7 Useless Money-Saving Tips People Were Paid to Write
What with the economy and all, more and more news outlets and bloggers and other sources of bullshit are trying to get views by promising useful tips on how to save you money in these penny-pinching times.
Most of these tips are not useful at all, which would be annoying enough coming from a well-meaning friend, but the thought that these obvious, impractical and just plain stupid tips are coming from a human being who was paid to come up with them is enough to drive your blood pressure up like uh ... at least 5 mmHg. That's why I've put them coming out of the mouth of my dog, to take some of the edge off.
I mean, they're pretty dumb coming from a human, but kind of impressive coming from a dog, because, hey, he figured out how to talk!
Stop Buying Luxury Items
If you're struggling to make ends meet, maybe you've thought about bringing lunch to work, canceling your cable or taking on a second job. But have you considered not buying a BMW? Probably not! Thank goodness for MSN's Your Money, suggesting you can save a bundle by passing on the BMW and getting a bargain basement car like a Subaru instead!
You can get yourself a nicely kitted out Subaru for as little as uh ...
Why, it's like you are robbing them at those prices!
Sure, there are people out there who have never even considered the idea of downgrading from a BMW or Mercedes and buying a mere Subaru, Toyota or ... shudder ... Ford, as MSN suggests. But I don't think those people are browsing the Web looking for money-saving tips. They have people to do that.
The same MSN report suggests that instead of buying expensive beauty products, you can buy cheap brands at the supermarket, like Oil of Olay.
What's weird is that she feels like she has to earnestly reassure the viewer that these cheapo products work perfectly fine despite having such shockingly low prices as $23 for a 1.7-ounce bottle of anti-aging cream. I know! How can they afford to sell you that at those prices? It's crazy!
If you really wanted to save money, you know that there's actual supermarket/drugstore-branded versions of Oil of Olay and other brand-name products, right? They're like right there on the shelf next to every brand-name product with a little tag that says "compare to (name of brand-name product they are knocking off)."
There's literally a CVS copy placed right next to every brand-name product.
This might have occurred to someone as a money-saving tip if they had ever been shopping inside a drugstore instead of apparently getting excited about the concept of doing so for the first time.
"I wonder if this is where they sell the crack!"
Other necessities MSN suggests you can save money on include your art collection (rent your art from a museum) and designer handbags (there are websites that rent them!). If you were ever in such dire straits that you were concerned you wouldn't be able to maintain your art collection or would have to choose your designer handbags from the mere 150 kinds they have at Ross at any given time, now you don't have to worry!
Meanwhile, Martha Stewart makes the bold suggestion that your family may even be able to do without your wine refrigerator, if you just store your wines in your cellar!
Blatantly Obvious Tips
Now even if you've racked your brains trying to figure out how to cut costs here and there, there's probably a couple of tricky little things you haven't thought of, like buying things on sale.
That tip goes on to suggest that maybe you could go shopping on Black Friday, because apparently -- and I think I'm following correctly here -- there are a lot of big sales on that day. Did you know that? I bet you didn't. Too bad the news never covers it. Kind of weird, seems like it would be a pretty big event!
Surely someone must have covered it somewhere.
Another strangely common tip is to skip Starbucks and make your coffee at home, because -- I'm going to need your full attention here, this is complex -- making coffee at home is cheaper than paying someone else to make it. I know that's a difficult concept to get your head around, which is why they lay out a bunch of calculations (and even source them) to convince you of this unbelievable fact.
Because that's why people get coffee at Starbucks -- they're unaware that it costs more to get coffee there than to make it themselves. It's not because, I don't know, they don't have time, or because they want some sort of cappuccino/frappuccino or other weird product of coffee science, or because they want to try a different flavor every day but don't want a kitchen full of Torani syrup bottles that they only use once, or because they are very lazy (guilty).
Try Doing Something You Would Love to Do Anyway if You Could
Sometimes there are great personal sacrifices we have to make in order to save money, like not driving during rush hour. Now there is nothing I enjoy more than being stuck in traffic and taking more than an hour to get to work while choking on truck fumes, but after being told I could save gas by giving up this fine experience, I think I just might have to let it go.
