Once all of the big items in a budget are under control (things like lowering debt payments, cutting out unnecessary expenses, negotiating better deals on services, eating at home more, buying store brands, etc.), people often find themselves wondering where to go from there. If cutting the big things has solved your financial problems or given you the extra money you need, great. Maybe you don’t have to go any further. But if you still need or want to make cuts, you have to start looking at much smaller things.
The good news is that there are a lot of these tiny things in most people’s lives. Many people never realize it because they don’t look that closely. However, if you start to question every product that you use, you’ll likely find that there are plenty of places you can conserve and save money. Here are some examples to get you started.
Many people don’t realize that dryer sheets can be used more than once and still retain their effectiveness. You can also cut them in half and get similar results. Using either strategy can cut your dryer sheet expense in half.
Don’t take out the trash until the bag is full. This cuts down on the number of bags you use. Also, reuse plastic shopping bags to line small trash cans. Then you won’t have to pay for small trash bags at all. (If you’re embarrassed about this, use “real” trash bags in your guest bath, but put shopping bags in the other baths.)
Laundry and Dish Detergent
Do some experiments to find out if you can cut back on your usage. Many times, the manufacturers’ recommended amount is more than you need to do the job. If you can cut down on the amount you use per load, you can reduce the number of packages you buy per year.
Paper Towels, Napkins, Tissue and Toilet Paper
Don’t use a whole sheet when you only need a tiny corner (say, to squash a bug or wipe up a tiny spot). Don’t unspool the whole roll when one or two sheets will do the job. If you barely use a napkin at a meal, keep it for the next meal. For more savings, buy fabric napkins and use rags instead of paper towels.
Reuse baggies that have held just a few cookies or chips. They’re still good for the next day’s lunch. Unless it’s held meat, a messy liquid, or a chemical-based product, you can reuse it and cut down the amount you buy. You can also buy reusable containers and eliminate the expense entirely.
Foil and Plastic Wrap
As with baggies, if it was only lightly soiled or not at all (as in the case of a covered dish where the food never touched the covering), you can reuse it.
Chances are that you don’t have to use a ton of deodorant; one or two swipes will do. You don’t have to put a huge glop of toothpaste on your brush because a smaller amount will do. You don’t need to unspool half the roll of floss when you only need a small length. You don’t need to drown yourself in perfume or body spray or use a big blob of shampoo. Take a look at your use of toiletries and cosmetics and see if you can use less.
Cleaning Wipes and Cleaning Products
You’d be surprised how far one wipe can get you, or how much of a counter one spray of the cleaner will clean. You don’t have to use a ton of wipes or saturate a surface to get it clean. Don’t forget that you can also make your own cleaners which will be just as effective as the store-bought ones.
Many people are surprised when they start measuring their food according to the serving size indicated on the package. That box of cereal that only gave you four servings suddenly gives you eight, for example. When you cut down your portions, the food lasts longer (and you lose weight). This is just one of many ways you can save money on food.
Paper and Ink
Print on both sides to prolong the pack of paper. Ask yourself if you really need to print the item or can you just save it to your hard drive. Also, print only the pages you need. Use the preview function so you can see which pages you need to print and only print those. These are just a few ways that you can save money on paper and ink.
Every time you use less of something, it prolongs the amount of time before you need to buy it again. If you can cut your usage down to where you’re buying fewer packages of these products per year, you’ll see a small jump in your net worth. Take a look at the products you use and do some experiments to see what you can use less of.
(Photo courtesy of victoriapeckham)