Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ten Money-Saving New Year Resolutions

  1. Switch all my light bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights).

I just recently had one of my incandescent lights blow in my living room, and if I didn’t have just one more light bulb to replace it, I would have bought CFLs that night. But now that I don’t have ANY replacement bulbs in my house, I’m going to buy CFLs when I do my January shopping.

Compact fluorescent lights are considered “green” lights as they produce less greenhouse gases than regular incandescent lights, they use about 75% less energy, they produce the same amount of lumens (the amount of light they produce) as incandescent lights, they produce about 75% less heat, and you can look to save about $30 in your energy bills over the course of the bulb’s life. Not to mention that the bulbs last nearly 10 times longer than incandescent lights.

The only negatives to CFLs are that they do contain small amounts of mercury, so it is important to recycle them properly. There are also disposal guidelines provided at EPA's site. The other negative is that they tend to cost slightly more than incandescent bulbs, which is why people opt for incandescents in the first place. But with the money that is saved from the energy bills outweigh the initial costs of installments.

  1. Use my dishwashing wand instead of running a sink full of water.

I just bought a Scotch-Brite dishwashing wand the other day simply because I hate using wash rags and sponges. My other ‘wands’ couldn’t hold up either. A close friend of mine used the cheap version on the wand (about 50 cents cheaper than the Scotch-Brite), but said it broke too easily. So I decided to splurge and purchase the slightly more expensive one. While using it to do dishes (I do have a dishwasher, but it doesn’t work too well, and wastes water and electricity), I noticed I didn’t have to run a whole sink of water. Just wet the sponge wand, push the button to let some detergent into the sponge, and wash away! No water needed, except to rinse later. I paid about $2 for the Scotch-Brite wand at Wal-Mart.

  1. Invest in water-saving appliances.

The toilet in my apartment already has a water-blocker in the tank which results in less water being flushed away and less water to refill. My shower, on the other hand, is a water-hog. I admit I do enjoy long, hot showers, so I bet I waste a lot of clean water in the process. And considering that I live close to an area that has been in draught conditions for the better part 2007, water conservation is bigger on my list of change. Low-flow showerheads generally cost less than $10 and can save between $50 and $75 a year on water bills.

  1. Get my apartment reviewed for energy efficiency.

I’m going to call my utilities company and see if they provide free home energy audits. A professional goes through your house and evaluates your home for energy efficiency, such as checking windows for drafts, insulations, vents, water usage, etc. This allows you to make any necessary changes to keep your heating and cooling bills down as well conserving water and energy.

  1. Use the gym on campus instead of buying a YMCA membership.

This is a great tip for college students who want to get in shape, or stay in shape. I love to exercise. Nothing makes me feel better than working up a sweat. Why spend $25 or more a month at the YMCA or another gym when I have a gym on campus that I can use for free?

For those people who are not in college and do not have access to free equipment, look to free video sites such as YouTube for exercise videos without equipment. If you absolutely need equipment, compare prices at gyms and see if you qualify for any discounts. I used the YMCA resources a lot because as a student, my monthly payment was only $25, which is cheap compared to other gyms.

  1. Use coupons for items I buy on a regular basis.

I get coupons in the mail all the time. And since I participate in “freebie” sites, I get a lot more coupons than the average person. I shop frugally as it is, but I never used coupons, which meant I was spending a lot more on groceries than I should have.

A great way to use coupons is to make your grocery list and then match coupons to what you have on the list, and only buy what you have on your list. A great source for coupons is your local Sunday paper, “junk” mail, and Coupons.com.

  1. Pay off my loan before December 31.

I took out a loan in October 2007, and had it set up to make monthly payments on it over a course of 60 months for the smallest monthly payments. If I pay off my loan sooner, I avoid the excess interest payments, will help me out on my debt situation, and take out a monthly bill in the future.

  1. Save spare change in a larger jar.

Bigger jar = bigger saving. If I only take the jar to a CoinStar when it is full, I can get more out of my savings, in my opinion. CoinStars do cost a minimal amount for use (8.9 cents for every dollar), or you can buy coin wrappers and roll them and take them to the bank for free when it is full. I personally like CoinStar and the fee for convenience is very minimal.

