So many times I read an article that tells me how to "save" money by doing this activity or that activity. Unless I actually save that money somewhere, what I did was to earn it back by not spending. When my budget is tight, every dollar I don't spend in one area is freed up for me to spend in another.
Here are my top ten ways to "earn" money to spend elsewhere-
1. Plan meals from what I have on hand instead of going to the store. Most of us have plenty of food in our homes that we can use to create meals but we get too tired or lazy to make an effort to use what is on hand and we run to the store for something easy to feed our families. Need help with meal planning? There are lots of places online where you can put in the ingredients you have and get meal suggestions. I like this one quite a bit from Kraft Foods http://www.kraftrecipes.com/home.aspx.
2. Check out movies from the library instead of renting from Netflix, Blockbuster, or Redbox. I recently terminated my Netflix account that was costing me $12.00 a month. Instead of renting movies for a monthly fee, I take advantage of the large collection of DVDs my library stocks for FREE. I now have $60.00 per year more in my budget to use elsewhere.
3. Trade no longer needed items with a friend. I have a wonderful friend who wears the same size clothing as I do. We often pass on our no longer needed items to each other. I have quite a few articles of clothing in my closet that she gave to me. The money I didn't have to spend on clothes was able to be used in other areas of my budget, like utility bills.
4. Go to sleep earlier. There are many studies that show the later we stay up, the more likely we are to overeat and have a myriad of health problems. Being overweight can lead to expensive doctor visits. Money not spent overeating and/or visiting the doctor is money that can be used more enjoyably and profitably.
5. Learn hobbies that can generate or save money. Some people have hobbies that take money out of the family budget like going for manicures or collecting expensive trinkets. My family cannot afford those kind of hobbies. My husband likes to garden, a hobby that has fed us with healthful, tasty food. This past spring, he got paid to install raised bed gardens for other people so his hobby has now generated money for our family. I enjoy writing and have sold articles to various publications; another example of a hobby that generates money.
6. Learn to launder and iron your clothing. One of the first skills I taught my children (daughters and sons alike!) was how to wash, dry, and iron their clothing. Folks who take their clothes to the dry cleaners just for simple washing and ironing amaze me! I also avoid purchasing or acquiring clothing that requires dry cleaning. I just don't have money in my budget to expend in this way. Most washing machines tell you how to sort clothing and wash it so even if your mom didn't teach you this skill, you have no excuse for not learning.
7. Take proper care of your possessions. Everything we own lasts longer if we take good care of it. Clothes last longer if stains and sweat are not allowed to linger on the fabric. Furniture lasts longer if not misused. Cars last longer if we maintain them regularly. We can often get extra months and years out of our possessions just by being good stewards over them.
8. Terminate your gym membership and work out at home. I found several exercise programs on one of my local PBS stations and began doing them instead of going to the gym. Not only do I save (earn!) money by not having to pay a gym membership, I also save money by not having an additional driving trip. My favorite workouts are Classical Stretch (http://www.classicalstretch.com/) and Wai Lana Yoga (http://www.wailana.com/), and Functional Fitness (http://healthwiseexercise.com/). I have worked out consistently for a year with these shows and I feel great!
9. Use your library regularly. Being a regular library patron has improved my financial life in many ways. My library offers free wi-fi, which gives me all the advantages of going to Starbucks without the expense. Our library even allows us to consume food and drink in the lobby area. There are lots of tables and chairs where we can sit with our laptop computers and work. My library offers many classes for free: fitness classes, computer classes, foreign language classes, and more. The library has a summer reading program for children and adults that allows participants to enter to win prizes for turning in reading logs. One year, my youngest son won a 4 pack of tickets to a local water park! I have already mentioned borrowing DVDs from the library which is a savings, but how about reading the latest books, borrowing music CDs, and getting free downloads?
10. Scrap your magazine subscriptions and read blogs! Especially mine and my friend Melody's blog. Melody's blog is called Quirky Cottage and it is informative, delightful, and inspiring. Check her out at http://myquirkycottage.blogspot.com/.
I hope you find these ideas useful and helpful in making your money stretch in these challenging economic times. What do you do to "earn" money back from your budget?