As summer heats up, water becomes a much more valuable commodity, especially in drier or drought-burdened locales. That alone should give us incentive to save water in every way we can. But of course, saving water means saving money, and what could be better than that? Here are some ways you and your family can save water all year round, but especially during the “dog days” of summer.
• If you suspect you have a water leak, ask the water company to inspect it just to be sure. If you find you do have a leak outside that has affected your water bill, ask for a credit. The water company will often comply.
• Never use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. The safest method for defrosting foods is overnight in the refrigerator.
• Never let the water run while shaving, washing your face or brushing your teeth. You can easily brush your teeth while you’re waiting for water to get hot enough to shave or wash your face. And always fill the basin for these tasks to save the most water.
• Be sure your toilet tank isn’t leaking. Add a drop of food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, the water in the toilet bowl will change color in about a half hour. If you do have a leak, flush the toilet so the food coloring doesn’t stain, then check for worn out or malfunctioning parts. Fixing a toilet is relatively inexpensive and easy and can save considerable amounts of money over time.
• If you have an older toilet with a large tank, place a brick in the tank to displace some of the water. It will use less water for each flush, but you’ll never know the difference in the way it works. Also be sure to replace or adjust the handle if it sticks allowing the water to run.
• Don’t flush unless you need to. While I can’t advocate disposing of toilet paper anywhere other than the toilet as I’ve seen some people do, it does make sense to not flush facial tissues, bugs or other trash down the commode unless you were flushing anyway.
• Reuse dish water and other “brown water” by pouring it on your garden or outside plants.
• Run your dishwasher or washing machine with a full load only. If you must clean a smaller load, be sure to adjust the water level and temperature correctly.
• Dripping faucets are not only annoying, they cost money. But changing a washer on a leaky faucet is a very inexpensive fix that can save thousands of gallons of water every year.
• Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator. It saves having to run the tap to cool the water every time you want a drink.
• Take shorter showers and eliminate baths if at all possible. Change out your showerhead to one that uses less water, or one with a cut-off valve that lets you shut off the water while you lather.
• If you have children who are too young for showers, fill the tub only one-third full and put the stopper in the tub before you turn on the water. Once the water gets hot, it will quickly heat up the cold that pours out first.
• Water your lawn only when absolutely needed. Set out a barrel to collect rain water and use this free resource to irrigate plants when you can.
• Rather than fully washing your car, rinse off the dust. This saves a lot of water, and it’s often all that’s required to keep your car looking shiny.
• Be sure your water heater is insulated so it runs as little as possible. Some people are satisfied with slightly hot water, while others want it practically scalding. Whatever your preference, set the hot water temperature at the lowest setting needed for your comfort.
• Install an aerator on your kitchen and bathroom faucets if you don’t have them already. Less flow saves water.
• Choose water-wise plants when landscaping to minimize the amount of water needed to keep your plants healthy. Consider cacti and succulents, as well as pine trees and a variety of hardy grasses and ground covers.
• Use a broom rather than the hose to clean driveways and sidewalks
There are many, many more ways to save money by saving water. Develop the habit of using less water and not only will your budget benefit, but the environment will be improved as well.
Desperate times require desperate measures. And sometimes life events bring a sense of desperation where finances are concerned. Maybe you or your spouse had to miss work for an extended period of time, or your car required major repair, or you were a victim of identity theft, or… any number of other scenarios can take families who live payday to payday to the brink of financial ruin. During those times we must find ways to quickly earn more money and eliminate expenses in an effort to simply survive.
Here are some financial tactics that may help you during these times of financial stress. Not all are viable for everyone or every situation, but maybe one of more will help you if you find yourself in dire financial straits and need immediate relief.
• Go into survival mode. Immediately stop all unnecessary spending. That means no movies, no eating out, no new clothes, books or toys. Save your money for what you have to have to live on.
• Simplify your eating habits. Buy cheaper foods and items on sale. Eat more beans, rice, ramen noodles, pasta, homemade biscuits, and meatless meals. Eliminate desserts. Snack on homemade (not microwave) popcorn. Shop at the day-old bread store. Eliminate convenience foods. Drink water instead of soda. Use what’s in the pantry and freezer before you buy more. There are many ways to cut your food bill dramatically. Use every money saving strategy you can find to keep your family fed.
