These days, people are looking for ways to pinch pennies. I know I am. Here are some of the techniques and tricks I learned over the years.
Save in the Garden If you live in a climate where the trees lose their leaves every fall, all the annual flowers you’ve bought and planted in the spring also die. (Note–the cheapest place to buy these is Walmart, if you can get them before the staff kills them.) You can save even more by cultivating perennials like iris, black-eyed Susans, tall phlox, hardy primroses, and peonies that come back year after year. You may not even have to buy them. Most of mine come from friends who needed to trim back large plantings. The same with ground covers like pachysandra, liriope, hostas, and vinca. (Yes, I also give my excess away to others.) And many of the ferns in the yard are ones I dug up in the woods.
Three years ago, I began trying another method. I’ve always hated that my pots of annuals like begonias and geraniums die in the fall. Now I take in as many pots as I can. I put some under grow lights in the basement and others in the sunroom–and bring them out again after the threat of freezing has lifted. (BTW, don’t knock begonias. They do well in sun and shade, and there are some amazing new varieties with larger flowers.) The begonia below is spending its fourth year in the front yard.
I’ve also got some pots of culinary herbs in the sunroom. (A sunny windowsill or a grow light will also work.) Basil, thyme, and parsley are easy to keep going inside. I wish dill plants didn’t get so high.)
If you’re not into gardening, there are lots of other ways to save money.
Cutting utility bills is another of my favs. A toaster oven uses 30% to 50% less energy than a conventional oven. I have a large model and use it way more than my large oven. (It will take a 2 ½ quart CorningWare casserole, if I leave the top off and use aluminum foil for the cover instead. I can also put in a 9 by 13 ½ inch baking pan–the standard lasagna size. I love it for baked potatoes, corn bread, and apple crisp. If you can cook something in the microwave, you’re saving even more energy.
I have a friend who accused me of walking around in the dark. I do turn off lights I’m not using. In the kitchen, I mostly use the under-cabinet fluorescent rather than turning on the overhead lights.
One of my favorite strategies is to pack the dishwasher as full as it can get before we run it. According to an article in the Washington Post, you can save $40 a year that way. I use a similar method with loads of laundry.
Try thrift shops. I have a friend who was chief technical officer for a company that was sold for millions of dollars. Although she shared in some of those millions, she told me she never buys clothing new. It’s always from thrift stores, but you definitely can’t tell. I also love bargain hunting in thrift stores. I may buy clothing or household items. (Yes, the downside is that you can’t find the same thing in another size or color.) I have knit tops, jackets, and jeans I love that came from thrift shops. (As a corollary, I search eBay for expensive brands I like. If it’s gently used, it’s going to be a lot cheaper than the retail price.)
Also, find out what colors and shades look best on you. (Years ago this was called “getting your colors done.”) If you know what your best colors are, it’s easy to put together mix and match outfits from your closets.
A thrift store is also where I got the dressy purse that I’ve been using for years. I have also picked up cutting boards, throw pillows, mugs, dish towels, and cat food dishes. I also have a collection of one- or two-of-a-kind thrift-store glassware. Instead of buying plastic cups for small parties, I put them out for guests to use instead of buying plastic cups. That way, nobody gets mixed up about which glass is theirs. I always like to see which guys take the glasses shaped like beer cans with our local team logo.
Saving on food and kitchen costs For food shopping, try some of the cheaper grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl. They have perfectly good products–canned goods, meat, and bread for less. And buy at the big-box stores if you can. I’ve got packs of napkins, paper towels, canned goods and other large items tucked behind sofas and under chairs. Big bags of dry cat food and bird seed are in the front hall closet.
While we’re talking about saving money on food, learn to make soup. You can use up all kinds of leftovers that way.
Also, I don’t buy food storage containers. I use plastic take-out cartons. And I use old bread wrappers for storage bags. (I admit, that makes it harder to see what’s inside.)
Prescription drugs are a big expense in many households. They may be cheaper at a mail order pharmacy–or they may not be. We live near a small pharmacy in a medical building that has better prices for some of our medications than our mail order service (where the copay is a minimum of $10). My husband discovered this when he did a price check of everything we use.
Hair and skin care Long ago, I taught myself to cut my own hair. Obviously that saves me a bundle. And during the pandemic, I started cutting my husband’s hair too.
I also don’t spring for the expensive face creams and beauty products. The ones from the drugstore work fine. (Oil of Olay is my go-to brand.)
I hope I’ve given you some new ideas. What are some of your money-saving strategies? I’d love to hear them.
My latest release is Morgan Unbound.
After escaping her sadistic captors in a sordid brothel, Morgan feels unfit to return to her old life. She flees to an isolated farm, where she avoids everyone — including the man sent to protect her, a warrior named Royce.
Royce’s heart goes out to this lovely, damaged noblewoman, in part because of his own tragic history. Using his ability to enter her dreams, he gains her trust and makes her long for a normal life again. As Morgan rediscovers her passion and confidence, she and Royce forge a psychic bond of mind and heart.
But even as they fall in love, the brutal men who sold her into slavery close in, determined to kill Royce and return her to a life of bondage. Can Morgan and Royce turn the tables on those who want to destroy them?
NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future. She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.