Money Saving for the New Year: Facing Your Holiday Mistakes

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By Kathy Johnson

Everyone has done it, spent too much or got a “good deal” they simply couldn’t pass up.  No need to beat yourself up, but here are some guidelines for the future.

Start simple. Saving money isn’t always about buying the least expensive product. In fact, many times it is about deciding not to buy anything. Next, look for way to make small changes in your life.  Use less, use things up and recycle what you have. Making small savings of money here and there can add up—quickly.

Makeup and Facial Products:

One of the pricier items on any woman’s list is makeup. Many of those products come in tubes versus jars or bottles, and you can find yourself replacing them quickly when you come to the end of a “no idea what’s still in there” tube. Try to get every drop from it. Then, when you are sure it has to be empty, cut the end of the tube off. Chances are very good there is still enough in the tube for more uses.

Mascara is another product where you can’t see what’s left in the container. Put a little petroleum jelly on the tip of the brush and then stir it around inside. Many times this can extend your mascara for a few days or even weeks. Don’t rush to throw things out.

Gas & Your Auto:

Plan your trips. Jumping in the car for a can of pop or to run a quick errand is wasteful. Ask yourself, “Do I really need it now?”  Run those quick errands while you are already out. Plan your trip so that you make right hand turns until you get to the farthest point on your trip. Then work your way home, again making right hand turns. Waiting for cars to clear to make a left hand turn not only uses gas, but it is also potentially more dangerous than making right hand turns. Another option is to get the bike out or walk.

Do you carpool? Maybe it’s not convenient to carpool to work, but what about when you go to the grocery store or shop for other items? Maybe a friend needs to shop as well. Maybe you can both shop at the same time. Rotate who drives and maybe you can save gas and even have a more enjoyable experience.

The NPR car guys Click and Clack insist that most new cars do not need to have the oil changed every 3,000 miles. Every 5,000 to 7,500 miles is usually adequate. A recent exposé done by NBC showed that dealerships are not always the best place for auto repairs. Many small car fixes can be done by local shops. Know who’s doing your repairs and maybe get a second opinion before having anything done.

Premium gas is largely a waste of money. If your car starts knocking, you can switch to premium.

Do you know what your tire pressure should be? Most newer cars have it somewhere on the inside of the door panel. It is more hazardous to drive tires that are under inflated, and uses more gas.

Household Cleaning Products:

You have to do laundry. You just have to be smart about what you use and how much. The manufacturers of soap are in the business of selling soap. The more you use, the sooner you have to buy again. Never buy liquid laundry soap. You are not only purchasing water used to thin the product, you are paying the shipping on that water. Find a powder product that does the job you want. Be careful about the quantity. Many soap products encourage you to use not only more soap than is required to clean your clothes, but that soap builds up in your towels, sheets and clothing.

Charlie’s Soap comes recommended by several Crozet residents. It can be ordered online at http://www.charliesoap.com. The manufacturer recommends you use one tablespoon for a large load and it appears to price out at about the same as other national brands. I’ve been using Arm & Hammer and always get nearly twice the loads done as they recommend and my clothes are clean.

Food and Grocery Shopping:

You’re using coupons, right? Sign up with some of your favorite products (Betty Crocker, General Mills) and at some of the coupon sites (Allyou.com, groupon.com, coupon.com) and the opportunities will roll in. Use double coupon days to get a bigger bang. But remember, only buy products you use or are familiar with. Many stores put the name brands on sale early in the month and store brands on sale at the end. Knowing when to shop can save you money.  Remember, buying products that your family doesn’t really like doesn’t save you money. If you are throwing out food, figure out why. Does your family not like that brand?  Did you prepare too much?

Make a personal pledge to eat at home more and to eat locally grown or fresh produce more often.  Really, that can be cheaper. If your family likes what you cook and it is a healthier alternative to canned foods containing too much salt and too much water, there can be a real savings for your grocery budget.

Have you thought about a garden? You can put a few vegetables, tomato plants—maybe some spring onions, a cabbage or two—in a small flowerbed. Container gardening can be a lot of fun, educational for your children and you can save money. Don’t have money for seeds? Go in with a friend.

Saving in the Future:

Change how you think about your purchases. The Virginia Cooperative Extension has a great tip, the Spending Emergency Card.  Go online to pubs.ext.vt.edu/354/354-074/354-074_pdf.pdf. Once you print that off, use it. Put the little card in with your cash so that every time you make a purchase you review these spending questions: Will this purchase help meet my goals? Do I need this or do I want this? Can I afford it? What will I have to give up to get this? Am I buying this because it’s on sale? Am I buying because of how I feel right now? What else can I do to feel better without buying this?