23 September 2008

Life Hints

My people, my people. We can't do anything about the banking industry. That horse is out the barn and down the road. But we can do something about our own personal economics and I am here to set you right. Aren't you glad? I have some ideas for investments you can make with NO MONEY DOWN! Let's go.

1. Your Teeth!

It has come to my attention that some of you are not flossing your teeth. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? Have you been to the dentist lately? Every time you go in for something other than a cleaning, you can plan on shelling out at least $500 even if you HAVE dental insurance.

"But I don't LIKE to floss..." whine whine whine. So do you LIKE a root canal? Buy some Glide floss, people. It makes the whole process so much easier. It is expensive as hell but guess what? For the price of one root canal, you can buy, oh, about a lifetime supply of Glide!
And while you are over there in the tooth care section, invest $7 in a spin brush. My hygienists are all over that thing. They say it will keep me from scrubbing my gums away, which is one of my many bad habits. They keep wanting to sell me the $200 kind in the office, but they as much as admitted that the cheapies work just as well.

2. Smoking
Blah blah blah money blah blah blah health blah you know you should quit etc etc etc. Got that?

3. Quit driving like a moron

Yesterday I got to have to joyful experience of having a guy come up behind me on the freeway and ride my butt for a while before making some dangerous (no turn signal, of course!) lane changes and zooming off. This was about 15 miles from home. We got to the stoplight closest to my house and I was right behind him after having driven in my customary turtlish manner the whole way. I laughed hard, and he saw me laughing. And he knew I was laughing AT him, not with him. Felt soooo good.

So drive like a reasonable person. No drag racing stops and starts, no weaving in and out of traffic. Enjoy the ride and save some gas.

4. Learn to cook
Eating out is bad for your pocketboot and bad for your health. The reason that those restaurant meals are so tasty is that they are full of fat and salt.

Learn to make 5 simple dinners and keep the ingredients around. They don't always have to be from scratch. Some soup, a roll, bagged salad mix. Voila. You have just saved $12 on going out.

On Sunday night, make a pot of something starchy. Often, I steam up a couple pounds of new potatoes. Then I can make something easy using the potatoes as a base - a tortilla espanola (which is a flat omelet with potatoes and onions), potato salad with lots of chopped up veggies in it, a potato, chile and cheese quesadilla, etc etc. Or do brown rice or quinoa or beans. This little bit of advance planning can save you again and again.

Bonus clue: Not everyone has room, but if you can just grow a pot of herbs, you will make cooking so much more enjoyable and fun, and you will save money on buying bundles of fresh herbs.

5. Cancel impulse buying
When you think you want something, write it down in your little notebook. Think about it for 30 days before you buy it. Don't worry about missing out. What you are probably missing out on is debt.

Bonus clue: only buy exercise equipment used. Believe me, it is out there, waiting for you, barely used by the last person who bought it.

6. Coffee!
Get a travel mug, make your coffee, and take it. How many times do we have to go over this? $3 coffee x 30 days equals $90 a month equals over $1000 a year which is 2 plane tickets to Hawaii, which is how I calculate everything. One perfectly brewed cup of Kona in Kona is better than 365 cups of coffee anywhere else, right?

I actually drink INSTANT coffee at work to save money, and if someone who loves good coffee as much as I do can do that, you can, too. The secret? Lots of milk.

7. Invest in your neighbors
Making friends with the people around you makes good sense socially AND financially. Your neighbors may be weird. They may be annoying. They may be hard to get along with. In other words, they are just like you. Go, be nice. People used to do it all the time. There is nothing to stop us now.

If you can turn to your neighbor to borrow their electric screwdriver - and they can borrow your extension cord - you don't have to do everything on your own. My neighbor and I dog-sit for each other when necessary. I used to pay someone $25 a day to do that. When I have six avocados from my parents' friend, my neighbors get three.

Ok, your turn. Hit me with your best money-saving hint.


Mrs. G. said...

Cancel cable and get a library card.

Mayberry said...

My favorite one is ride your bike (or walk)! Saves money, reduces your carbon footprint and may also reduce the size of your ass.

jonniker said...

I second the library card. Frankly, I haven't canceled cable, BUT I live well below my means in almost every area in life. I drive oldish cars, I don't shop a lot (or ever), I eat in whenever I can (or, in the case of pregnancy, not much at all, I intentionally pay about half of what my contemporaries pay in housing in exchange for a smaller place, and OH MY GOD, I FLOSS.

Can I also add to the flossing bit that it's cheaper (WAY CHEAPER) in the long run to go to the dentist REGULARLY, rather than wait every few years and get a huge, honking bill? Even without dental insurance, you're better off paying for regular cleanings and fillings as needed out of pocket, rather than waiting several years (EVEN IF YOU ARE INSURED) and needing root canals. Most dental insurance has a limit, and one root canal blows it out of the water by as much as a thousand bucks or more.

Floss. Go to the dentist regularly. This may cost you a little at the outset, but it WILL save you money in the long run.

hoppytoddle said...

I special order an eye of round roast from the grocery store once a month & cut it into steaks rather than buy steaks. Even the organic grass fed comes out to less than $5/pound, vs like $12/pound for the precut ones. So, I get like 9 steaks for $20. Oh, & my butcher likes me because he knows how smart I am.

Angella said...

I shop at the warehouse grocery store, and plan my meals at the end of the week so I just buy what I need.

I applaud the rest of your list - we live by them too!

Amanda said...

meal planning has saved me a bunch on groceries. That and always shoping with a list. That and remembering that it's more important to do research and price shop/haggle for big purchases (appliances, furniture, cars, vacations) than it is to sweat the small stuff.

I haven't bought coffee outside my home even once this whole year!

Karen Sugarpants said...

I have to bow out on #7, lady. They have cost me more than I ever expected in the last 4 days.
But I whole heartedly agree with the rest.

Major Bedhead said...

I am a nut about flossing. I have floss stashed all over the place - in my car, at my desk, in the bathroom. My gums LOVE me. I've had a root canal. I don't want to have another one.

Turn the heat down and put on a sweater.
Put that plastic stuff over your windows in the winter.
Buy used books, if you must buy books.
Freecycle - I got a breadmaker off Freecycle a few weeks ago.
Buy bulk - even at Whole Foods, it's cheaper to buy bulk there than it is at the discount market.
Join a CSA and learn how to cook new food with all that produce.
When berries go on sale, you can freeze them. Put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in your freezer for a few hours and come January, you'll have frozen berries to use on pancakes, in muffins or just to stir into your yoghurt.
Hunt down the Salvation Army that's in a college town. You'll find great deals on practically new clothing and housewares.
Check out hypermiling.

That's all I can think of for now....

Maggie said...

Learn to fix and mend. My husband taught me this and with a little ingenuity, we tend to use things around the house to patch and fix things - making sure they still look nice and presentable - and avoid buying new and adding to the dump.

lizgwiz said...

Dry your clothes on a clothesline whenever possible. It's easier on your wallet, the environment AND your clothes.

Don't use credit cards unless you can pay the balance off every month. Just don't.

Suzanne Reisman said...

Excellent tips. This will be very unpopular, but I save oodles of money by not drinking alcohol.

Issas Crazy World said...

Buy a new used car. When we buy a car, we buy one that someone bought and traded in after a year. Generally less than 12k miles and always in great condition. Plus, at least 6k cheaper.

Also, never use a credit card unless you can pay it off at the end of each month. If you buy a $300 dollar purse (or tire, whatever) and just add it to your debt, you will pay for it three times over by the time you pay it off.

I can't do instant, but I buy my own Starbucks and make it at home.

MsLittlePea said...

I buy the family size meat packages and re-wrap them to store the the freezer. Chicken breast(boneless) especially, they thaw out quickly and are hard to mess up- if you have some greens or rice in the pantry that always a quick meal. I also buy my paper products in bulk- toilet paper, napkins. I save so much money just from not having to run out and buy some since there's always a few extras in my basket at check out when my intention was only to buy toilet paper. Toothpaste, soap and laundry detergent in bulk as well. I hang dry most of my clothes-saves energy and they last longer. I LOVE the library!!! It's free, it's a wonderful place to go for some good quiet time-way better than a busy Starbucks. I'm so with you on the coffee. I love to treat myself once in a while but for the most part I prefer my own in a travel mug.

Gwen said...

Best money saving hint? Do NOT have children.

(too late for me, but maybe I can help someone else.)


Traceytreasure said...

Quit Drinking Alcohol. Yeah, me as a raging alcoholic, not so attractive!

As for #2- Agree 100% Long, slow, painful, inevitable death....I quit 10 years ago!

#3! I can't stand bad drivers!
Unfortunately, one is my son!

#4 Taco Bell is $26.00 for a family of 6. Yikes!!

We're eating Top Ramen tonight. Hubby is out of work!


madgetastic said...

In addition to most of what's on your list, I also dilute EVERYTHING. Shampoo, juice, honey, you name it.

meno said...

Quit buying clothes that will fit you "as soon as i lose a few pounds."

Susan C said...

I donate my used magazines (tax write-off) to the Friends of the Altadena Library and purchase others for ten cents each. I can often pick up current issues of my favorite mags.

Others have mentioned the library and freecycle - two of my faves.

For fuel and time efficiency, I try to follow the "rule of three" - grouping three geographically close errands or outings together. For example, when I go to San Gabriel (20 minutes away), I can get a Vietnamese meal, a $15 massage and a manicure on the same block. (If I was truly frugal, I guess I would give up the manis and the massages.)

If there's something I really want to buy, I check to see if it's available on ebay.

catherine said...

I could never hope to make as much sense as you guys. Sigh.

Some of my default settings are fairly good though: I don't own a car, my building is so old it doesn't have A/C, no cable, prepaid phone (TOTAL control over that bill, nice) and I love Americanos. So when I do go to Starbucks, I rarely spend over two bucks.

Christina said...

Going along with the dental tip, I'll also add: spend 10 minutes a month to do a quick body check. Women, check your breasts for lumps. Do a skin check to look for abnormal moles or freckles or see if any are growing. Stretch a little and evaluate how you're moving. If anything doesn't seem right, get in to see your doctor.

The big problems in life almost always start small. Early detection is the best defense you have, and early detection is far cheaper and better for your health in the long run.

g said...

You got some great ideas. I don't have any hints...not now. Gotta think them up for publication.

Feeling major guilty on the teeth-cleaning thing, though.

Christina said...

I love my hobo lattes, skim milk, heated, add instant coffee and sugar for a delicious treat.

GraceD said...

SisterDavis, rad post. You rule. I love you, girl. Etc.

So - this is what I gots 4 u:

Stop buying the high end skin care stuff. A dermatologist pal's pet peeve is how the beauty/cosmetic industry mercilessly steals the precious earning of women with the seduction of skin care products with all bogus anti-aging claims. Dermatologist pal says none of this crap works except those retinoid products - with its cell turnover properties. And, even then, the departmeny store-bought anti-aging potions cannot and will never have the strength required to slough off cells. It takes a lot of those expensive little jars to achieve what really works - and that would be prescription strength retinoids (like Renova or good old Retin A).

Essentially, what Clinique, Lancome, Shisedo and others are selling are cell turnover agents with an active agent formulated well below the physician prescribed strength mixed in a vat of fancy emollients. This is bullshit in a jar.

Instead - ask your doc for a prescription of Renova, Retin-A. If you're pals with the doc, have her write it out for acne so your insurance will cover it (cosmetic use may not be in the plan). That tube of Renova may cost up to $30 depending on your co-pay, but a pea size amount of cream is enough for your entire face.

Next, buy yourself a great sunscreen, Neutrogena is a superb brand. Make sure you're getting at least 35 in protection factor - perhaps $3 bucks at the drugstore.

Then, you need a nice tub of Cetaphil moisturizing cream and cleansing lotion - the large industrial size can be purchased at Costco for $4 each. This is a superior product widely and heartily recommended by the derm docs.

Total cost range (again, depending on your Renova prescription co-pay) - $20 to $40. The whole skin care routine! Cheap yet effective!

The routine? Cleanse with the Cetaphil, rinse very well, apply the Renova/Retin-A, let it soak in for at least 10 minutes, apply sunscreen, do the wait thing again, then moisturize like a crazy woman with the second Cetaphil product on top of all of that. Add make-up to your pretty mug, if you choose.

Last step - walk into Macy's with your face a-glow and beautiful and proceed to the cosmetics department and flip the bird at all of them. Hahahaha, beauty/cosmetic industrial complex! I saved a crapload of money and I look bee-yoo-tee-full with no thanks to you!

All righty. My work here is done. I salute you, SisterSueBobDavis.

Carolie said...

Carry an umbrella when the sun shines, and wear gloves that cover your forearms when you drive.

Will you look weird? Well, yes, if you don't live in Asia.

But skin cancer looks weirder, and cost a BUTTLOAD more.

Thus speaks a fat-blonde-chick-slash-melanoma-survivor who uses her umbrella and her elbow-length gloves... Every. Single. Day.

I'd rather look dorky than be dead.

marisa said...

Thanks for this post and all of the great reminders! I felt like I was reading a guest post on the Get Rich Slowly blog, which I use as my personal finance guide; but your post was more fun.

I also like all of the great comments and suggestions in the comment thread ~ especially SusanC's "Rule of Three" for running errands. I generally do that anyway, without thinking about it (because I am lazy!), but now I will really consciously plan my driving time according to the Rule of Three, to see where I can be even more efficient.

Graced's beauty care comment is SO TRUE and she provides excellent skin-care tips. I also just use Retin-A (insurance didn't cover the $60 tube but it lasts for months and months) + plenty of good sunblock + inexpensive wash, moisturizer, & a little makeup from the drugstore.

I am always so glad for great posts such as yours, and the helpful comments, because it all helps keep me motivated! I'm a public servant so I don't make a lot of money but I have a lot of debt. About 6 months ago, I put myself on "Operation Budget Lockdown" in an aggressive attempt to seriously pay down my overwhelming debt.

In 6 months, I finally started a (serious) savings account, paid off my car, paid off a low-balance credit card, am close to paying off another low-balance credit card, and put all my other debt on realistic yet aggressive payment plans. It was so liberating to take control of my spending, through a series of seemingly small steps.

The important thing for someone like me was baby steps. For example, I used to buy breakfast AND lunch every day(!). When I did the math, I couldn't believe how much money I was wasting. I stopped shopping at Whole Foods, except for a few crucial items, and started shopping at Trader Joe's to stock up on my favorite snacks, and breakfast and lunch foods. Now I bring breakfast and lunch to the office BUT I did NOT give up my coffee(!) The good news is that I really just like a single Americano every morning ~ which costs only one dollar! :) ~ Some days I only spend $1 all day! :)

I also did not want to give up buying books that I really want to own ~ so I joined BookMooch and now I get/trade books for FREE (and buy them used if I can't find them free).

Your neighbor recommendation is also excellent! I became close friends with about 5 of the neighbors in my apartment building ~ they really are all great people. One girl cooks a huge meal every Sunday and gives me dinner those nights. She's just nice like that. :) I travel a lot and paying for a pet-sitter would be really expensive. But my neighbors all have keys to my apartment and they sign up for pet-sitting shifts when I am away. In return, I pet-sit or plant-sit for them ~ and we all save money. We also share Netflix movies, groceries, laundry supplies, etc. :)

Sorry for such a lengthy comment ~ but it's because I really enjoyed your post, and the input from your readers. Keep up the great work!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Great post. Your suggestions are all great, and make me want to start a September resolution (why wait for New Years?) and floss my teeth. I'll start tonight, I promise.

We don't smoke, we don't drive like morons, we don't drink coffee from a coffee stand, we pay off our credit cards every month. Not always easy. Sometimes very difficult. My husband is currently unemployed, and I work from home, so we fill up our gas tanks about once a month, vs. 2x a week when my husband was commuting. We cook most days. I loved the hint by hoppytoddle regarding the roast. I'm going to check that out with my butcher. I like steak, but my favorite is about $16 a pound, so we don't get to eat it very often at all.

Hmmm. A hint that I haven't seen here yet? Let me think. Farmers' Market, if there's one near you. Often cheaper. Esp if you go about 1/2 hour before closing, when they slash the prices.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Oh, and I love the 'stop impulse buying' hint. BIG ONE.

Back to top