Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps You Save Money 

Dear Bianca,

With the economy in the crapper, I'm looking for a few ways to save some extra dough. I don't want to downgrade my quality of life by giving up cable, Internet, or anything recreational, but I'm scared my company could have lay-offs later this year. If that happens, I'd like to have a stash of cash to turn to in my time of need. Any suggestions for ways to cut back that won't affect my life too much?

-- Soon-To-Be-Thrifty

Dear Soon-To-Be-Thrifty,

In these dark times, we're all looking at ways to trim our budgets. But that doesn't mean we have to live like paupers.

Start by looking at how you spend your disposable income -- the cash left over after you pay the bills. I tend to blow that money on alcohol and food, but lately I've been cutting back by drinking and eating before I go out. Of course, you'll need a designated driver for this, but try to get your buzz on before you get to the bar. That way, one or two drinks should suffice.

Also, seek out discount nights at your favorite bars. Most bars have a pint night or beer bust night that do wonders for a socialite on a budget.

As for retail therapy, hit up the thrift stores. Thrift shopping has been trendy for years, but that "trend" has now become a sensible option, given the current economic climate. Plus, buying gently used duds also helps the environment. You know that whole reduce, re-use, recycle, thing?

Speaking of recycling ... try rinsing and saving used Ziploc bags, plastic butter bowls, and salad dressing jars. This helps the environment and prevents you from spending money on storage containers.

Cooking at home rather than eating out will help keep pennies in the piggy bank too. Purchase beans and grains in bulk rather than in plastic packaging since bulk items are priced more cheaply. Freeze any leftovers in those salvaged butter containers for quick work-week lunches.

Try making your own cleaning supplies. Vinegar diluted with a little water makes a perfect all-purpose cleaner and doubles as a fruit and vegetable wash. A little Borax, old-fashioned washing soda, and soap make for an awesome laundry detergent.

As for hygiene, remember this key phrase: “If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.” Gross, I know, but not flushing the toilet saves on water costs and helps the environment. Just remember to keep the lid down.

These are just a few ways to trim your budget, and if you'll notice most also benefit the planet. Though the economic situation blows, it may actually force some energy-sucking, non-recyclers into a greener way of life. Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at

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