How to Save Money Without Really Trying

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How can I save a buck? That’s the million-dollar question.

I’ve experimented with various cost-cutting measures over the years. One time I cut my own hair rather than pay exorbitant beauty salon prices. I did such a hack job that I refused to leave myself a tip and swore I’d never go back to me again. So did my husband and kids.

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As a person whose idea of keeping my checkbook balanced is to rely on credit cards, I’m probably not the best person to give financial advice. My friend Jane, on the other hand, is a pro at saving money. Jane is so cheap she eats cereal with a fork to save milk. She wears a parka when it’s 48 degrees, and that’s inside her house. One time when she invited me over to her home I panicked when I saw smoke until I realized it was my own breath. I figured if anyone is qualified to offer ideas on how to save money this winter it’s Jane.

Jane, of course, wanted to charge me for her suggestions until I reminded her that her only credential is extreme couponing. So she backed down and offered me, free of charge, three simple money-saving tips that are relatively painless:

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1. Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wine: Nicknamed “Two-Buck Chuck,” this easy on the budget wine is “quite good for the price tag,” says Jane. Although the store recently raised its price to $3.79 in some states with higher distribution costs, causing some customers to rename it “Inflation Chuck” or “Upchuck,” Jane still thinks it’s a good deal. Made largely from California-grown grapes, the wine is offered in a wide array of red and white varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Jane says Two-Buck Chuck goes well with franks and beans.

2. Recycled ink: Jane recommends refilling your printer’s ink cartridge once it runs out instead of buying an entirely new ink cartridge. That way you replace the only part of the cartridge that’s spent and pay a fraction of the price you’d spend on a full replacement. There are lots of places you can buy ink, such as Walgreen’s and Cartridge World. Jane says Hewlett Packard may not approve, but her wallet does.

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3. Listen to free audiobooks: Jane says all you need issome audio-playing device, such as a PC, tablet, MP3 player, or smartphone. Audiobooks from major online retailers can range from $7.50 to $35. You can find a number of websites such as Project Gutenberg, Books Should Be Free, Ambling Books, and LibriVox that offer free audio editions of the classics. An option for audiobooks from best-selling authors is your local library, which may lend audiobooks for free. Jane is a big fan of audiobooks but avoids them in the winter; she complains that it’s too hard to hear the words over her chattering teeth.

Since receiving Jane’s advice I have been listening to audiobooks more and more. In fact, I just finished listening to one while sipping “Two-Buck Chuck” and printing out this article with recycled ink.

Lisa Tognola is a freelance writer from New Jersey. She’s a money-saving and lifestyle contributor to Manilla.com and founder and writer for mainstreetmusingsblog.com, where she reflects on life in the suburbs — the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

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