Out of the box ways to cut your living expenses
I see those online articles and I fall for them every time – “Save $1500 this year!” “12 Ways to Save Dollars!” “Keep More Money in Your Pockets With These Simple Tips!” and you know what? They are all the same, and not one of them is ever useful. Well then what are you supposed to do if you’ve already cut your cable subscription to nothing, you keep your thermostat low, and the closest thing you have to a personal trainer is when the neighbor’s dog chases you down the street? There really are more ways to save money, and I’ll share with you a few of the things that have been working for me.
Reduce the amount of garbage you create
I have been working towards this goal to reduce my carbon footprint, but it works towards reducing my living costs as well. There are multiple steps that need to be taken, but none of them are hard.
Recycle. Separate your trash into recyclables and true trash. Some of this will depend on what is available in your area and can be a significant source of volume reduction.
Compost. Food waste can be composted instead of going into the landfill. There are small kitchen worm composting setups, or you can go for a larger system in your back yard. I compost most of my food waste by throwing it to the chickens who happily recycle it into eggs and fertilizer.
Watch what you buy. Choose products with less packaging. If at all possible, skip those stupid clamshell packages that are a pain to get into, and can’t be recycled.
Change your kitty litter. Described later.
Total savings: Mixed into the concepts below.
Reduce your garbage pickup
Check with your waste disposal company and find out what your options are. Can you reduce pickup to twice a month? Once a month? Can you switch to a smaller can size?
My company had a smaller can size option for an almost 40% reduction in my garbage pickup costs. I used this as I worked towards reducing my total amount of waste I produced, until I finally had a plan that would let me cancel my trash pickup altogether. Since I produce so little waste each week, I have a friend that lets me use his garbage can. I also get along well with my neighbors and would have considered asking them for the same favor.
Total savings: ~$23 a month
Change your kitty litter
With two indoor cats, I was spending what seemed like a fortune on clumping cat litter and garbage fees. After a bit of research I discover wood pellets, also called bedding pellets. You can buy them specifically marketed as kitty litter in the form of Feline Pine, but it is so much cheaper just to find a farm supply store and buy a bag of bedding pellets. Many people buy wood stove pellets, but these had too many variables for me to be willing to worry about the extra dollar or two.
It does take time to convince your furred friends that these are a good idea, but once they get the hang of it, you’re spending less on the litter and the resultant sawdust can be composted.
Total savings: ~$35 a month
Wait, you’re saying, how does that save money? Ah, volunteer for events that feed you! I have spent some amazing days listening to bluegrass music, live theater and attending auctions, all the time getting free snacks and having a great time. You may also land some gigs that pay you an honorarium for your time.
Total savings: variable, maybe $10 a month (one or two meals)
Discount groceries, two methods – Discount grocery store, and the scratch-and-dent shelf at your local store.
My local store has started marking down dented cans, smashed boxes, overbuys, label change products and products nearing their expiration date. Meats are marked 30% to 50% off, and all other products are 50% off. The discount is taken from the sale price, and coupons are allowed. I have gotten some killer deals this way such as $0.60 packages of lunch meat and six steaks for $1 each. It’s also nice to treat yourself to something decadent now and then when the price is half off.
Bargain grocery stores. I imagine that every region has their own, so ask around. The grocery outlet closest to me has some great deals on gluten free products that I’ve never found anywhere else, and they also sell end pieces of meats from manufacturers. A pound of Canadian Bacon end bits for $2.99 tastes a whole lot better than 8 ounces for $4.99.
The downside of these shopping experiences is that you don’t know what you’ll find until you get there. You need to shop with both a list and an open mind; plan on stocking up when something is cheap, and being creative with what you find.
Total savings: $30 a month. Probably more for many people, but I’ve been a careful shopper for a while.
Look into local online community groups. This is a great way to great free referrals, advice, or sometimes stuff. You can borrow or barter when you just aren’t able to buy.
Never turn down a free sample. I guess this goes without saying. If nothing else you can feed it to the chickens, or offer it to a friend.
Adding the whole thing up
Implementing even a few of these steps will not only save money, most of them also help you on your quest to reduce your impact on the environment. Less packaging means less waste; composting improves your lawn and garden; borowing means one less item that will need to be eventually landfilled. So what's our financial impact?
Grand total: ~$100 a month. Not counting the free samples and borrowed supplies. That’s $1200 each year. And you’ve reduced your carbon footprint – bonus!
Some, or many of these ideas may not work for you, but I hope they at leaste have made you think about ways you could apply creativity to your own financial situation and maybe have your own unique solutions to saving money.