The Art of the Drill Down

During a recent budget drill down, I found a couple of items that I wanted to tackle. But how to reduce the cost, how to reduce the cost? I found I was spending more than I was comfortable with on pods for my wonderful coffee machine, an estimate of $600 a year just on coffee pods. Pods! And this bugged me as much as knowing I was contributing to more waste. Still, my coffee machine is the thing that that keeps me from ever going down the street and spending a bundle on a simple cup of coffee. But with those shiny, fragrant pods costing a $1 a pop and as I drink a couple of cups of Joe a day, I knew the cost was adding up beyond what I am comfortable spending long term. I knew I needed to find a more cost-effective solution.

I mulled this over for a little while before starting to look for a better solution. Turns out, there are reusable metal and plastic pods that cut the cost of using my machine by around 80 percent. Bingo. I already had ground coffee that I could use up and see how the reusable pod worked out. Turns out, it worked out just fine. There is that extra moment to pack it with ground coffee and then clean it out but it was worth the cost I was saving for sure.

When I go for a reduction in cost over something I not only look at an annual cost savings, I look at what I can do with the savings. For example, if I saved $600 a year on coffee pods, that money could go toward a lot of other expenses. I could use it for a plane ticket, put it in my savings, a lot of options come to mind. This tends to motivate me to continue to find ways to save on things like pods for my coffee maker. I still need to buy the little lids for the reusable pod but that expense is very minor compared to the $1 a cup I was spending several times a day.

Another $600 back in my pocket, I looked around for other ways to save. Both involved finding and perfecting a baking recipe. My partner loves a good pretzel, the chewy German kind. We had tried various frozen versions from the store but they were both expensive and frankly, the taste and quality were lacking. I broke out an ancient baking book and found an old recipe. The first try did not turn out well. In fact, my dogs were the happy recipients of pretzel biscuits which were just water, flour, yeast, etc. I can remarket nearly any messed up baking project it seems. The second time, I paid a lot more attention and tweaked the recipe, hand working the dough to ensure it was the right texture. They turned out better than any version we’d gotten at any sporting event and certainly surpassed the frozen, boxed store bought variety by miles. Even better, the leftovers were carefully wrapped in foil, frozen and then re-baked unthawed and they tasted out great too.

The second baking project involved my baking nemesis, gluten free bread. I like to buy it for my daughter but frankly and again, it usually tastes terrible and is actually very expensive. Still, it always seems so unfair that being seriously gluten intolerant should result in no bread for my carb loving daughter. I therefore researched and tried a recipe that, surprise, surprise, turned out all wrong. The taste was fine but even with yeast, it did not rise properly. Back to the baking board. I tried again, doubling the yeast and increasing the rise time and the loaf turned out perfectly. And the first attempt? It did not go to waste, of course. I cubed the bread, soaked everything in an milk and egg mixture with agave syrup for sweetening and baked it, giving my daughter has a lovely batch of oven baked French bread, something she has not been able to enjoy in years.

So, all of this means that a failure in baking need not be a failure after all. Just remarket what you have and use it another way. Don’t immediately toss something you made that turned out wonky into the trash. Bread that didn’t rise can also be made into crunchy croutons or used in an end of summer tomato and bread salad. They make great bread crumbs or an addition to meatloaf too. And if I am honest, I know that my dogs sure do miss those pretzel biscuits.

The point is, when you try something new in order to save money, you may not succeed the first time. Don’t give up and strive to repurpose/remarket your mistakes in the kitchen into something else. And look around for those hidden costs that end up costing you too much as was the case with my coffee pods. I thought in using my new coffee machine, I was saving a load of money but I never really did succumb to the $7 cup of coffee from the local coffee shop so I had to figure out a way to have my Java and save money too. The reusable pod containers were the solution.

In other situations, going off brand or doing it yourself isn’t always the answer. Case in point, my laser printer recently needed new toner cartridges. I found out the hard way that buying cheaper, off brand meant reusing the chips glued to the old cartridges. Trying to reuse those hard-to-remove semiconductor chips was very difficult and only worked for one in four cartridges. In this case, going with the brand of the laser printer actually saved me time, money and a lot of grief. It took three tries but I finally realized that going with something slightly more expensive was the best and most frugal option for this application. I don’t use my printer a lot, I am careful to go electronic for every possible document so I only need to replace the cartridges very sparingly. It is worth the few extra dollars to make sure it is done right.

Finally, as you continue to drill down on hidden and not so hidden costs, don’t be afraid to assert yourself, especially in these tough times. I had been trying to reach my local massage provider for several months. The franchise owner was not returning calls although he continued to take my membership money on a monthly basis via a credit card. I finally blocked the charge on my credit card and called national headquarters. They refunded my membership for the past six months, the time period that the business was not able to offer massages due to the pandemic. I was nice about my request but I did drop the phrase, “Breech of contract” because if you cannot offer me massage services, you don’t get to take my money, at least that is how I read the contract agreement and I was not wrong. The refund came to my credit card within three days. Thank you massage people, thank you.

Finally, keep drilling down and finding those hidden and pesky charges. You will be surprised at just how much you can still save.

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