Saturday, September 6, 2014

Simple Savings: Deck the Halls Debt Free

Christmas is a wonderful time.  We spend weeks and even months preparing Christmas.  The packages are opened so quickly and suddenly all that is left for some people is just credit card bills to pay for everything.  Make this Christmas one you can enjoy without having anything to pay for when it is all over.  By following some simple steps, you can enjoy your holiday and have it paid for. 
1.      Take a moment to think of what you bought last year.  Did you buy too much?  Were things broken or missing pieces within a short time? 
2.      Create a budget.  Decide what you can reasonably save before Christmas.  Put the money into a savings account or in an envelope in your drawer.  Use only that money for Christmas purchases.  Be sure to include gifts, meals, wrapping paper, travel, etc.  
3.      If Christmas shopping is stressful, set aside money from your monthly budget and buy things each month so you won’t have much to do in December. 
4.      Shop at garage sales in the summer if money is tight. 
5.      Make gifts from your kitchen.  Jam, for example is something you can make in the summer and just package in December.  Remember, the true meaning of Christmas is about giving from the heart and not just from the pocketbook. 
6.      Buy ingredients at Thanksgiving time when flour, butter, sugar and other baking items are priced very low. 


By careful planning and saving money now, you can have the money you need to buy things for Christmas and will be able to have a more enjoyable holiday knowing that it is already paid for.  You won’t have to deal with any credit card charges and interest for months after the holiday is over.

Living Green and Saving Money

For years, I used to purchase things without thinking twice about how my actions were costing me money and affection the environment. We didn’t recycle and I bought lots of single serving products on sale because of convenience. I used Ziploc bags for many things and threw them in the trash when I was done. I didn’t enjoy washing them out and they didn’t cost that much on sale. Now I see things differently. I found that I could save money by reducing my carbon footprint. These are some of the changes I have made:

1. Use containers instead of Ziploc bags for school lunches, leftovers, etc. I save money each month simply by NOT buying plastic bags anymore.
2. Buy Used! It costs less to buy something second hand and you are also helping to keep it out of a landfill. To save even more, you can barter or trade.
3. Recycle: Recycling doesn’t save me a lot of money up front, but it helps me to see which products I buy that have a lot of packaging and look for alternative ways to find the products I want that are more earth friendly. For example, I noticed a lot of yogurt containers, so I decided to try making my own yogurt instead of buying it. I realized that I could save money and generate less trash by using dry beans instead of canned. In some states, you can even earn money from recycling aluminum, glass and steel.
4. Cooking from scratch. This is a big money saver for me. It is much healthier, tastes better and creates less trash. Making more meatless meals helps, too. Fast food costs a lot, is high in calories and has a lot of packaging. I also try to find restaurant clone recipes and make them instead of going out at times. It costs less money to eat at home and is fun to cook as a family.
5. Home canning, Freezing and Gardening: This is also a BIG money saver. A package of lettuce seeds costs as much as a head of lettuce where I live. But, when we plant a package of lettuce seeds, we can get enough lettuce to have a salad every day of the summer. It is healthier, cheaper. If you don’t have a yard, look into container gardening. We planted raspberries several years ago. We will get enough raspberries this year to eat every morning during the season, freeze some, and also make a few batches of raspberry jam. That is a lot of free produce! By canning of freezing your garden produce, you can eat it all year and the cost for canning is very minimal. This is a good family activity, working together and being more in touch with the earth.
6. Bring Your Own Bags: Some stores will take off 3-5 cents per bag if you bring your own.
7. Buy in Bulk – When you buy in bulk, there is less packaging and you can buy just what you need for a recipe. This helps to prevent waste from purchasing too much.
8. Drive Less: Consolidate trips and save gas. Improve your health by walking and riding your bike. Public transit can also save money. With the price of gas as high as it is, it is something to consider.
9. Eat less and Use less: We eat more than we need. By eating the proper portions, you eat less and food lasts longer. You save money since you don’t have to buy so much. This works with household items, too. I use half the amount the package says for laundry and dishwasher soap. Clothes and dishes still get clean and the soap lasts twice as long.
10. Stay within a budget. I spend $50 per week on groceries for our family. When I try to stick to a tighter budget, there isn’t much money to spend on junk food. If I have to choose between 5 pounds of carrots and a bag of chips, we will get the carrots. I focus on the more important products when I limit myself to a stricter budget.
11. Buy quality, not quantity. I have three good knives I use regularly: a paring knife, a butcher knife and a serrated knife. You don’t need a drawer full of knives. You can also use a knife for cutting everything instead of buying an egg slicer, mushroom slicer, etc. Find items that will multitask.
12. Use non toxic cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda, etc. cost much less than toxic cleaners. They are also environmentally friendly. Use rags instead of paper towels to save money and be more earth conscious.
13. Don’t buy more than you need. No one needs a whole closet full of clothes. Most of us wear 20 percent of our clothes, 80 percent of the time. When we overbuy, we end up spending money on things that aren’t necessary. The only exception to this is with your food pantry. It is good to stock up, but only buy what you can use before it expires.
14. Don’t buy bottled water. Take your own water bottle and refill it.
15. Shop once a week. There will always be good deals. By shopping once a week, you save gas and spend less by not being in stores all the time. You have more time to go on a walk, read a book or spend time with people.
16. Avoid disposable tableware. Use regular plates instead of paper. We generate a lot of trash and spend more money when we buy disposable items.
17. Don’t waste food. We eat or freeze all of our leftovers.
18. Switch to electronic payments. Whether it is the newspaper or bills, you can save money by switching. You won’t have to buy stamps or envelopes and you won’t have lots of bills or newspapers coming into your home.
19. Use the library. Instead of paying for subscriptions for magazines, go read them in the library. Instead of buying books, Cd’s and Dvd’s, check them out from the library. You will spend less, have less clutter in your home to clean, and this lowers your carbon footprint.

It is possible to save money while saving the earth. It also makes you life simpler and gives you time to do things that matter most.