Resist the temptation to hit a drive-through.
School's back in session and retailers are trying to sell us items like breakfast cookies and individual bowls of cereal. Convenient, maybe, but also fairly pricey -- and would you really trust a 7-year-old with a bowl of cereal and milk in a moving car?
Besides, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for all ages. Over on the Smart Spending message board, some readers offer grownup strategies beyond granola bites and fast-food drive-throughs.
Your time might be more valuable than your money.
The less you earn, the more you’re likely to give away. People who earn $20,000 or less per year donate more (relative to their income) than higher earners.
Or so Arthur Brooks reports in his book about American benevolence, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism."
Charity appears to benefit the givers as well. An article from the Christian Science Monitor noted that “greater charity tends to push up income."
Here's an idea: Split lunch duty with a co-worker.
Get tired of bringing your lunch every day? Smart Spending message board reader "toucan77" has a solution: Split lunch duty with someone else.
This reader and a co-worker take alternate days bringing in lunch for two. According to toucan77's suggestion, posted on a thread about general frugality, this takes almost no extra work and it provides several very nice benefits.
Just as having an exercise buddy gets you to the gym on time, having a lunch partner keeps participants away from the Dollar Menu -- you wouldn't leave the other person high and dry by not bringing lunch, would you?
Reader nixed phone fee 10 years ago and is now $600 richer.
If anyone could do that, he'd publish it in book form and retire early, and rich. Besides, cutting back on restaurant meals and coffee away from home are proven ways of saving money. And small changes can mean big savings, noted a reader posting as "Great Arm."
In her case, $600 worth and counting.
Make fun of me if you want, but I reuse my plastic bags.
I have a long history of saving plastic bags for reuse. Lately I've even been saving the bags from those 16-ounce frozen vegetables. I wasn't sure how I'd use them, but figured something would suggest itself.
Last week I found ground beef for 99 cents a pound. After making a meatloaf with half the package, I turned the rest into hamburger patties for the freezer. As it turns out, half a plastic vegetable bag is the perfect size to wrap a hamburger.
They may not look pretty, but slow-cooker meals provide cheap and filling fuel.
Crunch time: Exams are approaching, two final projects are due, and I am still fairly shaky on certain fine points of Spanish grammar.
That's why on Saturday I filled the slow cooker with great northern beans, ham scraps, chopped onion and grated carrot. I stirred up a pan of cornbread and settled down to read Hélène Cixous. By midafternoon, I had five or six nights' worth of dinners in the fridge.
I refer to this as "one-pot glop" nutrition. Some days you don't have time to wonder what you'll fix for supper. Leftovers rule, and one-pot leftovers reign supreme.
Once again, my slow cooker has helped save money on food.
When I was a kid, many of our meals began with a pound of ground beef because it was the cheapest meat to be had. These days, my mom would be horripilated by the price of ground round. It's costlier than steaks used to be, way back when the Earth was still cooling.
Recently I discovered an alternative -- and I'm not talking about vegetarianism.
Acting on a friend's instructions, I wrapped a 99-cent-a-pound pork roast in foil and put it in the slow cooker overnight, on low. The next morning it was so tender I could shred it with two forks.
You have the power to make changes in your life.
Want to drop a bad habit or develop a good one? You need a plan. Specifically, you need a list. Lists make us feel confident and in charge. They make us feel we're already halfway to achieving our goals.
We love our lists. We especially love short lists. "Three easy ways to … (lose weight, stop smoking, become a millionaire)" is a guaranteed attention-getter.
Life is never really that simple, of course. If all it took were three steps, everybody would be thin and rich, with unstained fingers.
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Yes, sometimes retail therapy has a place. Just try to be aware of shopping to beat the blues, and don't overspend.