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In the last 30 years, there has been a tremendous “Wealthening” of America. Perhaps the greatest evidence of that is the huge growth in the service sector. Today, we pay other people to do many things that we used to just do ourselves just 3 decades ago.
If you want to start living cheap, it is time to reverse the trend and start doing these things for yourself!
1) Lawn Mowing: 30 years ago, only old ladies and the very rich hired somebody to mow their lawns. Either you did it or your kid did it. And if you were childless you hired the neighbor’s kid. These days, it seems everyone hires a “professional” to do their lawn. Paying someone $25+ a week to mow the lawn can cost you an extra $650 a year. You can buy an air-conditioned programmable lawn mower for that kind of money. It’s all about scheduling the time, it doesn’t take that much effort and it helps keep you fit. It’s a medical fact that yardwork reduces stress and burns calories.
2) House Cleaning: 30 years ago, a maid was considered something that only the elite could afford. Of course, the average size of a house has doubled and requires more work to clean up and keep tidy. You can save two to three thousand a year by just doing it yourself. Invest some money in some high quality cleaning equipment to make the work easier. Get organized. If you’re tidy all week - you’ll have less to clean up on the weekend. A fallback position is to cut back to every other week.
3) Home Security: 30 years ago, home security meant a 12 gauge shotgun or two guys named Smith & Wesson. Today, after decades of plummeting crime, we pay $30 a month or more for the privilege of putting a little Octagon outside our door and hoping that would be criminals can’t figure out an alarm system that an 8th grader could foil. Get a dog.
4) Cooking: According to ZAGAT, the average family eats out 3.2 times per week. 30 years ago, it was something families would only do on very special occasions or while on vacation. Those meals cost an average of about $2,800. Do yourself a favor, invest $1,000 and get someone in your family to take a few gourmet cooking classes. It’ll pay for itself in six months. If your kitchen serves better food than 95% of the restaurants in your area, you won’t eat out as much. Savings $1,400+ a year.
5) Laundry: Maybe the Blue Suits at IBM were getting their shirts pressed 30 years ago, but most everyone else was firing up the iron and pressing away at home. Today, many professionals spend $20 to $100 a week for their dry cleaning bills. Do it yourself. It makes sense to send a suit to the cleaners - but you should be able to do a shirt or two. Buy a good $80 iron, some starch, and a nice ironing board and iron away while the game is on. Savings $1,000 + a year.
6) Automotive Maintenance: Most of us have to admit that we don’t handle the upkeep on the cars. There was a time not to long ago that the oil changes, brakes, and fixing up the old jalopy was done in our driveways. A few of us keep up with the old tradition but for most people, jacking up the car and sliding underneath is a permanent part of the past. Thankfully, our cars need a heck of a lot less maintenance than they used to. Savings: $500 or more if you are handy.