Sure, you’ve got your bonds and your mutual funds and your GICs — or maybe you rely on the good ol’ sock under the mattress. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to have a few sneaky tactics for saving money, and this one’s pretty clever.
Ellen Roseman, an ace consumer reporter at the Toronto Star, has a short feature on how to save money on fuel – a smart and timely read since the price of gas has once again leapt over the $1 a litre hurdle, at least in Toronto. Roseman looks at the unadornedly titled book 75 Ways to Save Gas by Prius-driver Jim Davidson and offers her 10 favourite tips gleaned from the tome.
For me, the most surprising suggestion — other than the fact that there are 75 ways to do anything (who knew?) — was:
“8) Park with the hood pointing out. Backing out of a parking spot when the engine is cold takes a lot of effort (and gas). All the jockeying to park with your hood pointing out is done when the engine is warm, so it’s easy on fuel.”
My driving instructor always wanted me to park with the hood out, since backing out of a space is apparently more dangerous. I’m pleased to hear there’s a cost-saving benefit as well.
I have a confession to make: I’ve only ever purchased one item on eBay (hey, I didn’t say it was an earth-shattering confession). It was a retro tin toy of a man on a motorbike and it was meant to be a gift for a guy I was dating at the time; by the time it arrived in the mail, the relationship was over. Toy motorbike dude? Just as disappointing: cheap joints, disintegrating cardboard box, “made in India” sticker.
And so went my relationship with eBay.
Oh sure, I’ve flirted with the online auction site every now and then, but never worked up the nerve to put in a bid. Sure, that Danish modern credenza looks pretty and is a steal t twice the price, but how do I know what’s going to arrive in the mail? Besides, isn’t eBay old news? Aren’t we all shopping on craigslist nowadays?
I think I may finally be over my online shopping heartache.
One of my prized possessions is a dinner table chair (sans dinner table), with a lyre-like carving for it’s back, a leopard-print seat and antiqued cherry wood. This chair, which everyone comments on when they see it, cost me about $20 – for the seat fabric and the stain remover. The chair itself was free, because I picked it up off a curb one summer night about 5 years ago.
Yep, I am a former scavenger. In my 20s, while still a grad student (and just after), no discard pile was safe from my prying eyes; I couldn’t walk past a hand-scrawled “Free: Still Works” sign without my heart skipping a beat. Sometimes, as with the chair, my “freecycling” worked brilliantly. Other times, it was sheer ridiculousness: Once I hauled home a ludicrously heavy old solid oak door for six blocks (with an idea to turn it into a desk top) only to discover, two flights of stairs up, that the door wouldn’t fit through the final stairwell to my apartment.
Since the sweaty futility of the door episode, I’ve pretty much stopped foraging. Still, I’m always impressed by how others are travelling deeper into the territory than I ever dared to tread. Salon.com has a profile of Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus, a California husband-and-wife team of serious scavengers – they even go dumpster-diving for food. While the thought of picking up baked goods, even if they’re clean, from an industrial trash can makes me queasy, I do like their anti-snobbery philosophy, summed up by Rufus: “There’s a prejudice against frugality, cheapness, everything with the word ‘discount’ in it.”
So, next time you pass an abandoned door on the street, let it go (or go get a car and a measuring tape). But if it’s a chair, you might want to consider what $20 would do for it.
I recently wrote a story on shopaholics for the print edition of Chatelaine. It’s a subject dear to my heart, not just because I like a good debt porn story as much as the next person, but because I flirted with bad spending habits and poor impulse control throughout my 20s. I always thought Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series of books were a little too harrowing in their depiction of shopping binges and debt collection notices to be a true escapist chick-lit fantasy. Thankfully, in my 30s, I’ve managed to keep my financial priorities in order. I only wish I’d had this list of 10 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Tempted to Buy a decade ago.
In my opinion, one of the best questions it suggests you ask yourself is “Do I know anyone who already owns one I can borrow?” Recently, I have been all about borrowing stuff. For three fancy dress events in the past year, I turned to my stylish friend Nathalie Atkinson for outfit help. She garbed me in these terrific Canadian designers Veronique Miljkovitch and Jason Meyers. (Disclosure: It helps that Nathalie is a fashion writer for The National Post, among many other publications.) Savings: I think $500 is on the conservative side. (Minus dry-cleaning costs, of course!)
Then, for my recent holiday to Churchill, MB, to volunteer for a climate change research project, I turned to my friends Judith, who’d lived in Iqaluit for a few years, and Karan, who’d grown up in Whitehorse, for some cold-weather gear. Savings: At least $500. (These clothes I washed by hand when I returned them.)
I’m lucky that I had friends who could help me out, and I would repay the favour in a flash (if they ever want my stuff, that is…). I’m really surprised that more people don’t borrow from their pals. Why is Polonius’s line from Hamlet, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” so engrained in our culture?