I hope everyone is enjoying the beauty of the season. The days are growing shorter, the air is getting chill, and the holidays are just around the corner. At my house, holidays mean time for family, friends, and visitors coming and going. Money’s starting to get tight as we’re getting ready to buy presents and organize feasts to celebrate the season. In anticipation of this barrage of expenses, this post is all about money saving tips for around the house. These simple ways to save here and there can really add up.
First, let’s start in the pantry. Are you one of those people who must have name-brand items stocked in your cupboards? If so consider switching to generic brands for items like cereal, spaghetti noodles, and baking supplies. You can even store these in plastic or glass jars so that nobody will ever see the packaging and know the difference. To quote Julia Child, “Remember, you’re alone in the kitchen.”
We all know that that those kitchen sponges can harbor major germs that can cause you to get sick, but you can actually disinfect those very easily and replace them much less frequently. Just get your sponge sopping wet, put it onto a plate and microwave for 1-2 minutes to kill the germs and bacteria that live inside of the sponge. Use a potholder to remove the plate and let the sponge cool before touching it as it will be scalding hot, but sanitary. And also, the moisture from the sponge can loosen some of the baked on splatters and spills inside of the microwave and make it much easier to clean. Just wipe down with a damp paper towel and see how much easier the food comes off of the top and sides of the microwave.
You can also use natural ingredients you may already have in your cabinets to clean around the house. They’re cost effective and much gentler on the environment. Vinegar is a wonderful cleaner for many items in your home. You can clean your refrigerator with a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water. It can also help with odor control as vinegar is a natural odor eliminator. Use vinegar and baking soda to unclog your drains periodically and rinse with hot water to avoid costly calls to a plumber. Make your windows shine by using full strength vinegar in a spray bottle and wiping it off with old newspaper. Freeze vinegar in an ice cube tray and put the cubes down the garbage disposal to clean and deodorize the disposal.
Citrus peels are also fantastic for cleaning garbage disposals and giving them a fresh scent. Of course, there’s always the standard open box of baking soda in the fridge to help with odor control.
Next, let’s focus on your bills.
If you have service with Charter Communications, they often run promotions that allow you to change your services and get discounts for a certain timeframe (usually 3-12 months). Contact them at 1-888-438-2427 for details.
With those holidays approaching rapidly, who has time to sit down and watch movies? Consider placing your NetFlix subscription on a hold. Login to your account at www.NetFlix.com to set that up at any time. This can be done for up to 90 days at a time, and your movie queue is saved for you (You can even still add movies to your queue!). You just pick the date you want your service to start back, and they’ll ship your movies out on whatever day you choose.
Clarksville Department of Electricity offers a budget billing program that will average your past year’s usage at the same address and make that amount your monthly bill for 11 months. On the 12th month, they’ll add the difference in what you used and what you were billed. If there’s a credit remainder, they’ll cut you a check or if there is a balance, it’ll be billed to you. This is great for those of us whose bills fluctuate based on the seasons. Call CDE at 931-645-2118 for details.
It’s also a great time to review your cell phone bill. Review the last three months and see how many minutes you’re actually using versus how many you’re paying for. Consider changing if you think it’s worth it, but be cautious as overages on your minutes can cause major headaches and high bills if you don’t monitor your usage. Most major providers offer a way to monitor your minute usage. AT&T Mobility allows you to dial *MIN# then press send on your phone to receive a free text message with your minutes used so far in your current billing cycle. Check with your provider to see if they can review all of your services with you to see if there are features you don’t need anymore that could save you some money. Always ask about any penalties or restrictions for changing your features as some providers may extend your contract or impose other restrictions on you for changing features or plans.
Finally, let’s check out our energy consumption. CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs can save money by using about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. They also last much longer. I’ve had one in a living room lamp that’s used everyday for several hours and it’s been running for over a year already. They’re somewhat more expensive than the standard incandescent bulbs initially, but consider that you’ll replace them far less often. These are also available now in the Wal-Mart Great Value brand so the price gets even lower. You can also save energy by keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees during cold months. If nothing else, keeping the air in your home slightly cooler gives you an excuse to snuggle up with your special someone. Of course, you should also turn off lights and appliances when not in use for additional savings. Buy nightlights with light sensors to keep lighting to a minimum when you’re snuggling in bed with that special someone. Don’t forget to power down your computers at night or put them into a sleep or hibernate mode to save some more energy.
Now that we’ve covered areas in which to save money, relax and enjoy your extra savings. You’ve earned it. Go and see a movie with family and friends. As a matter of fact, make it a matinee and stop by the Carmike Theater in Governor’s Square Mall on a Tuesday and fill your own bucket from home with hot and delicious popcorn for only 50 cents. Or you could just take the money you’ve saved and splurge on some holiday treats for yourself. Either way, you’ll be on your way to a thriftier holiday season. I’d love to hear your ways of saving money, feel free to e-mail me and let me know. Until next time!