Lots of Ways to Save a Little




OK, this isn't so much one thing you can do as it is a suggestion for a change in the way you do many things. The savings for each thing is minimal, but when you do them all together, there is a big impact.

The overall idea is to think about the cost of everything you do, and to calculate the savings if you could make a minor change to that thing. Here are some ideas.

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Step 1: Save on Health and Beauty Products

You know how on toothpaste commercials they show the big toothbrush with a beautiful streak of toothpaste across the whole thing? Have you ever tried using less that a whole streak of it? Try starting your streak in the middle of the toothbrush and going to the end - using half. You'll find that it works just as well and you have less to clean out of the sink! So if you use 1 tube of toothpaste per month at a cost of about $3 per tube, cutting your use in half will save you $18 per year.

Now do the same with your shampoo and liquid body soap - use a little less each day until you find the least amount you can use and still get the results you want. Try it with shaving cream, hair gel, etc, etc. In your bathroom alone, you can probably save $50 or more per year just by trimming the amount you use of each product.

Step 2: Household Cleaners

When you're done in the bathroom, try the same with household cleaners. Just because the detergent cups in your dishwasher hold 1/2 cup of detergent doesn't mean you have to use that much. Try filling them 1/2 full - you won't even notice the difference.

Use a little less toilet bowl cleaner, liquid disinfecting cleaner, and laundry soap. Try adding a little water to your liquid cleaners to stretch them (so you can pour out the same amount you're used to without actually using as much).

Step 3: Other Household Products

Do you reuse your plastic zip lock bags? It's no different than reusing other storage containers. Wash them in the dishwater with everything else and hang them over something to dry. And every time you do, you cut your cost on these little guys in half.

You can do this with aluminum foil as well if it's clean or can be wiped clean.

But you can save even more by not using baggies or foil or plastic wrap if you can help it. Reuse butter tubs for food storage when you can.

Step 4: Food

One of my favorite examples is the cinnamon sticks I use for making my Chai Latte' recipe. They cost about $8 for a container that holds about 60 sticks, or about $.13 per stick, and I used to use a fresh one every day. I've discovered that they can be used many times without adversely affecting the flavor. I save $.13 every time I reuse one. So if I can use one stick 4 times, in the course of a year, that's a savings of $36 - just on cinnamon sticks!

Try the same thing with tea bags (using them twice cuts your cost in half).

You can reduce other food costs by simply using a little less - a little less peanut butter on your sandwiches, one less sweetener packet in your coffee. If you use drink mixes (chocolate milk, powdered iced tea or kool-aid type mixes) try using just a little less each time until someone complains. A little less butter in your mashed potatoes, 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips in the cookie mix instead of 2 cups...You're not likely to even notice the difference - until you look at your grocery bill!

Step 5: Utilities

There are lots of ways to trim your bills at home. Check your phone bill for extras you don't use. Most people have cell phones now that include long distance calling. If possible, eliminate long distance from your home phone. And do away with all those added features - do you REALLY use them?

Your electric bill can be trimmed by being vigilant about turning off lights and appliances when they're not in use. You can also replace regular bulbs with fluorescent and really cut electric use for lights. Turn your heat down a degree or two - do it slowly and you'll hardly notice. Better yet, get a programmable thermostat - they're cheap, about $20 for the no frills kind, and easy to install (I'm sure there's an instructable somewhere!). It can turn your heat down for you when you're asleep or away, and turn it up before you get home or before you get out of bed in the morning. You'll never know it was turned down.

Step 6: Gasoline

The trick here is to convert miles to dollars. Start with a full tank of gas and reset your trip meter. Drive as usual - then refill and figure out your mpg. Do the math at the current gas prices and determine your actual cost to drive a mile. Then the next time you think about driving to the store to pick up a gallon of milk, consider how much that trip will cost you. It would cost me about $1 (now that gas has dropped below $3 per gallon!). Milk is already expensive enough - is it worth paying another dollar for it?

Instead, try to plan ahead and combine trips - get all your groceries together, pick up groceries when you're running other errands, or have your hubby stop on his way home from work!

You can also work out a carpool with parents of other kids in your neighborhood. Seems like we're always driving to school to get the kids after a function and we find our neighbors are all there to get their kids, too. What a waste!

(Photo Credit: Flickr)

Step 7:

Each of these things seems to have a small savings. But when you start to do the math, you'll see the savings add up. You can EASILY save hundreds of dollars a year without sacrificing performance, satisfaction, or convenience. (Imagine what you can save if you're willing to sacrifice some of those things, too!)

Now to enhance the effect, translate those savings into hours at your job. How many hours would you have to work to earn that much money? (In our house, I'm a stay at home mom, so I translate every dollar I spend into how long my husband has to work to earn it. My money-saving efforts are my way of contributing to the family's finances.)

I hope you find something useful in this instructable. It's not important to do everything listed here. But start thinking about the little things you can do. Start with one or two and you'll find it addicting! Soon you'll be partying like it's 1929!

