Love Cats, Not Huge Litter Bills

As an owner of multiple cats, there’s always been something that’s bothered me in regard to taking care of my feline friends—the expense of kitty litter. Month after month, I found myself paying top dollar for material to literally throw away time and again. As I searched for a product which served my cats’ purpose as well as lessened the burden on my pocketbook, I stumbled across the idea to use wood pellets in my cat boxes and we’ve never turned back.

Kitty litter tends to come in three forms—clay, clumping litter or pellets. Each litter has its own perks and while clay is the least expensive, it also does not contain the smell or scoop easily at the end of the day. No one wants a house that smells like cats! Wood pellets labeled for feline use in the pet stores worked great and included a fresh outdoorsy smell, but the price point wasn’t acceptable for continual usage. Therefore I tended to use clumping litter—it worked better than clay and the price was more acceptable than the feline wood pellets. Yet one day as I was perusing my local feed store, I made a realization. The 40 pound bag of pellets at five bucks a pop was the exact same wood pellets labeled for cats selling for over 10 dollars at the local pet store! After buying a bag to try out, I found myself returning to the feed store to stock up on five more bags of pellets to use at a significant savings for myself. Research online indicated you can use either equine wood pellets or wood stove pellets as they are one in the same in regard to use as kitty litter.

While I’d never shirk on providing quality cat food and veterinarian care for my cats, I definitely feel justified saving hundreds of dollars on kitty litter. While litter is a necessity in my household, it’s not necessary to spend top dollar on a product which will simply be thrown away at the end of the day. Stall or wood stove pellets are an excellent alternative to save money monthly.

Raw Food – Cheap and Healthy

I switched my dogs to a raw food diet to save money as well as to improve their health. As a long time dog owner, I try my best to give my dogs the ultimate lives as pampered pooches. From premium dog food to routine trips to the groomers and vets, my two poodles receive outstanding care and it comes at a significant cost to my checkbook. When I was looking at ways to cut back last year, I realized I can’t skip routine vet visits. I could push our grooming trips back from monthly to every other month, but the area in which I could really save money was in the food I provided for my dogs on a daily basis.

Although realistically I could have opted for a $5 bag of dog kibble at a discount store—I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my dogs’ health in order to save money. Although I was paying over $200 a month for premium dog food in the form of kibble and I wanted to cut back, I didn’t want to reduce my spending in one area of my dogs’ lives (dog food) only to see it increase my spending in another area (vet visits due to feeding low quality food which could result in loose stools, dry or itchy skin, weight gain or weight loss, etc…) Instead I decided to research the raw food movement and realized this was a switch I was willing to make. Raw food fed appropriately can lower not only your monthly bills for feeding, but also your veterinarian bills over the years. Dogs fed raw often are healthier than those fed a kibble diet, particularly those heavy in corn and animal byproducts which a dog would not normally eat in the wild (has anyone actually seen a wolf scarf down chicken meal? Do we even know what chicken meal is as a consumer? I didn’t and most pet owners don’t.)

While it might appear switching dogs from a kibble diet to raw would be more costly, there are many ways to make this switch cheaper. I signed up for a food co-op with other local raw feeders. We order a pallet of meat from a food vendor every month and divide it in order to feed our dogs at home. By purchasing in bulk, we receive significant savings. If you live in an area rich with hunters or farmers, you can also buy your meats directly from them to skip the middleman. I currently have a large ice chest in my garage dedicated solely to dog food and whenever I note significant sales on meats in my local market, I stock up. In the end, I’ve reduced my dog food budget from over $200 including gravies and other add-ins to keep my picky dogs interested to under $100 a month.

Feeding my dogs a raw diet has given my dogs’ healthier teeth due to their natural inclination to chew bones included in their meals as well as shinier coats. It has also helped lessen the significant dent left monthly on my wallet in regard to pet food. While feeding raw may not be appropriate for every household since it does require research and dedication, it is a great way to save money on your pet bills.

Hope..and Change

Everyone has a change jar in their home to toss their spare quarters or nickels. Yet if you’re only saving the change in your pocket versus the change in your bank account, you are missing out on serious dollars. Easy to do and convenient, this money saving program can quickly turn pennies into dollars to pad your pocketbook.

