By Eileen AJ Connelly, AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — There's nothing like hard times to make you rethink some of your habits.
The fallout from the Great Recession has led countless Americans to replace their free-spending ways with more frugal measures. Although clipping coupons or canning vegetables may appeal for a short time, sooner or later, even devoted tightwads will wonder whether they're really saving any money?
That's where Trent Hamm steps in.
Inspired in part by a discussion on the Facebook page for his personal finance blog, "The Simple Dollar," Hamm does the math so that you don't have to.
For his "Saving Pennies or Dollars" column, he calculates the costs of steps that he and his frugal readers take to save cash. Does using a space heater and keeping the house temperature low really save money? Is it cheaper to print photos at home or have them done at a store? Which are more economical, traditional, compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs?
Hamm calculates the costs and compares the savings.
Sometimes, the results surprise him. For instance, is it more economical to use the dishwasher or hand wash dishes?
Hamm assumed washing by hand would be a lot less expensive. Although he found the extra cost of using the machine was about 63 cents per load of dishes, when factoring in the value of the time spent washing dishes by hand, the savings only amounted to about $3.80 per hour. That's not, in his view, enough savings to make the time spent worthwhile. (He tends to set the mark for "worth-the-effort" around $5 per hour.)
Like many of these columns, his findings generated two dozen comments from readers debating their accuracy and telling their own stories.
Most of the actions he tests — even rinsing and reusing Ziploc bags and making homemade laundry detergent — turn out to be money savers.