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.
Your friends' junk could become your new treasures.
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.
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.
I couldn't turn a blind eye to family's plight.
Last July, a fellow driving an SUV called me a sucker for giving money to a homeless man. The incident upset me deeply, so I wrote an essay called "Why I gave a guy a dollar."
What I didn't mention in the piece was how I happened to be walking down that particular street. I was on my way home from the bank and the post office, having just mailed a cashier's check to a long-time friend whose home was about to be foreclosed upon.
She and her husband have three kids still at home, and in the past year they've both had spells of unemployment. They'd been late with the house note before, and this time the mortgage company issued an ultimatum: two months' worth of payments by July 16, or foreclosure.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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