Since I’ve been unemployed, I’m in a constant mode of thinking, “How can I save a buck today?” Although I was savvy enough to build a savings account while I was working, I’m cautious with what I have and am constantly finding little ways to save a buck.
Living according to your means is the key. That doesn’t mean you have to eat bread and water every day, and treating yourself to a penny earned a mini-vacation or a little “me time” is essential to staying positive and focused while seeking that next dream job. It can be done if you budget yourself and cut back on a few luxuries.
First of all, there are a few ways of looking at your situation in a positive light. I realized that I was not only saving money, but reducing stress, while being unemployed:
My commute is about 20 feet from my bed to my computer room where I do some writing, pay bills online, job hunt, schedule appointments, etc. I’m saving on gas, toll roads I used to take to work, commuter backups, possible fender benders and Starbucks runs, not to mention the possible tickets incurred for aggressive driving tactics brought on by the caffeine jolt from the Starbucks. There. You’ve saved on either the cost of the ticket or the court costs incurred trying to defend yourself. I’m feeling richer already.
Around the House
I’ve found a few cost-cutting measures that are right under our noses. Don’t laugh. They work. For instance, did you know if you squeeze the roll of toilet paper prior to putting it on the dispenser, that children (and women are especially famous for this) can’t fling it like a Frisbee and use 750 pieces of the cottony 2-ply soft stuff, when they only need about six? Unless you’ve been eating prune ‘n black bean dip with your Tostitos, it’s really wasteful.
I’ve resorted to washing dishes by hand about three days a week. Not only are you saving on water and electricity, but washing dishes with your hands in a sink full of warm water is soothing. Not only that, but family members will scatter like flies, because nobody wants to help. There. You have peace and quiet for at least 20 minutes, which will reduce your therapist bill because you are not tempted to stab someone’s eye out with a wet knife or lock a child in the closet. There are those silly court costs again...
I’ve invested in a small convection oven and haven’t used my large oven in months. To bake a casserole in the huge oven is a considerable waste of energy when that pan fits perfectly well in the compact countertop convection oven. It toasts, it roasts…in half the time! And it doesn’t heat up your entire kitchen when it’s already 110 degrees outside from global warming caused by the exhaust from my car I’m now not commuting in.
Use those pretty mugs and dishes your mother-in-law gave you (be nice). Buying Costco size packages of paper products is convenient, but unnecessary. Everyone is worrying about being eco-conscious and recycling, but if you stop buying all that paper in the first place, wouldn’t that make more sense? And, yes, you’ll have to wash your cups. Please refer to “people leaving you alone” above.
When cooking, if a recipe calls for a cup of milk, use a little powdered milk from your pantry if you don’t have regular milk. It’s cheaper and doesn’t need refrigeration and you don’t have to worry about wondering if the milk in your fridge has turned into cottage cheese. Unless of course, you like cottage cheese, then you’ve just doubled your money.
You know that pot of boiling water you cooked your pasta in? Scoop the pasta out and throw your peas in the same pot of water afterwards. When I am out of town, my husband uses one pot, one spoon, one plate and one glass. I chalk it up to him being too lazy to wash dishes, but it’s really a matter of conserving energy that I’ve learned to appreciate.
I have herbs growing in pots outside that have become the botanical garden from hell. Why, I can’t possibly make enough Sangria to use up all that mint that’s taking over my deck. You can buy plastic ice cube trays at the dollar store, and chop the herbs up and freeze them in cubes for plopping in your recipes. I sometimes just toss the leaves in small freezer bags, as I do for cut up lemons and limes and use them as I need them. Lesson here: You can freeze just about anything.
Cosmetic surgery? Just stop it. Do you really think people will remember you for − and your tombstone will say − “Best Tummy Tuck Everrrrr”? I’m not sure when women decided to try to look like Barbie, but I for one will be glad when the shiny plastic exfoliated faces and uber-lips have gone out of style. Save your money, and save face.
That does not mean I am against looking the best you can. I can’t tell you how many women say to me, “I don’t wear makeup. I like the natural look.” Thanks, babe, but we’re the ones that have to look at you. Or they figure they’re married and don’t have to make any efforts to remain attractive.
On the flip side, I’ve walked into many a gal’s home and have seen cupboards exploding with cosmetics, lotions, and hair products that could manicure an entire third world nation. The cosmetics and perfume industry currently generates an estimated annual turnover of 170 billion dollars. The false claims made by advertisers is disturbing, and there was never a time when the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true” was more applicable. When a woman looks really good “for her age,” it’s usually a combination of genes, healthy diet, inner peace and yeah, maybe a touch of Peachy Keen gloss on her lips.
My cupboard is bare, except for a few items: a base makeup, mascara, eye shadow, and a few pencils. My daughter would also tattle on me that I do hoard lipstick shades. But in my defense, I use lipstick for blush, so it matches..ding, ding, ding! Bonus savings! I have one bottle of cheap shampoo, and one bottle of conditioner and a styling gel. And my husband hasn’t left me…yet.
We are constantly berating our government politicians for unemployment rates, housing crises and spending cuts. It starts with us and taking care of our basic needs. If you are on unemployment, yet standing in a Starbucks line, you need your head – and your checkbook – examined. Common sense will save you common cents…and cents add up to dollars. Now go put a couple bucks in your savings account, and put that stocking cap away.
Catherine DeCenzo is a freelance writer and Managing Editor of I Am Modern magazine living in Broadlands, VA. She prefers the glass-half-full, humorous side of life and has an appetite for the irreverent in her personal blog at http://catclause.wordpress.com