I had the opportunity to play with an iPhone last week and it inspired an incredibly high level of technolust inside of me. I wanted one. I needed one. But blindly dropping $600 on an iPhone is just something I can’t quite do, unless, of course, that the $600 comes into my pocket for free.
Thus, I sat down and sketched out a plan. How could I easily get $600 in my pocket by, say, Christmas? I have six months to come up with that $600 in spare cash out of nowhere so that I can spend my holly jolly holiday season staring at my Ric Ocasek wallpaper on my iPhone without it directly costing me a dime. Even better, I don’t want to have to cut down on spending on anything (it’s a great move to do that, of course). Here’s a plan that you can follow that will get the job done (Ric Ocasek wallpaper not included).
Replace all light bulbs with CFLs. I can get top quality CFLs for $2.36 a bulb using this technique, compared to $1.03 for incandescents. Let’s say I use the average light bulb in my home for four hours a day. I counted up light sockets in my apartment – 28. If I replaced every 75 watt bulb with a 26 watt CFL (and 26 watt CFLs are brighter than 75 watt incandescents), it would cost me $66.08. However, these bulbs would run 728 hours (figuring 4 hours a day on average for half a year) and incandescents have a life span of 800 hours, so my actual real bulb cost here would be $37.24 (I’d have to replace the incandescents once). Now, each of the 28 bulbs runs for 728 hours, meaning that I’d be running a bulb for 20,384 hours. Each CFL uses 49 watts less than a normal incandescent bulb meaning my saved energy over half a year is almost exactly 1,000 kilowatt hours. At a dime a kilowatt hour (the national average), the bulbs save me $100 in electric bills, minus the $37.24 in extra bulb costs. Even better: your energy bill will be reduced every month from now on by about $16 or so.
Total free cash from the CFLs: $62.76
Make one very simple meal at home a week instead of eating take out. Find a pile of very simple cheap recipes to make food at home for yourself and use one once a week instead of grabbing take out. Let’s say your average take out bill is $7 and you can make a cheap recipe at home for $3. That’s a $4 savings each week. Do that for twenty six weeks. Even better, if you continue the routine, that’s another $16 a month you didn’t have before.
Total free cash from eating at home: $104
Go on a bulk buying binge. Buy some of your basic toiletries and cleaning materials in bulk: laundry detergent, laundry softener, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, bar soap, hand soap, shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, and toothpaste, for starters. If you calculate out the cost per unit of these items, you can easily save an average of $1 a month on each of these items. Let’s say that in an average month, buying this stuff in bulk and keeping the excess in the closet saves you $10 – that’s another nice little haul by the end of the year. Even better, if you continue the routine, that’s another $10 a month that you didn’t have before.
Total free cash from bulk buying: $60
Air up your car tires. The average American vehicle travels 11,000 miles in a year, according to the Department of Transportation. Thus, in a half year, the average American vehicle travels 6,500 miles. The average automobile gets 22.5 miles to the gallon. The average gallon costs $3. Each PSI that a car tire on an automobile is below the maximum recommended costs the automobile 1/8th of a percent in fuel efficiency. The average car tire in America is 11 PSI below the maximum recommended level. Thus, if the average American stops at the free air pump at the gas station each month and airs up his or her tire to the maximum recommended level, he or she would improve their fuel efficiency by 4.5%. Such an increase would raise the fuel efficiency of the car from 22.5 miles per gallon to 23.51 miles per gallon. Over 6,500 miles (a half a year in an average American car), that’s 12.3 gallons saved. At $3 a gallon, that’s $37 just by utilizing the free air at the gas station once a month. Even better, if you always do this routinely, you’ll save another $6 a month you didn’t have before.
Total free cash from tire airing: $37
Go to a free community event once a week. My wife and I used to do something out on the town about five nights a week, whether it be going out to a movie, going to a concert, hanging out at a coffeeshop, and so on. We figured that a night out cost us each an average of $10 when we averaged all the stuff that we did – coffee costs, movie tickets, etc., etc. In other words, if we instead went out once a week with a community calendar in hand and found something free to do one night a week, like watching the local municipal band concert or catching a dramatic performance in the park or volunteering to work at a Little League game, we saved ourselves each $10 a week. This may be a bit high depending on your activities, but it’s entirely reasonable to think that a free event would save you $5. Grab your community calendar and try out some opportunities you didn’t even know existed by calling up your city hall or tourist center and asking for a community calendar or a list of community events.Even better, if you start getting involved with these activities, you just saved yourself $20 a month.
Total free cash from the community calendar: $130
Take a look at your regular bills and kill any services you don’t use. The Sopranos is over and they cancelled Deadwood and Carnivale, so why do we need HBO any more? I’m paying for 1,000 text messages when I sent 40 last month? Those Netflix rentals are sitting over there getting dusty. Just glance at the bills you send out every month – I’m betting there’s $10 worth of stuff buried on there that you don’t use. Better yet, trimming this fat now saves you $10 a month in perpetuity.
Total free cash from checking your bills: $60
Request a credit card rate reduction. The average American household has $9,000 in credit card debt, and the average credit card interest rate is around 19%. Calling your credit card holders (especially the ones you’ve been most faithful in paying) and requesting a rate reduction with the vague insinuation that you may transfer the balance can often get you a rate reduction – I regularly see ones as much as 6%. Here’s how to do it in more detail. If you have that average credit card debt and just a few 1-800 phone calls can get you a 6% rate reduction, you’re saving $45 a month on your minimum payments, or $270 over six months. Better yet, that $45 a month in rate reduction will save you $45 every single month – and hopefully get that credit card debt paid off faster.
Total free cash from calling your credit card holders: $270
Doing these seven things will put $723.76 in your pocket in just six months. You could have that iPhone by Christmastime. But what about those expensive AT&T iPhone plans? The plan with 900 daytime minutes and unlimited text messages costs $100 a month! Ouch! Thankfully, if you did all of these things, the plan is free, too! If you do the things above, your monthly expenses will be reduced $123 each month and that’s not including the current cell phone plan you have, which you’ll get rid of for your iPhone plan.
What’s the moral here? If you look at your regular behavior and look for ways to trim the fat, you can do amazing things even faster than you think.