Old-Fashioned Ways for Saving Money
by Tamara Martfeld
Our current world is full of money-stripping conveniences. Many of those conveniences are really nice to have, but if saving money is the goal or a necessity, taking a good look at the modern conveniences in your life can save you a bundle.
Some of the conveniences are so engrained in our lives that we forget they are conveniences. One way to identify your conveniences is to compare your live to that of a cave-dweller. Those who lived in caves did not have running water, electricity, telephones, microwaves, instant food (well, raw fruits and vegetables might be considered instant food for them), telephones, ATMs, cars, etc. Some of these conveniences are required by laws to be connected in some locations – for example, I am required by law to have running water, electricity, gas, and sewer connected in my home. However, even if the connection is required, the usage is not always required (it is forbidden in my area to use alternates to the sewer connection).
I am not suggesting never using your conveniences. I am suggesting you take a good look at how you use those conveniences in order to save some money. For example, do you drive to a store three blocks away to pick up one or two items? If the neighborhood is save you might consider walking to the store, riding a bicycle, or using a motor-scooter (the mobility devices advertised to people with difficulty walking). Any of these options will save you money on the fuel your car uses, and some will even give you some extra exercise.
Electricity is a convenience people forget is a convenience – remember the ability to use it is less than 300 years old. There are lots of ideas out there for saving electricity, but there are a few that I rarely or never see.
- How many items do you have plugged in that are not used daily? Many electronics today use electricity even if you are not currently using them. For example, anything with a clock or memory is using electricity for those features. Unplug what you can – it may also save you bigger expenses. If there is a power surge after a power outage the power surge can destroy anything plugged in. I have gotten to the point of unplugging almost everything if I am not using it due to power surges in my area.
- To save on lighting it is generally recommended to use newer light bulbs. However, do you really need the electric light in the first place? In the day time you can open a curtain and have the light needed for most activities. If you are really pinching pennies, carefully use candles. Flashlights are another option – batteries from items which need more power can frequently be used in lower-power items (like flashlights) to use up the power in the battery (another savings).
- Use non-electric options when possible, for example, bar-be-que instead of using a stove or oven, hand-operated can-opener instead of the electric can-opener, hand-washing dishes instead of using a dish washer. Look at how the activity was done before electricity or the modern tool was available. How frugal you go depends on how frugally you want or need to live.
- How much TV do you watch? Work on reducing TV watching (and its related electricity) and read, play games with the family, or do some other non-electric activity. The way I did this was to not watch any new shows. As the shows I was watching were cancelled, my live TV watching was eliminated. I now only watch DVDs of shows and movies I really enjoy, watch fewer shows, and don’t pay for the electricity to watch commercials (OK, ignore commercials).
If you use TV dinners or take-out as a quick meal, take a good look at what type of food you eat this way and find out how to make it yourself. I used to re-use the old aluminum trays to make my own TV dinners. I now just cook in larger quantities and freeze the extras in serving sizes. When I need a quick meal I pull out a meat item and one or two side dishes and microwave them. In addition to saving the extra money for take out I save money by cooking in volume – baking a single chicken breast takes about the same time as baking a 9x13 pan full of chicken breasts. If you can find it in the freezer section of the grocery store, you can freeze it at home. There is information on “once-a-month” cooking on the internet. If that is too much for your needs or freezer capabilities, use the same concept on a smaller scale. Being single is not an excuse to avoid this option – as I said, I use it and I am single. The same thing goes for any boxed or pre-prepared item you can get in the store. In some cases the convenience food is less expensive, but it is rare. Moving away from convenience food will save money and give you healthier options. Make convenience food a treat instead of your main fare.
As a final example, look at your communication conveniences. What options do you have on your computer or cell phone? Do you really need them all? Do you really need to be that connected? I pity the people today who have had these “conveniences” available for their entire lives. Many have never found the delight of finding an interesting bit of information mis-filed in a library, the joy of a real conversation with another human being, the comfort of an uninterrupted meal, or the peacefulness of a walk. Some of these individuals have been tied to computers or cell phones since grade school. This has happened in the last 40 years! When I was in high school cell phones were out of the price range of most people. Now, many in high school cannot manage without their phone in their hand. What is the cost of the internet connection on your phone, the ability to text on the phone, or the high-speed connection on your computer? Remember, these costs have only arisen in the last 40 year and can be eliminated if they are not really necessary. If you are highly connected and need to save money, this area can result in a huge savings.
Remember, compare your life to a cave dweller and look at the convenience you have that they did not have. I don’t recommend going back to life as a cave dweller (I like my conveniences as I am sure you do), however, it is a good drastic comparison to identify areas of possible savings. Even comparing your life to that of your grandparents will give you areas to consider. If the cave dwellers or your grandparents lived without the given convenience, you can too.
Pennies do add up. If you can reduce some of the conveniences you can afford but really don’t need, set the money aside for a vacation, a large purchase, or even retirement. Since you are already spending the money you will not miss it as it goes into savings. You might be surprised at how much you can save!