Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Here's an idea: Split lunch duty with a co-worker.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:45AM

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.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:41AM

Recently, a Smart Spending message board reader posted a plaintively titled thread, "Can anyone list all of the proven ways of saving money? Not about cups of coffee or restaurants." 

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.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:38AM

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.

It did. 

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.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:33AM

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.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:20AM

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.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:15AM

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.


Your friends' junk could become your new treasures.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:08AM

Want to get a head start on your yearly spring cleaning by de-cluttering? Try a tactic recommended by a Smart Spending message board reader posting as "AwakenedSpiritHawk1." Twice a year, this reader and her friends have a "shopping party" with food, fun and freebies. 

Got a stack of books you've read? Home decor items given as gifts that simply aren't your style? A shirt you rarely wear? Here's your chance to clear closets, bookshelves and tabletops. Think of it as your own private Freecycle. After all, one person's discard is another person's great find. 

This isn't regifting because no one's forced to take anything. Everyone brings food and drink to share, and everyone has fun, the reader wrote on a message board thread. "We hang out, enjoy each other's company, eat and shop for free."


One hour's pay out of every paycheck will add up fast.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 2, 2009 1:01AM

You know you should be building an emergency fund. Yet somehow there's too much month left at the end of your money.

A Smart Spending message board reader posting as "Eek17" suggests a fairly simple way to set aside some cash: Save one hour's pay out of every paycheck. 

"I have built up a nice EF this way. It's easy, convenient and I don't miss that small amount out of my check," the reader notes in a general frugality thread



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