Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Creative (and common sense) Ways to Save (and make) Money

I know this isn’t the normal crafty blog post, but in this economy I thought I’d share a few tips. People often wonder how a family of six can live off of $10,000-$20,000 (depending if it’s a good year or not) a year. Well, since my family and I have been doing it for a several years, I thought I’d share some of the things that we do to save, and sometimes make, money.

First and Foremost
Pay your tithes. God cannot out-give. You will be blessed if you obey God by paying your tithes. Once I was praying before putting in the offering and God said He’d double the money. (I should have put more in! Ha!) It was $150, which at that time was a lot because we were so low in money. Sure enough, that week I sold $300 worth of things on craigslist. God is faithful.

Miscellaneous
Don’t get into debt. When you pay interest for something, you are paying for it over and over again. Just save the money for it and pay for it once.
Pay cash for a vehicle. Most, if not all, dealers will lower the price of the vehicle drastically if you have cash. Research the car you want and set a price for what you want to pay, then tell the dealer exactly what you want and how much you’re willing to pay. If the vehicle you want is $15,000, offer $10,000 cash for it and they’ll usually accept. We bought an $8,000 truck for $5,500 by doing just that.
Storage. If you find yourself in a place where you need storage, whether it’s because you don’t have enough room at your house or you are moving, decide what is replaceable and what is not. If it is replaceable, sell it and buy a new one when you have room or are ready. When you have things in storage, you are paying for it over and over again, just like interest on a debt. If it’s something you won’t be using, sell it.
Sell it. Turn all your clothes on hangers the opposite way, then when you rehang them up after wearing them, put then the right way. If after a year you have any clothes on hangers that are turned the opposite way, get rid of them. You haven’t worn them in a year, chances are you never will. When you go through your stuff, if there’s something you’re not sure about getting rid of, pack it in a box and label the date on it. If you haven’t opened the box in a year, get rid of it. You can sell things on auction websites, craigslist, newspaper classifieds or have an old-fashioned yardsale.

Food
Don’t eat out! This includes buying food at convenient stores. Eating out, in my opinion, is the biggest waste of money. You are paying for someone else to cook for you. Your money literally just goes down the toilet. You have nothing to show for it other than a fat belly. Eating out is unhealthy and most restaurants put MSG (monosodium glutamate) in their food to make it taste better. MSG eats away at your nerves. People with nerve diseases, such as MS and ALS, will die (not instantly, but it helps their disease to flourish) if they eat MSG. Go to http://www.truthinlabeling.org/ for more information. Anyway, back to the money issue. Years ago I made my own pizza and it cost $2.50 for a family-size pizza that would normally cost $10-$15 at a restaurant. You can buy a loaf of bread for the cost of one sandwich eating out. For the same amount of money to feed our family of six when we cook our own food, you can feed one person eating out. If your family is home hungry and you are eating out, you are being selfish. Do the math—$5 a day eating out costs you nearly $2,000 a year. Most people spend $10 when they eat out. What can you do with $2,000? $4,000?
Don’t eat processed foods. This means, no meals-in-a-box, no frozen dinners. They are not only expensive when you compare them to making it from scratch, but they are also unhealthy. They have food additives and preservatives that can make you sick in the long run.
Eat healthy. Healthy food may be more expensive than junk food, but in the long run, you will pay more for the junk food than the healthy food. The reason is that when you eat non-nutritious food, you have to eat more in order for your body to get the nutrition it needs. Plus, eating unhealthy will make you sick, costing you in unearned income from not being able to work and doctor’s bills. It could even cost you your life. Eat lots of vegetables—they are the most healthy food you can eat and they benefit your body the most. A woman cured herself from breast cancer by changing her diet to mostly vegetables (look on youtube).
Grow a Garden. We eat lots of tomatoes, so when the frost started to come, we pulled our tomatoes (the whole plant) out and hung them upside down in our living room. There are still green ones that haven’t ripened yet, but every week we get at least 10 ripe tomatoes from one vine. You can freeze, can, and dehydrate vegetables and fruit to last through the winter. A small garden with just enough of what you eat is sufficient. You can even grow some vegetables in the house. I know of a woman who only spent $50 a month on food for her family of six because she had a garden and made everything from scratch.
Coupons and Sales. My children’s bus driver told me about a time that he purchased $600 worth of groceries and other items and used coupons and price-matched at Walmart and came out ahead. Walmart owed him $14. Another time he bought $300 worth and Walmart owed him a few pennies. I was amazed. I have never been able to find coupons for things that I use, so I haven’t been fortunate to have an experience like that. Instead, I stock up on sale items and don’t buy food when it’s expensive. My favorite food is avocados. They are so good for you. They run anywhere from 50 cents to $2, so when they are less than $1, I stock up. When they are over $1, I don’t buy them.

