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Posts Tagged ‘Saving money’

We got our electric bill today.  I was very hesitant to open it…  we’ve had the AC in our bedroom turned on almost every night this month.  It’s been really muggy in Pennsylvania, with no relief from the heat and humidity at night.

We got a great surprise: The bill was only $4 higher than last month.  We used an average of 17 KWH per day, up from 15-16 KWH per day. I can live with that.

We have been making a real effort to reduce our energy consumption, and it’s starting to pay off.  We’ve been making one small change a month to see how it affects the electricity bill.

Yes, we used the AC for about 8 hours each day.  But we set the AC to 72 degrees, which was just cool enough to let us sleep. Cost this month: +$4

We’ve also started hanging our clothes up in the basement.  I still machine dry socks and underwear, mainly because my time is more valuable than hanging and matching a few dozen socks.  But we’ve been line drying jeans, towels, sheets and t-shirts.  Savings: $5

We’ve also been using the grill, which cuts out the electric oven and stove. We don’t have central air, but it sure is nice to not heat up the entire house with dinner. Unknown savings, but a nice, cool house.

Finally, we made one simple, silly change to our routine: We turned off the heated dry cycle on the dishwasher. I didn’t even realize this was an option when we moved in last year, because this is my first dishwasher. Duh!  We do the dishes every 2-3 days, so a family that runs the dishwasher more often could save even more. Savings: $10 per month.

We’ve now trimmed our electricity bill from $75-80 per month to $55-60. In my book, that $15-20 savings is well worth the minimal effort. We’re saving money and the planet at the same time!  I’ll admit that I no longer snowflake these savings – I just budget the $60 now, and have an extra $20 to put towards our retirement funds.

Other things we’ve tried, which made a much smaller difference: Switching to CFL bulbs, unplugging the TV and VCR when not in use (we don’t have cable, use them only for movies), and turning off the computer most nights. Together, these three changes may have saved us a dollar or two…  but these things do add up.

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We’re trying to cut costs. When you only spend $200 a month on food, every dollar counts.

So WHY have we been going out to eat every Friday?

It’s simple: We go to a friend’s house, and they want to go out. Instead of saying “Gee, maybe we should try cooking tonight. We’re watching our money,” we get out the wallet and fork over some cash.

No more. I’m proud to announce that I just got off the phone with the friends. We had a heart to heart about money, and I explained that those $15 take-out bills were really hurting our bottom line.

I never would have expected her response. “Yeah, we’ve been meaning to cut back, too. It just hasn’t happened.”

Well, it’s about to happen!  🙂  We decided on the phone to make pizza at their house. She’ll supply the dough and sauce, and we’re in charge of the toppings.  I’ve already got a family-size pack of cheese and pepperoni, so this meal will cost me $0.

I might just role that $15 into the snowflake funds…

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I want our new home to be bursting with color and flowers come spring, but plants are expensive. Have you been to a greenhouse lately?  There is no way I can justify spending $50 on a few flats of flowers.

So I did what any reasonably frugal homeowner might do: I went out and bought seeds and dirt. Then we spread a few newspapers on the kitchen table and dug in.

Our cost so far: $4.38

Seeds: $2.39 (Zinnias, cosmos and marigolds)

Dirt: $1.99 (We got the dirt with plant food in it)

Plastic pots: Free (If you ask, the greenhouses often throw these away!)

I did go a bit overboard, and planted ALL of the seeds in each packet. Call me enthusiastic.  We’ve now got a few dozen zinnias and marigolds growing. There should be more than enough blooms to fill our front yard, and plenty more plants to share with family and friends.

Now on to the bigger project: Apple trees!  We’re both apple addicts, so we’ve been babying a few seeds in the aforementioned dirt and pots.  Three of the seeds are sprouting – two Macintosh and one Yellow Delicious.  This is a long-term project, of course.  We should see results in about 5 to 10 years. (Maybe we’ll have the mortgage nearly paid off by then!)

I’m eager to find other spring tips on saving money. What are you doing right now to beautify the world and save money at the same time?

