Cut Your Spending | Part II
Save extra cash for emergencies
Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to borrow money again? Applying for small cash loans is one way to make ends meet when you need cash until payday. But here are some money-saving ideas that might make it easier to get by.
Lighten up on the road
If you don’t own a Prius and don’t want to trade in your clunker, you can still cut down on the money you spend for gas each month by adjusting your driving habits. Aggressive highway driving — speeding, accelerating rapidly, and braking — lowers your gas mileage dramatically. Fuel efficiency decreases significantly at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.
Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your mileage. Check your vehicle-owner’s manual to determine proper tire pressure, buy a reliable dial-type air-pressure gauge, and check your tires once a week. Too much weight in the trunk can also reduce fuel efficiency. Don’t carry around unnecessary items, especially in small cars.
Sign up for a flex account
If your employer offers a flexible spending account, you can cut the cost of your child-care expenses by signing up. The flex accounts offered by most large companies allow you to use pretax dollars to pay care-giving bills (including day camp) for children and elders who are your legal dependents. You can also use them to pay out-of-pocket health-care costs with pretax dollars. Why not save money by paying less for necessary expenses covered by a flex account?
Say good-bye to excessive phone bills
Teens love to text. If your teens have cell phones, switch to a family plan with unlimited texting. College students text less than high school kids, so consider upgrading to an iPhone or other smartphone with unlimited data if your college student agrees to a limited text and calling plan.
Lots of people today are dropping landlines altogether and using cell phones only. With the right calling plan, you might save money by following that trend. If your parents are paying for cell phones that they use for nothing but emergencies, you or they might save money by combining your phones in a family plan.
Work out for less
Walking and bike-riding are free. Yoga work-out videos are more convenient and much less expensive than classes. Dance for exercise anywhere you don’t have to pay a cover charge. You can do it for hours, and when you’re ready to sit, consider your workout over. Head home instead of sitting down to eat or drink.
Save on prescription medications
Some health plans have money-saving mail order programs for prescriptions, and sometimes you can save even more by buying generic versions of name-brand pharmaceuticals at chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart. If you’re taking a prescription medication on a long-term basis, ask your doctor if he or she can prescribe it at twice the potency you need so you can cut the pills in half. Usually, your copayment for the prescription will be the same at either potency.
Refill printer ink cartridges
It’s less expensive and less wasteful to refill both black and color ink cartridges at your local drug store or shopping mall instead of buying new cartridges when your computer printer runs low.
Share babysitter costs
Organize a babysitting co-op with neighborhood parents and take turns watching the kids for free. Your kids will be happier with their friends and there’ll be fewer rounds of Battleship and Apples to Apples for you! Or go in on a sitter with another family, paying, say, $10 an hour apiece instead of the usual $14 (more kids means a higher hourly rate for the sitter).
Save on pet expenses
Instead of hiring a pet sitter or boarding your pets when you go away, trade sitting duties with other pet-owner friends. Instead of taking Rufus to the groomer, take him to the pet grooming school where prices are about half what you pay the groomer. Pet insurance isn’t cost effective. If you have it, consider letting it go. Coverage is marginal and the premiums you pay probably amount to quite a bit more than anything you stand to save on vet bills.