Wednesday, April 26

Brand Name vs No Name

I suppose this is one of those things that goes without saying, at least for the hardcore frugal saver, but then I have to remember that not everyone that reads my site is already living the frugal life.

Today's contemplation is brought to you by the letter C. C is for cold. While visiting at a friends, who of course has little children in the household, I seem to have been exposed to the latest cold and flu pathogens. While rummaging in my medicine cabinet last night I noticed I was using some "Exact" brand products.

These products are found right beside the brand name products they copy, and they are available for a greatly reduced price. Simply read the label and make sure you are getting what you need -- and this may require that you actually know quite specifically what you are in fact buying.

However, keep in mind, there can be product differences which are significant to you. For example, off brands may not be enterically coated, meaning they may not be as easy to swallow as the brand you are used to. Also, if your brand name medicine is buffered or time released, make sure you are getting that in the off brand product, if it is significant to you.

In any case, whenever you are buying what is in fact simply a commodity product, then there is no reason to opt for the expensive brand name products when a competing off brand product is available. Most large chains will offer their own house brands to you in this way. The savings are significant, so be a savvy consumer and don't blindly fall into branded consumerism no matter how many times they bore you with their shoddy commercials.

Sunday, April 16

Filling the Gas Tank

I'm sure you know better than to think that it is a coincidence that every weekend gas prices are higher than they were during the week? Who do the gas companies think they are fooling? Of course we are all travelling, visiting or running errands on the weekend since that is when most of us finally get a few moments of time to do these things.

Today's tip is extremely simple and short. Fill up your tank before your local stations perform the usual weekend price hike. Simply keep track of local prices for a few weeks until you see what is happening, then purchase around their pricing strategy to your own advantage. If you commute to work then you should have plenty of opportunity to fill up for a good price on the way home.

The hard part may be finding the time and energy to apply this frugality tip after a long day at the office.

Monday, April 10

Delay Where Appropriate

This is another in a short series of frugal living tips that deal with how you do things, instead of specific things you should do. How often do you get your hair cut? How often do you go out for dinner, as a treat? How often do you change the oil in your car?

There are many things we do which are simply based on the passage of some period of time. Other things we do are based on a specific point in time, such as a change of seasons, when it may be necessary to put winter tires on your car. Anyway, events that are based only on the passage of time can be postponed a small amount. So, what I'm saying is, you still have to put those winter tires on your car before winter starts.

Getting back on topic, if you get your haircut once a month, getting it cut every five weeks will save you the cost of one haircut after five months. Similarly, if you are comfortable with the idea, instead of changing the oil in your car at 3000 miles, change it at 3300 miles, unless you've been engaged in towing or other performance activities.

Going out for dinner once a week as a treat is a bit harder to postpone, but if you were to go out once every eight days, you'd shave a significant portion of your spending over the course of a year -- and you might not even feel that you were forcing yourself to cut back. In fact, because you would be encouraged to do things on different days every week, you may actually find new interesting things to do and enjoy this treat even more.

I really hope these ideas save someone out there a few dollars without feeling the pinch. So, while the old adage, "don't do tomorrow what you can do today," has it's place, don't let that stop you from procrastinating wisely!

Friday, April 7

Preemptive Nonspending

How is that for a nice title? I'm sure you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, but bear with me, this will make sense in a moment. Let me start with a little story to illustrate this concept.

Every new year throngs of people will join the local gym or fitness center. With vows of sticking to it and finally getting results, they plunk down their signup fee and start the process of automatic monthly deductions. Now, this time, because I am paying, I will surely find time to get to the gym and get into shape!

Guess what happens to most of these people? They go to the gym for a few weeks. Sure, it was a good idea, but they weren't able to change their habits and integrate fitness into their lifestyle. Perhaps the gym was too busy for them, who knows? However, guess what, they hang onto their membership for months, even though they are getting no use out of it. There is this faint hope that tomorrow they will suddenly have all the energy and the time to use that membership. Perhaps they even do go to the gym once in a while and justify the membership in that way.

Does any of this sound familiar? If not yourself, maybe someone you know has done this one or more times? If so, don't feel guilty or be judgmental, that is not the point. The point is, you can save yourself the money by testing your resolve before you plunk down your hard earned cash in the first place!

What is stopping you from spending half an hour three times a week to stretch and do other low impact exercises in your home -- for free? Do you think that the only good exercise is exercise in the gym? What is stopping you from going for a short walk every day before or after dinner? That's right, nothing. If you want to exercise, I'm certainly not trying to stop you, but test your resolve by doing this on your own for a while to see if you are really able to change your habits.

Then, only after you have proven that you have both the will and the ability to follow some type of plan, join the gym. This way you know that you are able to devote yourself to this course of action, because you already have been doing so. You won't be one of those people throwing your money at the gym in the hopes that it will magically transform you. You will be in the gym, transforming yourself, and that is money well spent. Honestly, a gym membership has a lot to offer, if you actually make use of it.

So, the moral of the story is, whenever you can, try it before you buy it. See you at the gym, hopefully.

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Saturday, April 1

Why Not Walk?

What is it with our need to go everywhere in a vehicle? This habit can be counter to the idea of frugal living. Above and beyond the usual cost of gas, as well the inevitable wear and tear, there is often the issue of parking to contend with. To put it simply, why not walk?

Sure, some things may be too far away, but many aren't. This is especially true if you are willing to get organized and plan your tasks. However, it may take a different type of planning than we are used to. Generally, we plan to get as much done as quickly as possible, so that in one trip we can get all of our chores done.

However, if you are able to go for a walk at lunch, you can do some errands within your work day and save yourself a drive during the weekend. Alternately, if you are going downtown, where you have to pay for parking, you may be able to park a bit further away and lessen your costs -- if you are willing to walk a bit.

If you live within a few blocks of your grocery store, why not walk? Sure, you can't carry a weeks worth of food and groceries at a time, but you can certainly get a bit of free exercise by walking. Besides, nobody says you have to purchase everything at once, you can always return there tomorrow to pick up more.

The concept is to consider organizing yourself around goals involving frugality and a healthy lifestyle, not around convenience and minimization of time involved. Sure, these are good goals, when you are earning a lot of money and it makes sense to spend extra money to save time. When you are living frugal, your goals should be different.

If you do plan on doing some more walking, there are a few things to consider. You don't want to get mugged or anything like that, so consider the type of area you are in and the time of day you will be doing it. Also, it can be more enjoyable if you are dressed appropriately, perhaps with sunglasses and maybe even an MP3 player to keep you entertained. Obviously, in the summer, you can roller blade or bike if you prefer.

So, what's your rush? Why not walk?