Frugal, Personal Finance, Saving Money

Baby Steps Count

There are a lot of ways that you can save significant amounts of money by prudently marshalling your resources and spending wisely. Many of our topics suggest ways that savvy consumers can save tremendous amounts of money over time, whether by going without certain products or services, or by cutting back on certain purchases. Although we always like to save large amounts of money, it is important to remember that small savings add up, too.

For example, I just took out our trash. We had one trash barrel – our first in over a week. To be truthful, the barrel was only about 2/3 full, but it was getting a bit too “fragrant” so I had to bring it to the curb. Every barrel of trash costs us about $0.33 because the barrel liners that we use cost that much. We have to use the barrel liners because we live in a very hot climate and our barrels would give our garage a rather horrible smell if we just threw our trash into unlined barrels and allowed residue to build up over time.

Up until about a year ago, we usually had between six and eight trash barrels full of trash every week. That cost us about $3 or $4 per week, or $150 to $200 per year in trash barrel liners. After my company was sold, and I had some free time to consider all of the things that I could do better in my life, I realized that a lot of what we were throwing away was actually recyclable. Accordingly, I called our local solid waste department and requested recycling bins.

The change in our trash patterns was dramatic. I soon realized that just about everything we threw away was recyclable. This immediately cut our weekly trash by more than 80% because just about everything went out in our recycling bins (which are unlined and easy to rinse each week). Accordingly, by simply making an environmentally correct decision, I was able to greatly reduce the solid waste that I sent to landfills and save a few dollars per week by avoiding the need for trash barrel liners.

If you look around your house, you will find that there are several baby steps that you can take towards saving money. You might leave appliances, electronics and computers unplugged when they are not in use and thus cut a few dollars off of your electric bill each month. You might examine your cable TV bill and move to a less expensive package that excludes channels you rarely watch. Perhaps you will explore your brand loyalty and try out generic products that are a few cents cheaper than name brands. Whatever you do, every dollar you save, is one less dollar that you need to spend and they all add up.

What small steps have you taken to avoid costs? Do you think about savings if they amount only to a few cents here or there or a few dollars per week? Do you have a threshold below which you do not believe that savings are worth the effort? Or do you value every penny or dollar that you save?

10 thoughts on “Baby Steps Count

  1. I shop at Aldi’s for staples that are the same no matter where you buy them — flour, salt, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, etc. — and check out what veggies and fruit they have available while I’m at it. The fruits and veggies tend to be significantly less than those at the supermarket — for instance, bananas are generally almost $0.20/lb less — and just as good.

    Until I changed my eating habits, I also shopped at a bakery outlet store. They carried some bread and cookies that I liked (at significantly less) AND had a card where for every so much that you bought you got so much free. I tend to like toast more than “fresh” bread (unless you’re talking french or italian bread), so I’d stock up and stick a couple loaves in the freezer.

    I recently picked up one power outlet to plug all my computer “stuff” into so that I could click everything off at the power strip… it’s supposed to save electricity and I’m thinking of picking up a couple more strips for other areas of the house and workshop ’cause not all the outlets are convenient for me to get to. I’ll be interested to see whether or not my electricity consumption goes down!

    I make large pots of soup and freeze it in individual servings, so that I don’t need to buy canned soups… plus, this way I know exactly what’s in it and it tastes better! I’ll also put a large roast in a crockpot and, once it’s done, divide it up into single servings, shredded stuff for barbecue, cut up pieces to add to soup, etc. This way I cut down on “convenience” foods like tv dinners. I’ll cook up a large pot of pasta and divide it into single servings and freeze it too. That way, I can grab some meat, a pasta and some frozen veggies and have my own “tv dinner”.

    I only run the dishwasher when it’s full, have always taken advantage of the recycle bins and only take out bags of garbage when the bag is full. I do get plastic bags at the grocery store and use them as wastebasket liners in the kitchen and bath.

    I know there are other things where I watch my pennies, but that about covers it for now!

