Note from L. Bee: I don’t have a father-in-law, but Kate’s piece was too funny and full of fresh tips I couldn’t pass it up. One of the best “money saving tips” post I’ve read in awhile, and I am thrilled she offered to guest post here on MoneyTree. Interested in guest posting? See the page!
The first time I met my father-in-law, Paul, he was watching TV from the couch. His wife said, “Paul…This is Pete’s friend, Kate.” And he replied with a grunt. And I thought, “Holy hell, this guy is grumpy.” And he is, kind of. He’s persnickety about his lawn and his floors, he’s not big on hellos or good-byes, and he’ll never pretend to be interested in anything he isn’t (including his son’s girlfriends). But that kind of makes him awesome, because you know exactly where you stand with the guy and you know each reaction is genuine. If he disagrees with you or thinks you’ve made a stupid choice, he’ll tell you to your face instead of waiting until you’re out of ear-shot.
He’s also obsessively (and hilariously) frugal. I mean, the man got married, had a kid, built a house, and started his own business in the span of five years. You don’t go through all that without learning to tighten your belt! And so, I give you the top 10 money saving tips I learned from my grumpy father-in-law.
1. Buy your clothes and groceries together.
Time is money. Gas is money. If you’re already at the grocery store and you can grab those clothing or household necessities too, go for it! Target is a great way to consolidate errands, as are Costco and Sam’s Club. Brand-consciousness be damned, folks. We’ve got savings accounts to feed and investments to make. Wasting gas and money on a separate trip to the mall won’t help you grow your nest egg, but those no-name polo shirts will.
2. When at a buffet, get your money’s worth.
Think: protein, protein, protein. Go for the steak and the chicken. Target expensive cuts of meat, like tenderloin. Be sure to hit up the seafood–scallops and shrimp should make it onto your first plate (and there will be more than one plate). Avoid “rabbit food” and do NOT make the mistake of going after the fillers: pasta, rice, and potatoes. Also, go after any specialty items you can. You don’t want to waste your money at that Italian restaurant later in the week when you get a craving for chicken alfredo. Have it now—you already paid at the door! Get the dessert and count that as your weekly indulgence. Make sure you’re walking out of that buffet sa.tis.fied so you’re less likely to crave expensive treats at other restaurants.
3. Co-own expensive, rarely used items.
You’re a DIYer because you care about saving money. But how often are you going to use a table saw, air compressor, or paint sprayer? If you need one, but don’t want to sink all your cash into it, consider going in on it with a friend or relative. Pete and Paul co-own a chainsaw. Sure, Pete has to fill it with gas whenever he needs it, but we’re not stuck storing it all year. It’s a beautiful thing.
4. Even better, buy said items as presents.
Pete and Paul share a birthday. The chainsaw was last year’s gift to themselves. Paul simultaneously knocked a birthday present off his list AND got that chainsaw he’d been eyeing.
5. After you buy your ticket, don’t waste money on the food.
With the average cost of a family outing approaching $3/head, Paul realized there wasn’t much room left in that $20 for nourishment. Packed lunches eaten in the car became the norm. If you have a big purse or a roomy jacket, there’s no reason you should be hitting up the concession stand.
6. Go green.
Green is also the color of money. And no one cares about the environment more than the person paying the utility bills. The only lights that should be on are the ones lighting up your current room. Install dimmer switches and buy energy-efficient light bulbs. Keep your home at a balmy 62 degrees in the winter. You’re cold? Blankets are free.
7. Get to know your neighbors.
I always feel like I’m under a microscope when we visit Pete’s folks. Their street puts all neighborhood watch groups to shame. Paul and his neighbors know each other’s dirt—topsoil and otherwise. Nosy neighbors mean free security. And because they’re nosy, they know when each needs to work on their home and can suggest going in on resources together. For example, when Paul helpfully pointed out the brown patches in his neighbor’s yard, it led to a four-neighbor aerator rental. Share a dumpster for demo work or spring cleaning, get a bulk rate on paving stones for your driveways, bring your brush to the compost in one truck and pay only once. If a tree falls, your nosy neighbor might help you cut it up so they can take the firewood off your hands. Nosy neighbors love to help—it gives them the chance to snoop around your yard.
8. Get to know your community.
Paul owned one of the first restaurants in his city, so he knows a lot of people around town, and this means connections. He knows contractors, car mechanics, financial advisors, lawyers, and the completely unemployable. He’s kept in touch with all of them over the years and when he needs free advice or cheap labor, he knows where to get it. People who own their own businesses are the best company to keep. You may not always go through them, but you can pump them for information and price comparisons.
9. Avoid pets.
Pets are amazing, but they are expensive. Those vet bills add up. Then there’s the food and the toys, the paper towels and carpet deodorizer, the medications, and the special shampoo for Fluffy’s skin condition. But worst of all, they’ll wreck your house. They’ll scratch up your floors, tear up your yard, and stain your carpet.
Paul keeps koi fish in the front yard. Some years they make it through winter.
10. Be the person who recalls debts.
Like I said, a person knows where they stand with my father-in-law—especially if they stand in debt. In this day and age, Paul comes off as rude and miserly for hounding friends or family members for loan repayments, but years ago, a person would be ashamed of not paying back a loan. And that’s the way it should be! Most people are actually glad for the reminder, and, because he’s got a reputation as a persistent creditor, most people pay him back before they get that first phone call–or don’t borrow money from him at all. So go ahead and leave those harassing voice mails. That trip to the compost pile cost $18 for the three of you and you’ll be damned if your neighbor gets to dump his brush for free.
It’s your money. You worked hard for it. Don’t let social graces screw you out of it.
What are some of your favorite money saving tips?
Kate is a technical writer who spends her free time tagging along on DIY home improvement projects by her husband Pete, obsessing over their puppy Cosmo, running, and working toward general fitness. She does not follow all of her father-in-law’s tips and continues to spend far too much money on toys for Cosmo and clothes for herself. You can find her blog at http://widgeonnest.blogspot.com/ and her twitterings at http://twitter.com/widgeonnest.