Seriously, nobody wants to drive to work during rush hour. If anyone could get it past their boss, and make it work with their child pick-up schedules or whatever, they would be driving in late/early and driving back late/early. I don't think the idea that they could save gas would be the straw that breaks the camel's back and makes them finally decide to not sit in traffic anymore.
Coincidentally, camels breaking their backs is a major cause of traffic in some countries.
Even weirder suggestions include "Don't get sick." I don't even think that was originally supposed to be a tip, it was just supposed to be a "Here's some things you might not know about your sick leave policy" article. But for some reason they decided they wanted to sexy it up by making it sound like a money-saving tip, and the only logical one you could extrapolate would be "Don't get sick." Perhaps they're suggesting that people commonly pretend to be sick a lot, and they can save money by doing that less, but if not, not getting sick is pretty much the only thing you could actually do to act on this information.
And finally, do you have a drug addiction? Did you know that it's costing you a lot of money? If you just made a small change to your life and gave up drugs, you could have enough money left over at the end of the month to buy yourself a little treat, like a frozen yogurt. Or a car. I don't know how much you are spending on drugs.
I mean seriously, that was sandwiched between a tip to eat less fast food and a suggestion to make large batches of casseroles. "Also, kick heroin!" You could take all that money you make selling your body on the street and put it in a 401(k). And if you're doing very well on the street, a self-employment 401(k) actually lets you put quite a bit more away than a regular 401(k) plan! Now that's a tip!
Tips That Would Not Actually Save You Any Money
One of the weirder tips out there is to save money on calendars by buying calendars from past years that match up with this year's dates.
They described finding a vintage 1942 calendar on eBay for "only a few bucks," which is interesting because when I go to eBay, most 1942 calendars seem to actually cost more than a new calendar, maybe because they are fucking antiques.
Here's a few.
Supposing you find one that actually costs less than buying a new calendar, you still have to pay shipping charges. If you get free shipping or whatever, fine, you've saved $5 off of buying a new calendar. Is $5 off the yearly budget an incredible burden lifted off the shoulders of most American households? I'm not an economist, but I'm pretty sure it's not.
However, if calendar costs are driving you to the poorhouse for some reason, did you know that you can get free calendars from Chinese restaurants, dentists, real estate agents and even your own printer? Technology these days is amazing.
Make Something Yourself That Takes a Lot of Time and Expertise
Everyone cries about how our society has become so specialized and dependent on technology and we can't fix our own crap anymore, and back in the day we churned our own butter and built our own houses and knew how to fix our cars, which I'm sure is a very interesting subject, but crying about it doesn't change the fact that we can't very well build our own cellphones, and very few people even have the time and expertise to sew their own clothes.
Still, people persist in suggesting that you can save a lot of money by making your own (insert household item here). This website suggests making your own beauty products with natural ingredients like eggs, oatmeal and avocado.
Part of a nutritious breakfast!
I do like the idea of taking 15 to 30 minutes putting together an entire cooking recipe whenever I want to use a beauty product, since none of that crap will keep. Plus, some of the "simple household ingredients" people suggest you can handily grab aren't really that common. A lot of people suggest using gelatin and milk to make a mask to replace Biore pore strips, which are sticky strips that masochists like myself use to rip blackheads out of our nose pores.
For some reason, used Biore strips are a common subject of macro photography on the Internet.
Unfortunately, very few people have gelatin just lying around their houses, and apparently not a lot of supermarkets here have plain gelatin lying on their shelves, either, so unless I want to give myself a strawberry Jell-O facial (I can't imagine the sugar and red dye #9 are good for skin), this "money-saving" tip is going to cost me a lot of driving around and wasted time.
Other people suggest making your own beer and wine. I've had other people's homemade beer and wine, and it tastes fucking awful. Sure, some talented individuals make good homebrew, but odds are it is not going to be you. If you just want to produce alcohol in order to get drunk, I guess this works, though.
