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The Great Big List of Easy Ways to Save Big

 
master pollinator
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Anyone have some ideas on how to do a little, and save a lot?

I have always worked on my own heavy equipment, but seldom to my own vehicle work until this year. That seems to be a pretty big pay-off.

Today I am doing electrical work. It is a stupid fix, but must be done. The mast going from my house to the transformer on the pole is bent. Over the years, ice and heavy wind has pulled so hard on the line it has pulled my mast towards the electrical pole some. That dislodged the boot that seals it going to my roof, so water is running into my electrical box. So I found some electrical mast clamps, and put a eye bolt into the ridgepole of my house, and now need to go to the store to get some cable and pull the mast back, then secure the boot with nails, and patch the roof.

That is something some people would not do because it requires work around the main power lines coming into the house, but they use rubber jacketed wires so there is no danger. But to get a real electrician over would be at least $200.

Any other skills people can learn that would really save themselves money? (Or skills you have that save you money?)
 
master pollinator
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Wow, where do I begin? I've been a do-it-yourselfer for so long that's it's my normal way of life.

... Last month the clothes dryer stopped working. No panicking because I only use it for a few minutes here and there. Rather than bringing in a repairman I went to the Internet and googled the symptoms. Discovered that it was most likely a cracked dial. Yup, Google was right. I'm temporarily using a vise grip until the replacement dial arrives. Saved myself a bundle.

So the moral of the story? Google the symptoms to see if it's a simple do-at-home fix.
 
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One thing I’ve started playing with recently is restoring abandoned high-quality items, like cast iron, and tools!

When I moved in to my current place, we were left with a little more junk then I would’ve liked. That being said, as with many a pile of junk, there were some treasures hidden within.

After a few trips to the transfer station, I was left with some rusted old tools, and a rusted out cast iron pan.

I learned how to restore and reseason cast iron pans, and now I’ve got a 1940’s era made in Canada antique on the stove every day. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more unloved cast iron pieces I can  give new life to.

Alternatively, I’ve started a new project of restoring some old hatchet and axe-heads I’ve found around the property.

Similar to the cast iron restoration process, I’ve cleaned up the rust, and sharpened and polished one of the hatchet heads and it’s a wonderful looking antique piece. Next step is learning to “hang” the handle. I would love to learn how to carve my own handles, but there’s no quality hickory (or other decent hardwoods) around here.

I also found some old fashioned pruners which I oiled, polished, and sharpened and they work so much better than my new-from-store pruners.
 
gardener
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The biggest way I know how to save big is to avoid debt. Especially on big items people usually don’t consider to be debt (car, house). A good approximation is that anything you buy with debt costs twice as much as the sticker price. So a $200,000 house will cost you $400,000 with a mortgage.

The second thing that comes to mind is to learn how to cook with raw ingredients. It’s not only a money saving trick versus going out, but it’s a critical skill if you find yourself with no money and need to continue existing. A few pounds of rice and beans can make weeks of meals for almost nothing.

The third thing is to learn how to understand your finances. If you can figure out the skills to know how much and what you spend your money on every month and predict that into the future, combine that with how much income you take home and predict that into the future, you can save untold amounts of money and build up your savings quicker than you ever imagined. This is no easy task with how American taxes are structured, but it’s probably the most powerful life skill I’ve ever developed.
 
Su Ba
master pollinator
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I big way I save money is to swap my time & labor for cash outlayed. By that I mean, instead of hiring somebody to come and brush hog, I'll just take my time & labor to weedwack things down. Instead of hiring a backhoe to move logs, I'll do it myself using chains, levers, ramps, and my truck or ATV. Just recently I saved thousands by putting a new roof on my house myself. It took time. But I was willing to invest the time in order to save thousands.

So using my own labor and time, I save hundreds or thousands.
 
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Su Ba wrote:Wow, where do I begin? I've been a do-it-yourselfer for so long that's it's my normal way of life.

... Last month the clothes dryer stopped working. No panicking because I only use it for a few minutes here and there. Rather than bringing in a repairman I went to the Internet and googled the symptoms. Discovered that it was most likely a cracked dial. Yup, Google was right. I'm temporarily using a vise grip until the replacement dial arrives. Saved myself a bundle.

So the moral of the story? Google the symptoms to see if it's a simple do-at-home fix.



Me too! I have fixed our washing machine by looking up the symptoms on Ecosia (I try to stay away from google) and deducing from there what the problem was. It was so satisfying when I fixed it!
Most recently, I repaired a leak coming from our roof into our living room wall. After getting a couple of estimates and finding out it was most likely a step flashing problem, and the people wanting $400 and the other $600!, I decided it was time to learn about roofs, siding, etc. Youtube is a great resource for learning! Anyway, the project took me about 4 hours and it's fixed. Again, so satisfying!
What's also nice is that I have done so many repairs/improvements over the years, each for which I often needed to get a tool or two, that I now have quite the assembly of tools which is wonderful for future projects!
.
 
