Think you’ve cut your expenses all you possibly can? You might be wrong. Check out these simple ways you can keep more of your hard-earned money over the next 12 months.
PANTRY SURVIVAL: Most of us have quite an odd assortment of food in our pantries, cupboards, refrigerators and freezer — and quite possibly enough to feed the family for at least a week. Skip the grocery store from time to time, eat up what you have already, and stash that week’s grocery money. Given all food items that get shoved to the back of the pantry or freezer, you may be eating some odd combinations of food, but you won’t starve.
Make it fun for the kids by calling your adventure a week on “Survivor Island,” while in truth your quest is to use up food items before they have exceeded their useful life. Based on the most current data, the average American family of four spends about $100 per week for food eaten at home. Play the pantry survival game once each quarter and you’ll rack up annual savings of $400.
UNHOOK THE CABLE: Make a one-year commitment to living without cable television. If you can’t bear the thought of missing your favorite shows, consider the rapidly expanding website Hulu.com, where you can watch hundreds of popular TV shows like “Family Guy,” “House” and “The Office”; “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”; reality shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Top Chef”; news clips, including those from “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams”; and tons of shows from Fox News, Home and Garden TV and the Food Channel, too.
The free option gives you limited access — or upgrade to premium, and for $7.99 a month you get streaming of all current season episodes from hundreds of shows.
J.D. Roth, founder of GetRichSlowly.org, says he and his wife cut back their $65-a-month deluxe cable package to the $12-a-month basic cable service, which offers local broadcast channels plus a handful of random cable channels.
Now they use the free Hulu option, Netflix, iTunes and the public library.
“To be honest,” says J.D., “we don’t miss cable at all. It’s great having $53 extra each month to spend on things that are more important to us, like travel.” Annual savings: $600.
For those without a SmartTV or who don’t want to be confined to the computer, there is a great budget friendly device called a “Roku,” which plugs into your TV and works with the Internet in your home to allow you to stream thousands of movies and TV shows for free. You can also connect it with your existing Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime account for a big screen experience.
REDUCE KITCHEN PAPER: If you use two rolls of paper towels a week, and paper napkins at each meal, you’re ripping through a lot of paper. At $1.50 average per roll, you’re paying at least $156 per year for disposable towels. At 2 cents each for paper napkins, a family of four goes through a dozen a day, minimum, or about $87 per year.
Take the plunge, and reduce your towels to one roll per week, using cloth towels and dishrags for cleaning and spills.
Annual savings: $181 ($78 towels, $44 napkins).
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at email@example.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.