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It seems fitting to discuss taxes and money on April 15.  We’re long done with our taxes, but I just “discovered” a tax credit that we are eligible for. It’s called the “saver’s credit.” What better place to discuss a tax credit for savings than in a personal finance blog?

Like many young adults, my husband and I have Roth IRAs.  We’ll be able to pull our retirement money out tax free, but in the meantime, we don’t get a tax savings for contributing.  It’s a tough decision: Save tax money now, or later.

Now we don’t have to make that choice. We can deduct part of our contributions, up to $2,000, using the saver’s credit. (Find last year’s form here.)  If you make less than $52,000 and are not a full-time student, you may also be eligible for the Saver’s Credit. Check it out!

The saver’s credit seems to work for traditional and Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and SEP and SIMPLE retirement plans.

Going the traditional route, i.e. the non-Roth IRA, will save you more tax money each year.  But the saver’s credit is a nice bonus for those who choose to utilize a Roth retirment plan.  It isn’t much (we’ll save about $60), but every little bit counts!

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A post on Wisebread.com today got me thinking about Wal-Mart’s reusable shopping bags.  I own a few of these bags, mainly because I was horrified by the number of plastic bags we use each month.

I paid $1 for each bag. Plastic bags, available at ALL retailers and grocery stores, are free.  The good news is that on April 19, Wal-Mart is giving away their reusable bags for free, too. (Check out the official press release here.)  I believe the offer is limited to one bag per customer.

But for a person looking to reach “financial freedom,” overcome debt or just trim down their expenses, is paying for shopping bags a good deal?

That’s really a personal question. I believe it is a good deal, because my use of reusable bags can have a big impact on the environment.  I try to be as “green” as possible throughout my home, but sometimes it just isn’t financially possible. 

By using reusable shopping bags, I’ve invested $4 in the environment. In return for my investment, I’ll save hundreds of plastic bags from being recycled or thrown out.

Let’s face it, even recycling plastic bags isn’t the best option, because it requires energy to recycle. Reusable bags require zero energy to reuse each week. Unless, of course, you consider the energy it takes for me to place them in my car.   🙂

How do you balance your financial needs with the needs of the environment?

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I’m not a super-organized person. But the bills get paid each month, most of my work gets done by deadline, and we eventually return calls on the answering machine. In my mind, we’re doing fine without being too organized.

Now, six months into the new job/new marriage, this lack of organization is starting to hurt us.

UPS sent us a bill for $51 last month, and we never realized that it was a bill. We thought it was a statement for previous shipping charges. But it’s definitely a bill of overage charges.

The husband will be calling to dispute this on Monday, because $51 is a big deal in our house. We should have called when we first got the bill two weeks ago.

I’m also starting to lose income to my lack of organization. As a freelance writer, I get paid by the article. My backlog of stories is now about two weeks, which means that I can’t take any last-minute assignments to pad the paycheck. I could have made about $100 more this month, just by being more organized and beating deadlines.

Procrastination: 1      Us: 0

Realizing that we’ve lost $150 this month, just from a lack of organization, might be the kick we need to clean up our acts.

Does anyone else have this problem?  How do you choose to deal with it?

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Today, I saved $4.50 on my phone bill. It was easy – I just called the company and asked for a better plan.

I’ve been paying $3.50 each month for the “eValue” plan, which allows me to make long distance calls for 11 cents a minute. It sounded like a great deal at the time, so I signed up.

The cost for the plan just went up to $4.50.  Still a great deal?  I wasn’t sure.  I make enough business calls to make long distance a must-have, but it seemed very non-thrifty to pay $4.50 just for the service.

I called the phone company and asked a simple question: Can I pay a flat rate per minute, without paying for a monthly plan?

Yes! Their flat rate for long distance is 12 cents a minute, with no monthly fees. Of course, they don’t offer this flat rate unless you ask for it.  I felt really foolish, having paid for a plan that I didn’t really need or want.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to politely ask for what you want. You might just get it.

Needless to say, I’ve switched to the flat rate.  Unless I make 450 minutes worth of long distance calls each month (a penny extra per minute), I’ll come out ahead.  It’s only $4.50 a month, but over the course of year I can save up to $54.

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