This really isn't so much an Instructable as a description of tips we've used to save money. Meaning you won't find a step by setp solution to your economic woes, just brief descriptions of stuff that has saved my family some money.
(And no I'm not going to tell you to buy in bulk or buy generic brand foods because I'm sure you've already thought of that. But these do help. But don't buy generic Oreos, Cheerios or Dr. Pepper. They just aren't the same.)
Step 1: Put the Dog to Work
We have three greyhounds. They eat a lot, plus they need heartworm preventative, flea and tick preventative and medical care. If you have a dog (or do some research) you quickly find out how this can add up to a bundle of cash.
So when we heard about the vet school in town looking for blood donors we signed our youngest up. Greyhounds tend to have the universal donor blood type. So in exchange for his blood every few months we get his food, heartworm preventative, flea & tick preventative and some medical care for free. This has saved us a lot of money.
The other upside is the he is getting experience meeting strangers and becoming more socialized. Since he came to us a very shy boy this has really helped him come out of his shell.
Step 2: Pet Water Reuse
We change out our cats' water at least once a day so it is fresh. Instead of just dumping the old water down the drain we use it to water our house plants. This way we are getting the most for our water dollar. It probably isn't enough to be noticeable on the bill, but it makes me feel a little better.
I don't recommend doing this if there are food particles in the water. This would lead to rotting food in your plants, which could create an unpleasent odor and lead to fungal growth. This is why we don't use the dog water. They tend to backwash more than the cats.
Step 3: Switch to Generic Drugs
One of the biggest money savers is I switched to a generic drug for my maintenace medications. Instead of taking Fantastium I now take Blandcebo. Generic drugs are chemically identical to the brand name and in this case the switch saved us over a hundred dollars every three months. Fantastium was running $120 for three months worth. Blandcebo costs $10 for a three month supply.
If your drug isn't available as a generic yet talk to your doctor. He may be able to recommend an alternative that is in generic form. In my case Fantastium was a once a a day extended release capsule. Blandcebo is a twice a day pill. A little more hassle saves me a lot of money.
This can also apply to the form your drug takes. I was on a medication that cost $300 for a six month supply. By going to my doctor's office at lunch and getting it as a once a month injection I pay $2.50 per shot. This adds up to $15 dollars every six months. Even taking the price of gas into consideration this is quite a savings.
You can also save on over the counter medications by using the generic store brand. Walgreen's version of Immodium or Benedryl is chemically identical to the name brand and costs several dollars less.
Step 4: The Library
I am a big fan of reading. However, it wasn't until a few years ago that I became a fan of the library. I liked to buy my books and I could read them at my own pace without "THE MAN" imposing deadlines on me. Well it turns out books are expensive and after you read them you don't do much with them but organize them nicely on a bookshelf. They serve the dual purpose of being an homage to the depth and scope of your interests while simultaneously collecting dust.
But then we moved into a new house and in order to cut costs (as well as save space) I stopped buying books and began taking advantage of the public library. It is completely free and I've found they have a much more diverse selection than I thought they would. I was big on hardback books and these range about $25 a pop. So this is easily saving me at least a couple of hundred bucks a year. In fact the only book I've bought with money (as opposed to gift cards) was from the library...after our blood donating dog chewed it up.
Using the library has also inspired me to read books I normally wouldn't have in the past. Since they cost me nothing, I don't lose anything if they suck.
In addition to books I was stunned to find my local library even has downloadable audio books and e-books. Plus you can look stuff you find on Amazon up in their on-line catalouge. You can get the catalouge numbers of the books you want ahead of time and then walk right in and grab your books. Our library will even gather the books together for you if you give them two days notice. I've never taken advantage of this service, but it does appeal to the lazier parts of my nature.
Oh and as for "THE MAN" imposing his artificial deadlines on me...well I've found I read faster than I thought I did, that "THE MAN'S" deadlines aren't unreasonable (and inspire me to read faster) and that since our library has a voluntary fine system for overdue books it doesn't cost me anything for being a little late in returning the books. (Which has only happened once.)
Step 5: Toaster Over Vs. Conventional Oven
Another way to save some money is to use your toster oven instead of your conventional oven. This is really only good for small portions or reheating, but it makes more sense to use a small oven for a small amount of food. It takes less time to pre-heat and uses less electricity. Plus in the summer it doesn't make the house as hot.
Another trick is to wrap the little toaster oven pan in foil. This way you don't have to wash it after you're done cooking.
If you don't own one you can pick one up at Wal-Mart for about $40 or $50.
Step 6: That's It
Well that's all I've got for you. So try these tips if you like and remember to buy in bulk and use generic products...except for Oreos, Cheerios and Dr. Pepper. And bullets. Cheap bullets tend to have more corrosive powder residue so just shoot the name brand stuff. Or clean your gun after shooting it.