Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Using Up What You Have to Save Money

by Tamara Martfeld

A common new year’s goal for many people is to save money for a specific item or in general. These same people will then go out and replace many items which still have life in them, then wonder why they make no progress on their goal during the year. I am suggesting that you use up what you have instead of replacing your possessions prematurely.

For example, it is common for many people to replace a car every three years. Why? Does a car stop functioning just because it has reached the age of three? If this or something similar is your habit and you want to save some money, re-evaluate this habit. Does the car still have life in it? Are the repair bills reasonable? If so, extend your ownership of the car. A well-built car can last for decades. My own car is still in fairly good condition. The reason I am looking to replace the car is that I cannot get parts, a little understandable since the car was bought new in 1987. The milage is not much different from newer cars, even those of the same model. One would think that the manufacturers could have made some progress increasing the milage in that amount of time. Extending your ownership of the car can help you save in ways other than just the purchase price. Where I live there are taxes and fees based on the value of the car and an older car generally has less value than a new car.

Another common replacement people make prematurely is clothing. If taken care of, clothing can also last for decades. I have some classic-style blouses which are at least 40 years old. The key is that they are a classic style which does not go out of fashion. You can save money by not catering to the fashion industry. If your clothes are trendy or part of a fad you may need to replace them. If they are not you can probably get away with wearing them for another year. Just like a car, take a look at them and determine if there is still use in them. If you are considering donating them to charity instead of using the trash can, the answer is likely that there is additional use. Determine which is more important to you – saving money or being seen in the latest fashions. If your clothes do need replaced I strongly suggest going for classic styles that will last longer and then taking good care of them.

It is also common for people to replace electronic gadgets and tools just to update. Do you really need that new phone, computer, television, drill, can opener, etc.? Things do wear out and eventually need to be replaced, but many things are replaced when there is still life in them. Use them up. In other words, use them until there is no life left in them. You want to have to recycle the worthless item or toss them in the trash can when you are through, not be able to donate it to charity with a good conscious. If the charity can use it, so can you (the only exception is giving it to a charity to recycle).

An area of a lot of waste is food. People throw out tons of food every year. Look at what you have and use it before buying more. You may be in good shape – in other words, what is in your cupboards is what you use and you rotate properly so nothing spoils. If so, from what I hear and read, you are in the minority and congratulations! If you are like many, you have something in the fridge close to being spoiled, if not already spoiled. You have cans in the pantry which have not seen the light of day since they were bought several years ago. You have UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) in your freezer. If you are in this category, start using what you have. According to the canned food industry, if it is canned and the can is not compromised, it is safe to eat. Older canned food may not have the nutrition, but it is safe. Look on the internet for the safe times for everything else (canned food guideline came from the web page of the canned food industry a few years back). If it is not safe, toss it. If it is safe, use it. Start with the items which will expire first so you don’t loose them. If you don’t know what to do with an item, plan a meal around it. Search the internet for recipes using the item. For example, if you have a can of tomato paste you can use it as a base for pizza or pasta or throw it into a soup. If you have meat and/or vegetables you can make a minestrone soup (there is a recipe on my web site for this type of minestrone soup). Once you have eaten (used up) the items on hand, plan better in the future so that you have on hand only those items you will use regularly. It is possible to save several hundreds of dollars annually just by not having to throw out food.

I hope you understand what I mean by using up what you have to save money – use up the car until it can no longer be used, use up your clothes, use up your electronics, use up your food, use up whatever you have. As you decide to use an item up instead of purchasing a new one, put the purchase price in the bank in an account you won’t touch, and then watch the money grow. The concept is simple, but many have trouble doing it or even recognizing it as an option.

I wish you success in the completion of any new year’s goals you make. And remember, if you “fail” you can declare whatever day you are on as the start of a new year and begin again. It is in your control.

Have a wonderful and safe 2016!