Annie Collins
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Su Ba wrote: Just recently I saved thousands by putting a new roof on my house myself. ...



Oh my gosh, you are much braver than me. I couldn't imagine spending that much time on a roof, even if the pitch wasn't too steep! Good for you!
 
pollinator
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A huge way to save big is to set up your life so you don't need to drive a car around much, if at all.  This likely means either working at home or living near where you work.  The side bonus is saving a huge amount of time by traveling so much giving you more hours of life to live as you wish as well as saving money.

I also agree that trying to repair things that break can be a big money saver.  Not too long ago I had a shop CD player finally quit playing my CDs.  I remembered something a friend had told me years ago and tried cleaning off the laser lens with a Q-tip and some alcohol.  It worked!  The CD player is still working great today.  Shortly after that my nearly new CD player in the house quit working.  I went into the "no user serviceable parts" zone and poked around.  One of the wire harnesses seemed to have a loose connector which I pushed down.  That seemed to do the trick and again the unit has worked great ever since.  My effective pay rate for these fixes compared to buying new equipment was probably a couple hundred dollars an hour.
 
gardener
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This may not save me big, but I make a point of altering and mending clothes myself for my family and friends. Often that means that something gets more use before being rags or land-fill, and it's something that can be done after dark and when I'm tired of doing heavy or harder things and need something sitting down and "light duty".
 
Su Ba
master pollinator
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"Big" is a relative term. If I can save $20, I consider that a big savings. I'm sure that Bill Gates wouldn't consider that a big savings. 😆

If I can mend a seam on a good pair of hubby's shorts so that he can continue wearing them, then that's a big savings to me. Otherwise I'd have to drive 2 hours to town and have to spend well over $20 to buy a new pair. Driving to town and back equates to $40 in gasoline. Mending clothing or creating new out of discards is a great idea!
 
gardener
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This probably sounds a bit naff, but I get so excited when it rains I collect all our water instead of having to turn on the well pump, and I heat and cook all our water and food on the top of our temporary wood burner, saving on gas. Little saving is making a big difference in my head, helping me to cope with our current living conditions.
 
master steward
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Kyle Neath wrote:The biggest way I know how to save big is to avoid debt.

The third thing is to learn how to understand your finances. If you can figure out the skills to know how much and what you spend your money on every month and predict that into the future, combine that with how much income you take home and predict that into the future, you can save untold amounts of money and build up your savings quicker than you ever imagined.



This and more of #3!

I once read a strategy about thinking about how many hours a person would have to work to pay for an item.  

Another strategy is waiting 48 hours before spending money on something that you want and then ask yourself "is this something that I really need?" Usually by then the item is no longer "wanted"

An easy way to save money is to put the money that would be spent on a Starbuck's coffee into a special envelope and deposit that in a savings account every month.  That small amount will grow fast and double every month!

 
pollinator
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We did the plumbing and electrical work on our house (sent my Partner to college to learn electrics- this was still cheaper than hiring an electrician). Learnt some joinery to fit my own doors and build a greenhouse- again way cheaper than tradesmen because my labour is essentially free.

I make gifts for xmas and the like- only a small saving (and in time it would be cheaper to buy them things!)
 
Travis Johnson
master pollinator
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Anne Miller wrote:

Kyle Neath wrote:The biggest way I know how to save big is to avoid debt.

The third thing is to learn how to understand your finances. If you can figure out the skills to know how much and what you spend your money on every month and predict that into the future, combine that with how much income you take home and predict that into the future, you can save untold amounts of money and build up your savings quicker than you ever imagined.



This and more of #3!

I once read a strategy about thinking about how many hours a person would have to work to pay for an item.  

Another strategy is waiting 48 hours before spending money on something that you want and then ask yourself "is this something that I really need?" Usually by then the item is no longer "wanted"

An easy way to save money is to put the money that would be spent on a Starbuck's coffee into a special envelope and deposit that in a savings account every month.  That small amount will grow fast and double every month!



I do something similar, but I do it with $5 bills. I always use cash so it works for me, but I set aside my $5 bills. I can save about $45 per month this way.
 
David Huang
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Another fairly simple way to save big money that I use is simply to track it.  This sounds kinda silly, but I think for most people the act of focusing attention to exactly what is coming in and exactly where it is going out naturally and painlessly leads to reduced spending on what isn't providing sufficient value in your life.  I liken this to the technique of saving electricity by getting some sort of meter that shows usage placed where it is easily seen in daily comings and goings.

In the next few weeks I'm planning on my blog to repost and update a series of articles I wrote many years ago about financial management for artists for an art business magazine.  Many of these articles will be about this sort of thing.  I'll try to remember to post something here when I do get the first one up.  (If the gods are willing that might even be tonight yet, but don't hold your breath.)

