It’s no secret that changing your habits can lead to monetary savings. But in the rush to reduce the daily splurges like coffee and meals out, and the big ticket items like clothes and vacations, many of us overlook what I call “Every Other” savings. These are things that you do or pay for on certain days or at certain intervals such as every other day, every other week, every month, or every year. Maybe you keep this schedule out of habit, or because someone once told you that you should do it that way, or because you’ve “always done it that way,” or because your mom did it that way. Whatever the reason for your timetable, it can pay to look for these items in your life and see if a change of habit might not yield the same results but at a lower cost. Here are some examples of “Every Other” savings.
Mowing the grass
Many of us are conditioned to mow once a week, whether the lawn really needs it or not. But can you change that pattern to every ten days or every other week and save on gas, not to mention the time involved? Living in an area that’s been experiencing severe drought the last couple of years has allowed me to stretch longer and longer between mowings. Even when the drought hasn’t been in force, I’ve found that there is little difference between a week without mowing and a week and a half when it comes to the height of the grass. I’ve reduced my gas consumption by changing that mowing habit.
We generate very little waste in this house, rarely filling even half of our alloted container each week, yet we were paying for weekly pick-up. One day I called and asked if we could get on a bi-weekly schedule. I figured it was a long shot, but the representative told me that they did indeed offer bi-weekly pickups for half of what I was paying for weekly service. She said they just never mentioned it because most people generate too much trash and need weekly service. I had gotten on a weekly schedule because that was all I was told about when I signed up. But by asking the question and being willing to break with tradition, I saved a lot of money.
Most of us go to the hair cutter/salon at set intervals. For example, my stylist told me to come back every four weeks. I did, for awhile, until one time my vacation forced me to wait five weeks. I discovered that there was little difference in my hair at five weeks versus four weeks. So the next time, I pushed the appointment out to five weeks. I’m currently going every six weeks and can’t really tell a difference in my hair from the four week schedule. This saves me a good bit of money every year by reducing the number of haircuts I get. Experiment for yourself to find out if you really need to go so often, or if waiting one or two extra weeks won’t hurt you.
Many of us are programmed to grocery shop once a week. However, with some careful planning and thought, you can easily make the adjustment to shopping every two weeks, only purchasing milk and fresh produce in between. If you can make it two weeks, you can probably make it three. And so on. Shopping less often keeps you from purchasing so many impulse items every time you’re in the store. It also encourages you to fully use up what you bought rather than letting it languish in the back of the pantry until it goes bad and you toss it.
Laundry, especially sheets and towels
I know a woman who used to wash her towels and sheets every day. Aside from the time involved, this was a huge expense because of the detergent, electricity, and water required. Once, when she was complaining about the work involved, I casually asked her if she couldn’t do it every other day, or every three days. She thought about it and admitted she’d never tried it. Her mother had just done it every day so she assumed that was the way it should be done. She gradually started washing every other day, then every three days and so on. She’s settled in at doing the linens every four days, saving herself a lot of money and time. She says she doesn’t notice much of a difference, either. Simply by asking herself if the laundry had to be done that often, she opened herself up to a new habit.
Similar to the laundry story above, I used to clean the bathrooms every day. It was the way I grew up. But the time it took made me crazy and (before I discovered homemade cleansers) it was super expensive. One day I asked myself if I really had to do it every day. The answer was no. I broke that habit. Now I do a full cleaning once a week and spot clean as necessary the rest of the week. Ask yourself if you have to clean, vacuum or dust as often as you do, or whether you can stretch it a little longer.
Certain medical appointments
I would never advise trying to stretch medically necessary appointments or treatments. It’s not worth risking your health. But some things aren’t as necessary as others. For example, a friend was seeing a chiropractor once a week. I asked him if his back was that bad. He said it felt fine, but the doctor had told him to come once a week. He didn’t really know why. At his next appointment, he asked if he could just come every other week. The doctor said it was fine, unless he felt pain in the interim. So now he only goes every other week, sometimes less often than that. His back is fine and he’s saving money. If you’re seeing a doctor at set intervals and you don’t really understand why, ask. You might find that you don’t need to go as often.
The advice has always been to change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles. But advances in engines and oils now mean that you might be able to go longer than that. Some manufacturers now suggest every 5,000 miles. Others still recommend 3,000 miles, but if most of your driving is on a highway at an even speed, you might be able to go longer. Do some research on your car and talk to an unbiased, trusted mechanic. You might be able to save some money by rethinking the old wisdom.
How often do you catch yourself eating out “because it’s Tuesday and we always eat out on Tuesday,” or “because we always eat out after soccer practice?” Can you try eating out every other Tuesday or after every other practice? Can you prepare a meal beforehand so you don’t have to scramble? A lot of our meals out are programmed into our routines. Simply looking at when you eat out and changing that habit can save you big money.
Do you have a lawn service that comes once a week? Or a cleaning service that comes twice a week? Or a pest control service that comes once a month? Services like these often come on a set schedule, whether you need them or not. See if you can work a deal where they only come when you call them, or if you can alter the frequency of their visits if they’re coming more often than you need them. Many companies default to a certain schedule by may be willing to work with you if you ask.
Take a minute and think about the things in your own life that you do or have done by rote. You’ll probably find that plenty of things you thought had to be done on a set schedule can be stretched and rescheduled to save money. Be careful to guard against stretching or delaying things so long that it becomes a safety, health, or sanitary issue. It’s easy to get caught up in the stretching and saving and forget that some things simply need to be done. However, some minor modifications in your schedule will probably yield big savings without a noticeable degradation in quality or convenience.