Making it my business: cha-ching bling-bling

Don’t panic. We’ve got ways for you to save some bones.

In response to the most recent economic freak out experienced by our great nation, Ross said this to me the other day:

“I think we might want to keep a stash of cash in the house. Or a gold bar.”

While I don’t think we’re really at that point yet, some of us are way overdue when it comes reassessing where our nickels and dimes go. Luckily, being married to a miser (but a cute one, guys) and coming from a less-than-affluent upbringing, I know a thing or two about saving money. Specifically, practical and non-scary ways that seem like nothing at first, but really start to add up.

Grocery shopping

Pay attention to expiration dates
I have vivid memories of my mother shoulder-deep in the milk case at Ukrop’s, scouring for the jug with the latest date stamped on it. The prices for perishable goods are vomit-inducing right now, so why waste your money on something that’s going to go bad in a few days? Take a little extra time (and frost bite) to find stuff with the latest expiration date. A helpful tip? Milk stored in cartons lasts FOREVER. We’re talking a week (or more) longer.

Plan a menu
I’ll just go ahead and say one thing: I hate doing this. I can never think of anything I’ll want to eat and I don’t do the cooking in my house, so I feel kind of weird demanding a specific dish that, unbeknownst to me, could be ridiculously annoying to prepare. But, anything that gives you focus and cuts down on hemming and hawing while standing in the grocery store aisle will keep the cost down. If menu planning is a new thing for you, try thinking ahead just a couple days. Write down only what you need to prepare those meals (in addition to any household essentials like toilet paper and cleaning products) and only buy those items. There’s nothing worse for your grocery budget than an unplanned free-for-all at Kroger where you’ll be seduced by row after row of 10 for $10 signs. Guys, no one needs that much Gatorade.

Eat before you go
I’m sure we’ve all heard this before, but it’s serious. The last thing you want to do is do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach. More than likely, your appetite will be bigger than your budget. Get at least some calories in before going – a glass of milk, a piece of bread, anything. Not only will this help keep your costs in line, you’ll also be less likely to be a raging lunatic when dealing with the crowds. Or that could just be me.


Drink at home
Dudes, booze is expensive. It’s even more expensive when it’s somebody else’s and they have to pour it into a glass for you. If you feel the need to imbibe (which of course, I UNDERSTAND – I haven’t had a drink in EIGHT MONTHS) opt for inviting some friends over to get ridiculous on your own territory.

Try the daytime date
I love an evening out probably more than most people. The idea of dinner and movie sends me into a squealing twirl of happiness. However, the cost makes me want to throw up. Luckily, the world has given us two wonderful things: lunch and matinees. Typically a lunch entree is about $2 cheaper than the dinner version. And matinee tickets? They run about $2.50 less than the evening prices. True, you might miss out on the opening night experience, but if this is an indulgence that you’re just not ready to let go of yet (which I admittedly am not), moving the event up a few hours will let you feel like you’re still getting a treat, but will save you from frantically doing sums in your head instead of enjoying yourself.

If it’s free, GO!
Luckily, most major (and even not-so-major) cities frequently have events that are free and open to the public. Granted, some of them might charge you for food and the like, but many don’t require any cash to get in. It’s a great opportunity for people watching… and to just get the mess out of the house. Richmond’s league of community blogs do a great job keeping us all up to date on such events. Check those often and you should be set.

Around the house

Say goodbye to paper
Not only are paper towels and paper napkins bad for the environment, you have to keep buying them! WTF? Instead, go for cloth. You can pick up a cheap set of cloth napkins at Target or even Kroger, and Costco sells plain white bar towels that work even better than their paper counterparts.

Get a programmable thermostat
Another change that helps the environment and your cash flow. Getting a thermostat that you can schedule based on when you are and are not home can save you 10-20% on your heating and cooling bills. Sure, it’s an investment at first, but knowing that your AC isn’t chugging away while you’re at work (but will cut on *just soon enough* before you get home to keep you from gasping for air when you walk in your house, what with the rain forest that’s sprung up in your absence) is well worth the initial cash output.

Take care of your sh*t
It’s pretty simple. If you take care of what belongs to you, it will last longer. This includes pretty much everything you own. Keeping things (house, shoes, clothes, car) cleaned and maintained means you get more use out of them. See? I told you it was simple.

I’m sure you have lots to add on this one, dear readers. Your wisdom. Share it with us.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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