Oh, and as much as I hate it, spending the time to shop around when looking at big ticket items can be worthwhile.  The battery bank for my off-grid solar system is on it's last legs.  I've already pulled half the batteries that went bad.  While I'd like to try and squeak another few months out of what I have I really need to see about buying some new ones.  I've now spent several hours researching on-line and stopping into the local Batteries Plus store where my current bank came from.  Their list price would be just shy of $5000 for what I need.  Talking to the manager she offered me a better deal since I'm buying so many bringing the price down to $4240 assuming I bring in my old batteries to off set the core charge.  That's not too bad, but I found another place on-line that has a different brand that has slightly more capacity that are currently on sale for $3413.04 with free shipping on battery orders over $3000.  Plus I'll still have my old set that I should be able to get some money for their cores, potentially bringing my final cost down a bit below $3000.  So several hours of annoying research and pricing will end up "paying" me around $2000!  I like that hourly rate!
 
pioneer
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Budgeting and keeping track of spending is a biggie.  We currently have to travel to our property to work on getting it ready for us to move out there.  We were buying sandwiches and chips to take out for lunch, then stopping somewhere for dinner on the way home as a "reward" for our hard work.  When we were doing our quarterly review, we realized that we were spending over $40 per work day on food!  Now we take a salad with diced chicken breast for lunch and either wait until we get home to cook dinner or grill something before we leave.  That reduced our food cost for each workday from $40 to <$10.  That lets us put an additional $180 away per month.  That can buy a lot of building materials over a years time.

Having money set aside for life's surprises is huge.  Having cash to cover an expense instead of putting it on a credit card makes a big difference.
 
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Kyle Neath wrote:The biggest way I know how to save big is to avoid debt. Especially on big items people usually don’t consider to be debt (car, house). A good approximation is that anything you buy with debt costs twice as much as the sticker price. So a $200,000 house will cost you $400,000 with a mortgage.

The second thing that comes to mind is to learn how to cook with raw ingredients. It’s not only a money saving trick versus going out, but it’s a critical skill if you find yourself with no money and need to continue existing. A few pounds of rice and beans can make weeks of meals for almost nothing.

The third thing is to learn how to understand your finances. If you can figure out the skills to know how much and what you spend your money on every month and predict that into the future, combine that with how much income you take home and predict that into the future, you can save untold amounts of money and build up your savings quicker than you ever imagined. This is no easy task with how American taxes are structured, but it’s probably the most powerful life skill I’ve ever developed.



This is *such* a great comment on *such* a great thread.  I got myself deep into debt chasing other people's dreams.  I took major steps back and re-evaluated.  Got hip to Dave Ramsey and should finally be debt free within 7 months...and it feels *so* liberating.  The process of going through Financial Peace University...and now finally putting together an action plan to sell the items I've set aside from cleaning, how I can perhaps monetize my kombucha and other products that my family and I currently make but do not sell.  In terms of work such as electrical - I'm lucky I've got my brother for that...but as time goes on and the homestead grows, it's definitely a good thing to think about in terms of growing skills but also saving money.  Building *many* forms of capital, if you will.
 
pollinator
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Husband sweeps our chimney himself.

We butcher our own animals which cuts costs.

Scratch cooking.

Obviously home repairs though I once flooded the basement doing plumbing. I'm not a great plumber.

We super glued our great pyrs head shut when he got a big old gash that needed sutures. Super glue being the original suture I did it myself and gave him a shot of penicillin. He's fine.
 
Jay Angler
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Bob Gallamore wrote:

When we were doing our quarterly review, we realized that we were spending over $40 per work day on food!  Now we take a salad with diced chicken breast for lunch and either wait until we get home to cook dinner or grill something before we leave.  That reduced our food cost for each workday from $40 to <$10.

Eating out is not only far more expensive, but it's usually not nearly as healthy as home cooked! That said, as someone who suffers if I get too hungry, I'd like to recommend that for this to work well, when you know you've got a big project and that the chief cook will be deeply involved, planning ahead is critical. Make sure you've got something - we often call them "planned-overs" - ready to go, so that a tired, hungry cook doesn't resent that added burden after a hard day. Considering  that you'll already be saving a bunch over restaurant food, don't be afraid to watch for a special on something that's a treat that you earmark for "dinner in the country". For me at the moment, that would be a piece of lamb from a local farmer - it can cook slowly all day in my slow cooker and be ready to eat when we get in.
 
Anne Miller
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Travis Johnson wrote: I do something similar, but I do it with $5 bills. I always use cash so it works for me, but I set aside my $5 bills. I can save about $45 per month this way.



Travis, that is a great idea.And this has been a really great thread.  Everyone advise has been spot on!

Another thing I thought while trying to balance my checkbook, is to round everything off to the next dollar.  When a item is enter into the check register the numbers are all round numbers. It would be like 29.99 would be 30.00 or 25.25 would be 26.00. Then at the end of the month, there will be extra money that can be put into a savings account.  
 
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