1. Re-examine assumptions. I shop, spend and save with a pre-set list of principles. But I'm learning to question assumptions. For example, I was surprised to discover that loose tea from a specialty store is cheaper than my favorite grocery store brand. (Friday Freebie Tip: My Inner Diva Sips Free Tea at the Mall.)The Lesson: Carefully study spending patterns, assumptions and choices to look for greater potential savings.
2. Find new uses for old items: With two bags of loose tea and one small tea infuser ball, I was about to purchase a vessel that would enable us to make larger quantities of tea. And then I took a second look at our French Press coffee maker, which we don't use as much. Wow! The French Press -- designed for brewing freshly ground coffee -- works great for making a pot of loose tea. This discovery has saved me money. Tea infusers, tea-filter systems and tea makers cost between $17.95 and $99.95. I spent $0 because I recycled our French Press coffee pot. I'm looking around my house for under-used appliances, vessels and gadgets with a second or third use.
3. Chart your spending: Even if you've already tracked and charted your spending patterns, you may be surprised by crunching the numbers again. Backsliding or new bad habits can sidetrack a budget. For example, I re-tracked expenses and was surprised by how much was spent on junk food. On an annualized basis, I was spending about $1,000 on food that was bad for my health. Related post: Saving $1,000 by Giving up Sugar
4. Learn from others. I learn so much by reading blogs, books on finance and magazine articles about frugal living. One of my favorite reading destinations: http://www.pfblogs.org/. It's a great news aggregate for personal finance blogs.
5. Re-use before tossing: I'm working on getting more use out of items -- paper towels, paper bags and other so-called disposables -- before tossing them away.
6.Tap into freebies. There are free programs and other give-aways at the library, the recreation center and other community centers. Note to self: Use the library more.
7. Get an energy audit. I did and I was surprised by the results and the suggestions offered by our local electric company. More on this tomorrow.
8. Pay more attention to daily habits: Moments of mindless waste sabotage the budget. For example, I've applied far more hair conditioner and skin cream than needed. The excess is often smeared on a paper towel, which gets tossed. I'm working on being more mindful as I use personal care products.
9. Use office supplies with more care. Recycle computer paper. Get more mileage out of different supplies. Don't be wasteful.
10. Study bills for extra fees or services that are not needed.
11. Use gift cards, coupons and certificates. For a holiday gift, someone gave me a certificate for an online bookstore, which I still have not used. Additionally, I have a certificate for a six-month magazine subscription, which I have not yet redeemed. Letting it sit there is a waste, especially since I've purchased copies of that same magazine on the newsstand.
12. Find additional sources of income. Let's be honest. How much more can I really squeeze from pennies? Maybe I also need to earn more dollars and look for additional sources of passive income.
Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in June of 2008 by DPL Press.