, or may even cost you more. Also, set guidelines so you don’t use coupons for unnecessary purchases or when it’s a better deal to buy another brand.
• Another strategy, which can cut your grocery bill by at least a third is buying only what’s on sale. Flip through your store flier each week, then stock up with a four- to six-week supply of the sale items. After the first month, you should have plenty of stock to eliminate most non-sale purchases. Although you’ll invest a little more upfront, within a few weeks, you’ll recoup your investment and begin to see your grocery bill drop.
• Avoid wholesale food clubs as well. When comparing prices, the savings are usually minimal and rarely compare to grocery store sale prices. Food clubs may be good for just a few staple items you’ve researched and know are always a better deal and that you really need and use.
• When grocery shopping, always compare the price per ounce on various size packaging. Contrary to popular belief, smaller packages are sometimes the better deal. Manufacturers have learned people go for the larger bulk size items because they’re often a better price per ounce. As a result, some manufacturers switch the pricing around knowing consumers will assume the larger package is a better deal.
• Also, don’t let eating out eat up your spare cash. Keep plenty of simple or frozen meals on hand to toss in the oven when you don’t feel like cooking. Better yet, make large batches of soups, casseroles, and other dishes and freeze them in single-serving containers for simple meals.
The following suggestions can yield significant savings and make banking and loans work for you rather than against you.
• If possible, double up on mortgage and loan payments. If that isn’t in your budget, you can still save by breaking each monthly payment into two. Pay half of your monthly loan and mortgage payments a couple of weeks early. Just contact your lender to make sure both early and partial payments apply to your regular monthly installments, and that interest will be adjusted accordingly.
• Open your checking account at a credit union or bank that offers free accounts with no maintenance or check fees. Also, look into the many banks offering a $300 or $600 bonus for opening a new account.
• Store your credit card rather than carrying it with you, which can lead to impulse buying. Unless you’re disciplined enough to pay off your balance monthly, credit card interest eats up a lot of spare cash.
There are plenty of ways to cut overall energy use without sacrifice. Best of all, it’s better for the planet. So make the following part of your energy-saving strategy.
• Run your dishwasher only when full, and use the no-heat or air-dry setting.
• Keep your refrigerator out of the sun.
• Turn off the oven a few minutes before your meal is done cooking. The heat already built up in the oven will finish the job. In winter months, open the oven door after turning it off to utilize the heat.
• Wash all laundry in cold water, except for sheets and towels, which need hot water to kill bacteria and odors. As an added bonus, it will reduce shrinkage and fading of colors.
• Clean the lint filter on your dryer before each use, and don’t over-dry clothes. Better yet, hang your clothes to dry.
• Evaluate your lighting needs. Use the lowest watt bulb possible that provides ample lighting. Better yet, use LED light bulbs for maximum energy savings.
• Keep your hot water heater between 115 to 120 degrees, as recommended by The Department of Energy. Warmer temperatures are wasteful, unnecessary, and can lead to scalding.
• When purchasing new appliances, compare energy efficiency. Paying a little more for the more energy-efficient appliances can save a lot of money in the end.
• Turn your computer off overnight and during lengthy interruptions.