Who doesn’t want to save $100? I’m not sure America ever got out of the recession in the first place, so I find it perplexing to hear people in 2011 anxious about a “double dip.” Aren’t we still dipped pretty far down?
More than 44 million people living in America have no health insurance. There’s a homeless woman begging in Ashland with a puppy and a hugely pregnant belly.
My daughter’s friend’s mom confided her family gets most of their meals from a food bank in order not to foreclose on their house.
My son’s friend’s dad, who has two masters degrees, is waiting tables because work is so scarce.
We may not be as bad off as Greece but economically things suck in this country. “Suck” is a relative term, of course. America is not Niger, where people are rail thin because they don’t have enough to eat and being fat is a sign of prosperity and beauty. Ashland is not Kauai, where locals keep the deer population in check by hunting them for food.
But even in our prosperous town in the mountains in Oregon people are having a really hard time.
A friend’s friend confided he is going to move his family to Portland in search of better services for his troubled and violent son and more lucrative employment.
After seven years working at a hotel in Ashland it’s all he can do to pay the rent.
Compared to many, our family is lucky.
We own our own house.
We don’t owe money on student loans.
My mom helps us pay for one of our children to go to private school.
But James and I don’t have health insurance. We can’t drive anywhere all together unless it’s within biking distance without renting a car since ours is a compact that seats five and there are six of us now.
And we have credit card balances we can’t pay off. The savings we once had are tied up in our house, the value of which has steadily declined since we bought it.
I feel so grateful for what we have (and for Mr Visa for financing us when the first installment of my book advance runs out), but I also find it hard not to obsessively worry about finances, especially at 4:00 a.m.
During a recent bout of insomnia I started thinking about how our family has been cutting back. We’ve found many ways to save $100.
Here are 30 ways to save $100:
1. Cancel your gym membership
Pros: You workout more outside, and learn how to be your own gym
Cons: No more Zumba classes
2. Give recycled gifts
Pros: The book you read once, the candle from Aunt Esther, one of the 400 stuffies on your daughter’s bed bring joy to someone else
Cons: Some friends expect packaged new stuff, made in China, off-gassing a bonus
3. Borrow books from the library
Savings: $60/month if you read a lot
Pros: Trees saved
Cons: Small town libraries may not own the book you want, long waiting lists, a prescribed time to finish the book
4. Don’t use disposable diapers
Savings: $1000/year plus cost of gas to get to the store
Pros: Cloth or diaper free is healthier for baby
Cons: More laundry
5. Return deposit bottles (and bring back your neighbors’ if they are putting them in the trash or recycling)
Pros: Bonding time with your 7-year-old collecting bottles together
Cons: Being mistaken for a hobo when you show up with a wagon full of returnables
6. Ride your bike to work
Pros: Built-in exercise! Ability to weave in traffic! More outside time!
Cons: Sweat on your work clothes.
8. Use maps, calendars, or newspaper to wrap gifts
Pros: It’s artistic!
9. Make a digital copy of all your CDs and then sell them
Pros: Less stuff in your house
Cons: Time-consuming at first to set up an eBay account
10. Cancel your cell phone
Pros: No brain cancer
Cons: No phone chats at the supermarket or to call 911 when there’s a flasher on the bike path (yes, this happened and yes, they caught the guy)
11. Reuse birthday candles
Savings: $1.50/birthday (x 6 birthdays = $9/year)
Pros: You won’t have to remember to buy candles for months
Cons: They get shorter each time you use them.
12. No café coffee
Savings: $3/day, $21/week, $1092/year
Pros: No more cups in the landfill, bonding with your husband as you drink home brewed coffee together
Cons: Severe longing for Noble Coffee
13. Don’t shower every day
Savings: 45 gallons of water per 15 minute shower, savings vary by state and region
Pros: Better for your skin
Cons: You smell more … Human.
14. Brush your teeth with baking soda
Savings: $3.00/tube of toothpaste
Pros: No carcinogen exposure or packaging
15. Eat less
Pros: You live longer, feel healthier, and lose weight
Cons: Stomach rumbling
16. Buy drugstore candy to sneak into the movies
Pros: The thrill of being sneaky
Cons: Having to plan ahead
17. Don’t buy a crib for the baby
Pros: Snuggling in your bed, easier to breastfeed, baby sleeps better and feels safer
Cons: Need to use the guest bed or couch for adult horizontal playtime
18. Swap clothes with friends instead of buying new stuff
Savings: $100/two months
Pros: Pesticide residues already washed off, pre-loved clothes are softer
Cons: Harder to find a power suit in your size
19. Clean your own house
Savings: $240/ month
Cons: The toilet bowl
20. Hire teens to do yard work and babysitting
Pros: Easier to be directive with someone less experienced
Cons: He mows down your blueberry bush
21. Read your medical bills for errors
Pros: Up to 80 percent have them
Cons: It’s no fun to fight with the hospital or insurance company
22. Take your own family photos
Pros: You’re a photographer!
Cons: Kids behave better with strangers and it’s hard to get yourself in the photo on time without mussing up your hair
23. Hire a research assistant from the local college in exchange for course credit
Pros: They get valuable life experience, you don’t pay $110/audio hour for transcriptions
Cons: Time-consuming training
24. Don’t use paper towels
Savings: $1.50/meal if you clean like my MIL used to
Pros: Less trash
Cons: Need to find a dishrag to wipe your hands
25. Have your 4 kids share a room so you can have a home office
Pros: They learn to get along
Cons: Friends and family criticize you because “kids need their privacy”
26. Borrow a friend’s dress to wear to a cocktail-attire award ceremony
Pros: No time wasted shopping
Cons: It looks better on her (she’s almost six feet tall and blond and everything looks better on her)
27. Use sharing sites on the Internet to access movies you want to see
Pros: Many movies aren’t available
Cons: They take forever to download plus you may be committing a Federal offense
28. Have home dates
Savings: a small fortune ($20+ for the sitter + the $ for the activity)
Pros: You don’t have to wear heels
Cons: You fall asleep putting the baby to bed by mistake and there goes your date
29. Find a goal buddy instead of paying for a professional coach
Pros: You help motivate someone else as much as she helps motivate you
Cons: Finding the right match
30. Spend time outside instead of taking vitamin D supplements
Pros: Sunlight makes you happier
Cons: Harder in the wintertime
Readers, I’d like to hear from you! Are you feeling the pinch of this endless recession? What are your best tips about how to save money in our down economy?
Published: July 21, 2011
Updated: January 15, 2020