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    17 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 6

    My friend and i live really close and we carpool for practically everything.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    you can mix bread crumbs or rice in with your ground beef to stretch it further or use some grated apple in with your meat it gives it a nice flavor and will stretch it quite a bit. potatoes are usually very inexpensive and they are one of the least complex carbohydrates. they are also exceptionally easy to grow and will even help break up clay soil so you can have a successful garden which also saves an awful lot of money. beans are a very good source of protein and calcium and they are very inexpensive for a bag full of beans and they really stretch a long way. a lot of times buying spices from bulk foods will save a bundle also. buying in small quantities will help prevent vegetables from going bad but may cost more in gas depending on how far you live from the grocery store. sometimes if you are struggling there are low income programs through your utility company that will lower your rates. Pg&e has a program that will come out and help weather proof your home if you qualify under their income guidelines and use gas or electric from them for heat. also don't be too proud to use what programs are out there if you truly need them. The salvation army is willing to help with food and clothes if you are absolutely destitute. if your having difficulties keeping your house warm there is an awesome product called window shrink that keeps the cold out from your windows. hope this helps.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    using my tea bags twice has always sounded good, but since i opt to buy the cheap stuff anyway it always comes out horrible, tasting like dirty water instead? i dont boil my tea bags, i use boiling water in my piture and add the tea bags....do you think if the second time around, that if i boiled them the tea would taste better? cause i realy enjoy my tea and do not want to comprimize the taste for the benifit of being frugal. i want quality and quanity. HELP!!!! lol.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    I'm no tea expert, but I have noticed a big difference among brands.  I am a Chai Latte' addict and I make my own at home (there's an instructable here somewhere!).  The recipe calls for 2 tea bags.  At Christmas time, I package the ingredients into small bags and use them as gifts.  To save money, I purchased dollar-store tea for $1 for 100 bags.  According to the package, the only difference was slightly less tea per bag, and they weren't individually wrapped.  Neither difference compromised my project, so I thought it was a good deal.  What I didn't put in gift bags I used myself, and boy was I disappointed with the results.  I couldn't figure it out at first, but I just didn't like the Chai as much.  When I had used them all up, I went back to my Lipton tea bags and the difference was remarkable.  I don't know if it's in the freshness or quality of the tea, but you can even tell by the aroma when you open the box it's going to be better.  

    I have found the Lipton at large chain or discount stores for less than $4 per box of 100.  Some store brands (Walmart, Meijer, Gordon Food Service) seem to be just as good, in my humble opinion, and might save you a little money.  These brands might be better to use twice.  But when you start with bad tea and then try to steep it twice, I don't know how you'd end up with good results.

    I know there are some real tea experts prowling this site.  One of them gave us an education about teas in a discussion about my Chai Latte recipe.  Maybe he'll find this post and set us all straight!

    I'm with you, though.  I save a buck anywhere I can, and I'm willing to make certain compromises, but there are times when I say I'd rather do without than make a compromise.  This is one of those times.  Good luck with your quest!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good Tip about the Fluorescent Light Bulbs. I was in Wally World last week and saw that they had LED light bulbs for sale at between $5 and $15. I know these things used to cost and arm and a leg for just one. Also they use about as much power in a year that the fluorescent bulbs use in a month. Redo a home with these, and you may not have much of an electric bill at all then.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'll have to check them out! (And I just stocked up my supply of fluorescent bulbs - arrrgghhh!) I didn't know you could buy LED light bulbs!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    nice but i think you should change the title to 'Lots of Little Ways to Save a Lot'.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    It's so nice to be in the company of people who understand me! Most people (our teenagers included) think we're strange for obsessing so much about these little things. Many people think we're poor folk who can't afford to only use our cinnamon sticks once or use a whole strip of toothpaste when we brush. Maybe it started for that reason, but now we see that this lifestyle is liberating (especially in light of the coming financial storm).


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    LOL - I wish I knew! Peanut butter is expensive. This is what happens when I get tired; I get too many ideas at once and can't remember which one I'm on! I fixed it now. Thanks for catching me!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    If you want to get a gauge of how much an appliance uses, you can do some math with the wattage information on your appliance and your electric rates from your electric bill. This would take a little time, but you would only have to do it on a few things to get the idea. There are also cute little meters you can buy (or borrow from a spendy friend!) that you plug your appliance into and it reads out how much energy they're using (even when they're in standby mode). I know before my son went away to college, he'd have his gaming computer turned on in his room all the time. He could heat his room with the thing. When he left, he took the computer and we also turned off his waterbed. Our electric bill the next month was $15 less!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great summary some of the ways that you save money. People always seem to talk about radically changing their lifestyle to save money (and/or the environment), but it's making slight changes in our daily regimens that add up to make big differences.

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Are you trying to make a funny. In step 4 you said to reuse peanut butter and sweetener. How am i going to reuse peanut butter? :)

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Just suck on it a while to get the flavor, then spit it back.... Just kidding! Yes, it's a typo! I think I meant to REDUCE your use of those things. If you usually smear two tablespoons of peanutbutter, try 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you usually use 3 pkts of sweetener, try 2. (And yes, I said packets of sweetener - they can actually be cheaper than the spoonable sweetener if you shop right.) Thanks for pointing out my error. I'll see if I can fix it now!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Yes a fair amount. Not as much as a fan heater but its the same as about 6 or 7 light bulbs. I don't know the specifics of your computer but that seems about right. Unless you're downloading you really ought to switch it off or hibernate it. Don't go standby, its evil. Hibernate is the way forwards. Things that get hot tend to be inefficient, so light bulbs, fan heaters, cookers, computers, TVs, monitors, are all quite power hungry. Fridges and freezers too (they're hot round the back).