Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Saving money by using less

I happened across a terrific blog post by Trent at TheSimpleDollar. It is called "The Happy Minimum" and can be found by clicking here. For some reason this post stirred up quite the negative response from some of his readers, but I believe there is a valuable lesson to be learned. Let me summarize:

The author uses a story about toilet-paper use to illustrate a point: we use a lot of consumable products in excess without even thinking. He spends the day paying attention to how much of things he really needs-- using only as much toothpaste as necessary, tasting food first instead of just pouring pepper on it, taking one piece of pizza at a time rather than loading his plate, etc. The whole point: he used less over the day and did not feel deprived in any way.

These things are pretty familiar to us, whether we see these things in ourselves or those around us. We all know that person who pours salt onto everything before tasting anything; that person who uses half the roll of TP every time; that person who stacks their buffet plate 10 inches high; the person who uses twelve sheets of paper towels to clean up a little spill. What if we limited our consumption to what we needed to feel satisfied rather than starting with too much?

Granted, the actual amount of money saved by one less shake of salt is negligible. However, being aware of our usage in the little things creates more awareness of the big things and the little things and the big things added together can mean big savings in the long-run. Also, it has the fringe-benefit of reducing our carbon footprint (which usually in turn further reduces our expenses!).

Some thoughts and ideas on how to reduce consumption without feeling deprived:
  • Pick one or two things to focus on using 'just enough'-- Chances are by focusing on those aspects, you will see it bleed over into other aspects of your life.
  • Make it fun-- Does your kid use enough toothpaste for everyone in the house? Get matching trial-sized tubes and have a 'contest' to see whose tube will last longer. Just be sure she's using enough to clean her teeth, and she'll be pasting like a frugal pro in no time. I'm seriously considering doing this with shampoo and body wash at our place.
  • Ration it-- If you are paper towel people (we use dish-cloths in our house), set an achievable but challenging limit for yourself. Only let yourself use one roll per month (or whatever is appropriate for you)-- if you run out before, you're out of luck until the 1st. This is also effective with treat-foods like soda, etc.

I would love to know your ideas and goals related to this. What areas are you simply using too much without thinking? I challenge you to spend the next 30 days figuring out how much is enough and then only using that much. Leave a comment for encouragement and accountability.

1 comment:

  1. I have listened to Dave Ramsey for years and I'm always stunned when you hear from people making over 100K yearly and their broke. Or the number of people who owe the IRS or have started a business without a business plan. He'll ask, what's your mortgage rate, and the answer is usually, I dont know.
    What??? The number of people who complain about being hassled by debt collectors, we'll if you stop paying the bill??? It's called get a second job, if it's WalMart but they won't and will go down with the ship. So preventable. Lynn