Tuesday, October 28, 2008


One of the surest ways to save some money is to do home repair and
improvement projects yourself. You don't have to be all that handy to paint a room or lay down a laminate floor. If you are uncertain where to start, ask someone in a home improvement store for advice or buy a how to guide. One way or another, if you can reduce the cost of this sort of work to the cost of materials only, you will be astounded at the savings.

Last year, we had fun re-doing my son's bedroom. He is an avid Mets fan so we decided to do our own version of Extreme Makeover Home Edition while he was away in camp for a week. For less than $1000, we laid down a new laminate floor, painted the room in Mets blue and orange colors and put in a new bunk style bed with a desk where the lower bunk was. We also installed crown mouldings and a new ceiling fixture. It came out beautifully and for a fraction of what a contractor would have charged us.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


If you haven't quit smoking yet do it now for both your health and your wallet. It is easier than ever to break the habit thanks to a few medications your doctor can provide, to say nothing of the over the counter anti-smoking aids available. I know how hard it is to put down the smokes. For 15 years I was a terrible nicotine fiend. Thanks to a drug called Zyban, I haven't had a cigarette in almost 7 years now. And I didn't gain a lot of weight either.

The reason for this post here is the cost of the habit. Here in NYC, admittedly the smoke tax capital of the US, quitting put $3000/yr back in my pocket! That's like giving yourself a nice raise. (To say nothing about hopefully avoiding the cost of surgery, chemo & radiation).There is no downside to tossing the cigarettes. You'll feel better, breathe easier and save a fair amount of cash. Just do it.

Save Power

If you haven't switched over to compact flourescent lights yet, do it. They last a long time and use a fraction of the power that incandescents use. They cost a little more up front (prices have come down lately though) but save in the long run. While you are at it, do what you can to insulate your home for the winter. Weather stripping is inexpensive and very effective at stopping heat loss. I have floor to ceiling drapes on many of my windows. (My mother-in-law is a seamstress. She made them in double thick fabric.) Those drapes do such a good job of stopping drafts that I have been able to lower my thermostat to 62 degrees and still stay comfortable. Finally, the old rules are still good. Turn out lights when you leave a room. Shut your computer and printer off at night. Don't waste power. Every little bit helps.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Take the train (or bus)

Riding mass transit makes more sense than ever these days. Between heavy traffic, expensive fuel and concern for the environment there is no down side to using busses and trains. Furthermore, if your employer participates in a transit check program, you can actually pay your fare out of your pre-tax income. That can significantly reduce your out of pocket costs even more.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Buy the store brand

Lately, if I don't have a coupon or an item isn't on sale, it doesn't
get bought. The one exception to this rule that I will make concerns
store brands. As a general rule, the store brand of groceries are
significantly less expensive than the big name items. In the past, my
experience with these items was at best mixed. The prices were good
but the quality was spotty. Lately though, things have improved in
that category. While there are still differences to be sure between
say Cheerios and the store brand equivalent, the latter isn't bad at
all now. At this point, I can honestly say that I haven't had any bad
experiences with the store brand products that I have purchased in the
last year or so. It is possible, of course, that different stores will
use different suppliers so do your homework. At Stop n Shop, where I
go, the stuff is good.