Friday, May 13, 2011

Yahoo Article on Ways to Save Money

An article featured today on Yahoo News claims that by following 22 tips you can save $100 a week. Here's what I got from reading this article: the people who write financial articles clearly have no idea how most of budget/savings minded people actually live.

Here are the tips withe my comments on how to actually make them useful.

1) "Buy a Water Filter" Instead of buying bottled water you are supposed to purchase a water filter and refill your own bottles. Who the heck was buying water? Not me. Not most of the people I know. That luxury went out the window for many people in 2009. What I would suggest is replacing a lot of other drinks with water - those diet sodas that are probably not all that great for you anyway. They also feed your sweet tooth in a very potent way, because they are often sweeter than sugar. I switched to mostly water years ago as a teenager. The first few weeks are rough but then you really get into it. I do not enjoy most sugary drinks anymore and my health thanks me.

2) "Take Advantage of Power Strips" If you unplug your appliances when they are not in use you will save money. Appliances that are not on still draw energy, known as "phantom power" and this is reflected on your electric bill. To make this easier the article suggests buying a power strip to make shutting things off easier. Now, I actually do not pay an electric bill since my rent is all inclusive and I have no incentive other than being green to do this. However, I would still like to address this point.

Buying a power strip will a) cost you money and b) likely lead to less unplugging. Because when you need one appliance you are going to flick the strip on and they will all then be plugged in. Just plug things in as you need them. It doesn't take much effort and is probably easier than fishing around to find the "on" button of a power stip in a tangle of wires. There. I just saved you $5.99 on a useless power strip. The only things you need to have on a strip are expensive electronics like TV's. Having these on a surge protectors can help them survive power surges and blackouts.

3)" Make Shopping and to do Lists" This way you won't impulse purchase and can do your shopping at once. This is not a bad idea. Most of us have been doing it for years. I would add that you should first make your list then go over the store circular before you go - do not add things you don't need just because they are on sale. Try and find substitutions for things you have on the list that are on sale or are loss leaders.

4) "Stay Away From Foreign ATM's" You get charged a fee every time you use an ATM that is not run by the issuer of your ATM card. Therefore avoiding those ATM's is actually a good idea. However, the subject of ATM's and credit cards and debit cards is something that is really dependent on the reader. If you are a person who tends to overspend or has been in debt (for something other than educational loans) or has filed for bankruptcy you probably should not have any kind of card. You should go to the store with exactly the amount of cash that you have budgeted and not a cent more. If you are a very conscious spender like myself you probably should be putting all your purchases on a credit card to earn the cash back and points.

4) "Buy Generic" Again, this a good idea but certainly not something new. Most of us have been doing this already. What would probably help you more is learning to coupon shop and bulk purchase. Take baby steps - look at the price per unit on itmes. This helps you realize that just because a box of something costs less does not mean it is actually cheaper - it all depends on how much is in that box. This helps people keep their bearings at stores like Costco (which can often trick you into overspending if you don't look at the unit price) and will help you find the best sales. For more on this go here.

5) "Cancel Your Landline" Been there. Done that. For my post on this topic go here.

6) "Utilize the Library" Wow. That's something I haven't thought of before. Seriously, is this new to anyone? For other ways to get free books and movies, that you can keep, and that you haven't known about since you were five, check out this post or this post.

7) "Bye Bye Gym Membership" There are exercises you can do at home so this article would have you stop paying for the gym. Sounds good, but I don't pay for the gym. It's free for my building. Lots of other people only have time to go when they are on their lunch break. If the choice is going to the paid gym or not going at all, I'd go so long as you have room for this in your budget.  Or you could consider running in a nice location like central park or biking. Governors Island has free bike rentals on Friday. That's a bit more exciting than staying home isn't it?

8) "Take Your Lunch to Work" I am beginning to think this article was wirtten by someone who is really rich and has been living under a really expenssive rock for their entire lives. If you haven't heard this tip before, you must be very new to the idea of having a budget and saving. I wish you well on this journey! However their suggestion - a sandwich - gets old really fast. I will be featuring some more interesting options and recipes on the site.