Every penny counts when it comes to starting a savings account and rolling your change into an account is a great way to increase your funds. The premise is simple—regardless of the amount of money you spend on your ATM/debit card, you debit the next whole dollar amount from your account and then the change goes to savings. For example—if you spent $1.45 on a candy bar, you would round this amount up to $2.00 in your checkbook and the additional 55 cents would be shifted into your savings account. While some banks offer a program which will do this automatically, you can also do this manually every pay period by recording both the actual charge as well as the rounded amount in your bank ledger. Simply add up your change and transfer it straight to your savings account. While you might be asking how a few pennies and nickels can add up to significant savings—remember, every penny counts. Consider how many times you use your bank account to make purchases—at the store, online or at the gas station. You can easily pocket a few dollars a day using this plan and those dollars then add up over a period of time. Within a year, you can see significant savings.

Whether you consider yourself a penny pincher or you’re a consummate spender, rolling your change into a savings account from your ATM/debit card is a great way to create savings. From a few dollars a month to hundreds of dollars a year, you will increase your savings with a minimal amount of work on your end.

Clean your House, not your Wallet

When it comes to saving money, I always considered myself a great penny pincher. I had a savings account since I was a small child and I shopped competitively searching for the best prices. Yet one day as I was looking underneath my kitchen sink at my plethora of cleaning solutions, I pondered—was there a way to save money on all of these products as well as clean up some space? The overwhelming answer is yes. From vinegar to baking soda, many common household items can be used to replace those expensive household cleaners. They’re not only green, but extremely cheaper than the products I kept buying at the grocery store.

When it comes time to clean, you tend to reach for a bright blue brand name spray bottle to clean your windows, but vinegar and water can just as easily do the trick for pennies on the dollar. Instead of using those pricey toilet bowl cleaners, try mixing 1/4th cup baking soda with a cup of vinegar. Pour this solution into the toilet and let it sit for a few minutes. The stains come off easily with your toilet bowl brush. If you insist on using a store bought Swiffer to clean your floors, invest in washable cloths versus repeatedly buying the disposable versions at the store. Instead of wasting paper towels while dusting or buying a pricey disposable duster, use plain cloth diapers. These soft cloths are ideal for any wiping or cleaning in your home and can be used again and again. In fact, whenever you notice the word ‘disposable’ in the cleaning aisle—realize there has to be a cheaper option which translates to savings in the long run. I found by replacing many of my cleaning items, I was lowering my grocery bill on a constant basis and yet still maintaining a clean home without the use of the more expensive products.

When it comes to saving money, sometimes you have to think outside of the box and underneath your sink is a great place to start. Cleaning products are pricey and need to be constantly replaced. Using common household items can provide the same noticeable clean without the significant cost to your pocketbook.

Grooming on the Cheap

Shortly after starting college, I realized that my beauty treatments cost more than my student budget would allow. At the time, the thought of going without my spa treatments and hair appointments made me shudder. How was I supposed to build a career, date and focus on my studies when I knew I didn’t look my best? That was when my roommate shared her secret money-saving trick-she cut her own hair. After watching her technique and a few how-to videos online, I tentatively parted my hair and pulled out my scissors.

That first attempt took a few hours, but I emerged from the bathroom with a perfectly suitable cut. In fact, I liked it better than the cuts I received at the salon. As I improved my hair cutting skills, I got faster and discovered that I could quickly change my style with a few quick snips. An at-home hair color kit helped me grow out my hair until I finally learned to love my natural color. Given that my monthly cut and color used to run approximately $200 a month, I have been able to save $2400 on hair appointments alone.

Since then, I have explored more ways to save on my beauty routine. Many of the expensive skin treatments I received at my spa were easily replaced by more budget-friendly options that could be prepared at home. A smashed avocado mixed with honey and egg yolk made a moisturizing mask that left my skin smooth and supple. My friends and I traded at-home manicure and pedicure services while we sipped on a glass of wine. I estimate that I save at least another couple thousand a year in beauty products by following a few simple recipes and bonding with my friends.

In the beginning of my money-saving efforts, I worried that I would miss the pampering from my beauty treatments, but now I know that I can have the same benefits while enjoying the confidence that comes from looking my best and keeping my money where it belongs-in my pocketbook.