With Presidential hopeful Barack Obama mentioning a potential second economic stimulus check, many folks are clamoring to know more. Unfortunately, there’s much else to say about it other than that he’d push for one in the short term.
I, however, offer a different solution. In order to find an additional $600, you only need to cut $50 a month. In reality, that comes out to only $11.54 a week. Reduce your spending by eleven dollars, fifty four cents a week and you will have created your own stimulus check. That’s it. Can you do it? I’m betting that you can and here are some recommendations of what you might want to trim.
Get a list of all the subscriptions you have and really take a long hard look at what you really use. Do you have a $50/month (or more) gym membership that you don’t use? Do you have a $15/month Netflix membership but have had the same DVDs for the last three months? Do you get a copy of Good Housekeeping every month yet you never do anything except leave it on the coffee table? Trim it.
- Gym memberships,
- Video rentals memberships,
- Cable television,
- there are plenty more…
Food & Fuel
Food and fuel are the two largest expenses for most families so it makes sense, after trimming that which we can live without, that we turn to these two categories to find further savings. (what doesn’t make sense is why they’re not included in “Core-CPI,” oh wait I remember, it’s so the number seems better! :))
First, let’s tackle food.
Every Thursday there’s a farmers market within walking distance of my home in which fresh produce is sold at very low prices. I can get yellow squash for $1/lb. versus $1.49/lb. at the local Giant supermarket. That’s a 33% discount and while we don’t eat a ton of yellow squash, savings is savings.
Another recommendation I’ve heard, which I am trying to follow, is to eat more vegetables and less meat. Vegetables are healthier for you and far cheaper. Chicken breast, at it’s very cheapest, was $1.69/lb. and usually $2.99/lb. Beef? Forget it, you’re talking the north side of $4 a pound and sometimes much higher depending on the cut, grade, and whatever sale’s going on. Supplement your meals with more vegetables and some meat, for the various nutrients, but eat more leafy greens than fatty meats.
Lastly, be sure to review the circulars. You can see what’s on sale for the week ahead and plan your menu accordingly. We know that the front page of the Giant Food supermarket circular has the sales so we structure our meals according to what’s on sale. This week we had some shish-kabobs and will prepare some “crumby chicken” (it’s chicken breast coated with breadcrumbs, except it’s Ritz crackers) tonight. Chicken is on sale. (oh, and a leftover calendar helps reduce spoilage… still going strong with nothing going bad yet!)
I’m a huge proponent of car pooling, as it has the potential for the greatest savings. A second best option is to employ some techniques of realistic hypermiling. Don’t tailgate trucks, but consider easing off the gas if you see a red light and not slamming it when it turns green.
Everyone can tell you to car pool or hypermile, how about something no one else has said before? Go to Google Maps and plot out your daily commute. Google will often give you the fastest route but not necessarily the shortest one. What you can do is drag the path and investigate some alternative routes to see if it reduces your total mileage. While there are factors not illustrated on the map (rush hour zones, traffic lights, etc), it will give you an accurate count of the miles traveled. You will have to decide for yourself whether the trade-offs are wroth it.
In my case, I plotted my former commute and was able to reduce the trip from 16.1 miles to 15.5 miles. Qualitatively, the shorter commute had three more traffic lights, took smaller roads, but often missed a stretch of two highways that are usually clogged during rush hour. I felt the two were equal, except one route was shorter by 0.6 miles. 0.6 miles may seem inconsequential but it’s actually worth $40 a year! At $4/gallon gas and a 30MPG car, each mile costs 8 cents. If I make the twice a day for 250 days, the typical work year, then I save $40 by cutting out the 0.6 miles. This, of course, assumes both trips take the same amount of time.
So, plot your trip and any frequent trips you make (such as to the grocery store, doctor, dentist, etc.) to see if you can squeeze any efficiencies out of it.
There you go, some damn good suggestions on how to squeeze an extra stimulus check each year.
(Netflix image by Ross C., Yellow Squash image by tombarta)