Between the increasing costs of fuel, food and utilities and continual whispers (or shouts) circulating about the dismal state of the economy, money or lack thereof seems to be on everyone's mind. Even the slightest bump in any one budgetary area can do great harm to so many families living paycheck to paycheck.
Far too many people these days have to make uncomfortable changes (though not all are bad) to their lifestyle in order to save a dollar here or to avoid a trip there--anything to make that paycheck stretch a little further.
Maybe you had it coming. Maybe you already know a lot of this, but consider it a refresher course from those who have chosen to be frugal as a lifestyle choice.
Words of wisdom. Make yourself rich, by making your wants few, as H.D. Thoreau was wont to say.
So, maybe you've considered taking the bus before, only to realize it costs you an additional two hours in daily commute time. I have. Maybe you're pondering life without cable television (easier than you might think...especially if you have high-speed internet). Can you really afford to miss Jon and Kate Plus Eight? Have you resigned yourself and your family to never stepping foot outside of Tulsa County again?
I'm going to do my best to offer some real savings. You can choose to do what you like with the money you save. I plan to blow mine on ice cream (major sweet tooth).
During the presidential election, Barack Obama suggested that properly filling one's tires with air could do a little to ease costs at the pump. He caught flack from the Republican Party for his suggestion, but some findings have the savings for correct tire inflation at 3 percent. Nitrogen advocates place the savings even higher, noting that nitrogen is more abundant than oxygen. They say that nitrogen is a popular replacement for standard air because it improves overall car performance, including a vehicle's handling, fuel efficiency and tire life.
Based on the specifics for my car, I'd save more than $118 a year ($53 of which is savings in gasoline alone) if I drove with properly maintained tire pressure. If you factor in wear and tear, gas prices and the reduced risk of having a blowout, it seems worthwhile to fully inflate and maintain your tires.
If paying to fill your tires with nitrogen doesn't interest you, any and all QuikTrips are outfitted with free air stations (and 49 cent-drinks during summer). A recommendation: drivers should check their tires monthly to ensure they are properly inflated and are retaining their air.
The Best Things in Life
More fun than air pressure (and equally as fun as QT Freezoni's), are the things listed below that I still consider cheap--not to mention perfect for summer.
Enjoy these creative ways to beat the heat and make it through the dog days of summer without blowing your summer job savings.
A day at one of the Tulsa parks (www.tulsaparks.org) is another great way to spend a sunny day without having to take along cumbersome currency. With 10 disc golf courses in and around Tulsa (www.tulsadiscsports.org), playing a game of disc golf can be a fun activity for the entire family. Afterwards, I typically have to put my right arm on ice, but that is mostly from painful over-throwing, which is neither effective nor necessary. Like its expensive cousin, disc golf, as Mark Twain suggested, can also be "a good walk spoiled," but exercise nonetheless.
With more than 125 public parks managed by the City of Tulsa, freebies abound: from a stroll or a free bike ride along Riverside to a no-cost wildflower walk or butterfly watch at the Redbud Valley Nature Preserve to a free dog park (Joe Station Bark Park, 2279 Charles Page Blvd., and Biscuit Acres at Hunter Park, 9242 S. Yale). Tulsa seems to say to its inhabitants, "If you can't find a free way to occupy your day's time or that of your best friend, you're not looking."
One of my favorite free meccas is the local library. Free books, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and Internet. What else is there? Oh yes, they also offer free classes and seminars (some in Spanish--sí, gratis clases en Español), children's programs and an educational helping hand. Past examples include business seminars, movie clubs, genealogy research and "Wii Fun for Seniors." Grab a monthly guide to such special events at your local library or online (tulsalibrary.org). All you need is a library card. They're free, too.
The library presents a manageable alternative to a life contingent upon cable and television. Yes, I am suggesting ridding your life of television. Try it for a day. If you already have high-speed Internet, most shows are now online (check nbc.com, abc.com, hulu.com, funnyordie.com, etc.). You're already paying for the World Wide Web. Cut off the cable and make good use of it. It'll save you some time and money. You might even reduce your monthly electricity bill between the television and the DVR.
For further Tulsa-area entertainment savings, a family of four can save some serious change by spending a free second Saturday of the month at Philbrook Museum (www.philbrook.org), one of the United States' top 50 museums, and "one of only five museums in the United States with a unique combination of historical home, art collections and gardens," according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Outside of school field trips, my childhood saw zero visits to any museum with my family. It's just something we didn't do. This is one reason why I'm just now learning how art can elicit a wide array of emotions.
The art in Philbrook is beautiful; but the building, completed in 1927 and opened to the public in 1939, is worth touring even without the collection of art. The museum was once home to former oil tycoon Waite Phillips and wife Genevieve. Daydreaming about owning it and having a fair staff of butlers can bring a smile to even the most negative of Nancys. The gardens located behind the Museum are also breathtaking, so bring your camera.
