Friday, June 12, 2009
Frugal Made Simple
These are just some accumulated tips I've gathered for saving money. Because I'm not out there earning an income, I try my darndest to not waste what he makes.
Make a list and stick to it! For me, I find I'm much better able to stick to my list if I go grocery shopping without the kids. I'm too susceptible to "Mom, please?!" I also don't go when I'm tired or hungry.
Before making your list, "shop" at home first. Look through your pantry, fridge and cupboards. There is little sense in buying something you already have.
We don't have an Aldi's here in Upper LandoftheLost Michigan- just one of the great tragedies of moving to this frozen tundra. Otherwise, I'd so be there. They are cheap, cheap, cheap!
I know everyone says coupons, coupons, coupons! And if you're a name-brand buyer, I'd also be saying that. But I've never really noticed any benefit to coupons because I hardly ever buy name-brand. Maybe I should pay more attention to comparing the cost of name-brand with a coupon vs. the price of generic. Somehow, I'm thinking I'd break even at best, but maybe not.
But use grocery store savings cards, read the flyers, watch for sales and make a plan of attack. That may involve going to more than one grocery store to get the best savings.
Buy in bulk when possible and break things up into serving size, though be careful not to "over buy" and end up with things that will go bad before you can get to them.
Be reasonable about your needs. We live a good 30 miles from where we shop, so, in an effort to cut down on gas use, I try and do at least a 2 to 3 week menu for groceries. However, buying 2 or 3 weeks worth of produce turned out not to work because some of it would be icky before we ate it. Therefore, though the produce is more expensive, it works out better for us to buy produce from our little local grocer as we need it.
On that note- check out Farmer's Markets and CSA's for produce.
Buy leaner (and cheaper!) cuts of meat and learn how to cook them. Also, you don't have to commit to vegetarianism to go meatless. Have a meal or three with no meat and save on your grocery bill. Meat tends to be more expensive than fruits and veggies and there are some terrific meatless recipes out there!
"Shop the perimeter". The *food*? The real food food? Is generally on the outside aisles. If you do foray into the center, look up and look down. The pricier items are placed at eye level. Those stores are sneaky devils.
Watch the cash register. Sometimes the sale price doesn't make it to the checkout. Keep an eagle eye on the scanner!
Take a day and make up some meals to pop in the freezer. You'll be less tempted to go the fast food route when you're too tired to cook. (A simple meal of delivered pizza to feed our family of 5 is never under $60- and usually closer to $75. Totally a waste of money! Subway, even if we all get the $5 footlongs, no drinks or chips, is $30 with tax, and there are no leftovers. I can buy deli meat and all the trimmings, make buns and have enough food left for a couple of lunches for that price.)
Making meals in bulk will also cut down on how much it costs to use your oven. You'll use less electricity/gas by running your oven for one 5 hour cooking spree than using it for 5 days for an hour or so each time. Though using a slow cooker is even cheaper than using an oven.
You can shave a chunk off your electric bill if you unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, tv's, microwave, etc. They all suck power even when they aren't turned on. (I'm still trying to remember to unplug them at night myself)
Service your appliances if they need it. Though it's painful to pay that repair man, you'll end up paying more through higher bills for a badly running refrigerator.
Clean underneath your fridge. All that dust mucking up your coils makes it run more.
If your freezer is empty, stuff it with something. Anything. Water bottles, empty tupperware, wadded up newspaper. Opening the door of an empty freezer sends your cold air rushing out. Less so if it's full.
Try running appliances during off-peak hours for lower rates.
Energy efficient lightbulbs. Though they are more expensive to purchase, they are worth it in the long run.
I wash almost everything in cold water and never run the washer if it isn't full. If using your dryer, set it to low heat. It's better for your fabric and your bill. If clothes are damp, promptly hang them up to finish drying.
If hanging clothes out on a clothesline is an option, use it. You'll save tons.
I also never run the dishwasher until it's full and I turn off the drying option. The dishes air dry for free. (of course I could hand wash them for even more savings, but shhh. Let's pretend that option doesn't exist!)
Make a household "One item at a time" rule. If the kids are on the 'net, shut off the TV or radio. For little kids, appoint one as the day's "Electric Slasher". Make it his/her "job" to race through the house shutting off lights and appliances that nobody is using. It's fun, makes them feel important and teaches good habits!
Brown bag your lunch. Get a travel mug and take your own coffee with you (at sometimes TWENTY times the savings of buying a cup). Grab a piece of fruit for breakfast-to-go instead of a Sausage McStroke (savings and healthier!).
Create your own 100-calorie packs by buying in bulk and dividing your large packs into smaller ones yourself.
I don't buy any cleaning supplies beyond vinegar and baking soda (well, hardly any. Sometimes I splurge on some Comet). The homemade laundry soap is a huge savings, of course.
I stopped buying Swiffer stuff without giving up the convenience of it by refilling the (supposedly non-refillable) bottle with vinegar and water and using either a washable, reusable towel or microfiber cloth for the pad. Just bore a hole in the bottom of the bottle and use a funnel to pour in the vinegar. The velcro strips on the bottom of the Swiffer make attaching a cloth super easy.
Cut your dryer sheets in half. They last twice as long and work just as well.
Use cloth napkins for dinner and rags/microfiber cloths for cleaning. Save a tree and stop buying paper towels.
I'm a huge fan of craigslist, freecycle, rummage sales, thrift shops- anywhere I can get a bargain, I'm there. I hardly ever buy new items, especially clothes, other than underwear cuz used underwear is just gross.
Cancel what you aren't using/don't need-
Do you really need that magazine or newspaper subscription? Almost all of what you read can be found online- for free.
Aren't watching the HBO that came with your cable promotion? Cancel it.
Have both a landline and a cell phone? Pick one.
Bundle your internet/cable packages when possible.
Sign up for free samples wherever you can.
Stop using disposable items. For a little more effort, you can rack up savings on razors, coffee filters, bottled water, etc.
If you do go out to eat, order water to drink (usually free) over soda/wine, and skip the appetizers and desserts. Let's face it, with the size of entrees these days, do you need those extra food items? It'll cut your final bill down significantly.
Have more money-saving ideas? Add them in the comments! We can all use hints and tips to stretch the almighty dollar.