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Three Little Ways to Save Big

Think you’ve cut your expenses all you possibly can? You might be wrong. Check out these simple ways you can keep more of your hard-earned money over the next 12 months.

Unhook the cable. Make a one-year commitment to living without cable television. If you can’t bear the thought of missing your favorite shows, consider the rapidly expanding website Hulu.com where you can watch hundreds of popular TV shows like “Family Guy,” “House,” and “The Office,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” reality shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “Top Chef,” news clips including those from “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams,” tons of shows from Fox News, Home and Garden TV and the Food Channel, too. The free option gives you limited access or upgrade to premium and for $7.99 a month you get streaming of all current season episodes from hundreds of shows. J.D. Roth, founder of GetRichSlowly.org, says he and his wife cut back their $65-a-month deluxe cable package to the $12-a-month basic cable service, which offers local broadcast channels plus a handful of random cable channels. Now they use the free Hulu option, Netflix, iTunes and the public library. A great and budget friendly device is the Roku “To be honest,” says J.D., “we don’t miss cable at all. It’s great having $53 extra each month to spend on things that are more important to us, like travel.” Annual savings: $600

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For those without a SmartTV or who don’t want to be confined to the computer, there is a great budget friendly device called a “Roku” which plugs  into your TV and works with the internet in your home to allow you to stream thousands of movies and TV shows for free. You can also connect it with your existing Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime account for a big screen experience. A Roku costs $49.99 for the base model and up to $100 for all the bells and whistles. Learn more at Roku.com.

Pantry survival. Most of us have quite an odd assortment of food in our pantries, cupboards, refrigerators and freezer―and quite possibly enough to feed the family for at least a week. Skip the grocery store from time to time, eat up what you have already and stash that week’s grocery money. Given all food items that get shoved to the back of the pantry or freezer, you may be eating some odd combinations of food, but you won’t starve. Make it fun for the kids by calling your adventure a week on “Survivor Island,” while in truth your quest is to use up food items before they have exceeded their useful life. Based on the most current data, the average American family of four spends about $100 per week for food eaten at home. Play the pantry survival game once each quarter and you’ll rack up annual savings of $400.

Reduce kitchen paper. If you use two rolls of paper towels a week, and paper napkins at each meal, you’re ripping through a lot of paper. At $1.50 average per roll, you’re paying at least $156 per year for disposable towels. At 2 cents each for paper napkins, a family of four goes through a dozen a day, minimum, or about $87 per year. Take the plunge and reduce your towels to one roll per week, using cloth towels and dishrags for cleaning and spills. And instead of paper napkins, substitute cloth napkins at least half the time. Annual savings: $181 ($78 towels, $44 napkins)

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  1. Ruth says:

    Mary, just yesterday I cancelled my cable service!! $45 a month will now go toward my debts. Loved this column, and especially the coincidence!

    Reply
  2. DianaB says:

    I simply replaced our paper napkin usage with a package of 18-count mixed color washcloths (I think I paid something like $4-5 for the package at Walmart or Dollar General) that now serve the purpose, go well with my multi-colored Fiesta dinnerware and can be used more than once if not too messy from a meal. Then, of course, toss them into the washer with any other load and they get to start all over again. Should have done that a long, long time ago.

    Reply
  3. Jeannie says:

    My big savings is on my cell phone which is Straight Talk for $45 including unlimited talk, text, and data. We were on Verizon for $100 per month and only received 750 minutes. I also cancelled my land line at $40 per month. I use Skype to communicate with friends overseas which is free. My cable bill is $11 per month and we use Roku as well. I also use Hulu. If we want to see a recent release movie we use Amazon Prime and most are $2.99 and no need to worry about being late to return a rental. I use an HDMI cable to hook up my laptop to my TV, which turns your flat screen TV into a Smart TV. I am debt-free and pay my credit cards as soon as I charge anything. The money I have saved has paid for scuba diving trips to Mexico many times over. The key is being content with what you have and wanting what you have instead of wanting what you don’t have. I also drive a 14-year-old Lexus that runs and looks like a dream. Love your tips, Mary!