Like, I guess if you learn how to make your own toilet wine, you can save a lot of cigs.
Still others suggest making your own clothes, which, again, works for people who are good at making clothes. That blogger suggests that making a sleeveless top takes "about one hour," which means it would take me like five hours, and that they save the $40 they would have spent on a similar top at the store, which means that "the store" is probably Nordstrom's.
Did you know you can save a lot on a top already by not shopping at Nordstrom's? Maybe go to Target or Walmart or Old Navy? Or if you must have a brand name, Ross or T.J. Maxx? I can probably get a sleeveless top from Old Navy for $10, so I think I can find better things to do with an afternoon than earn $10, like earn a lot more than that at my job.
I work for an organization that teaches cats to read.
Something else you can make yourself is hair extensions, which require nothing more than wig clips, a needle and thread, and packages of "wefted human hair." I don't even know what wefted human hair is, but I have a feeling that it is going to be even harder to get than gelatin.
Give Gifts Nobody Wants
You know when underprivileged youth come to your door selling magazine subscriptions because it's the only thing keeping them off the streets? If they've never tried to sell you magazines, at least they've tried to sell them to the main characters of Office Space, so you can watch that.
Or maybe you've registered for something on the Internet, and when you're done they offer you a "thank you gift" in the form of free magazine subscriptions that you have to start paying for in three months.
Well, one Oprah.com reader knows exactly how much delight magazine subscriptions bring everyone and is going to force them on all her friends for Christmas.
Sure, some people might actually be happy to get Better Homes & Gardens for a year or whatever, but a lot of people avoid magazine offers like the plague and hate the thought of yet more mail clutter they have to sort for the recycling bin, not to mention having their address sold to mailing lists that want to advertise to people who like whatever the magazine is about.
Apparently unused magazine subscriptions is a big enough problem that it prompted this other list to give this tip:
There is kind of a weird synergy between the two tips, where you could keep getting magazine subscriptions from the one person and keep canceling them per this tip. It's almost a sort of circle of life.
There's a similar kind of tip when they suggest making something for yourself that hardly anyone wants, like if your white clothes get stained, make them into tie-dyed clothes. Honestly, if I had to choose between the two, I would rather just wear the stained clothes.
Things Most People Can't Do
It's pretty expensive to live in California, or New York. So if you're trying to find some small ways to trim your budget, why not move to Iowa?
I should mention that this list is billed as "Little Steps: 100 Great Tips for Saving Money for Those Just Getting Started," and these are described as "simple little moves you can make to improve your financial situation." Like, you know, moving to Iowa.
Other tips don't involve completely changing your life and uprooting your family, but might be impractical for most people, like riding a bike to work. It's a great idea, but most American cities and even suburbs are not terribly bike friendly, which means you need to be some kind of daredevil to get from one place to another.
I seriously think this might be a safer commute.
Even if you are a daredevil, some commutes are just impossible. A lot of people have to take freeways to get to work, or drive more than 25 miles. Blame the government or whoever, but there's no bike lanes in most places, many drivers are terrified/angry/confused when they see a bike, some roads can't even be traversed without a car (some bridges especially), and you add all that up and you really have to either be some kind of extreme adventurer or the planets have to perfectly align so that your work can be reached by a bike route that connects to a pedestrian overpass that connects to a regional trail that connects to another bike route. And it all has to take about an hour or less because you don't have all day to show up for work.
I don't know if there's any stats on how many people could potentially ride their bike to work without seriously considering term life insurance or making a multi-hour journey out of it, but I think whatever percentage it is, you can count it on your fingers.
So the conclusion I've come to is that the best way to have a little money in your pocket at the end of the month is to get someone to pay you to write money-saving tips on the Internet, because I guess you don't have to try very hard.
He thinks we will use the money to buy more food.
For more from Christina, check out 5 Weight Loss Tips for Cynical Bastards and 5 Topics Guaranteed to Elicit (Condescending) Advice.