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Journal Barbara, not Barbie's Journal: Low-tech ways to save money. 2

The biggest "line items" in most peoples' budgets are food, shelter, energy, and transportation. Saving even a small percentage here can translate into real money ...

Food: A few weeks ago, I stopped buying "junk" while doing the groceries. No more bags of cookies, no "snack foods", no Doritos. Strawberry-rhubarb pie and ice cream are still on the menu, in moderation :-) No more taking a break at work to go across the street and buy something to drink or "munch on."

The impact on my food budget was immediate - and positive.

I still get "the munchies" - I'm only human after all - but now I try to wait it out. Or, at the office, I eat an apple, or have a cup of tea. Even taking into account the higher cost of greenhouse tomatoes and lettuce, salads are still healthier and cheaper, by at least $25 a week. Annual savings: $1,300 per year.

Electricity

I recently bought an energy-efficient fridge. I'll only be saving $3 to $4 a month on electricity. However, that's not where the big saving is - the new fridge keeps food fresher longer. For example, lettuce now seems to last forever, instead of turning soggy after a week, so we should add cutbacks in food spoilage, say another $10/month - but we'll be conservative and ignore the food savings. Annual energy savings: $42.00

Heating

Temperatures here are now below 0C. If it is sunny outside, I open the blinds. When it's not, I close them. This way, I can leave the heating system turned completely off most of the day, while I'm at work, and on weekends. I've set the timer so that it's warm when I get home, and off at night. In the morning, it's still around 65F. Reduction in the natural gas bill - about 20% so far. Annual savings at current prices: $240.00

Transportation

Declining gasoline prices have made a difference, but what's made an even bigger difference is moving closer to work. Not only do I save 10 hours a week - a tank of gasoline now lasts more than twice as long - 3 weeks, instead of 10 days. Annual savings at current prices: $720.00 per year. (my actual bill has gone down by almost 3/4, because of the price drop, but we won't take that saving into account here).

Housing

I recently moved to a larger, nicer place. By shopping around after the peak spring season, I was able to save several hundred dollars a month. Annual savings: $3,840.00 per year.

Total annual savings: $6,142, or almost $120 a week - tax free - with a commensurate improvement in quality of life and time saved.

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Low-tech ways to save money.

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