Updated on 01.15.08

Your Money or Your Life: 101 Sure Ways To Save Money (Part One)

Trent Hamm

YMOYLThis is the seventeenth part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

Instead of focusing on each of the individual 101 ways to save money (and boring people to sleep), I thought I’d comment in general on the groupings of these (each seven or eight tips is under a subheading).

Interest Payments and Financial Charges
The biggest keys here are to keep your credit cards paid off (tip #1) and get your accounts at a bank that doesn’t treat you terribly (hinted at by the other tips). I split all my accounts (and my mortgage debt) between my local credit union and ING Direct (my primary bank, which I love). Both banks treat me quite well, with almost no fees, good interest rates on debts and on my deposits, and no problems with getting ahold of customer service when I need it. Compared to my fee-ridden experience with a large bank in the past, it has been a very satisfying and financially rewarding experience to get all my money into banks that respect me as a customer.

Transportation Costs
Most of these are pretty obvious (have the minimum number of cars you need, use public transportation, and so on), but a few really stick out. I’m a big believer in learning basic auto maintenance. It’s well worth your time and money to know how to air up your tires, change a flat tire, and change oil, and it’s even worth learning more than that if you’re willing to actually learn it. In fact, changing your own oil is a big one – most oil changing places do a very poor job of changing oil simply because they don’t let the oil drip out for an hour or two. This is because they’re trying to get it done in a “jiffy,” so they just let 99% of the oil flow out, cap it back up, then dump in new. The problem is that the remaining 1% is the nastiest oil, so your oil is already not the best the second you leave the shop. Do it yourself, and your car will actually run more efficiently than before because the oil will lubricate your engine much better.

Medical Costs
Eat healthy and exercise. Let me repeat, eat healthy and exercise. There’s nothing else you can do that will help with medical costs better than that. How can you do that? Commit yourself to a bit of exercise each day, and then make your food at home. It’s also worthwhile to reduce your stress level, get some sleep, and cut unhealthy habits out of your life. If you do all of these things, you won’t need to worry as much about medical insurance because you won’t need to use it nearly as much.

Living Circumstances
Most of these tactics center on living in a cheaper neighborhood and in a smaller house, both of which save a tremendous amount of money, as well as renting out your unused space. We basically have an appropriate amount of space for our family, even figuring in a couple years’ worth of family growth (we’re ready for two more children, seriously), and we live in an inexpensive part of the country. Another key piece – do your own home repairs, something hinted at above with the auto repair concept. Basically, learn how to take care of your stuff and do it.

This section focuses on sharing, a tactic that not only can reap financial benefits, but sets a good example for children. I particularly like the concept of doing as much as you can on the barter system – trade stuff with neighbors, even including trading skills. My favorite? Trading clothes with yourself in the future. This is actually something I do – I’ll put a lot of my clothes in a box and wear the others exclusively for a while, then switch them. It suddenly looks like I have a new wardrobe, when I really don’t. Combine this with frugal tactics about clothes in general and you end up saving a lot of money.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue chapter six, “The American Dream – On A Shoestring,” focusing on the second half of the section “101 Sure Ways To Save Money.” This section appears on pages 197 through 212 in my paperback version of the book.

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  1. Vixen says:

    Yesterday I went looking through my school’s library. Most of the personal finance books were horribly outdated (we’re talking 1950’s). I stumbled across this book though. It was the lone book published post-1980!

  2. Jayne says:

    I have no children of my own yet (so maybe my view of kids is idealistic), but its so nice to read about people in this world who see children as a blessing. Thanks for the wonderful site.

  3. Exercise and eating right can’t be stressed enough.
    Impulsive thoughts do not bother me when I have eaten right.

  4. lorax says:

    It’s amazing how well these tips have weathered the last two decades. As I read though them most are still relevant, perhaps prescient. Just multiple the dollar costs times two.

  5. !wanda says:

    “Eat healthy and exercise.”
    This advice is very good, but it will only get you so far, and no one can tell how far it’ll get you. We all know people who do everything right and still die young or get cancer, because of genetic disposition or just plain bad luck, and other people who smoke and eat bacon and live long lives. The human body is complex, and doctors and scientists still have a poor understanding of how an individual’s genes and environment interact to produce his or her overall state of health. Everyone can benefit from eating healthily and exercising, but there’s no substitute for good medical insurance and preventative health care.

  6. Steve says:

    I keep hearing I should learn to change my own oil, but I always wonder if it’s worth the trouble. I tried it once – the space under the car was too small, I couldn’t really turn the oil pan nut in that cramped space and I was a bit scared. Plus, I had to have someone stand over the whole time to make sure I wasn’t pinned. I live in an apt complex so I had to take the car out to an empty parking lot to try and do this. The entire experience put me off trying to change my own oil. Paying 40 bucks or whatever to get it changed seemed safer and more convenient.

    But if others in a similar situation – live in a complex that doesn’t allow these shenanigans with your car, and don’t have a yard or garage to do this – have tips on how they do it, I’m very interested in finding out. I’m discouraged, but I absolutely know it makes total economic sense.

  7. Laura says:

    Last night we were speaking with a friend (recent graduate)about getting a car. He’s looking at getting a used car from a private seller to be paid with cash. His parents are trying to get him to get a new car from the dealership. My husband and I showed him the difference in cost and now he’s sticking by his guns. He realized that the ‘nicer care’ comes with thousands of dollars in more payments.

  8. George says:

    Steve – get car ramps rated to hold up your vehicle’s weight. That will give you adequate room (unless you haven’t been eating right & exercising :-) underneath the car and doesn’t require another person standing by to make sure you aren’t crushed. $40 is WAAAY too much to spend on an oil change when the materials to change it cost $8-10; you’re essentially paying someone $30+ for 15 minutes work, which is $120/hr for having enough dexerity to turn a wrench!

  9. N'Awlins Kat says:

    @Steve: What George said, and also, I find I feel an extra measure of security if I block the rear wheels with a brick or piece of a 2×4 wedged behind them. Changing your own oil is worth it. So is adding some Slick 50 or a similar engine treatment to your oil change. I don’t put huge numbers of miles on my cars; they tend to die of old age first, but maintaining them well is important. My dad made my sister and I pass his written tests on the internal combustion engine before we were allowed to touch the car keys, and my first car was a real beater that tested ALL that knowledge!

    @Trent: I particularly like the “sharing” topic. We (family and friends) have always passed things around until there’s no more use in them. We have friends who moved here from Cuba four years ago and have become our good friends and neighbors. As we cleared things from my grandfather’s estate, we offered them my grandparents’ dining room set and a set of my grandmother’s china. His wife was so happy that she cried at having enough chairs and nice dishes to serve holiday meals and guests. I was glad that my grandma’s china went to someone who’d love it. The husband said he wanted to do the same when he was in a position to help someone. Today he came to me, excited because he’d bought a fancy new tv and was replacing their smaller color tv, which will go to my sister, who lost her house and many possessions in the hurricane. Even though he could have sold it, I’m sure, he wanted to give it to complete the circle, he said, because we’d accepted and helped them when they moved here. I must say, that felt very good to pass on that family custom. :)

  10. My brother used to work on his cars all the time. When I was younger, I loved getting my hands greasy, handing him wrenches and feeling like I was helping. Before I bought my first car, he showed me how to change a tire, the oil and basic mechanics. It was priceless and has saved me a lot of money over the years. I’m a 51 year old woman and work in the automotive field and am still thrilled that my big brother took time to teach me some important things about owning a car and taking care of it.

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