As unemployment increases and layoffs loom in many industries, I’ve started to think of areas where I could do some belt tightening. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Withdraw from addiction to Amazon.com
The first thing I have to do is to turn off one-click ordering and to suspend my Amazon Prime membership, which gives me “free” two-day shipping. It’s just too easy to order books for myself and for others. Also, Amazon’s computer program that makes recommendations is simply too smart.
- Use the public library
I recently moved and don’t have a library card in my new city of residence. I need to take 10 minutes and get a library card. Then, books are, for the most part, free. Even rental books are available for something like $1 per week. That’s much cheaper than even the cheapest paperback. One of the upsides of this plan is that I can eliminate the pile of books that pile up after they’ve been read. I really have to remember to bring a big pile of books I’ve finished to my workplace, where they’ll be quickly grabbed up by other readers.
- Disconnect my land line
I always have my cell phone with me. I have sufficient minutes to cover all of my needs and free long distance. Why am I still paying for a land line? Habit, I guess. Time to rely on my cell phone alone.
- Brown bag it
I need to lose weight. I need to save money. The answer is brown bag lunches. Not only does bringing my lunch from home eliminate restaurant lunches, it reduces the number of leftover meals that get tossed after they turn green and furry in the fridge. The downside is that I need to get up a little earlier in the morning to pack my lunch
- Ride the bus
I drive a hybrid car. However, I recently calculated the difference between the cost of a monthly senior bus pass and the cost of gasoline for my car. The savings are substantial. I live near an express bus corridor that will take me within two blocks of my office. Best of all, I can catch up on my reading (see item 2 above) while avoiding insane Los Angeles freeway traffic and Sigalerts. Again, I’ll have to get up earlier to make this plan work, because the total travel time from home to work is greater by bus than by car.
- Stay out of Michael’s and Joann’s
I’m addicted to art supplies and craft materials. I already have cabinets full of paper, markers, buttons, jewels, eyelets, glue pens, yarn, sewing notions, fabric, and the like. I need to consume these materials before I allow myself to venture once again into one of these stores.
- Cook from scratch
I love Trader Joes. I love their prepared meals, pre-seasoned meats, packages of seasoned risotto and pasta, and their seafood. I like their pre-cut veggies and bags of salad. But, I learned years ago that I can save a lot of money by cooking from scratch. For instance, it’s cheaper to buy a whole chicken than to buy it already cut up. A pork loin can be cut into boneless chops. I don’t need to buy Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice; I can mix and season my own. It just takes a little more time. I need to do what I used to do in my poorer days and prep meals ahead on the weekends.
- Save money at the movies
This is where an over-sized purse comes in handy. (Sorry, guys, you’ll have to figure out a different strategy unless you carry an over-sized man purse.) Movie houses clearly make much of their money on popcorn, soda, and candy, among other items. Bringing snacks (maybe even healthier snacks) from home can cut the cost of going to the movies by about half. Also, buying tickets for twilight or matinee showings can make a difference. I’m also trying to favor those theaters that offer senior rates starting at age 55 or 60.
- Drop premium cable channels
I’ve found that I rarely watch movies on HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, and other premium channels. When I do want to see a movie, renting a DVD, borrowing it from the library, or paying for Pay per View is more cost effective. Carrying the premium channels and not watching them often is simply a waste.
- Save dinners out for special occasions
Eating out is expensive and the quality and quantity of food is often inferior to the food I can prepare at home. It’s fun to go out, but I plan on saving dinner’s out for birthday celebrations and other special occasions. I’ll save take-out meals for nights when I work late, and they are the only viable option.
- Employ re-usable cleaning supplies
I love using Swiffer wet pads for quick clean ups. However, I’ve discovered that a terry towel of the right size, moistened with a floor cleaner, attaches nicely to the mop base. Instead of throwing away expensive disposable pads, I throw the towels in the washer with some bleach. The same thing goes for paper towels. Dish cloths wipe counters and pick up spills nicely. Again, they are re-usable after they are laundered.
Given some more time, I’m sure I could think of many other ways to cut back on unnecessary expenditures. But, I think I’ve found some easy ways to rein in expenses.
- Buy Second-Hand Clothing
For the first time in my life, I’ve bought both second-hand and “new with tags” clothing items from e-bay. I got a new, tailored corduroy jacket for under $15. I’ve bought several blouses for around $7 each. Shipping has been nominal. Brick and mortar second-hand and consignment stores normally don’t have my size, but e-bay has had a nice selection in my (plus) size.
I’m lucky. I still have a steady job and income, but everything costs more. I help an elderly aunt with her groceries and the price each month has almost doubled. And, I’m only 14 months from retirement, so I’m actively thinking about areas where I can save without sacrificing my usual standard of living very much.
A freelance writer and full-time grandma, Lucy Lediaev retired recently from a position as web master, tech writer, and copy writer in a biotech firm. She is enjoying retirment more than she ever dreamed and is now writing about topics that are, for the most part, interesting and fun. She also has time to pursue some of her long-time interests, such as crafts, reading, sewing, baking, cooking, and the like.
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11.15.08 @ 6:22p
eBay is awesome. I've never had any shame in buying from the site. Quite a few people with wholesale hookups or employee discounts sell things at incredible bargains there. If you know your size in a certain label, you're set.
And ahhhh, the Amazon Prime membership. It is indeed a luxury. However, buying from the Amazon Marketplace sellers is terrific. I've bought publishing extras and carefully studied the conditions for markings, etc. I've never had a problem with that. And you'd be surprised what's on sale for under $3.
11.17.08 @ 12:53p
Okay, I'm probably going to keep my Amazon Prime membership but turn off one-click shopping. The family member with whom I share Prime would howl, AND I'd never get my Christmas shopping done for the grandkids*, who are all over the USA.
*For the sake of those who know my daughter, only one of the grands is mine--the other 8 belong to my significant other.
11.18.08 @ 6:36a
I wrote a similar column to this about areas in which to reduce spending about three years ago.
I look at that list now, and realize I've done most of that, and it still doesn't help. So now I have to be even more creative. I don't mind, because there are other people in far worse condition, but, you know, still.