Transportation, Luxury, and Shopping
Limit your driving time. My husband went out of state for six weeks. During that time, I did not have to fill the gas tank even once. That included going to the airport and back (90 miles one way) twice! When my husband came back, he easily goes through a tank of gas a week. Nowadays a tank of gas is about $60 to fill up. He goes to the store to buy one thing about five times a day. He doesn’t realize that each time he goes to the store, it costs about $2 in gas. So that $3 item actually cost $5. I usually go to the store once a week.
Don’t buy cable TV or movies. We have not owned (except in the kid’s room) a TV for over a year. We watch all that we want online. Youtube has many movies and TV series online for free. Plus most, if not all, channels have a website that you can go online to watch their shows.
Shop around for the cheapest rates in Cellphones and Internet. If you like to text and can get a good deal on it, go for it. But if texting is costing you money, it’s better to do without. We don’t own a home phone because we use our cellphones so much. My husband purchased our phones with Verizon and he was paying $100 a month. I thought, “There’s gotta be a better plan we can go with.” So I called Verizon and when the customer service rep looked at how much we talked on the phone (which was hardly at all), she was in disbelief. She got us a plan with lower minutes for nearly half as much. We call each other mobile-to-mobile more often and they are unlimited minutes. We have cable internet, so we don’t need a land line.
Watch the price per ounce. Many people grab whatever is the cheapest, but if you calculate price per ounce, you get more for your money depending on the product.
Books. Whenever I want to buy a book, especially a college textbook, I always go to www.bookfinder.com. It searches ALL the websites for that book and gives a price list of available stores. I have found that amazon.com and abebooks.com usually have the best prices.

Energy
Buy a Wood Stove. I’m not talking about the fancy electrical or pellet stoves you buy at Walmart. I’m talking about an old-fashioned Wood Stove that you use actual wood to burn. My parents have had one for years their electrical bill is less than $50 a month in the winter.
Limit your showering time and don’t take super hot showers. I can wash my hair, face, and body, plus shave my pits in 5 minutes. If you want to enjoy time away from everything and relax, take a bath. If you aren’t very dirty—just taking the routine shower—put a plug in the tub while you shower and let your kids take a bath in it when you’re done. I have four kids and they all share the same bath water.
Use half as much shampoo—it will last twice as long.  My hair is about to my shoulders and normally use a quarter-size squirt of shampoo and it’s sufficient. My husband, who hardly has hair, uses about three or four times that. You can imagine my frustration. I use half that amount of conditioner because you only need to get the ends of the hair. If you are really suffering financially, go to the hair product websites and request free samples.
Thermostat settings. The recommended temperature in the winter is 68 degrees, and for the summer is 78 degrees. Your body adapts to the temperature. If you are cold, put on a sweater. If you’re hot, go to Walmart. Just kidding. Drink a cold glass of water. When I had my own apartment, my electricity bill was $17. When I got married, it shot up to over twice that in one month. The reason was that my husband likes taking long showers, and he liked the thermostat to be 60 in the summer and 75 in the winter. Raising the thermostat 6° F can save 10% on your cooling bill. Learn more at www.energyguide.com.

