Mar 7, 2013

Crowdsourcing the Fiscal Fat

*3/10 Update, Scroll Down for House Skimping*

Finances and fitness follow similar patterns on gain and loss.

To trim debt, we must spend less or make more moolah.
To trim weight, we have to eat less or burn more calories. 

I think it's easier to spend less money than to make more.
It's less sweaty eating fewer calories than burning more.

Help improve this post, add to the list below via comments.  Burning the fiscal fat, crowdsource style.

Vast amounts of money can be saved here.  After mortgage and investments, this category is often the #1 smack to the wallet.  Here are a few ways to save $7,400 on bacon, more if you have a large brood.
  • Oatmeal for breakfast, forget the sugary pre-packs.  A tall 42 oz canister of steel-cut oats costs $2.50 and will feed me for a month.  Spoon in flax seed, brown sugar and cinnamon, douse with water, micro' for 2 minutes, done.  Bonus:  my cholesterol is pegged at 230 (thanks mom), oatmeal lowers it 25 points.  Save $75 mo./$900 yr. compared to greasy McBreakfast on the drive to work.
  • Learn to brew coffee and tea at home, bring a bucket of java to the office.  Save $50 mo./$600 yr. compared to Starbucks.
  • Brown bag lunch at work.  I usually do leftovers or a sad $1.80 frozen meal.  Pigtails also packs her lunch, we save $160 mo./$2,000 yr. by bagging it.
  • Make dinner at home daily, we try to reserve eating out for special occasions.  Double batch means leftovers for lunch the next day.  Sometimes I'm tired and don't want to cook.  Save $250 mo./$3,000 yr. by dinning out occasionally.
  • Learn to love ice water.  It's free, good for the body and thirst is often masked as hunger.
  • Craftily work the grocery store.  Save $75 mo./$900 yr. compared to sloppy shopping:
  •     Generic labels taste the same as national brands; name brands often make the generic goods.
  •     ALDI (owns Trader Joe's) is 20% cheaper than the big boys.  
  •     Weekend ad specials sell products at less than cost.  
  •     Stores knock off cents if you BYOBag (IKEA blue reusable sacks are massive and $.70).  
  •     Target has surprisingly low prices on cereal.  
  •     Whole Foods is a ripoff, find an Amish or Menn' organic bulk grocer.  Stringtown is my favorite. 
  •     Some shops have a policy where the item is free if it rings up incorrectly.  Eagle-eye the register, I usually find one or two mispriced items per trip.
  •     Bagged beans require more prep but cost less and aren't salt-laced like canned.  Potatoes, carrots and onions are dirt cheap, learn new ways to cook with them.
  •     I'm not a couponer, probably should look into that.

Nibbling away at cash eaters around the house adds up to heavy savings.  Here are a few ways I cut the fat from me casa.
  • Refinance the mortgage.  I did and pocket hundreds a month after an interest dip from 6.3% to 3% and change.  I'll finish it off this year or a few
  • Make multiple mortgage payments each month, doing so bites off principal faster.  Talk to your bank and make sure they apply the extra dough to the bottom line.  Multi-payments a month means you'll burn your mortgage several years early.
  • Cool in the winter, warm in the summer, our thermostat sits at 62 now and 78 in July.  Electric and gas combo bill ranges from $50 to $170 a month.  Save $1,200 a year by donning a sweater in the winter and tighty whites in the summer.
  • If I was building new, geothermal is the way to go for heating/cooling savings.  The install price is down to a few thousand bucks.  Most people will recoup within 7 years, then the hay's in the barn.
  • Apply for your homestead tax credit to lower your yearly property tax bill by hundreds.
  • Hand wash cooking pots and only run the dishwasher and washing machine on full loads.  Use a front-load washer, don't water the grass in the summer and limit kid showers to a few minutes.  I've replaced both toilets with the low-flow variety.  My water bill is $35/mo, figure I save $300 a year over being frivolous with the drink.
  • I'm slowly replacing windows and doors around this brick ranch.  Also the water heater, new roof and soffits this spring.  Difficult to pinpoint how much these save on the efficiency front, but I notice the kitchen noticeably less drafty and warmer in the winter after new windows and door. 
  • Many utility companies will provide a free home energy audit.  Our MidAmerican Energy blasts the home with an infrared gun to help find heat leaks and kicks in a free insulated water heater jacket, low-flow shower head (no good, me need pressure) and a couple CFL bulbs.  I prefer LEDs lights, but their price needs to come down before they'll mainstream.

