When money became tight after my divorce, I learned to hunt for ways to improve my lifestyle without spending money. This meant that there would be no more movie nights or dinners at my favorite restaurants. My social life and leisure hours would have to take place in my home and backyard. So here’s what I did not only to maintain my lifestyle but to raise it while dropping my expenses to meet my new financial situation.
Watch More Movies, Pay Less
I loved going out to the movies, but the cost of a babysitter, tickets and snacks added up fast. Instead, I turned to video streaming. At first I watched movies on my laptop, then I connected it to my television, and finally I invested in an inexpensive streaming player. Coupled with a cheap subscription to an online movie library, I could watch as many movies as I liked for a flat, affordable fee.
Eat More, Shop Less
To save money on food, I began to buy at a wholesale club even though my family was small. I divided the bulk packages of food and repackaged them in Ziploc bags. Some I froze, some I stored in the fridge, and to help organize everything in smaller compartments, I inserted vertical plywood dividers between the shelves. In summer we barbecued every afternoon, and there was always plenty to eat for far less than going to a cheap burger joint that sold unhealthy food.
Eat Homemade Food, Cook Less
To save money on ordering take out dinners after long work days, I used a trick my grandmother taught me. Whenever I cooked a dish, I made triple the amount needed for a single meal. I then divide the food into several airtight containers and froze the extra potions to be eaten within the next week or so. There was even a small energy saving to be gained by this practice, as well as nutritious, homemade food without work.
Grow Vegetables, Buy Less
To save money on vegetables, I planted a small tomato plant in my backyard. Within a month it spread to three feet of length and soon I had tomatoes ripening in the sun. In the end, this single plant yielded six months-worth of tomatoes. I recommend visiting a local nursery and buying the easiest strains to grow. When winter comes, you can pick the un-ripened vegetables and store them in a dark place wrapped in a paper bag until they ripen.
Illuminate More, Use Less Energy
To keep my home looking bright despite my decision to cut my energy bill, I switched to Energy Star light bulbs, which use 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. The thing to remember, however, is that such light bulbs contain mercury, so I take extra care not to accidentally break them (since clean-up has to be extra thorough according to the EPA).
Heat Less, Be Warmer
Though the EPA has not labeled space heaters with the Energy Star label, companies like Dimplex state that their electric fireplaces use 90% less energy than gas fireplaces. I put this to the test when I bought an electric hearth for my bedroom. To save money but increase my comfort level in winter, I reduced my central heating by 10 degrees at night, and heated my bedroom with the electrical hearth alone. I’ve never felt this toasty warm in mid-winter before and my energy savings were close to 30%.
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