9) "Carpool" I'll do you one better - take the subway. It'll probably even out to the same amount of time once you factor in traffick and with todays gas prices it is way cheaper.

10) "Walk or Bike" Yes, also good ideas that most of us have all ready been doing.

11) "Avoid Convenience" I am going to put in a little piece of the article here:

"Wash your own car, cut your own fruits and veggies, and clean your own house. If you don't think you have enough time to wash your own car, remember that there are 24 hours in the day. Even if you spent 10 hours at work, 8 hours sleeping, 2 hours cooking, and 2 hours hanging out with the family, you would still have 2 hours to wash your car or clean your house."

This is another one of those moments when all this does is depress me. Who are these people that were having all this cleaning help and only buying pre-cut foods? I find the time breakdown cute but also a little naive. I think they are avoiding a big issue there. This means you work 8 hours because that is what you can do. however if you can find a part time side job and increase your income, it might be worth it to buy conveniences that allow you to free up that time. If you can make $50 an hour tutoring but it means you have to pay $2 more for your vegetables, then go ahead and buy those pre-cut vegetables. For more on why increasing your earning is so essential, go here.

12) "Pay Bills on Time" to avoid late fees. Ummmm..... hello? Who thought it was a good idea to pay bills late?

13) "Make Your Own Pet Toys" Sure, if you all ready have a pet. I don't have one and never intend to. Pets are great for lots of people but if you are not meeting your monthly bills and savings goals then you should not have a pet, unless it is a seeing eye dog. I know this sounds harsh, but pets are not children. If you are not in good financial shape you should not have a pet. If you are in good shape, then go ahead and make your own toys but you probably could earn more spending that time doing something else.

14) "Pre game" This means that if you are going out you should first eat and get drunk at home so you don't waste money on alcohol and food when you get to where you are going.  What's the point of going out if you are going to do it all at home first? Instead you might want to invite your friends over for socializeng and something fun like a potluck. Or you can get into free activities that allow you to go out without worrying about overspending. Many museums are "suggested donation", others have free nights. This way you can save up and actually enjoy the times you do go out. We have dinner in a fancy restaurant once a year for our anniversary. The rest of the time we cook at home. And you know what? We don't eat a bunch of food before we go to the restaurant. That's just unfair to the management. If you can't afford to go somewhere, don't get peer pressured into it. You're going to feel silly when all your firends are ordering food and drinks and you order a side salad.

15) "Cancel Cable" Who had cable? Check out hulu and websites like Or ask you parents for their netflix log in to enjoy streaming video of many movies and TV shows.

16) "Make Your Own Food" See my thoughts on number 11. These are practically identical tips.

17) "Stay In" Well, this is much better than their pre-game idea. But you can still go out and have a good time. Just find free events. I'll feature these as they crop up. Check out your alma matters alumni association - often they have free events.

18) "Make Your Own Coffee" Sure, if you drinnk coffee. I'd also suggest you stop being a snob and just use the darn coffee machine at work. Holding a cup from a hoity toity coffee place is not going to make anyone think you are any better than they or and does not mean your palate is anymore refined. It means you are a sucker who is willing to overpay for things. Personally I don't drink coffe. Why get hooked? And FYI ladies, if you have a major coffee habbit it might pay to start weaning yourself. Several physicians suggest avoiding excess caffeine consumption during pregnancy.

19) "Avoid Bank Fees" This is essentially a repat of 4 and 12. However if you do any foreign travel you might want to look into TD Bank and Capital One  - both have cards with no foreign transaction fee. (Other credit cards and ATM's have fees ranging from a percentage of each purchase, to a flat fee per purchase).

20) "Use Coupons" You should always try and get the things on your shopping list on sale. However you should not buy things you don't need just because they are on sale. Stock piling is an interesting method for getting the most of coupons and sales, and I will be talking more about it in future posts, but in general you shouldn't buy something you never use. You'll just end up having it sit on your shelf forever and that's wasted money.

If you are like me you only counted 20 tips in there. So the article is a bit disappointing in that regard too. Still if you are new to this, then it covers some of the basic measures you can take to cut costs.


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