Health
Buy alkaline drops instead of cough medicine. You can buy alkaline drops at health food stores and they work wonders. I used to get sick every month until I started eating healthy and using alkaline drops whenever I felt a cold coming. My favorite concoction is 1/2 teaspoon wheat grass powder with a tablet of Airborn and 8-10 alkaline drops in about 10 ounces of water. This kicks any cold or flu super fast. Learn more by reading The pH Miracle by Dr. Young.
Don’t get the flu shot. Flu shots are meant for people with super weak immune systems that cannot handle the flu on their own. If you are perfectly healthy and have the flu shot, you are making your body lazy and it will soon lose it’s God-given ability to fight off sickness. Flu shots also have mercury and other deadly additives in them. When mercury is in the body, it destroys nerve endings. People wonder why there’s so many cases of autism, MS, and ALS on the rise. It’s because of the additives in immunization shots and our food.  Where does this come in money-wise? Being sick and going to the doctor is expensive. Learn more at www.naturalnews.com.
Invest in Vitamin Supplements instead of Prescription Drugs.  There’s a wealth of knowledge out there concerning natural remedies for illnesses and conditions that have prescription drugs for treatments. All prescription drugs are a copycat of a natural remedies, created in a lab unnaturally. This includes depression. I have found that when I get depressed and stressed out, if I take a B complex vitamin (sometimes two) then I feel much better. My kids get cranky when they are low in vitamins. When you are lacking a vitamin or mineral, it will throw your body out of balance. I got rid of my daughter’s wart by putting garlic on it, and it hasn’t come back. Get educated. I recommend purchasing the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.
Life/Health Insurance. If you are pretty healthy and only go to the doctor maybe once a year yet you are paying hundreds of dollars in health insurance, you’d be better off investing that money and use it when needed. Same goes for life insurance. If you put the same amount of money that it costs to have life insurance into an investment that earns money, you’d at least get that money back if you decide you no longer want the premium.

Government Benefits
A lot of people feel too proud to accept help from the government, but your tax money goes towards these programs to help people who are in a financial bind. Don’t feel ashamed of asking for help—that’s what’s so great about America.
WIC/Food Stamps. Most households qualify for WIC (Women, Infants, Children) and food stamps. WIC gives you about $100-worth of food per child under 5 years of age and pregnant/breastfeeding women per month. Learn more at http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/ and www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
Energy Assistance Programs. Low income families that qualify can receive money paid on their electricity or gas bill. We’ve received $400 one year, that covered 6 months of electricity bills. Learn more at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/
Making Home Affordable. If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, you might qualify to get a modification or a refinance to lower your monthly payment. Learn more at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/
Health Insurance. “Low” income (which is most Americans now) qualify for free insurance for children and pregnant women. It’s called Medicaid. Learn more at https://www.cms.gov/medicaideligibility/ There is also Medicare for disabled and elderly.

Get Creative
Make gifts. Handmade gifts come from the heart. They tell a person you really care about them and took the time to make them something. There are plenty of websites out there that have ideas and tutorials for making things. I’ve made baby blankets, swaddlers, and diaper bags. They are so much fun and unique. You can also make things to sell on etsy.com or ebay.com. Since handmade items are one-of-a-kind, people are willing to pay more money.
Make your own clothes. There is a huge markup on clothing. You can buy enough fabric for a dress for under $10 but it’s hard to find a nice dress for that price in stores. If you’re a beginner seamstress, I recommend Lorna Knight’s sewing books. They are very helpful and have lots of images.
Make doll clothes. You can make a Barbie dress with a scrap of material, but if you buy one at the store they’re usually $5.
Use old clothes for fabric. My husband has large pants that no longer fit him, so I use them for fabric. I can make doll clothes, or if they are big enough, clothes for my kids. I used a black knit t-shirt that got bleach on it and made doll socks out of it.
Recycle. Use sour cream containers and such for storage containers.

If you have any additional tips, feel free to comment.