I don't remember if I have told you in the past, but Dear Hubby has begun to talk about retirement...actually quoting the number of days until he can put his career behind him. While I am thrilled that in around four years (the latest), or possibly even NEXT YEAR (The sound you hear is me fainting!), he will be leaving his stress filled job and horrible commute; I'm nervous about our unwise lack of preparation. Ack! We should have been preparing for this day from the day we got married! However, "tomorrow" and "retirement" have always seemed So. Far. Away! Until now. Believe me, the reality is hitting hard.
As a result, I've begun a campaign to really tighten the belt! Again. I've tried in the past, but have always fallen off the wagon. No more. I need to get serious! I need to "stash cash" like our lives depend on it...which in a way, they do! He is not leaving the stress of his job to be greeted by the stress of struggling to "make it" on his retirement income. We need to spend less, pay down our bills and stash whatever cash we can! FAST!
While I would LOVE to be able to stop spending completely, that isn't realistic in today's world. So I need to find ways to get everything I need at a cheaper price...and maybe even FREE with enough work and diligence. Every day I embrace a few more activities geared toward saving money or accumulating points that can be used for money off of necessary purchases. There are a million ways to save, but none of them work unless they are implemented.
The most important element of saving money is PAYING ATTENTION. How many things do we do without thinking? A lot, I'm sure. A prime example is heating/cooling our home. About five years ago we purchased a programmable thermostat to regulate the temperature within our home (based upon our routine activities and daily schedule). It has worked well in the past, but the unpredictable nature of the weather recently has rendered the program moot. For example, today has been a beautiful day in my neck of the woods. When I first came downstairs I pulled the screen down on our storm door (a wonderful feature for anyone looking to purchase a new storm door), walked into my sewing room and opened the two windows looking out onto the front porch. Oh...it was lovely. A cool breeze was blowing into the house and I could hear birds chirping in my front landscape. Heavenly. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, I walked into the family room a few moments ago (many hours since I came downstairs) and could hear the distinct hum of the heater directly below. Oh no! I've been letting in the beautiful cool breeze...which is triggering our thermostat to pump out more hot air! I wondered how many times the heater has cycled on throughout the day while I, oblivious, breathed in the cool breeze flowing through my windows. I was enjoying the beautiful day (free), while causing my heater to burn our hard earned cash! Dang! I practically ran to the thermostat to shut down the system, but the damage is done. Sigh. I needed to find a way to keep this from happening in the future!
What I need is a reminder...a checklist that I can run through every day to make sure I am plugging the holes in our budget. My mind immediately jumped to the "Things To Do" tablets that Dear Hubby had gotten FREE (score!) from work many moons ago. I grabbed a tablet and wrote "Turn off thermostat and open windows" in ink on the first line. Every day I can make a light mark next to the reminder. At the end of the week I can erase them. One page should last through the spring and summer months. Making things last longer has a big impact on your budget, but that is a whole other topic! Hopefully I've plugged one hole, but I am sure I need to focus on a whole lot more!
Is there anything you need reminders to do in order to save some of your hard earned money?
Do you find yourself always paying a high price for gas because you wait until the "little light" comes on? Shopping around for the cheapest gas in your area (or even near work) can save you a bundle. There are phone apps that will give you the cheapest price according to location. A post-it strategically placed near the coffee pot can remind you to check prices while drinking your morning brew. If the price is low, top off your tank on the way to work. Even if you aren't completely empty, any gas you add to your tank at a cheaper price is money in your pocket. If the gas station participates with your local grocery store, offering discounts on gas based on the money spent on food, you have really hit the jackpot. Using these points to lower the price of gas can make even a higher "app price" your best bet. All it takes is being mindful and a little bit of calculation to be sure you are getting the best deal.
Can you save your soda cans to turn in for cash at your local recycling center? Getting them into the recycling stream is wonderful, but getting paid to do it is a win/win. The same applies to glass bottles. If you can return them for money - do so! Back to cans. Obtain a wall mounted can crusher with coupons, or even free if you can score one. Check your local thrift store. I've seen them at ours numerous times. Once you have your crusher mounted, place a bin lined with a large trash bag under the crusher. Instruct the family to crush their cans instead of placing them in the normal recycling container. Hang a sign above your normal container to remind everyone that "Soda Cans Get Crushed!" We toss our cans into a bin and when our 5 yo grandson comes over it is his "chore" to crush cans. He gets a check on his "chore chart" (worth $.10) and we can fit many more cans into each trash bag. When the bags of cans threaten to take over the garage, a trip to the recycling center is in order. On a recent trip to the center, our grandson made over $16 to add to his piggy bank. He knows that crushing those cans leads to money in his bank. Hard work leading to reward is a lesson all children need to learn, no matter how young they are!
There are tons of money saving practices...if we just REMEMBER to use them! More suggestions coming soon!