  1. Invest in good quality food-saving/storage containers.

I live by myself, and my perishables tend to spoil before I can use them. Or I cook it all up before it goes bad, and don’t have any way to save the leftovers properly. Saving leftovers in good quality containers saves money on the grocery bill and also allows you to bring your lunch to work or other places instead of buying fast food. It is a double saver!

  1. Eat less fast food.

Fast food consumption is a growing problem in the United States, and I often find that it takes a toll on my wallet. I found myself resorting to fast food instead of making my own lunch simply because I didn’t have any way to pack a lunch (see #9). Also, I plan to pull a ringer and eat for free in the campus cafeteria during lunch hours when I’m working on campus or in class, and then eat dinner at home or take dinner to my night job with me instead of hitting McDonald’s.


maria said...

Those are excellent resolutions,very sensible, nothing too difficult to accomplish.

I have to work on your #1 resolution. I still have the old fashioned light bulbs, shame on me.


James said...

Great Tips, Meg :)

I actually did #8, and I was surprised that it added up to over $50 after a year or two.

I haven't tried #9 yet, but I usually finish my food in one sitting, so never needed the containers for anything.

Lulugal11 said...

These are excellent tips Meg and I am linking to this article coming up next week.

willfe said...

An excellent post, though I want to point something out about #8 -- 8.9% (8.9 cents on every dollar) is *not* what I'd call a "minimal amount for use." I'm quite a cheapskate, I suppose, but I don't think I'd ever hand a machine nine bucks just to count up a hundred dollars of my change for me.

Alternatives aren't always easy to find, but they *are* out there.

This is actually one of the few reasons it's a good idea to have a local bank branch (other reasons include being able to immediately make deposits in person so you know right away if there will be any problems; having someone local to scold in person if they screw up; free notary service :)). Most banks actually do have a coin counting machine hiding in the back somewhere, and they'll generally count your change for free if you're a customer.

Sometimes they'll slap on the requirement that they'll only do it for free if you're depositing the money to an account there, but there's nothing stopping you from just yanking it back out the next day if you need it.

Other options: some banks will count your coins for you even if you're not a customer, but will charge a flat fee (more rarely, a percentage). This will usually work out to be much cheaper than a CoinStar machine.

If you live in an area where gambling is legal, head to a casino. Dump your change in a couple of their buckets, walk straight up to the cashier, and hand them in. They'll count (and change) your coins without fee, and without even blinking. One caveat: many of them don't handle pennies anymore, so you'd have to deal with those separately (there was *one* casino I knew of in downtown Las Vegas that had a machine that counted pennies along with the rest, but that was several years ago).

I'd also like to add commentary on your sixth suggestion: replacing name-brand items with generics wherever cheaper (and possible) is an overall better money-saving move than using coupons. Exceptions: the generic version actually has a detectably different taste/consistency/etc. and isn't as good; the store you shop at does "coupon doubling" or similar gimmicks that actually drops the price of the name-brand item below the price of an equivalent generic; they don't *make* a generic of what you're buying.

Finally, a quickie about item #1 on your list. This is the single biggest electricity-saving move you can make apart from running your air conditioner less. Switching off lights in rooms where they're not being used is another no brainer, whether they're CFL or incandescent. Also, the note about the mercury content -- this was an unfortunate dose of FUD spread about CFL a couple of years back, and dealing with a broken bulb is not the huge public health emergency it was made out to be. Sweep it up, vacuum, wash your hands. All done :)

An outstanding article, by the way -- I do lots of these things myself (I am perpetually annoyed at my inability to find good coupons in my area ... the offerings in the newspapers here consistently suck :)) and it's great to see others doing these things too.

Anonymous said...

Commerce Bank is a medium-sized (and growing) bank in the NYC, Phila and Balt/D.C. area that does coin counting for free. Any branch, any person. You do not need to have an account, you just take the receipt from the machine to a teller.

Madeleine Mazar said...

Thank you very much for this money saving tips! I like to recommend a coupon site that can help you save money but also help a charity. It is called KindCoupons.org.

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