Hacks are simple tricks that save you time and money. A common trait of most hacks is that they take something you already have and use it for an all new purpose. Some hacks are not about clever uses of dustpans to fill buckets, but better ways to buy buckets. Ultimately hacks are all about changing the way you look at the world and adapting in new and interesting ways that save you resources.
Well Read Flower Beds
Whether you’re an urban gardener planting an herb garden in a three foot by three foot plot of the courtyard ora flower and vegetable fanatic in the suburbs, chances are you hate weeds. Mulch alone won’t stop these green invaders from spoiling your space and pesticides are passé. An inexpensive, environmentally friendly alternative to garden fabric is old newspaper. Newspaper is 100% bio-degradable since it’s made from recycled paper. And don’t worry about the ink being toxic; most modern newspapers use natural soy based inks.
Give Yourself a Gift Card
Treat yourself to something special like dinner and a movie or that new power tool you’ve been eyeing and do it for 10%, 20% or 30% off! Purchasing promotional gift cards at discounted prices when the store is having a special around the holidays and spending them on yourself is a great way to get sale prices even when what you’re buying is not on sale. Wholesale clubs like BJ’s, Sam’s and Costco regularly sell discounted cards for movies, restaurants and more at discounted prices. Combine your already discounted gift cards with sale purchases to double or triple your savings.
Buy Off Season and Save
Who buys a snow blower in May and an air conditioner in November? Savvy shoppers looking for steep discounts, that’s who! It will cost a retailer more to keep seasonal merchandise in a warehouse until next year than it does to sell it at very discounted prices. The reason is that not only does warehouse space cost money, but it takes time, fuel and labor to move goods from stores to warehouses and back again. Not to mention that when an item is in storage until next season, so is that store’s money. Take advantage of that and whenever possible plan your purchases for the end of seasons and save. (This may result in fewer options so you might not be able to be as picky as if you buy at the height of or even before the season.)
Coffee Shop Shuffle
Stopping by the gourmet coffee shop on your way to work or to drop off the kids or before you hit the road for a day at the beach is a popular ritual. It’s also a very expensive one with a trip to Starbucks for two easily costing you more than $10. Sure, you do it for more than the convenience – you do it for the fun flavors and delicious baked goods. However, buying a travel mug and your favorite flavored syrups can save you a mocha chocha lotta cash at the end of the year. (Here is a list of the 5 best cheap coffee brands.) As for the yummy baked goods, buy ’em fresh at the supermarket for 75% – 300% less than the coffee shop price. You can even use a few cents of the savings to buy bags so no-one will know your secret.
Open or Close Windows
Your house or apartment is probably already full of free heating and cooling devices, called windows. Using your windows for more than letting in light is a great way to save some serious scratch. If you live where it’s cool at night and warm during the day open your windows at night to let the cool air in and close them in the morning to keep the warm air out. Use your curtains and blinds to block out the sun and keep daytime cooling costs down. Of course, if you live in a colder climate throwing your curtains and blinds open when the sun is shining can easily raise the interior temperature of your house a few degrees and you can use the fuel cost savings to visit someplace warm.
Rent It and Forget It
The holidays are coming, and in addition to all the gift items that are on sale so are carpet and furniture steamers. And your carpets could sure use a cleaning. When spring has sprung and your mind turns to those couple of trees that block the sun all summer and chainsaws are on sale don’t buy one. Pocket the expense of buying tools and appliances that you use once or twice a year or less and rent them instead. Rentals never get old, never need repair, they’re always there when you need them and they are a small fraction of the cost of buying your own.
Ask for Discounts
This one is less like one of these hacks and more of a habit. Ask for discounts and discount programs wherever you shop, eat, buy gas or go to the movies. Loyalty programs, discount and affinity cards for groups like people over 50, veterans, teachers and others are often not widely advertised and only available to the brave few who speak up and ask about them.
Make a Cleaning Calendar
Clogged filters and vents on appliances, HVAC and cars cause them to operate less efficiently and therefore require more energy to operate. Unfortunately, they are incredibly easy to forget about, like wedding anniversaries and birthdays (guys know what I mean) so put them on a rotation. Schedule them on your kitchen calendar or smart phone on a regular recurring basis. Make a day of it every three or six months, call it Filter Friday and use that day to check, clean or replace each of your household, garden and automotive filters and vents.
Bottle Your Own Water
With very, very, very few exceptions your tap water is as good as store bought bottled water. Don’t take my word for it, do your own blind taste test. Have a family member refrigerate tap water and bottled water for the same amount of time, so the temperature is the same and then have them serve them to you in unmarked glasses. Once you realize you can’t taste the difference buy yourself some stainless steel water bottles and bottle your own water. If you’re feeling like something is missing give your water a fancy name Adam’s Aqua or Harvey’s H20.
Time it, sensor it, put it to sleep and smart power strip it. One way or another drive a stake into the heart of vampire power drains. You could enjoy a decent dinner and movie for you and someone special once a year (including a generous tip) with money saved by unplugging unused devices. Smart power strips come in three types- timer, motion sensitive and current sensing. Pulling the plug comes in two types, right handed and left handed.
Photo Credit: flickr