By Ande Dagan
I've been doing the recessionista thing for a while now. I like to flatter myself by thinking I'm living a more European way of life than a frugal one. It never hurts to reexamine the ways you go about your everyday life. How can I save more money, while being less wasteful? Luckily these go hand-in hand -- you can lead a more socially conscious and economically savvy lifestyle.
Here are 30 of my favorite everyday and long-term tips, broken down into four categories (home, food, budget and lifestyle) that I've collected from friends and colleagues for living la vida recessionista.
- Layer thyself - Rather than turning on the heat and raising your gas bill, dress in layers, wear a robe. (Or put it on backwards and pretend it's a Snuggie.)
- Get rid of your cable and watch everything online – It may seem radical, but it's the way of the future.
- Clean your own home (and burn calories as an added bonus).
- Turn off all lights & unplug appliances & electrical items when they're not in use.
- Redecorate without spending a dime - Can't afford new furniture, art, rugs, accessories & lighting? Rearrange some or all of the above, mixing rooms. Presto! A new look!
- Eat at home - This not only saves money, but calories as well.
- Cook something big that can last a few days - Soup, lasagna, strata. What’s better than coming home to a home-cooked meal that just needs reheating?
- Don't let your produce go bad - Use your freezer to keep things fresher longer. Squeeze lemon and lime juice into ice cube trays and store them. Also good in the freezer: peeled fresh ginger, basil, and bread. Is your fruit about to go bad? Grab the blender & make a smoothie.
- Don’t always split the check equally - It used to be frowned upon to itemize meal bills, despite who ate what. Not any more. Pay for what you eat & drink.
- Channel your inner college student - You can put almost anything in a tortilla or pita and call it a meal - rice and beans - avocado, tomato & cheese - peanut butter and jelly - arugula, goat cheese, and maple syrup.
- Bring your lunch to work - If you're lucky enough to still have a job, packing your own lunch can save hundreds of dollars a month.
- Save for retirement - Open up an IRA account and put aside money every month. The yearly max is $5000.
- Shop online - When shopping in-store at stores like the Gap & Banana Republic, take down the size & item number, then go check online where you can frequently find discounts.
- Don't renew your magazine subscriptions - Publishers generally send out increasingly good discount offers to lure you back – usually at less than what you were paying.
- Take advantage of tax cuts - Educate yourself about recent changes to our tax system. If you were recently laid off, you won’t have to pay taxes on the first $2,400 you receive in unemployment benefits. Another break? Car purchases. If you’re in the market for a car, you may be able to claim an income tax deduction on the sales tax and loan interest costs.
- Utilize your computer to make FREE long distance calls - Use Skype or other internet software apps rather than your phone.
- Take advantage of lower interest rates - If you have a mortgage, consider refinancing. As US News reports, 30-year fixed mortgage rates have recently fallen to 5.5%.
- Kickbox your gym membership to the curb - Take up outdoor activities like hiking, bike riding, or even walking. Trapped inside by cold weather? Invest in some quality work out DVDs.
- Go to the early show - Who wants to spend $15 on what turns out to be a lousy movie? Matinees and Sunday morning movies are cheaper and less crowded.
- Reduce your trips to the hair salon – Try doing your roots with specialized products available at your drugstore.
- Regifting is no longer a dirty little secret - Maybe you got some jewelry, a scarf or a vase that just isn’t your style or color. It's OK to give it to someone who may love it.
- Get a Costco membership - It’s all about budgeting, and buying in bulk is one easy way to cut product costs, gas costs and time spent shopping.
- Buy generic - If you’re turned off by the generic packaging, get creative. Save your empty brand name containers and refill them with the generic version.
- Renew your library membership – Not only can you check out books for free, many libraries also have an entertainment selection with CDs and movies. Some even have a searchable online DVD catalog, allowing items to be put on hold or transferred to a more convenient library location for pick up.
- Consider “haggling" - Many retailers are now open to bargaining.
- Renegotiate your rent - Rents in many areas are coming down. Keep an eye on vacancies in your building – or call your apartment office to find out if comparable units are going for less than what you pay (best to do this anonymously.) If so, approach your landlord or apartment manager for a rent reduction.
- Mix up more expensive beauty products with store brands - Stores like Target, CVS & Rite Aid are doing a much better job of replicating higher end products – face creams, sunscreen, shampoo, lotions…for sometimes half the price.
- A Day at the Museum - Most museums offer FREE admission on certain days. Check their website to find out when those free days are.
- Organize your weekly errands - How much time do you spend running around town on different days? Figure out what you need to do and where you need to go. Save gas money (and time) by streamlining your list.
- Walk - For people lucky enough to live or work within 20-30 minutes of their bank, post office, drugstore et al, do your errands by foot. Not only is it good cardio, but it gives you some quiet time to think, listen to your iPod or just enjoy being outside.
What are some of your favorite recessionista tips?