10 ways to save $50
"I am going to start
an emergency fund this year by taking $50 a month
and buying U.S. savings bonds
Tape this resolution to your bathroom mirror: It's your new mantra. And remember, unemployment and dead transmissions
are emergencies; trips to Disneyland are not.
Ah, but where does that $50 a month come from?
Here are 10 strategies used by real people. Follow
their lead, and you'll easily reach your goal of owning a dozen
$50 savings bonds this time next year:
your eating habits and cook in bulk.
Food is expensive, especially convenience foods and dining
out. Saving $50 is easy when you make a couple of changes in your
Sean and Kathleen O'Malley save big bucks by shopping
with a list, buying generics and cutting back on meat consumption.
You'll find recipes for tasty, inexpensive, meat-free meals, such
as tuna casserole, rice and beans and quesadillas on the Allrecipes
Julie Johnson wasted money on prepared foods, such
as frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottled Frappuccino.
Her 7-year-old daughter is old enough to slap peanut butter on a
piece of bread, and she's going to make the time to brew her own
Sandra Lawrence will save $50 a month by making chai
tea at home instead of paying a whopping $2.25 a cup outside. She's
also going to plan
meals and cook in bulk.
2. Shop for
things you need, not for recreation.
Recreational shopping leads to overspending. Toss those catalogs
as soon as the letter carrier delivers them, and never enter a mall or
retail store without a list of what you need and how much you intend
to spend. Make your purchases, and go home.
JoAnn Hudson, a self-proclaimed shopaholic, is going
to save money by putting a moratorium on nonessential spending.
It isn't hard to save $50 a month when you make a commitment to
stop buying clothes, shoes and accessories; especially when you
already have more than you know what to do with.
the library instead of the bookstores.
Books are as necessary as air and sunshine, and they don't have
to cost a bundle. If books are your bag, a fancy bookstore is a
dangerous place to be. They're expensive, and they encourage impulse
spending. Sandra Lawrence, a book lover, is saving $50 a month by
reading the unread books spilling off her bookshelves and going
to the public library. Your tax dollars fund the library; take advantage
acting like Lord and Lady Bountiful.
Unless you have a serious cash surplus, you shouldn't be paying
more than your fair share of expenses. April Gonzalez got into the
habit of picking up the tab for family and friends whenever they
went out for dinner. After all, she was the one with the big job.
She was also the one with the big debts and the big dream of homeownership.
To save up for her down payment, April stopped playing the role
of Lady Bountiful. She's now the proud owner of a townhouse in Florida.
5. Put your
pets on austerity.
Indulging Fido and Boots in gourmet vittles, homeopathic medical
treatments and expensive grooming can put you in the poorhouse.
Don and Pam Curran spent $530 a month on pet expenses. Saving $50
is a ground ball; just cut a couple of the dog's acupuncture treatments.
small gifts with large love notes.
Gifts say "I love you." Everyone should give them and
everyone should get them, but no one should go into debt for them.
Love notes attached to small, thoughtful gifts will not only save
money, but will touch the heartstrings of the recipients.
Share a happy childhood memory with parents and siblings;
reminisce about the nice things a friend has done; tell little kids
and grandparents how beautiful and special they are.
Johanna Olson is saving $130 a month by collecting
inexpensive baskets, filling them with small, thoughtful gifts and
attaching big, fat love notes.
Here are some ideas for filling the baskets: an African
violet for a plant lover; home baked cookies for a gourmand; magnets
and paper clips for a curious youngster; chits redeemable for babysitting
for busy parents.
your telephone needs.
Cell phones can be expensive, especially if you're footing
the bill for a houseful of users. Do a "needs
analysis:" Dump the phones that aren't absolutely necessary.
Look for cheaper plans for the others. Kee Smith is getting rid
of her cell phone to save $50 a month. Tamara Torrence needs her
phone for work, but expects to save at least $50 a month with a
cheaper cell-phone plan.
8. Pay your
bills on time to save on fees and penalties.
Credit card companies charge errant customers hefty fees for minor
infractions. Pay your bill a day late and you could get slapped
with a much as a $39 fee. If the fee pushes you over your credit
limit, bang, another $29 can hit your account. That's $68, for nada.
Sandy and Allen Lane got caught in this spiral. Their
credit card balances grew, even when they stopped spending because
the minimum payments weren't enough to cover the interest, penalties
and fees they got hit with each month. By having Sandy, the more
organized partner, take over the bill paying, they set themselves
a look at more nasty practices by banks, check "20
sneaky credit card company tricks."
9. Put away
the silk blouses and bring out the spritz bottle.
Donna Cooper is a fastidious dresser with a penchant for silk and
a $150 a month dry cleaning tab. Here are ways to save on dry cleaning
- Put the silks in the back of the closet, and move
the wash-and-wears to the front.
- When clothes are wrinkled, hang them on a shower
rod, spritz them with a fine mist of hot water and they'll be
wrinkle-free in the morning.
- Got a spot? Remove it yourself. North
Carolina State University Web site gives general hints for
removing spots and stains, and recommends products that work.
10. Get rid
of private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you're paying
PMI and your home has appreciated in value, look alive. The
magic number is 80 percent of the value of your home. Once you've
gotten the mortgage down to that, it's time to pay a visit to your
lender to discuss canceling this policy. George and Gayle Franken's
home has appreciated, and they're counting the months until they
can be free of this monthly albatross.
-- Updated: Dec. 7, 2004