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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - October 23, 2014

Enjoy Your Steak!
I enjoy a good sirloin steak, but being on limited income, I used to feel guilty about it. This is no longer the case! Now, I go early in the morning when the meats are marked down, get the best sale price, bring it home, cut it into individual sizes, and freeze them. When I'm hungry, I get to enjoy a sirloin steak without the guilt. ~Shirley M. in Fenton, MI

Garbage Disposal Care
We've been buying garbage disposal cleaner for our garbage disposal. We liked the fact that the disposal didn't smell. It seemed expensive, so we started thinking about alternatives. One day, we tried a little liquid dish soap. It worked like a charm at a fraction of the cost! It left the garbage disposal smelling clean without any scrubbing! ~Julie

Why Not Ask?
No matter where I go, I'm always looking for ways to save money. One of my most successful tools is simply asking for something. If I'm buying a TV or washing machine, I ask for a discount or free delivery. If I'm calling my cable company, I ask if they have any new packages or deals. Sometimes I ask if they have any floor samples that would be less. Often I'm told 'no' but that doesn't stop me. You'd be surprised how often I get a deal that's better than the next guy just because I asked! ~A

Before I Buy
One way that I reduce my spending is to do a little match before I buy anything that I don't absolutely need. I use the calculator app on my phone to add sales tax to the price. Then I multiply that by 1.2 since income taxes take up about 20% of my paycheck. That's the "real price" to me. Then I divide that real price by my hourly rate to figure out how long I have to work to buy the item. Many times, that's enough to have me forget about the purchase. And since I've worked it through, I never feel bad about walking away from it. ~Peggy

Pumpkin Party
For the last few years, we've thrown a pumpkin party the Saturday before Halloween. We invite friends and neighbors. Families bring a pumpkin to carve and a dish to share. A few bring along folding tables that we set up in our driveway. It's fun watching everyone show off their pumpkin carving skills! Some are really good! The kids have a great time because they wear their costumes. And everyone gets a good meal, too! ~Constanza

Take a Picture
Recently, I traveled and left my car at a long-term parking location. Also, at the hotel, I had to check out before my flight departed. The hotel kept the luggage locked up for me until I came back. Both places gave me tags to easily retrieve and identify my belongings. I took a photo of the tags with my phone camera because I've lost those tags before and it's hassle proving it's mine, especially the car! Also, enter the hotel and parking place phone numbers in your phone since you want this information anyway if you get shuttle service. If your phone has a photo option for the contact, put the photo for that contact as the tags you just took a picture of. That way, there's no searching through photos as it's already there! ~Judy M. in New York

DIY Seasoning Mixes
Like most people, I'm watching our grocery budget closely. I've always liked to use various seasoning mixes to add variety to my cooking, but since I'm trying to cut every dollar I can, it occurred to me that I should be able to mix my own seasoning. Just last week, I wanted to make fajitas, but I didn't have the mix. I did a search and found a recipe. I happened to have all the necessary ingredients and made my own. My family loved it! I'm going to work to duplicate the other seasoning mixes I used to buy. I might have to buy a spice or two, but I'll still save a few dollars every week! ~Soledad

I'm a Fine Print Reader
Years ago, I was paying down a large credit card loan at an exorbitant interest rate. It was literally going to take years to pay it off. The fine print stated that my monthly payments would not count toward any new purchases beyond this loan and any new purchases would continue to accrue interest until the original loan was paid off. Only then would any money I sent them go toward new purchases. I'm glad I read the small print for once. I put this credit card away so I would never be tempted to use it for a new purchase and kept diligently paying down the loan. One day I almost missed a payment (shock, horror) but called them and made a telephone payment just in time. The following month there was a charge of $10 on my bill for a "new purchase." I called and discovered the "new purchase" was a fee for making the telephone payment. It took about half of an hour to argue back and forth but eventually they conceded it was a fee and not a purchase and could be paid immediately without accruing interest. If I hadn't noticed this little $10 charge, it would have grown to more than $100 by the time I paid off the loan and they "allowed" me to pay it. I never use credit cards any more, but my advice to those who do is check your statements and question everything, no matter how minor. ~Ann C. in NYC

Before You Get a Mortgage
Often, young couples purchasing homes are forced by income levels to obtain longer term mortgages in order to qualify to purchase at all. When my husband and I ran our real estate business and sold homes to young couples, we would counsel them in this fashion. At time of application, ask if you will be allowed to prepay your mortgage. If so, use the amortization schedule acquired at closing (if not, ask for one), which shows you each month's payment broken into principle and interest for the entire term of the loan, to pay your regular monthly payment plus the principle amount shown for the following month. Be sure to note with each payment that the additional amount is to be applied to principle. This is very important. As you make each payment, run a line through the last payment shown on the amortization schedule. By this means, you can cut your mortgage term in half or, depending upon how often you do this, reduce the term by any number of months less than the original term. You can clearly see, and keep track if you wish, of how much interest you are saving. The amount is small when you begin but adds up quickly. It'll put a smile on your face. ~Bonnie

Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit www.stretcher.com/index.cfm?TipsSyn to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar! Copyright 2014 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.

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