Dollar Stretching Saturday: 10 Wasteful Practices

1. Cable or Satellite Television. These days, there's little reason to pay for tv. You'll save TONS of money and time if you don't plan your life around television programs - and all those commercials. But this doesn't mean you can't watch tv programs. You may know that Netflix delivers DVDs of movies and tv shows to your door (with no late fees), but what you might not realize is Netflix also allows you to instantly watch tv programs and movies on our laptop or (with the right equipment) your television. No commercials, either. Too, there are free Internet sources for watching tv shows, including Hulu and tvDuck.

SAVINGS: At least $400 a year, depending on your cable bill, which Netflix program you choose, and whether you stick to freebie sites. 

 2. Clothes. Of course you need clothes, and I'm not suggesting you wear rags, but almost all Americans have way more clothes than they actually need. (In jeans alone, statisticians say women in the U.S. own 8.3 pairs.) Instead of having an enormous closet of clothes (which takes time and money to care for, incidentally), select classic clothes that mix well together. SAVINGS: Hundreds to thousands each year. 

 3. Bottled Water. Study after study shows that bottled water is no more tasty or healthful than tap water, yet many people continue to drink it. All those disposable bottles are wasteful too, and there are possible health risks due to BPA in them. Really, a faucet filter is much, much cheaper. And when you're on the road and need water, plan ahead just a bit by using a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle. SAVINGS: If you drink just one bottle of water every day at an average cost of $1.50, you'll save over $547 a year

 4. Food Waste. How much food do you throw away each week? What if you could minimize - or completely put an end to - this practice? I really believe even the least organized person can plan meals with my simple method. Then prepare only as much as you need - or, if you make extra, be sure to freeze it right away or eat it for lunch the next day. And if you find yourself stuck with some odds and ends - a few carrots, some potatoes that are about to wrinkle up, a little left over meat - toss them in a pot and make stew or soup. SAVINGS: Hundreds a year. 

 5. Printer Manufacturer Ink Cartridges. I never, ever buy the ink my famous-maker printer is designed to use. And I never, ever pay more than a few dollars for a single ink cartridge - because I purchase generic manufactured cartridges. I've been doing this for years, and they always work perfectly. The best source for this depends upon what printer you have, but I usually shop at Elotusland. SAVINGS: I save over $67 each time I replace my ink cartridges. For me, that's a savings of over $402 a year.  

6. Paying Someone Else to Do Your Taxes. Unless your personal or businesses taxes are truly complicated, use software like TaxCut or TurboTax. The latter lets those with really simple taxes use the software for free. Not only will you save on tax preparation expenses, but you may save on your actual tax bill. I can't tell you how many of my friends and acquaintances have discovered - after using do-it-yourself tax preparation software - that their accountant was doing their taxes wrong, costing them considerable sums of money. (And yes, the software is super easy to use.) SAVINGS: About $100 per filing or more. 

 7. Assuming Dollar Tree Stuff is a Good Deal. Often, you'll waste money at the Dollar Tree. Wal-Mart and other discount stores are often cheaper, if only by pennies. (But remember, all those pennies add up.) While the Dollar Tree does have excellent deals on some things, like incandescent light bulbs and children's art supplies, the trick is to pay attention to prices and only buy it if it's truly a good deal. SAVINGS: Depending on your shopping habits, you could save hundreds each year.  

8. Buying Brand Names. Some people just assume generic isn't as good, but in my experience, this is rarely the case. I always try generic or store brands before dismissing them as "not as good." 95% of the time or more, I stick with generic. Although it may surprise some people, some store brands are actually better than brand name products. For example, an employee at a very famous membership club store tells me the store brands at her place of business are actually held to a higher quality standard than name brand products. SAVINGS: Let's say you buy brand name Wheat Thins twice a month at $4.29 a box. If you switch to a generic brand that's just $1.24 a box, you'll save over $73 a year just on that one item. 

 9. Eating Out. For frugal families, having dinnerout ought to be a once-a-month or less treat. Keep your pantry well stocked with staples, and whenever possible, make a double batch of food and freeze half. That way, when you're too exhausted to cook, all you have to do is pop something in the microwave, instead of calling for pizza. SAVINGS: If you're accustomed to eating our or having food delivered even just once a month, this step will easily save you $250 - 360 a year

 10. Paying for Things You Don't Use. Here's just one example. I used to pay for a certain magazine subscription but either didn't get around to reading the mag or didn't get much from each issue. So I quit paying for the thing and started reading only the articles that interested me on the magazine's free online site. If you look around your house, perhaps you can see some things you've paid for but got little or no use from: Kitchen gadgets, decor, craft supplies...? SAVINGS: I saved $30 a year by canceling my subscriptions, but depending upon your habits, you could save much more.

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  1. Great ideas! We LOVE hulu and Netflix. We're in the process of moving. While packing I was shocked to realize how much JUNK we have -- games we never play, toys the kids never use, books we've never read, magazines that are way out-dated, clothes we don't need ... the list goes on! This has been a great exercise toward minimizing waste and freeing storage space, not to mention a huge step toward saving money in the long run.

  2. You have several good tips listed here. I especially like the one for ink cartridges!

  3. Great tips. I always get my ink cartridges refilled at a local place (well, maybe semi-local--I think they're a franchise) and am usually pleased with the results. I know I save $$ on those.

    And, I love Hulu! When hubby and I cx'd our cable last year, I switched to Hulu. Since the main shows we watch are on FOX and USA, they're all there, plus older shows I missed out on (like Magnum P.I. or Rockford Files). And, you can watch them when you want, and you don't have to worry about setting a DVR or VCR.

    The only thing I would disagree on is tax preparation. I am so paranoid about missing something big that could cause an audit or cause me to miss out on something that would add to my refund, I prefer to hire a good friend who is an accountant just for the stress reduction factors. I have used Turbo Tax in the past, but the stress is too great for me to deal with, and I constantly feel ill when thinking about putting together my 1040 every year.