I'll update this post in a few days with more categories of coin pinchage.



  1. Kristen3/08/2013

    Great suggestions! I don't know if I'd recommend spending time on couponing. It really only works if you use them on things that you would buy anyway and if what you buy is mostly fresh foods, there aren't a lot of coupons out there.

    1. Coupons are a pain in the peaches. I either forget to bring them, there're expired or the buy 12 save 20 cents never adds up.

  2. I'm right there with you about the oatmeal. I could live on oatmeal! Forget Whole Foods Paycheck. I can't get into coupons either. It's mostly for all the processed junk we're not supposed to be buying anyway. Here in California none of the grocery stores double coupons either. My husband got a Keurig coffee maker and then found a reusable filter that can be used with it so he can use any coffee with it, instead of buying the cartons of canisters which are pricey. Also, he cuts down regular size paper coffee filters to be used with the reusable filter in addition, because that's supposed to reduce cholesterol from the coffee. I don't drink coffee. I'll stick with water.

    1. I've found that nothing cuts the bad cholesterol more effectively than a hot vat of oatmeal. It tastes pretty good with a shot of brown sugar, flax and mushed bananas.

      On the coffee front, see if he can grind the java himself vs. prepowdered. Tastes better that way, and a bit less expensive.

  3. ALDI is a definite $ saver in Australia. I did the exercise like for like on a full shop, but also gave any of their products I was interested in a chance & compared totals. $ easily saved, but some items you just can't substitute for long loved brands. I now shop 2 stores (ALDI for majority) but $ saved is worth it. Buy in bulk, again though do the numbers. It's not always cheaper but sometimes you can save a huge amount. You also need to have the room to store the bulk though, don't take up important storage real estate to save pennies. Bulk buying works best on items you would buy anyway, use anyway & can't do without EG I like to bulk toilet paper, olive oil, frozen goods.

    1. Bulk is definitely not cheaper all the time, although people often assume it is. The store the other day was offering 8 oz. blocks of cheddar for $2 or 16 oz. blocks for $4.50. I watched two people grab the 16 oz. wedges off the shelf, what in the heck?

    2. Anonymous3/27/2013

      Math is scary.....and I see people do that kind if thing allllll the time. I am a grocery shopping nerd and notice that stuff.

  4. Anonymous3/08/2013

    Coupons are a rip! They just want you to buy a bunch of yucky processed stuff thats totally not actually food. I keep my eye out when shopping for on-the-spot deals. If I reach for my favorite product and it happens to be discounted that day, I throw two in the cart. Instant savings, no clipping, no stressing, no planning. It makes the 20cents totally worth it.

    ps. this lame horse got out of the barn twice this week. not confident enough for a trot yet, but the fresh air felt great and the pasture is beautiful. took the dog along. he enjoyed it... slightly confused. like, hey ma? whats with all the walking? picked up a pair of new shoes today! thanks for the inspiration! i'll let you know how it goes, unless of corse i die and you never hear from me again. he he.

    1. The only coupons I care for are the type where you fill a brown bag with food of your choice, and everything in the sack is 30% off. A local store offers that deal twice a year. Other than that, the 'pons are too limiting and controlling over expiration dates and types of food I must purchase in order to save, blech.

  5. Save your time and stay away from coupons... unless you consume 64 bottles of yellow mustard in a year, they're a total ripoff. They only exist because they make the manufacturer more money in the long run.

  6. Price match at Walmart. Saves a ton of time/money to price match all the loss leaders at Walmart (particularly the Aldi produce ones). We don't have the homestead tax credit here in Nebraska, sadly.

  7. Question for you, Beard... will you do a CSA in the summer for fresh produce? Have you done the math to figure out if they're a good deal?

  8. Anonymous3/11/2013

    I disagree with the coupon-haters. I've saved a ton of money using them, and I'm a total beginner, only shopping for me and my husband. two simple rules though: only print coupons for items (and quantities) already on your shopping list and don't waste a ton of time clipping. I spend maybe 5 minutes browsing before shopping, or use's coupon database to search for coupons by item/brand. since my store doubles coupons, it's usually $1/coupon, which adds up faster than sale prices (usually only a few cents off at a time). to be fair though, I also shop at discount or bulk stores, depending what I need.


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!