Sunday, July 20, 2008

Five or Ten Things

There are lots of lists out there these days on what you should and should not do to lose weight, save money, live longer, be happier, save for retirement and more. Well, I've been reading many of those lists and in some way most of them say the same things but just with a different perspective or flavor in the writing. In the keeping of the spirit of lists and distilling much of the information into my own list here is one I hope will help:

List 1 - Five things to do NOW to save money

1 - Turn off any unnecessary lighting in and around your home. Don't sacrifice security but instead of leaving lights on all the time, install motion sensing lights, especially outside. Good lighting outside is a great way to reduce crime against your property but motion sensing lights help you control how much you spend to do this. If you have appliances that even when not being used have digital displays, consider completely unplugging them when not in use. I keep my microwave plugged in and it does have a digital clock display but it's the one appliance I feel justified in having ready to use at all times. My toaster on the other hand, which has a digital display for how dark the toast becomes is unplugged except when in use. These digital displays can be energy vampires and recent estimstes put that at 25% of our overall energy useage. So, 25% of our energy is consumed by applicances and things we don't use all the time. Electricity costs are increasing dramatically so it's worth doing an energy audit of your home to keep this under control. Here's a link to help you with your audit:

2 - Make your lunch and bring it to school or work, in other words: brown-bag it. Some estimates are that you can save close to a $1000 a year by bringing your lunch to work or school, especially if you eat out everyday. I am always amazed at how many people spend $10 and more a day for lunch. I only do this when I have visitors, at office functions or for a really special treat. I usually keep my lunch costs under $3 a day by bringing it to work - and if you think I'm suffering - don't! I have everything from albacore tuna sandwiches to high-end salads that I make myself. My lunch often looks better than what my workmates purchase for 3-4 times as much. Here's a link to help you with this:

3 - Walk or bike wherever you can. It's easy to hop in the car and drive up the street just to get a few things from the grocery store, but maybe you should ride your bike. Not only will you be saving on gas but you'll be getting some valuable exercise. Obviously, if you are going for many or larger things you will want your vehicle but consider breaking your weekly shopping for perishables into several smaller trips and getting exercise by biking or walking. If you have kids, include them and make it a fun family adventure. However, be smart - wear a helmet. Head injuries contribute to future health costs like Alzheimers. Here are some links:

4 - Brew your own coffee. I brew a pot of coffee at home and take a travel mug into work with me. My home brew, which I share with my daughter, is from good beans and tastes absolutely wonderful. If I need more coffee I have a regular coffee pot at work and many of the long-standing brands of ground coffee are just fine for the day. I calucalte that it costs me about 75 cents a pot or less and I will share this with my co-workers. So, for a fraction of the costs of buying a cup of coffee out almost anywhere, I have plenty of coffee for the day and even some to share. Here's a useful link:

5 - Use coupons, but only for things you know you will use or use regularly. If you haven't tried something yet and don't know if you'll like it definitely use coupons for that test purchase. It doesn't make sense to use coupons for something you don't use or end up throwing away, something I'm weaning myself from doing. It's so tempting to save money with coupons but you have to be smart about it. If you end up buying something that you then decide not to use, donate it to your local food pantry. Here's a useful link on this topic:

Next time the list will be about things to do now - habits to get into - to save money in the future. Think of it as investing in yourself.