If you choose to go on the second Saturday you'll save yourself the $7.50 admission cost. Children 18 and under are always free and college students with an ID receive $2 off. Also, the Philbrook offers many family and adult programs. Inquire about the MyMuseum program while you're at the free second Saturday. It will get your children art supplies, a toolkit and activity cards through the end of June. Again: no wallet, no problem.
Staying in the art world, admission to the Gilcrease Museum (gilcrease.org) is free on the first Tuesday of each month, thus saving you $8, if you have the time off to go. And with fewer jobs around town, Tuesday at the art museum sounds fun. Ask about the Trailblazer Bag and SmART card programs while entering. They're both free educational tools for kiddos. Also, be sure to let the children stop into the interactive Creative Learning Center (open 3-5pm on weekdays, 10am-5pm on weekends). Like Philbrook Museum, Gilcrease also has 23 acres of gardens outfitted with bronze sculptures.
An excellent opportunity to experience the Tulsa Zoo (www.tulsazoo.org), for those who do so regularly or have never done so, is the year's free day--the first Saturday in August. Also, admission is half-price on Father's Day and reduced prices are always available for children 11 years old and younger (3-11 years old--$4, and 2 and under--free). Those 65 and older save $2 off the regular $8 entrance fee.
Feel free to take advantage of Tulsa Transit's number 901 bus line to and from the Tulsa Zoo/Air and Space Museum on the first Saturday of each month (from Denver Ave. downtown station). It can serve as an introduction to public transit for the entire family (plus the fare is reduced to only 50 cents for this route), and with the Zoo free day on the first Saturday in August, you'll already be saving.
Art openings, in general, throughout Tulsa are a great way to spend a night out for free. Usually the gallery offers free beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres, but keeping a couple George Washingtons on you for tipping is appreciated. Keeping yourself up-to-date on gallery events is as easy as visiting Urban Tulsa Weekly's Events Page and following Holly Wall's Arts Experienced column and regular arts coverage.
The Nearly Free
After hearing a recent radio program about a New York City family whose hobbies include competing for the most collected change, I started picking up pennies again. One of the family members had accumulated more than $1,000 this year alone in discarded change. This may not be the flashiest way of filling your wallet, but it's a proven money-maker.
Those of us looking to keep a heavy wallet and our prestigious image intact might look elsewhere.
Last year, when Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) first announced they were planning to pursue an increase to customer rates, I ran out and bought a handful of compact fluorescent bulbs. With PSO suggesting that a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month could expect to see more than a $17 a month increase in their bill, I realized outfitting the entire house with such bulbs could save me additional ice cream money.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "If every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road."
From a purely financial standpoint, replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb can save you more than $30 in energy costs for the life of the bulb, and can lead to the greatest savings to your utility bills. Yes, the compact fluorescents are more expensive to buy up front, ranging from a few dollars to tens of dollars. But, compact fluorescent bulbs are said to last 10 times longer than their regular, cost-ineffective rivals. In order to find the right bulb for you, remember to check the package for the traditional wattage equivalent or lumen rating.
The compact fluorescent bulbs generate 70 percent less heat, which means you are less likely to burn the holy hell out of your hands when replacing them. My hands have already sent me several "thank you" cards.
The only downside to compact fluorescents is that each bulb contains nearly 5 milligrams of mercury--a toxic metal no one should be playing with, especially the age group most likely to play with it--children. Because of this, it is important to recycle your compact fluorescents to avoid contamination. The only store in Tulsa currently and consistently recycling these bulbs is Home Depot, although you may have to do some asking around at the store, because it's a relatively new program. "Just take it to the return desk," I was recently told.
Another great way to reduce the costs associated with household appliances is to adjust your thermostat or install a couple ceiling fans. According to Michael Bluejay, aka Mr. Electricity (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/), the average American household can save more than $2,500 per year on their electricity bill by following seven fairly simple strategies.
Sure, maybe not all of you care to turn your thermostat to 80 degrees in the summer or only heat the rooms you're in during the winter months, but it's easy to wash your clothes in cold water or turn your computer to sleep when you're not using it. Based on Mr. Electricity's calculations, the latter two will save an average American family nearly $250 a year.
As I touched on in the free section, car maintenance is a major expense for many Oklahomans. In 2007, The Natural Resources Defense Council stated Oklahoma was sixth in the "highest degree of oil vulnerability." Meaning: as oil prices go up we are the sixth hardest hit state in the country. Maintaining your car can go a long way towards saving you money at the pump, but what else can you do to save a buck? Meineke, Jiffy Lube, and Rocket Lube offer online coupons for discounts to oil changes and other services (www.meineke.com, www.jiffylube.com, and www.rocketlube.net/). It's a start.
