How To Pay Less For Necessities & Everyday Essentials

by Stacey Doyle on 2012-03-0110

When we’re in a financial bind, it’s easy enough to cut back on the higher priced items and luxury goods. But when the prices of necessities jump, then that’s when some people may get worried, particularly if they’re living on fixed income. And this will be an even bigger problem if and when we begin facing a more inflationary economic environment. But if we develop good savings habits today and learn how to distinguish between our needs vs our wants, then our financial discipline and resourcefulness can help us wade through more difficult financial times.

Let’s take a survey of our daily essentials to investigate some ways to save in these areas.

How To Cut The Costs of Daily Essentials & Ordinary Necessities

What To Do When Food Costs More?

According to the USDA, the cost of food will increase by a few percentage points (which is fairly standard). In 2011, food prices jumped up quite a bit, with eggs, poultry and meat products costing an additional 7% to 10% compared to the previous year. Prices may not move as much this year, but if you’re feeling the pinch, then take a look at these ways to offset the cost of rising food prices:

  • Purchase food packages from services such as, which is stepping into the shoes of the well known Angel Food Ministries (AFM unfortunately shut down under questionable circumstances). For those who are eligible, discount groceries and food supplies from these organizations can save you hundreds of dollars off your food bill each month.
  • See if you qualify for federal assistance programs such as WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), FAN (Food and Nutrition Program) or CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program). Visit your local church or community center to find out more about food assistance programs.
  • Always sign up for rewards and savings cards at your local supermarkets to get additional sales and coupons.
  • Review Sunday newspapers and websites such as to get the latest money-saving coupons before you go shopping. Coordinate and combine coupons with local sales to save the most.
  • Check out local coupon exchanges at your community center or library where you can trade in coupons you can’t use for ones that you can.
  • Start your own garden. Even if you have an apartment, there is room for a windowsill herb garden. Everything you grow trims money off your food bill.

Where Do You Find Lower Cost Clothing & Fashion Items?

What does cold weather in China have to do with the cost of your clothing? Everything, if you prefer to wear breathable cotton clothes. When the weather affects crops and raw material supplies, then the prices of end products are obviously affected. Some predictions even pegged the cost of cotton to go up a whopping 80 percent in one year. So when the price of clothes and fashion go up, what can families do about it?

While I’m a dedicated fashionista, there are times when practicality supersedes fashion (I can’t believe I said that!). With this thought in mind, I’d like to share some ways to offset the cost of clothing:

  • Never, ever shop without a coupon. Before I go to the mall, I do a Google search for printable coupons at every store I typically shop. I usually save 20 to 50 percent off every shopping trip this way.
  • Peruse your local Good Will or Salvation Army. You will be surprised at the designer finds hiding in these racks. Once, I picked up a fabulous $400 designer blazer for just $5! Here’s more on shopping at thrift stores and consignment stores.
  • Business clothes can get quite pricey and you need them to land and keep a great job. If you have financial issues and can’t afford a few new suits, check out your local Dress for Success chapter. This nonprofit organization helps women dress professionally for success. What if you’re a man looking for new suits? Check out to boost your professional image.
  • Do you need clothes because you’re expecting? Pregnancy is another reason why women may need “new” clothes, or clothing that will fit them during this temporary phase in their lives. Who wants to spend a lot of money on clothes that are only needed for a few months? Look for places that will allow you to pick up gently used maternity clothes or will allow you to consign or sell your maternity wardrobe. These places are geared to help women in financial need to pick up outfits for work, school and leisure.
  • We should remind ourselves not to get too carried away and end up buying clothes we don’t need. Instead, “recycle” your outfits by adding a few accessories in the latest new fashion colors to boost the appearance of the shirts and trousers you already own. You don’t have to be a teenager to consider trading clothes with friends who wear similar sizes in order to revamp your wardrobe. Check out resources such as Craigslist or FreeCycle where people might be giving away clothes.

How To Control Heating Fuel and Gas Costs

You have to get to work, school and doctor’s appointments. You need to be warm and comfortable in your home and office so that you can maximize your productivity. But you’ve seen the price of gas and heating fuel go up each year. The cost of gas and oil seem to be quite sensitive to what goes on overseas and tend to react easily to extraneous factors. For instance, harsh weather in Europe can create a higher global demand for these necessities. So what then?