• Visit your local food pantry. Most cities have at least one food pantry that will provide a few groceries once a week or more, free of charge. Typically, the items given include cereal, dry beans or peas, canned goods or bread. You won’t get enough to feed your family, but you will receive some supplemental help. And if there is more than one pantry in your area, visit every one of them. They are designed for just such an emergency so take advantage of them when you need to.
• Apply for food stamps and public assistance. You may or may not qualify, but it’s worth taking the time to interview and fill out an application. Many hardworking taxpayers feel they could never “take charity,” but if your children are hungry or you’re on the verge of homelessness, remember that’s exactly why you do pay your taxes… so the government can provide help for families just like yours who are in need.
• Cut out extraneous services such as cable TV, DSL (use the library), added calling features on your phone. Drop all voluntary memberships such as Stamps.com, exercise centers, music and book clubs.
• Cancel your cell phone if you can do so without a cancellation fee. If not, use it as little as possible so that you never go over on your minutes. Stop downloading music and ringtones you have to pay for.
• Eliminate paper. Use cloth napkins instead of paper, regular plates instead of paper plates, cleaning rags instead of paper towels, cloth handkerchiefs instead of tissues.
• Have a yard sale. Find anything and everything you don’t need and sell it. Look at every single thing in your home, and unless it has true sentimental value, or you know you could never get a price to warrant the sale, consider selling it. Now isn’t the time to show an attachment for “things.”
• If at all possible, pay your bills on time and keep your checking account balanced. Adding financing charges, late fees and insufficient fund or overdraft payments to an already over-extended budget can cause tremendous amounts of emotional and financial stress.
• Have an extra vehicle? Sell it. Make do with one car, ride a bicycle, use public transportation, or hitch a ride with a co-worker.
• Collect aluminum cans and sell them for cash. The price varies, and you certainly won’t get rich, but you could make enough to pay a small bill or buy a few groceries.
• Stop smoking. Cigarettes are a luxury you can’t afford, not to mention a health hazard. The ability to quit depends a lot on your mindset. Visit your local health department or library for free information to help you kick the habit.
• As long as you don’t have to pay added child care, which could eliminate any potential income you might earn, get a second job. While jobs are hard to come by, fast food restaurants are still hiring, as are pizza places and convenience stores. It may not be what you want to do, but there are times you do what you have to.
• If you can’t find a regular job, offer your services for pay. Consider babysitting, lawn care, baking, pet walking, writing, decorating, home repair, tutoring, giving music lessons, etc. Anything you can do capably is a potential moneymaker, so don’t overlook possible talents.
• Sell some things on eBay, etsy, Craigslist, or another online website. Your market reach is much wider than trying to sell locally, and many of these services are completely free.
• You may also be able to sell certain items locally such as books to a used book store, clothing to a consignment shop, or furniture to a used furniture store. You typically won’t earn as much selling locally as you would online, and you may not get your money immediately as in the case of consignment shops, but the potential is there.
• While it’s not recommended by financial experts, you can always get a title loan, or a cash advance from a local check cashing business. This isn’t something you want to do on a regular basis, but often the first such loan is free, or very cheap, and it might be enough to get you by until your next pay check.
• Pawn your jewelry, or sell some gold. The gold market is hot right now and there are any number of jewelry stores and pawn shops paying decent prices for gold items and jewelry. Deal locally, if possible, and be sure of what you’re selling. Also shop around to find a dealer you feel you can trust before you give them your items.
• Sell your antiques and collectibles. Look around your home for vintage pieces such as glassware, coins, stamps, toys, or other collectibles and call an antique dealer to see if they’re worth anything.
• Rent out a room in your house. This is especially viable if you have a basement bedroom or a room with a separate entrance. But you can easily rent any room if you live in a college town or other populated area. Use caution, of course, and ask for references before allowing someone you don’t know to move into your home.
While these ideas are not all-inclusive, and they may not bring you money today, they are pretty strong measues to help you earn and save money when you find yourself in a financial bind and need results fast.