Financial experts are the first to recommend rethinking your budget during a recession. MainStreet asked real people to share their proven ideas on how to shave 50 bucks fast off your monthly spending.
1. Back To The Bank
I signed up for a “round up to the next dollar” program at my bank. If I use my debit card, for example, to pay $33.14 for a purchase, $0.86 will be added to my savings, which they will match up to 5% for the year. It’s been an easy, painless way to save at least $50 a month, not including their contribution. Plus, as a result, I use my card more and carry less cash, which helps eliminate needless spending.
—LaDonna, 55, Kansas City, Mo.
2. Communal Living
I group laundry with my roommates and join whites and specific colors to make for larger loads, then we use drying racks, not the dryer. We’ve also been making our own laundry detergent: 1 part Borax Laundry Booster, 1 part baking soda, 1 part washing soda—all you need is 2 tablespoons per load. My friends and I also get together Thursday nights to make a big dinner and watch a movie from the library. Leftovers become our lunches Friday. Just four days of brown bagging a month can save you $40.
—Melissa, New York, 28
3. Go In, Not Out
Rather than spend money going out to dinner, spas, shopping, the movies, I go “in.” I’ll stay home and do things that might have paled in comparison before, like organize my photos, catch up on my address book or send e-mails to friends who I’m always “meaning to write.” If you do that just a few times a month, it’s easily $50 savings from eating out. I do my shopping and spa-ing “in” too. My closest friends and I get together and trade clothes or give each other manicures. You still get the feeling of being pampered or having something new for absolutely free. We’ve also bartered each other’s talents. A friend of mine is teaching me to paint, while I’m showing her how to make my signature cupcakes.
—Mona, 38, Taos, N.M.
4. Bargain. Bargain. Bargain.
I negotiate just about everything from cable to credit cards to cell phone rates. And I canceled my land line! Even if you just save $10 or so per bill each month, it adds up. I travel a lot for business, and have also used bargained for lower-priced hotels and airfares. I’ve also gotten deals in my favorite shops and boutiques by simply asking if the ticket price is the best they can do. They’ll usually take 10 to 15% off, which helps. The upside for them is that they get to move inventory. It’s just more stuff they won’t have to drastically put on sale later. And they provide great service, knowing I’ll likely become a loyal shopper.
—Sheila, 32, San Francisco
5. Menu Make-Over.
Three or four nights a week I’ll eat vegetarian, which eliminates high meat costs, saving at least $15 to $20 a week. I’ve also switched to stir-fries, using inexpensive vegetables. I buy either what’s in season or frozen generic brands to save cash—and brown rice that I buy in bulk for less. Farmer’s markets and grocery stores will often have deals on fresh produce. If it’s something I like, I’ll load up and freeze what I don’t use immediately for smoothies, soups or sauces. Finally, I cut out unhealthy snack foods (chips, crackers, soda) and unnecessary treats, like ice cream or brownies—I feel better and it’s a lot cheaper to grab an apple or banana then to buy a frozen yogurt. In total, these changes have slashed at least 50 bucks from my monthly grocery bill.
—Kate, 35, Brooklyn
6. Switch to High Tech.
I’m a media junkie so [I] was getting tons of magazines each month, plus the newspaper. I’ve canceled or not renewed subscriptions, as well as stopped daily delivery of the paper, and now get my info online for free. It’s actually handier because I get news alerts via e-mail, not to mention it’s great for the environment. When I have time, I’ll spend the day at the bookstore, where I browse magazines and books all day for only the price of a hot tea from the coffee shop.
—Kerry, 39, New York
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