Readers Are Rich in Money-Saving Tips

This trims gas and gym costs.
This trims gas and gym costs.
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By John Kelly
Thursday, October 2, 2008

As we all get measured for our barrels and inspect possible accommodations under bridges, it seems like a good time to let readers again weigh in on How to Save Money in These Economically Challenging Times.

Brian Pannick of Alexandria was among those who pointed out that an earlier reader tip to store "excess" items in your car trunk is not a great money saver. "The extra weight in the trunk will decrease gas mileage," Brian wrote. "If she is suggesting that you keep stuff in a car that you don't drive much, then the greater savings would be to sell the car, and use the money saved from gas, registration, insurance, city taxes, etc. as an investment in some high-efficiency appliances."

Pat Saine registered polite disagreement with the suggestion that people use libraries rather than bookstores. Wrote Pat: "The libraries I've visited lately have aging collections in mediocre condition." Rather, he said, people should frequent their local good used-book store.

And what a coincidence: Pat has just opened a bookstore in Winchester, Va., called Blue Plate Books. Wrote Pat: "This morning I was chatting with a customer about the latest Washington/Wall Street money drama. 'What should we be doing?' I asked. His opinion was this: 'I'll take this sci-fi novel. Now's a good time to bury your head in a book.' "

Mary Ruth Stultz of Silver Spring thought that reducing fuel costs by easing off the throttle on your lawn mower didn't go quite far enough: "Have you ever seen a push lawn mower? It does not use gasoline -- just muscle power -- and it's quiet. One would save on gasoline use and would not need to pay for a gym workout. Double savings."

Germantown's Jim Mood said anyone in a household with lots of toys can benefit from a battery tester. Many toys and small appliances use multiple batteries. "I have found that when these items stop working, usually only one of the batteries is actually dead and the others are fine," wrote Jim. "Before I had a battery tester, I used to replace all of the batteries. Now, I usually only have to replace one. Given the price of batteries, there is a substantial savings over the course of a year which easily exceeds the minimal cost of a battery tester."

Jerry Syfert of Centreville, Md., took offense at the whole exercise of scrimping. He thinks our economic problems won't be solved by saving a few pennies here and there: "If they save $15 a year on a can of gasoline, how are they going to mow the yard if they no longer have a yard?" he asked. "How can you store stuff in your car when you no longer have a car?"

But what really bothered him was my use of the expression "bring it" when describing how I thought some readers were confronting economizing. Wrote Jerry: " 'Bring it'? Give me a break. Sounds like something our president would say."

Politicians do have to be careful. As reader Mike Szydlowski pointed out: "Years ago when Senator Robert Taft of Ohio was asked what he planned to do about the high cost of food, his response was, 'eat less.' "

What the Ohio Republican actually said was that Americans could "eat less meat and eat less extravagantly," but we get Mike's point.

Speaking of which, P. Denny of Bethesda sent me a recipe for "Depression Soup." She said she makes it whenever she has leftover pasta, rice or vegetables. Since we all might be making it soon, here's how she makes it: Put three chicken or beef bouillon cubes in four cups of water; add chopped celery, onion and parsley, and simmer 30 minutes. Then add the vegetables and pasta and a fresh chopped tomato, and simmer covered for 30 minutes.

"Healthy, delicious and cheap," she noted.

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