By Noah Henry • February 11, 2014
Saving money is easier said than done, especially if you have five rugrats running around and a mortgage to take care of. But truth be told, a significant portion of the money we waste goes to imprudent spending on the small things—an afternoon at the grocery store, an expert plumping fix you could’ve done yourself, and wasteful yet avoidable energy usage. With the New Year already a month in and financial stresses being what they are today, it’s time to be reminded of the importance of keen frugal choices and best practices in spending. Here are five common-sense savings strategies for families:
Foster a sales mindset. There’s probably one person in the family with an impressive knack for smart spending. What do they do differently? Do they deliberate before every buy? Do they have a certain definition of value? A rule of thumb is to never purchase something unless it’s on sale. If you’re the one in the family who makes the spending decisions, you should be thoroughly entrenched in the ‘sales subculture.’ Did you know that both Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue have a Friends & Family Sale a few times a year that features site-wide discounts of 25 percent? If not, you should invest some time in researching year-round sales at prominent retailers and spend only when the time is right.
Be loyal to only a few. If you shop around too much—one purchase here, one purchase there—at a a lot of different stores, you could be missing out on the benefits of remaining loyal to a few. Generally, loyalty programs reward those who make repeat purchases, so limiting your patronage to only a few stores will bring significant dividends down the line. For instance, Bloomingdale’s has its Loyallist program, which turns every dollar you spend into a future discount. Walgreens’ Balance Rewards incentivizes customers to embrace a healthy lifestyle, issuing 500 points for prescription and immunization buys. Neiman Marcus, Best Buy, and Starbucks all have lucrative points systems that give back to repeat customers, and there are hundreds of other retailers that do as well. By remaining steadfastly loyal to only a few stores, you could develop an impressive amount of points.
Make DIY a mantra. Your toilet isn’t flushing, your kitchen sink is clogged beyond all hope and your son broke a sprinkler in the front lawn. Do you really need to call the repair man? Luckily, there’s something called the Internet that has amassed an endless supply of knowledge for the common man’s convenience. Such sites as DoItYourself.com and DIYNetwork.com offer thousands of how-to guides aimed at helping the DIYer tackle everyday problems. Easy home improvement projects can be done without a pro. For everyday errands, adopting little tricks, such as mixing baking soda (or vinegar) and water to clean a tabletop, goes a long way.
Know the rules of grocery shopping. Aside from extreme couponing, there are a number of ways to cut your grocery bill. Obviously, the first is to create a list before you buy. Plan it and stick to it, by all means. Second, when an item is on sale that you regularly buy, buy a lot; you might not see a similar sale for a long time, so take advantage when it’s too good to resist. Buying nonperishables in bulk is also a proven tactic, because it pays to purchase toilet paper, batteries, paper towels, and other necessary nuisances in volume. Finally, acknowledging that grocery stores tend to place expensive, brand-name goods at eye level—the best deals being either high or low—may take a sizeable chunk off your bill.
Go green in the household. With energy costs reaching record highs, it’s essential to look for practical ways to save in any way you can. There are simple methods to cut utility bills without you noticing any difference in your living space. Setting your water heater down to 120 degrees from the industry standard 140 degrees can cut heating costs by up to 10 percent. You might also want to consider switching to compact fluorescent bulbs as opposed to traditional incandescent bulbs, as CFLs typically last six times longer and use 80 percent less power. There are other useful ways to save, such as shutting the blinds when you’re not home, habitually turning off lights when you leave, and closing closet doors in order to optimize energy efficiency.
How about you? Do you have any tricks you and your family practice?
Noah Henry Noah Henry is an amateur movie critic, foodie, bowler, and beer reviewer. But he's no amateur when it comes to saving money, so listen up!