If you're not in a terrible hurry, the bus is an affordable option. The rack-n-roll program also makes free bicycles available to commuters for 24 hours. Adult bus passes cost $1.50, youth are $1.25, seniors over 62 are $0.75, and "super seniors" over 75 are free. Also, children four and under are always free. During Ozone Alert season, riders can jump on board for 50 cents. Frequent rider discounts are also available (www.tulsatransit.org).
For those looking to save a buck and/or reduce their carbon footprint, Tulsa Transit's green traveler program may be the perfect fit (www.green-traveler.org). The program aims to match those interested in carpooling with other Tulsans with similar routes. For more information or to register, visit the Web site or call 583-RIDE to inquire about the rideshare program.
Recipe for $avings
It is no secret that the greatest food savings come from making three meals a day at home, but not everyone has the time or ability to pull off that kind of cookery. For those of you still making the majority of your meals at home, there are Web sites worth checking to find tips on obtaining coupons and other savings (www.couponmonth.com, www.918moms.com, www.smartsource.com).
Also, cooking can be a great way to bond with your family and roommates or just learn a little bit about nutrition, something Oklahomans can improve upon. We ranked as the eighth fattest state in CalorieLab's 2008 State Obesity Rankings.
Additional savings can be exploited at any of Tulsa's many thrift stores. Not only that, but you can find some pretty cool vintage clothing, records, china, books, et cetera. Between Goodwill's two locations in Tulsa, Animal Aid, Community, Salvation Army and Value Thrift Stores you can make a day of shopping on the cheap. Watch for daily deals at many of the stores. And, don't overlook the Tulsa Flea Market at the Fairgrounds (http://www.exposquare.com/es/) for even more savings.
As far as nightlife goes, Soundpony, just south of Cain's Ballroom, features free hot dogs during happy hour (from 3-9pm) for every $4 you spend. Cellar Dweller, at 7th and Elwood, has $2 PBR all day everyday and free peanuts. Both Soundpony and Cellar Dweller will not only save you some loot compared with other bars, but they're also smoke-free, saving you a lung.
Other happy hours include Arnie's, 318 E. 2ND St., with $1.75 domestic draughts everyday from 2-8pm and all day Sunday. They also feature weekly and daily specials. For example, the day of this writing, Killian's Irish Red, Miller Lite and Coors Light were $5 a pitcher. If that isn't enticing enough, they also offer free pizza on Friday night. Caz's, in the Brady Arts District, has two PBRs or High Lifes for $2 on Tuesdays and $1.50 Boulevard Wheat Wednesdays after 7pm. They also feature other delicious daily specials (check out what's going on right now: www.cazspub.com/cazcam1.php). If you've been living under a rock, McNellie's has $3 burgers each Wednesday night from 5-10pm. Come on, I'm a vegetarian and I know it! Don't forget to check out their monthly beer specials on the big board to save your beloved billfold wear and tear.
Cheap movies at the AMC Southroads 20 (4923 E. 41st Street) on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays before noon, also translate into savings. All shows are $4. You can take the money you saved at the box office and invest in the concession stand.
Circle Cinema, 1st and Lewis, frequently presents free movies to the public. They offer discounts to seniors, students and groups of ten or more. For those devoted to independent, foreign, documentary or independent foreign documentary films, a membership can add to the savings by dropping ticket prices to a mere $5 per movie. Check circlecinema.com for discounts, previews, and show times.
Other cheap movie options, outside of Netflix, include the Cinemark 8 Theater, 6808 S. Memorial. A Tuesday film at 50 cents can rack up the savings, but even a Friday or Saturday evening movie only runs $1.50. Also, don't forget about the Admiral Twin drive-in during summer months, which is $7 for adults and $2 for children (5-11 years old). It is an experience in itself, has cheaper concessions and shows two movies for the price of one.
From West Tulsa to Jenks to Broken arrow, free outdoor concerts that highlight local musicians are ongoing each week throughout the area. Tuesday's music series include: Third Tuesday on the Triangle in Sand Springs, Starlight Summer Concerts at the River West Festival Park, and Tuesdays in the Park at Central Park in Broken Arrow. Thursday night concerts include: Shops of Seville Concerts at The Shops of Seville (10051 S. Yale) and Summer's Fifth Night at Utica Square. Friday night series include: Rhythm on the River at the 41st Street Plaza on Riverside and Summer at RiverWalk at RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks.
For this week, you can also check out Music at the Mansion at the Tulsa Historical Society on June 18. Call 712-9484 for more. Also, the Tulsa Community Band plays at the LaFortune Gardens on the 18th. Enjoy an evening of jazz, swing, marches and more. On June 19, KingsPointe Village, 61st and Yale, hosts an outdoor summer concert with jazz man Grady Nichols.
I'm an optimist, while I count the money saved by the following the tactics listed above. Maybe I'll hoard the loot for a year or two and invest in a vacation, or I could instead increase my weekly intake of, sticking with the theme, ice cream.
Happy savings, summer campers.
Share this article: