I am a tightwad. At one time it was rumored that I was on the short list for the Nobel Prize in the tightwad category, but nothing came of it. (I’m still here, guys, and I would appreciate the prize money a lot. Consider me for some future year.) Despite being a tightwad I offer for free these ideas about handling one’s personal finances in a wise manner. I will begin with practical ideas, and near the end will offer some more philosophical notions.
1/If you have an electric water heater, you can save a lot of money by turning it off most of the time. My water heater is on much less than 2% of the time–some months around 1%. I turn on the water heater when I get up in the morning, then turn it off after somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes (depending on how cold the weather is). I do my running and/or walking, and have plenty of hot water for my morning shower. This works quite well for one person. If you have a family and therefore have a more constant need for hot water, you could probably get by with having the water heater on 10% or 20% of the time. The water stays hot for quite a while. I did the math on my savings, and it amounted to about $11.00 per month. Not a fortune, but to me $11.00 is a lot of money. In a year it adds up to saving $132.00. In four decades it amounts to $5,280.00 in savings. Small savings add up over the long haul.
2/When you pay your utility bills, consider paying for more than one month at a time. My water bill is usually $22.02 per month. The last time I paid my bill I paid $110.00, paying what I owed and several months ahead. That was in November. It is late March, and I still don’t owe anything. Paying ahead saves in at least three ways: 1/I write fewer checks; 2/I save stamps; 3/I save time.
3/Many items can be bought very cheaply at dollar stores. Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree are three great places to shop. I can buy pens, toiletries, food, laundry supplies, for very little expense. The last time I bought laundry detergent was at Dollar Tree–$1.00 for a bottle that will do 32 loads of laundry. (And laundry can be done successfully with cold water–I’ve done it for years.)
4/When the price of an item is high, buy as little as you can get by with. When the price is low, stock up. A few years ago we had an egg shortage around here. The price skyrocketed. I bought as few eggs as possible for several weeks or months. Eventually the price came down–the free market really works, if we leave people alone–and that was the time to stock up and buy lots of eggs.
5/Hand deliver the payment of some bills, rather than mail them in. This saves stamps, and also provides exercise and a chance to see the world. Walking gives us a different perspective on life. Many decades ago I took a short walk, probably less than a half mile. Immediately I sensed that I was seeing the world in a different way from the way I typically saw it while always driving everywhere. I’ve never forgotten the feeling which was provided by that short walk. I learned something that day.
6/If you have debt, pay it off as quickly as possible, and thus save paying out interest. Debt in general is not a good thing. Get rid of it as quickly as possible, and avoid it as much as possible.
7/Buy less expensive items than the brand name ones. For example, brand name pop is usually much more expensive than generic pop. The difference in quality is slight, perhaps in some cases nonexistent. Occasionally brand name items offer deeply discounted prices; that is the time to stock up if you really think the brand name is superior.
8/The point made in #7 is especially true when it comes to alcohol. If you drink alcohol, do you really think you could pass a taste test proving that the most expensive brand of vodka tastes better than the least expensive vodka? I have a friend who was at one time a bartender. He told me he would challenge his customers to make taste tests. The results were what you would expect–most of us are kidding ourselves to imagine we can taste a difference. If you are one of the few with a refined palate, and really can tell a difference in quality, fine. Most of us are wasting our money if we buy the more expensive brands of most types of alcohol.
9/If you eat at fast food joints, don’t order pop. If you have to have pop with your meal, buy your food to go and take it home to eat where you can drink your inexpensive pop. Also, some of the items on the menu are much better bargains than others. For example, at McDonald’s you can currently buy a McChicken sandwich for a dollar. Two McChickens will fill up most people, or come close, and I think they taste great. Paying the regular price for some of McDonald’s more expensive sandwiches is financial suicide, especially if you add fries and a soft drink. You may as well put a gun to your head and end it all.
10/This suggestion is not for everyone, but it will fit the personalities of some people. That is, record all your income and expenditures. Also write down goals, and try to reach them. For example, you might set a goal of spending less than $30.00 a week on groceries per person. If you make the goal, great. If you miss it, you can try again next year. And maybe you came close even if you missed the goal. I am a record keeping type, so this is fun for me. Other people I realize would rather be torn to pieces by rabid hyenas than write down their daily expenditures. Try this suggestion only if it fits your personality.
11/Buy used clothing at Goodwill stores. You can find astonishing high quality items for almost nothing. The last time I shopped at Goodwill, ties cost $1.00 each. There was a wide selection. How much would one new tie cost at even a relatively inexpensive store such as Walmart? Guessing, $8.00 to $12.00. (Update on April 13, 2017: used ties at Goodwill are now $1.99. The same day a new tie at Walmart was $10.00.) Great prices are available on all sorts of Goodwill clothing. Don’t limit yourself to clothing, however. My Aged Parent bought a used vacuum cleaner at Goodwill. That was years ago so she can’t be sure what she paid, but she thinks it was $15.00. It is a great sweeper. It is still working after quite a few years. I borrow it constantly. (Not that I use it much, of course. But I borrow it.)
12/I have an Amazon credit card. A few years ago Amazon was supposedly offering to pay people to sign up for their credit card. I forget how much they were paying, but it was significant money–at least $25.00, perhaps more. I was skeptical. This sounded like one of those deals which was too good to be true. Usually when something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. There turns out to be some catch that wasn’t mentioned. But, skeptical though I was, I decided to sign up for the Amazon credit card. It has been an incredible money saver through the years. I got the original $25.00 (or whatever it was) as promised. And every time I use my Amazon credit card, I get points which add up and which can be used to take dollars off any of my purchases at Amazon. I buy lots of books and quite a few DVDs. On my most recent Amazon book/DVD purchase, I subtracted about $74.00 from my bill by applying the Amazon points I had built up as a result of using my Amazon credit card. Through the years I have saved hundreds of dollars. Amazon, of course, sells a lot more than books and DVDs. You are bound to find something at Amazon that you would like to buy. If you have built up points on your Amazon credit card, you can save a lot of money by applying them to your purchase. Do you give away money to charity? Put it on your Amazon credit card, rather than write a check. You save a stamp. Plus you gain points which save you money. If you give a charitable donation of $300.00, the charity gets the money, and you get $3.00 worth of points. It may not sound like a lot, but if you use your credit card often enough the points add up pretty rapidly. Pay your $1,000.00 car repair bill with your Amazon credit card, and you will get $10.00 back on your next Amazon purchase. Free money.
I am going to stop there for today. It’s already the longest blog post I’ve ever done. So this becomes Part I. More eventually, if I am still around.