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  4. nonna says:

    Instead of going to the hairdresser and spending over 100 dollars for highlights, I now buy the little drugstore kits..and highlight my own hair..it may take a few times to get your formula down but it’s worth it…also, I do my daughters hair..she found a color after years of different hairdressers, that she likes and works well on her hair..so we pay around eight dollars as opposed to 100 or more…these are beauty savings but savings none the less…I don’t get the elaborate manicures and pedicures…I’m a retired nurse and for most of my adult life I had no choice but to have clean, unmanicured nails..and frankly..its just not worth it to have my nails looking fancy…if Im going to spend big beauty bucks, at this age, its going to be for a facelift..;)…I am relatively new to the thrift game…I hope that young people will take the heed of some of us who were not thrifty when we were young..unless you are extremely lucky..you will have no choice but to be thrifty when you are older…when I think of the years my husband and I spent money like there was no tomorrow…don’t get me wrong…we are comfortable..simply because we invested in real estate along the way…but if we’d been careful we would be wealthy people now with no worries about finance..I wish this message could be out there for young people…I try to tell my grandchildren and even my children to learn from our mistakes…your quality of life does not have to be compromised just because you don’t spend a lot of money..from one who knows.

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  5. kaetra says:

    Ditching cable is a fantastic tip! We lived without cable for years and then recently I wanted to try it again for a while. I cancelled it after the 6 month deal expired for several reasons – 1.) After the “deal”, the price nearly doubled; 2.) So MANY commercials! About 1/3 of the time we spent watching cable was spent viewing commercials; and 3.) The majority of the programming is truly either garbage or the same tired re-runs they were playing 10 years ago.
    Our digital antenna picks up all the local channels, many in HD, for FREE. I don’t mind watching commercials as long as I’m not paying to do so. Cable TV gives you the least bang for your buck. Netflix streaming and a digital antenna will give you lots of entertainment for a very low price.

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  6. Tammy says:

    We pay extra for trash pick-up in our community. Its over $100 a quarter. We are a family of three and we just don’t make that much trash. After learning that we can take our trash to the dump for $5 per carload, we cancelled our trash pick up service. We go about twice a month for $10 a month or $30 a quarter. I won’t say I don’t miss it – it’s nice not to have to deal with it, but it’s something we could easily do without.

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    • kaetra says:

      My best friend and her husband cancelled their garbage service and he would use his pickup to take the garbage to the dump. However he would frequently put off taking it for too long, and their garage smelled awful. They also became infested with pests that were drawn to the garbage. I’m sure there are lots of people who could make this work, but if you have a “forgetful” partner you may regret your choice in a big way.

      Reply
  7. Beck says:

    We could not get cable for years out in the country so we never got on it when it finally came through. We have a rooftop antenna and a digital tv – we get all the local channels, PBS and several others total over 23 channels free at all times. Many of the shows on PBS like cooking shows on Create are the same as cable have so I don’t feel I am missing anything. When we stay in a hotel and watch cable tv there are usually no shows that really seem better than what we have for free. While we never got on cable our kids griped all the time for not having ESPN and such I just told them the money was paying for college that I was saving do you want your college paid or do you want cable and you pay your college? Side note – our tv doesn’t go out like many cable and dish companies when it storms – some in our area have lost tv for days when it is stormy.

    One thing we used to do was always buy brand name canned goods now I mainly use generic unless the brand name is on sale for less that has saved a great deal of money for little or no change in flavor.

    I also gave up my magazine subscriptions and only check them out at the library now.

    Reply
  8. PH says:

    We ditched cable (and the accompanying home phone) last month, switched to a Roku box and Netflix streaming, and upgraded our internet speed. Total savings per month: $100 at the cable promotional rate we had been paying; around $150 per month at cable’s regular price.
    We haven’t missed cable at all. Your life is not going to end if you don’t see the latest junk on the TV…

    Reply
  9. Shirley Summers says:

    We paid off our mortgage. I’m 56 and still working. You can’t believe what a relief having no more mortgage is.

    Reply
  10. Charlie says:

    We have done this with our Roku for years. Remember your game box and your blue ray player can also access everything the Roku can.

    Reply
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