I would like to introduce to you today the foremost of money saving tips: staying home. I am not talking about staying in instead of going to a movie on a Friday night, but something much more fundamental and often overlooked. Allowing this philosophy and the following ideas a permanent space in your consciousness is the vital first step in succeeding in a life of frugality. I grant, some of these ideas may seem far-fetched, but keep an open mind and you will learn how thinking forwardly as well as laterally can help you to save even more money. In fact, this concept should apply to all aspects of life besides the financial.
Every Little Bit Adds Up
First I will remind you, as I mentioned in my first official post “,” that every little bit adds up and makes difference in the long run. While one small action seems insignificant in the long scheme of things, if frequently repeated, it will have a long-term impact whether good or bad.
I will use smoking as an example: smoking a single cigarette may not harm you, but smoking cigarettes on a regular basis over the course of many years will significantly impact your health (even if not visible to the eye, there is a consequence.) Likewise, all things we do, no matter how small, will have a consequence of some sort. So now to my point.
As I said above, staying home is one of the best and easiest ways to save money. And again, as mentioned above, this is not about going out for special activities, but rather everyday activities and the importance of consolidating errands and activities because every single time you leave your house, whether or not you physically “spend” money, you are in fact spending money. I will start with the most obvious.
Driving is More than Gas
When you drive, you’re spending more than the cost of gas by putting wear and tear on your car. The IRS (for our foreign readers, this is the Internal Revenue Service, the United States government’s department of taxation) has determined a mileage allowance rate of 48.5¢ per mile for business purposes for the 2007 tax year. While tax-wise, this allowance only applies to business owners who use their vehicles in the course of business, it takes into account the cost of gas, wear and tear and maintenance on the vehicle. So a simple 1-mile one way trip (2-mile round trip) to the store has a cost value of $0.97.
Cost Begins with Use
There are many other ways you spend money by going out. These are in the number of things we need and use in order to go out. Everything costs money; just because you’ve already paid for something doesn’t mean that it is now “free” or “without cost.” A good example of this concept is, once again, the IRS. When a business purchases inventory or supplies, it cannot deduct the cost of those items until after those items have been sold or used.
For example, a business owner purchases a case of paper clips in May 2006. He only uses half the case of paper clips by the end of his tax year in December 2006. When he files his 2006 taxes, he can only deduct the cost of the half case of paper clips that he used in 2006. Only after he has used up the 2nd half of his case of paper clips in 2007 can he deduct the cost of those clips. This is an example of the theory that actual expenditure does not end with the purchase of an item, but with the use of it.
Every time you go out, you must put on clothing that are presentable in public. These clothes are often nicer and more valuable than your regular home clothes. Though it is not always immediately visible, each time you wear your nice clothes, they get some … well … wear. That’s why they call it “wearing” clothes, is it not? Each wearing decreases the value and shortens the life of the garment, taking you that much closer to having to buy (or make) a replacement. This especially includes shoes, which suffer the most wear and tear.
After you wear your clothes, they will need to be washed. Not only does washing cause additional wear on the clothes, but it is accompanied by further expenditures in water use, detergent, and for many, electricity or gas for drying, anti-static dryer sheets, fabric softeners, etc.
Being presentable also often entails use of cosmetics (for women) and hair products – hair spray, mousse, gel, etc (men and women). For women who use make-up before going out, there is the cost of the make-up and all the other products used along with the make-up (toners, lotions, etc.). Every time you use these things, you are in theory, spending or “using” money.
Time is Money
It may be trite, but it is true, especially if you are self-employed or simply make a little extra money blogging. Think of the time spent in traffic or standing in line at the store for the purpose of buying a few items. You could have done some work or written an article that could potentially make money.
Oftentimes when we go out for one purpose, we are often sidetracked and end up at originally unplanned places (perhaps attracted by a “ONE DAY SALE” sign at a favorite store) and making unplanned purchases (“Buy One Get One Free” even though you hadn’t even planned on buying One at all). It is true that had you never gone out that day, you might have missed out on a great bargain, but had you not ventured out of doors at all, you would be none-the-wiser and the richer for it. If you go out 3 times a week as opposed to once a week, the possibility (and probability) of unplanned expenditures is multiplied by 3.
I am not saying that you should never go out and starve to death when you run out of groceries. The point I hope I have made is that every outing costs money and that one of the easiest ways to save money is by consolidating all your errands into one outing. This requires some planning and organizing, but is by no means difficult. Following are a few tips to get you started.
Tips for Saving Time and Money by Consolidating
It is not necessary to shop for groceries every few days or even every week. Try to cut back to every 2-3 weeks, or even better, once a month. This requires some planning and adjustment to get the quantities right, but can save you a lot of time and money. (Check back soon for tips on shopping for groceries once a month.)
Yes, the sooner you deposit that paycheck in the bank, the sooner you begin earning interest. But, if the cost of making a special run to the bank (driving & time) exceeds the amount of interest you will earn, might it not be better to wait a few days until you have more reasons for going out?
- Post Office
Save trips to the post office by keeping some stamps on hand. I like the Forever stamps that can still be used when postage rates go up. Consider using online shipping for mailing parcels. (Check back soon for information on how you can save time and money by using online shipping options.) Also, refer to my article “” and learn how you can possibly save $60 a year by not mailing your bills.
- Returning Library Books
If you have a library book due on a day when you don’t have any other errands scheduled, you can renew the book by calling the library or logging onto the library website, and delay the trip to the library until you have another reason to go out.
- Shop Online
Consider buying more online (from reputable and established businesses, of course). Online prices are often lower than in-store prices even including shipping, so you save time, money, and gas.
Again, it can take time and planning to get used to this idea, but you will soon begin to see how much money and time you save by waiting a few days to take care of all your business at once. This does not mean you should become a hermit and never leave the house. It is important to still go out for practical and social reasons (and work), but hopefully you will now be more aware of the cost behind every activity and therefore be even more successful in your frugal lifestyle.