Wednesday, October 31, 2012

365 Ways to Save - September & October

Autumn brings lots of chances to score some savings.  Here are some good examples:

Back to School
Shopping for school supplies and clothing doesn't have to be an expensive process.   No matter where you shop, keep the basics in mind: watch for seasonal sales and money-saving coupons, follow our tips for online shopping, shop with a list and stick to it no matter how tempting store displays might be, and always ask for some sort of discount.  Here are some other ideas to keep back-to-school costs down:

225. As much as SmartBoards and other electronic devises have invaded the classroom, books are still a fact of life in most schools.  Here are some ways to save money on book buying:
  • Use the local library whenever possible. Even if your branch doesn't have the book you want in stock, they can probably use the inter-library loan system to obtain it for you.
  • Buy used books from online sellers at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com (and then sell them back to someone else, when you're finished).
  • Check out web sites that allow you trade books you have for books you want, like PaperbackSwap.com and BookMooch.com.
  • Try Project Gutenberg, which offers more than 20,000 books, like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, as a free download; or Litfy.com, an online service that allows you to read all the novels you want, anywhere, anytime, on any e-reader device, for free.
  • Other places to find books at bargain rates include school-sponsored book swaps, thrift shops, library sales, and yard sales.  Frankly, it seems like everyone has books to sell!
226. As you stock up on back-to-school supplies, keep in mind that some retailers now do more than just encourage you to bring-your-own-bag; they actually pay you for every disposable bag you DON'T take.   For example, CVS will deposit $1 on a special CVS card for every four trips on which you BYOB.

Back to Work

227. One way to increase your savings is to make more money.  In this economy, it is certainly tough to find a new job that pays better, so instead, think about negotiating for a raise.  Start by finding out the average salary for someone in your position with similar skills and experience by asking people you know in the industry and searching on sites like bls.gov, GlassDoor.com, PayScale.com, Salary.com,  and ValuationResources.com.  Once you've collected data that supports a pay raise, schedule a meeting with your manager.  Make sure your timing is right: keep the company's fiscal calendar and bonus timing in mind.  And remember that some people consider Wednesday the best day for this kind of talk: Monday is too busy; by Friday everyone is scurrying to finish up for the weekend.  During the meeting, focus on your accomplishments, listing at least three ways that you've made a significant contribution in the past year.  Ask for you amount, and if it isn't possible now, work with your manager to develop a plan to get you there, including a good time to follow-up.

Home Office

228.  Your printer costs you money in terms of paper, ink, and electricity, so try to use it as little as possible.  Save money on paper, by using both sides of every sheet (and when that isn't possible, use draft copies as scrap paper you keep by the phone or save for your kids to color on).  Key the time and the address into your phone instead of printing an Evite invitation.  Use your car's or phone's GPS instead of printing MapQuest directions. 

228.  Set your computer to go into "sleep" mode when it hasn't been used for more than, say, 10 minutes. This setting uses almost no electricity, but allows you to get right back to work without waiting for a complete computer reboot.

Halloween

229. Sweet shops and bakeries are full of all kinds of beautiful Halloween treats at this time of year. But you don't have to pay big bucks or have the decorative skills of Martha Stewart to create fun seasonal treats.  Try making bone-shaped cookies, candy apples, or pumpkin fudge -- you'll find they are easy to make, festive and frugal.
230. While it is true that the mall, online stores, and catalogs are full of expensive Halloween costumes, the web is full of good ideas for making your own costumes, using items you probably already have on hand. Click here for some places where you'll find good ideas for saving money by making your own Halloween costume.
231.  You can throw a party for your kids and their friends before or after trick-or-treating that uses items you already have on hand with just a few additions from the store.  From creating a haunted house, to sending the kids on a scary scavenger hunt, to serving frightfully fun food and drink, you'll find lots of ideas for hosting a kids' Halloween party here.
230. If you are using pumpkins as part of your Halloween decorations this year, once their decorative need is over, you can also use them to make easy pumpkin puree for pies and other recipes. Note that pumpkins you have carved must be used within a day or so for puree because they spoil so quickly. And if you are painting the pumpkin or gluing on decorations, make sure all are non-toxic if you will also be cooking them.  Here is how to make pumpkin puree: cut the pumpkin into small, evenly-sized pieces and remove the strings and seeds. Put the pieces (skin side up) on a sheet pan, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for an hour at 375 degrees. Let it cool slightly. Then separate the pulp from the skin (you can scoop it with a spoon) and process the pulp in a blender. You can use it right away in a pie or other dessert or freeze it for later.

Want to see more of our 365 ways to save? Check out the list of tightwad tips from January, February, March, April, May, June, July and August.