Your Mileage May Vary

“You should try it! It’s a great way to save money! You could write about it on The Simple Dollar!” She looked at me with her big round eyes, and I didn’t know what to say.

To put it frankly, the tip seemed weird and I wasn’t going to try it. I was simply polite and agreed with her that it was a great way to save money. I didn’t mention that the idea of actually doing that at home was not something I was going to do.

Some things work well for some people and don’t work well for others.

Here are several examples of what I’m talking about.

Would you be willing to wash Ziploc bags? I won’t wash the small sandwich ones, but I will wash the gallon-sized Ziploc ones. Some people will wash both, but others won’t bother washing either one.

If sausage is on sale for $0.50 a pound, will you buy it? Some people will be all over it, while others will keep on going because of their dietary choices or their religion. For me, I’d be suspicious and would want to examine it before buying it.

A local dairy farm wants to get you on their milk route (yes, this may actually be happening in our area – a milkman!) and the price is surprisingly low, but not quite as low as the local grocery store. Do you sign up or not? A lot of personal values and personal routines jump in here.

You can hire a maid, once a week for four hours, for $56 a week. Is it worth it? It comes down to how much you value your time and how much overtime you’re pushing.

I know one lady who, when she was unemployed, sucked up her pride and went to several of her closest friends and family members, offering her services as a house cleaner. She was hired by many of them, giving her enough money to get by. Many people simply would not have the personal courage to do this type of thing – their personal pride would stand in the way.

What about my pattern of sometimes jotting down notes from books in bookstores? I’m a writer who has books for sale in bookstores, yet I still support this behavior. Why? I think if you write down a useful tip or two from a book, you’re far more likely to buy it – so by all means, pick up my book in a bookstore and jot down a good idea you find there, because if it’s actually useful, you’ll likely come back to it and eventually buy it. Other people see such note-taking as equivalent to stealing, either from the bookstore or from the author – personal ethics come into play.

Almost every money saving tip you read will involve this kind of balance. When you read a list of tips, some of the tips will work for you and some of them simply won’t. That’s because your life is different and unique, yet we all share a lot of experiences. It’s just that the set of experiences you and I share are probably different than the set of experiences you share with others in your life.

With that in mind, take a look at this list of 100 tips for saving money (it’ll open in a new window). I guarantee that there are at least a few tips on that list you’ll find useful – and a few tips you can’t imagine using. Which tips are simply beyond the pale for you? Which ones perfectly match your life? Why? I’m curious – let me know in the comments.

In the end, personal finance is just that – personal. We don’t all do the same things to save money. Sure, we use some of the same tactics, but we use different ones as well. We can only grow by keeping our ears and eyes open for great ideas from unexpected places.

Oh, and because you’re probably curious, here is the tip she offered me: she uses the old cloth diapers (the ones she used thirty years ago on her children) for toilet paper. She puts them in a small waste can in the bathroom, one of those that you can step on at the base to lift the lid, then she washes them once every other week or so. That’s just beyond the pale for me – I can handle dealing with cleaning up after my one year old daughter, but I really don’t want to confront it from anyone else.

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