Okay, honestly this is a selfish post. I have been collecting money saving ideas for years now. (We have pretty much always been poor. It can be fun trying to find a way around that.) Here's the deal, I share my secrets and you share yours. I know you have them. So, here are the first few.
1. Use cloth napkins and rags. About 5 years ago, my MIL gave me permission to raid her scrap collection. I took decent sized scraps and cut them into rectangles and then surged around the edges and voile! Cloth napkins! If you don't have access to fabric scraps, you can buy remnants at the fabric store for less than regular yardage, or you can take a trip to the dollar store where you should be able to get napkins for about $0.50 each. (I admit that when I have large groups of people over or birthday parties I do buy paper napkins. I'm not a masochist.)
Some messes are just too gross for rags and require paper towels, but for the most part, using rags and sponges will save rolls and rolls of paper towels. If the sponges gross you out, disinfect them in the dishwasher or the microwave (get a sponge fairly wet and then put it in the microwave for a minute.) If that still grosses you out, get Clorox disinfecting wipes, but only use them for disinfecting purposes- not scrubbing the counter purposes.
2. Learn to love generic. Most generic products are just as good as the name brand. You just have to find the ones you care about. For us, all canned food is generic. I can't tell the difference. But I must have my Vlasic pickles and my Yoplait. Just figure out what you can't live with out and buy every thing else generic.
3. Use coupons wisely. This is a tricky one. If you don't' use them wisely, you wont' save anything. Here is the deal: Go through the ads each week and match coupons with ads. For example, if you have a coupon for yoplait, wait until it is on sale to buy it! And only use coupons for things that you were going to buy anyway. Generally, just buying generic is cheaper than buying name brand, even with a coupon.
4. Save all your receipts. This doesn't sound like much but I will give you two examples:
Once we went to dinner at Johnny Carino's. They charged us twice, accidentally. I didn't know until I got my credit card statement. Because I still had my receipt, they credited everything back to me.
Did you know that there was a lawsuit against Airborne, and that anyone that bought it during a particular span of time was eligible for a refund? I managed to dig up a receipt for it. And got a $14 check in the mail a few months later.
And that's not to mention returning things that you decide you don't' want anymore. . .
5. If they have one, switch your utilities bills to a monthly average. It will probably be less than you think. So instead of freaking out in January when your gas bill is $200, you have the comfort of knowing that it will be $60 every month.
Okay, it's your turn. What is your best tip to save money?