There are ways to help control your use (and therefore the cost) of heating fuel and ways to lower your consumption of this limited resource.

  • Turn down your demand. Turn your home thermostat down and start wearing a sweater or Snuggie around the house. I use a Snuggie as a glamorized robe and it’s one of my favorite must-have items during the winter.
  • Invest in insulation, solar panels and new windows. See if there are community organizations that can help you cover these costs. In the meantime, seal in cracks and cover your windows: rubber weather sealing, shrink wrap and shades are all ways to keep in the heat and prevent drafts.
  • Take public transportation, walk or use a bike for local errands. Carpool if you travel a decent distance to work, and try to time and perform all your errands in one day in a specific location to use less gas.
  • Review public assistance programs such as the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and the Citizens Energy Oil Heat Program.

In addition to these basic expenses, you should also keep an eye on your banking and credit card fees due to recent changes in legislation. You should also be mindful of one of the largest expenses you’ll face, especially as you age — your health care costs and expenses. With a bit of planning and flexibility, you can offset any increases that are likely to occur in the horizon.

Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane F March 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Buying clothes online is the best way to save on costs. There you can compare prices, designs, quality etc. The benefit to buying clothes online is that you can get a better price :). But the downside is that you cannot touch and feel the item. 🙁

StLouisKaren March 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

For groceries you should check out your local discount grocers, such as Aldi or Save-A-Lot. You’ll find great quality products at amazing prices. I’ve switched all of my regular shopping to our local Aldi store with excellent results – my grocery bill is HALF what it used to be. Plus, they have a double your money back guarantee if you don’t like a product!

I’ve also found that planning our meals for the week – before I go shopping – has really reduced our food waste. I only buy what I’ll need and what is on my WRITTEN list.

We don’t spend a lot on clothes. We stick with high quality classic styles that last and last. You won’t need as many pieces and you won’t have to replace them as often.

Susan March 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Now that you said it, necessity has driven my ability to look for opportunities. When you don’t have money, it’s amazing the things you discover when you’re looking for ways to save. For instance, I love collecting coupons so I get every coupon I come across. You can find them at displays attached to grocery aisles, local newspapers and in online resources.

I like the idea that if you can’t use the coupon yourself, you can just exchange it for one you can use.

Jen March 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm

People often underestimate the benefits of walking, which is such a cheap form of exercise. Walk or bike instead of drive, especially if the destination is only a few blocks away. You’ll save gas and transportation costs while doing something healthy for your body. You may even decide to take up walking instead of investing in an expensive gym membership!

catherine turley March 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm

You can also buy coupons on ebay. And i just bought some cat treats on ebay cheaper than you can find in walmart. For me, health is a priority. I buy strictly organic. I afford it by not buying clothes, shoes, jewelry and not getting my hair or nails done. I also get a better price by having produce delivered by my local csa and i have found closeout organic products at a store called big lots.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Thanks, these are some great tips! Knowing what’s a necessity and what isn’t, and knowing how to prioritize your spending on the essential stuff are key to ensuring that we don’t overspend. If you can cut back even on what you pay for necessities, then you’re in pretty good shape.

CultOfMoney March 2, 2012 at 9:20 pm

For insulation, water heaters, furnaces, and solar, many governments and utilities have rebates that can be applied to a portion of the cost, making them an even better investment. For example, in my area I can get $500 towards any insulation that I buy for my house. Sometimes it needs to be installed by a licensed and approved company (for furnaces and other things like that), but in other cases you can do it yourself and send in the receipt. Nice way to save some cash if you need to have it done anyway.

Julie @ Freedom 48 March 3, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Lots of good tips. We always wear slippers and a sweater in the house during the winter. We’re comfortable with the thermostat set at 65…

Insulating your hot water tank and pipes will also save money. We noticed a decrease in our gas bill after putting an insulating cover on the tank.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 4, 2012 at 8:45 am

It’s funny but I live in California and still use a sweater AND a snuggie with the thermostat at 65. 🙂 And the hot water tank insulation idea shouldn’t be overlooked.

Thanks for the idea Julie — if you live in an old house, then investing in insulation should save you a bit on your heating and cooling bill.

Jamie March 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

It’s important to clip coupons before you go to the store, but I find that what helps even more is *where* I shop. I head to Walmart before the grocery store each week and buy as much as I can there before I go to the supermarket. You can get printable coupons at walmart:

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