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!
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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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Party Like It's 1929!