Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ways to Save Money a Millionaire Would Love

Ever notice that there are many, many, many articles promising X number of ways to save money? Ever notice that every single one of those articles positively reeks of privilege? I have.

Small change
This month, turn your thermostat down 5 to 10 degrees at night (or program it to do so automatically) for a 5 to 10 percent savings on your monthly bill. Going away for the weekend? Lower it to 55 degrees.

First of all, a 10% savings on my monthly heating bill wouldn't be small change to me. However, my thermostat is currently set to 62F (17C). I can't set it down another 10 degrees unless I think I might enjoy pneumonia, which I know I won't. This would only be useful to someone setting their thermostat to 75 or above. I'll have to wait until June to enjoy those temperatures again.

Big picture
Draw up a new household budget this month, using or another free online tool. If you've got some specific savings goals in mind, like a vacation or home renovation, consider opening accounts for these and having money directly transferred from your paycheck or checking each month. (Check with your bank for options.) "We put away just $30 a week, but it really helps us at Christmas," says one Motherboard Mom. "Another $30 is put into a separate account for our regular savings," she says.

If I had an excess "just" $30 a week, I really wouldn't need to read these articles. I'm lucky to end the week with enough to buy a coffee, let alone save for a vacation. I also haven't been on vacation in about 10 years.

Small change
Skip the salon and cut your kids' hair (find tips at, for a family savings of $25 or more.

Are these people fucking kidding me? I get a haircut at Fantastic Sam's (not a salon and not fantastic) once or twice a year. I cut my niece's hair myself- because I had to. I would have been delighted to take her to a salon, but it wasn't an option. And again, $25, not small change to me.

Bonus savings
Have the kids make their own valentines out of scrap paper, old magazines, and other craft-friendly household materials. A homemade "Be mine" can be just as meaningful as the store-bought variety.

What, those crappy valentines I used to buy my niece for $1 a box? What are these people smoking? (Apparently, something that makes them think I have a store's worth of craft supplies at hand.)

Big picture
Take a "spend break" this month to help identify the little budget-wreckers that really add up, like that mid-afternoon venti latte or pair of on-sale shoes you didn't really need. At the end of the month, add up your savings: you're bound to be impressed. Keep that sum—and what you might do with it—in mind when little temptations strike in the future.

Must be nice.

Small change
Slash energy bills by unplugging unused small appliances, forgoing the dry cycle on your dishwasher, and turning off unused lights. Everyone in the family can be assigned an energy-saving responsibility. "A child can make a great sergeant-in-arms over electricity—he or she will be relentless about making sure the older siblings turn off lights," says financial expert Beacham.

Who the hell is using the dry cycle on their dishwasher?

Bonus savings
Be on the lookout for great buys on kids' clothes at garage sales and church rummage sales this month (as the weather warms, the sales usually start). You'll walk away with barely worn outfits, shoes, and more. For even more savings, sell the clothes your own kids have outgrown, too, and put the earnings back into the wardrobe budget.

Yeah, that was how I clothed my niece. For several years.

Big picture
Getting a tax refund? Super—but before you run right out and stimulate the economy, sock some of it away to meet those savings goals you set in January, then donate a portion to a favorite organization (it's a write-off for next year's taxes). If you're getting a large refund, consider reducing your withholding, says personal finance expert Ray Lucia: "Instead, use the extra money each payday to pay down high interest-rate credit card debt or fund a Roth IRA." Also, if you tend to rely sporadically on credit to make ends meet, withholding less (and having the funds in hand monthly to cover costs) may be a better strategy. If you have no refund coming your way and you'd like a little windfall to meet a financial goal, "increase the amount withheld from your paycheck so you get a small one next year," Lucia suggests.

You know what I do with my tax return? Pay for things I put off for the last 12 months- replacing shoes with separated soles, buying new glasses, paying for doctors' visits, fixing things around the house. It is stimulative, but it's not 20 new purses, either.

Be sandal-ready but budget-savvy by booking a pedi appointment—with a friend. By doing your own toes with a friend you can save as much as $40 a month.

I want to beat whoever wrote this with a stick named "privilege". I have never, in my life, had a professional pedicure. I can get nail polish for $1 and my arms do indeed reach to my toes (my torso bends, unusual, I guess).

Bonus savings
Planning to don those strappy shoes on...spring break in Paris—or a warm-weather vacay?? Ooh la la! Instead of paying high hotel or resort rates, search for amazing deals on home sublets in your destination.

shut. the. fuck. up. you. privileged. asshat. ooh. la. la.

Bonus savings
Pinch toilet paper rolls so they roll less easily. You'll curb overuse and save up to $5 a month.


The weather's gorgeous—so get out in it, and do your errands by bike or foot. You'll save on gas and boost fitness, which pays off in lower health care costs now and in the future.

Yeah, unless you're already so poor that you don't own a car and you do your errands by foot when it's -5.

When organizing summer recreation, steer your kids toward the same programs: Camps and kids' classes often offer sibling discounts of $10 to $15 per class, says Stacey Bradford, author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents. But don't feel like you have to snag a spot in that acrobatics class everyone's talking about, says financial pro Bradford. "You can easily save $200 or more a season by limiting the leagues and classes," she says. Take advantage of freebies—playgrounds, movies in the park, and backyard playdates.

Or you could spend no money at all on such things because you don't have it. Your kids will be fine.

Pay cash exclusively this month. "Research shows that you spend less when you pay with cash than with plastic because it hurts more," says nationally syndicated talk-show host and author Dave Ramsey. For a real summer challenge, Ramsey suggests "an envelope system to help you stick to your budget: Mark envelopes with the names of items you can pay cash for, like gas, groceries, eating out, entertainment, and clothing. Put the amount of cash you budgeted for that topic for the month in the envelope. When the envelope is empty, stop spending."

