Real Americans, Real Savings

Like most of the readers here on Yahoo, I earn less than $21k per year. Articles abound about how people can save thousands of dollars over the summer by cutting back, but how do those articles help the AVERAGE household – the ones who don’t MAKE thousands of dollars throughout the summer. This article is aimed at those people – my people.

Many of us have already cut our monthly budgets to what we consider the bare minimum, but we do still splurge on a few items here and there – particularly for our children. Following is just a few of the things I do to help keep costs down and put a few bucks back each summer.

Home Water Filters – The theory is that home water filters – like Brita – save you money by allowing you to not spend on bottled water when you are out and about. And they do. But you could be saving more. Home water filters cost you upwards of $30 upfront and replacement filters usually cost around $12. Most grocery stores, however, have filtered water machines. These machines allow you to bring in a container of your own (like an empty milk jug, rinsed out and saved) and get a gallon of filtered water of a quality better than home filters provide for around $0.40 – you’re starting to see a big difference in how you are planning your budget already aren’t you.

Expiration dates – The expiration dates on food packages are a HUGE waste of money for most American families because they don’t realize that date on the package is NOT an expiration date – it IS a sell by date. Most products are good for a week after the sell by date on the package (simple internet searches can give you detailed lists of what products last how long).

Summer Fun – Most of us can’t afford to take vacations anymore, particularly in light of rising gas prices. But you don’t always need to leave home to have a good time. Most cities have tons of free events all summer long – such as River Rock at The Amp here in Warren, Ohio, a free summer concert series that goes almost every weekend all summer long at the community amphitheater. There are also public parks, public beaches, and many museums will host free events with limited access to the building as ways to get people to come and pay to see the full exhibits. The fun stuff is there folks, you just have to look for it.

Backyard BBQ – All these articles talk about is switching from steak to hamburger – well, unless you are lucky enough to live next to a farmer who gives you free meat, odds are you weren’t buying steaks for your BBQ anyway. Hamburger is definitely the way to go, but by watching the ads for your local supermarkets you can usually find 10 lb packages of chicken for around $0.39/lb every couple of weeks. Ribs usually go on sale right after holiday weekends (when stores have to sell their overstock cheap rather than take a complete loss on the product) and will easily store in your freezer until your next BBQ. And you you are the family member with the nice house with the big yard and you host all the summer BBQs, then make them potluck – have your guests bring a dish or a beverage.

Well, that’s all for now folks – its time for me to drag myself off for another 8 hours at minimum wage. I hope at least some of these tips were actually helpful to REAL people with REAL financial difficulties.