  2. I hang-dry my laundry rather than use the dryer. Since I live in an apartment building, this saves me $1.50 every week or so. It’s not a huge sum of money, but it adds up over time.

    Also, my car have a 91 octane minimum. So, rather than fill up on 93 I mix half 93 and half 89, which saves a couple bucks every fill-up where I am.

    I do lots of other things too. I feel like it’s the baby-steps that make you truly “frugal.”

  3. I wait til I have a full load of dark or light laundry before washing clothes. I wash in cold water & partially hang dry heavy items. We also bought a low water usage energy star washing machine when the old one broke.

    We switched nearly all our light bulbs to CFLs. A few more to go as we use up the regular bulbs we have left over.

  4. sometimes i dont unplug stuff just because i’m “lazy”, but i rather be comfortable than save a couple bucks

  5. I happen to love gardening and recently got some catalogs, which I’m happily perusing inthis cold weather. When I noticed the price of certain plants, it reminded me — I frequently save money by growing certain things from seeds. For instance, buying a perennial coneflower/echinacea can cost anywhere from $5 to $10 dollars a plant, but these guys are very happy to grow from seeds! The same thing holds true for a number of other plants.

    Also, after watching my mother spend over $500 each spring for annuals, I’ve always sought out perennials for most of my plantings. If I can grow them from see, it’s great, but even if I can’t, I pay for the flowers once, not time after time, year after year. There are still a handful of annuals that I pick up, but I generally spend less than $50 in total… and most of that is for veggies ’cause I don’t have a place to start seeds early.

  6. I make sure my chargers come out of the wall as soon as my appliances are charged.

    I also had my power company come out and do an energy audit for free. They replaced my faucet aerators with low flow versions and gave me a bunch of compact fluorescent light bulbs for my fixtures.

  7. In my effort to save money, I decided to bake birthday cakes for family members instead of buying birthday cakes at a bakery. My family enjoys my cakes as much as they enjoyed bakery cakes but my cakes are much less expensive to make and much healthier to eat.

    Most recently, when pressed for time, I contemplated buying an ice cream cake at our local grocery store. I was shocked to learn that the smallest cake cost $23. Not having time to make an ice cream cake, I made low fat bourbon brownies to which I added a scoop of lowfat mint chocolate chip ice cream sauce and whipped cream. (Of course, I added a candle to the birthday boy’s). The total cost was less than $7 and we had plenty of ice cream and whipped cream left over!

    (And I am always looking for recipes for lowfat birthday cakes . . . in case anyone wants to share one!)

  8. You are so right about those baby steps! I started with the unplugging of things like our computer, printer, toaster and coffee maker. I was pleasantly surprised to see on our latest bill that our electricity consumption has decreased 10% from last year at this time. I was so motivated by that decrease that I ran out and purchased a bunch of CFL bulbs, even though I find them ugly as sin to look at (lol)!

  9. Oops! Just read an article on plastic bags. They’re worse than I thought! Looks like it will be cloth ones from now on.

  10. I like savings that after you put them in motion that continue their savings annually without any help from us (no remembering to do it). Last year I changed our IRA’s to via internet reporting only and have to print out what I need myself. That was a savings of $25 for each account per year. So $50 saved last year, $50 this year, $50 next year, and so on and so on.

    We still have acouple credit cards were are working on whittling down and when paying them each month, I always pay rounded to the next nearest $5. Even in tough months you feel like you are getting ahead. In more flush months, I pay a lot more, but the rounding up really helps and is definitely a baby step. If all you can afford is rounding the bill up to $1 it still saves on finances charges over time. Even paying the bill a week before it’s due date at the same time saves in finances charges and makes it less of a chance that it gets their late with late fees then getting tacked on. Little by little things get paid off.

    One of our baby steps this winter is making sure we pay our propane bill within 5 days of getting the delivery. This saves us 5 cents a gallon or around $20 per delivery.

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