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Frugality has become a new watchword for most Americans. Battered by the Great Recession, largely stagnant wages and high debt loads, thanks to college loans and other borrowing, Americans are thinking more than ever about ways to save money. Indeed, a recent Bankrate.com survey found 65 percent of Americans say they want to hold their monthly spending in check. The need to save more was cited by 30 percent of survey respondents as the reason they’re limiting their spending.
If you’re trying cut your budget, your first thought might be eliminating things like eating out or cutting buying new clothes—two good options for reducing spending. But, there are some other solutions. The 10 household items below require an upfront investment, but they can help you save money in the long run.
1. Bread Machine
Have you turned away from the cookie-cutter white bread sold on most American supermarket shelves? Many people have, but artisan breads are expensive. An alternative is to buy a bread machine and make your own bread for pennies on the dollar. That way, you can customize the ingredients to your taste and particular dietary needs.
2. Food Preservation System
These handy devices allow you to vacuum seal leftovers or veggies and other items you cook ahead and want to preserve for future consumption. Unlike simple plastic wrap or other bags, these can prevent freezer burn, meaning your saved items will last longer and you can cut down on food waste in your household.
3. Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are great for preparing dishes you might not have time to make—which means you won’t end up ordering expensive takeout because you didn’t get home in time to make dinner. They also can tenderize lower-priced meats and other proteins you might not otherwise buy. Plus, slow cookers use less energy than traditional ovens. Check out some of our favorite slow-cooker recipes.
4. Smart Power Strip
Everyone’s house has a few power strips around, especially wherever you might sit down to use a laptop. But did you know there are smart power strips, too? These handy devices shut down power to products that are in standby mode. Powering those devices on standby can account for 5 to 10 percent of the average home’s power usage, so purchasing one of these smart strips could add up to big savings on your monthly electric bill.
5. Water Filter
Local water-quality issues have become front-page news lately, prompting more and more people to turn to filtered bottled water—which comes with a hefty price tag. But an in-home alternative is to buy a family-size water-filtering device to keep in your refrigerator.
6. Car Air Filter
While we’re on the subject of filters, how often do you change your car’s air filter? Most of us never think about it, but changing an air filter can save you up to 14 percent on your car’s gas bill, according financial site MoneyNation.com. Buy one of these filters on Amazon for less than $20, and you’ll be saving at the pump from now on.
7. Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Halogen, compact fluorescent and light-emitting diodes (LED) bulbs all are in the energy-efficient category and they typically use 25 to 80 percent less electricity than old-style incandescent bulbs, according the U.S. Department of Energy. Swap your old bulbs with new energy-efficient bulbs, and watch your electric bill shrink.
8. Solar Christmas Lights
If you love to decorate for the holidays but hate to see your electric bill go up in the process, here’s an alternative. Solar Christmas lights use electricity and have the added benefit of coming on as the sun goes down and turning themselves off in the morning when they recharge. Less expensive and less work turning the lights on and off all season.
9. Coin Sorter
Saving your change every night in a jar or box of even an old-school piggy bank is a great way to accumulate some extra cash. But most banks today won’t count coins for you. Coin-counting machines in drug stores and other retail locations charge a fee. But banks will accept coins sorted and rolled by denomination which is where a coin sorter comes into play, notes TheSimpleDollar.com. Buy one of these and watch your spare change turn into a nice little “fun money” fund!
10. Tool Kit
Whether you rent or own, there will be times repairs are needed in your home that you’re responsible for. A basic tool kit, including such items as a hammer, wrench, screwdriver and power drill can help you tackle small repair projects and save money in the process.