You could also pay cash for everything because nobody in their right mind would issue you a credit card.

Bonus savings
When you use cash, chuck all the coins you receive as change into a jar. At the end of the month, deposit the stash into savings—or just put it toward summer fun.

When did coins stop being money? I guess this person never bought $7 worth of groceries in nickels.

Small change
Offset a seasonal spike in fuel costs by organizing daily activities into the fewest trips possible. Have a teen driver in your home? Ask her to make a quick grocery run on the way home from her summer job. "I can't tell you how often parents tell me they're just dizzy from all the trips they make," says Beacham. "It's pretty amazing how far a tank of gas can go when you consolidate errands."

Dizzy from all the trips they make? With gas at over $3 a gallon? Who are these people?

Nothing beats the dog-day doldrums like a good film or book, but those media purchases can add up. Hit the public library for DVDs and books instead. Many systems allow you to browse online and put items on hold—no hunting the stacks required. And if you have a stash of personal books or movies you no longer want, trade them in for different ones or for cash

The library is some sort of secret to these people?

With back-to-school excitement comes a dose of dread: staying out of the red with the inevitable list of must-have supplies. Fear not. It's smart to take advantage of sales, but bear in mind that many items will be deeply discounted in just a few weeks. So keep last year's backpack in service until the new ones go on sale—and don't drop your entire clothes budget before the kids have done the inevitable trend scouting. "Let them go to school and see what kids are wearing," Bradford suggests. "That way, you'll have some money left over to let them indulge.

Leftover money? What's that?

The time-tested, proven answer to school-night dinner dilemmas? Pizza. And you can serve it up on the way-cheap with a store-bought crust and sauce, plus your (healthy!) toppings of choice. You'll save $10 to $20 over takeout—and have fun watching the kids prep the pie.

The last time I ate takeout was April 4, 2010. I am not kidding.

Bonus savings
Don't take the kids shopping with you! "I'm not a fan of bringing kids along to the store because that can lead to impulse purchases," says Bradford. Instead, browse online together. The kids can offer input without being swept away by store promotions.

Or you could say, "no."

Couponing is practically an extreme sport for some, but don't worry—you can take advantage of those money-savers without too much effort. Have coupons for products you buy regularly sent to you by sites like, and cruise other coupon sites at the beginning of the month (or week) for those items. Plan shopping trips around double-coupon daysand watch for sales. And use coupons for the smallest size allowed for the greatest savings. Don't hesitate to ask the grocer questions to set up your couponing plan: "Many merchants will actually tell you about sales ahead of time and give you tips to maximize your savings," says Cathy Freund, couponing expert and owner of Money Mailer in South Kansas City. Visit the websites for brands you love. You're highly likely to find discounts and coupons there.

I don't coupon. Generally, coupons are on brand names, and if you've ever been to a store, you know the inhouse brand is generally cheaper than the name brand, even including the coupon. I also really don't have the time to wander from store to store inquiring as to upcoming sales.

Skip foods marketed as especially for toddlers or kids, such as toddler cookies or crackers. The markup on these products is typically 50 percent, says Bradford, while the "adult" versions are perfectly acceptable at any age.

Who the hell is buying toddler food?! We were feeding my niece kalamata olives and feta cheese at 6 months.

No college account yet? Open it now. "A 529 is one of the best plans," says Bradford. Then, if you feel comfortable, you'll be poised to ask grandparents to help fund it with a portion of their gift budget for their grandkids during the coming holidays.

With what money?

Gah! The privilege. It burns!


  1. I hate these sort of things. They're a standard fall-back for current-affair programs over here. And they all reek of the privilege and implied financial-stupidity you take offense to here.

    Not that 90% of their audience isn't a bunch of stupid overpriviledged 'holes. But, accurate or not, I still find the tone condescending and smarter-than-thou. Maybe I should just accept that the article isn't directed at people of moderate intelligence, who are not going to be doing any of the stuff they want you to cut back on.

    Bonus savings
    "Do you really need a third gold-plated private jet? And even if it's a must have, there are savings to be made inside: maybe you should only hire half the number of private strippers to staff it, or rather than keeping it stocked with $300/bottle chardonne you could settle for a cheaper vintage?"

  2. these really are written for those "middle class" people who were able to ignore all of this until recently

    i hated those people as a child. their children ineveitably burst my happy bubbles - like the first time i got NEW shoes, i was then mocked and harassed because they were from Payless. i'd been SO happy, and ...


    i don't feel sorry for these people. i can't feel sorry for these people.

    know who i feel sorry for? my friends M and T. they have GREAT kids, ages 5 and 9. they work hard. they live in a not-so-great area.
    and we have CRAPPY transportation around here.
    i have a car. i can't DRIVE the car anymore, but i have. so they're using it, since their car blew up. and it works.

    and the people i know who would benefit from this artical are all "what the hell is wrong with you, that's YOUR car, why are you letting those people" [you know, THOSE PEOPLE. gah!] "use your car?"

    i dunno. cuz it's car and they need it and i can't use it? its a 99 Nisson - it's not like i gave them a 50thousand dollar car [and who the hell buys a NEW CAR? for the love of god!]

    change is money only if you're poor enough to NEED it, i guess.

  3. Don't forget to cut back on your daily $5 lattes.

  4. who the hell can AFFORD a $5 latte?!

  5. You could afford Kalamata olives and feta. AAHHH the privledge. Just kidding :).

    Seriously though it would be nice if someone would write a "budgeting tips" thing for people who have to choose between rent, medicine, or heat.


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