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*Really* useful frugal tips for veteran frugalites

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
I love reading threads or books on frugal tips, but maybe because I've been a tightwad for so long, I don't find most of them to be very useful. They're often things like "re-use baggies, get a programmable thermostat, make a price book," etc. All good things, but not really novel to me, YKWIM?

I was thinking about a few things I do that may not be on such a list, and thought I would start a thread so I could share them, but also in the hopes of getting other mamas to share their more unusual money-saving tips. So here goes:
  • We have a reverse osmosis filter that came with our house, which I'm grateful for, since our city water is flouridated and chlorinated. However, when I discovered how much water is wasted in the filtering process I felt a little sick. So...since the filter is in the basement right next to the laundry area (the kitchen sink is just above there) I rigged up a rain barrel to catch the waste water from the RO filter. I then use that water to wash clothes -- I manually fill the washing machine using a hose attachment on the rain barrel. It's been working great for a few years now.
  • I have been struggling with using up leftovers in a timely fashion, but I keep putting off using food that's not immediately yummy-sounding to me, and then time passes and I'm not sure how old the food actually is, and I end up throwing it away. So I recently bought a small white board with a magnet on it (I think it's for school lockers -- I bought it at an office supply store) and stuck it to the side of the fridge. Now EVERY NIGHT after dinner I write down what is leftover and the date, and when it's time to eat another meal that I don't have planned I look at the list and heat up whatever meal is the oldest. The white board serves to "nag" me and remind me to eat stuff that I don't really feel like eating. (I have a bad habit of just serving snacky-type things for lunch and not using up leftovers.)

I'm sure I have a few more things but DS is calling. I hope to hear some of your ideas!
post #2 of 40
I will have to think about this. I agree about not finding many new ideas in the books if you've been doing this a while. I'm giving a talk on simple living to a group at church next month and asked what book they were using. I think I read some of it, but never finished because of lack of new ideas. However, so many people are just not used to doing anything frugal that they need to hear the basics.

I'll be back with some tips after I think about it.
post #3 of 40
One thing I found was that we often ended up buying food for *convenience* on days we were running around/too tired to cook or whatnot. Plus since we eat organic and from scratch at home we often ended up with stomach aches aftgerwards. so I invested in a set of nice storage containers. Now once dinner is cooked I set aside a portion of waht we had for dinner and freeze it. I use a dry erase marker to label it with date. We no longer eat out for *convenince* sakes. Any leftovers are also frozen, we periodically have freezer days where we eat leftovers. In all reality it only takes an extra 2 minutes or so in the microwave from frozen. As I would often hold off on freezing immediately and then weeks later find the container in the back of the fridge...wasted. So this ended up being better for us.
post #4 of 40
I have also practiced simple living, being frugal for many years. Some things I have started in the last few years:

Audit.
Go thru all your utilities, telcom, payments etc and call the company. Find out if your service is best for you. You will be surprised you can shave at least $10 off each month on almost all bills. Also all subscriptions, etc

Figure out after meals, what is left behind on the plates. That is food that you payed for and could potentially be throwing out. Start serving up proper portions. Use smaller plates. This also trims the body.

Do an energy audit. Go thru your house and unplug any unused appliances, most are sucking energy. Have your furnace checked and cleaned, vacumn out your dryer vent.

Donate donate donate. Get a receipt. Deduct. Deduct your time, milage etc for all volunteering. I do it every year and have for several years. keep records.
post #5 of 40
Here are mine:

--If you've gotten all the big money leaks plugged up, start looking for "time leaks", or even "resource leaks".

--Conserve mental energy by planning ahead of time: household tasks, daily rhythms, meal plans.

--Is frugality a means to an end for you, or an end in itself? If the former, what is the end, and what can you do toward it now?

--Look for ways to match your excess resources with someone else's needs.
post #6 of 40
No shopping.

Avoiding going into a store -- any store -- as much as possible.

If I don't know that it is out there to buy, then I don't find myself desiring it.

This is especially true of home decorating and personal clothing.

Trying to find contentment in personal relationships and activities instead of things.
post #7 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by New Mama View Post
I have been struggling with using up leftovers in a timely fashion, but I keep putting off using food that's not immediately yummy-sounding to me, and then time passes and I'm not sure how old the food actually is, and I end up throwing it away. So I recently bought a small white board with a magnet on it (I think it's for school lockers -- I bought it at an office supply store) and stuck it to the side of the fridge. Now EVERY NIGHT after dinner I write down what is leftover and the date, and when it's time to eat another meal that I don't have planned I look at the list and heat up whatever meal is the oldest. The white board serves to "nag" me and remind me to eat stuff that I don't really feel like eating. (I have a bad habit of just serving snacky-type things for lunch and not using up leftovers.)
I love this idea! We waste far too many leftovers simply because we forgot they were there and didn't eat them in time.
post #8 of 40
I don't know how unusual my tip is for frugal mamas, but I'll share it since it's fairly new to us.

I've been shopping thrift stores for not only used clothing for the kids and me, but also for fabric, patterns, and notions to sew up new clothing for them.

I've started eyeing large adult clothing that has fun prints and buying them to remake into kids clothing.

Today I bought a housecoat in a fun polka dot that will be a playdress (or two) for my daughter. I also picked up a skirt in a mod print that will be more dresses. Both were on clearance for 50 cents nad are easily 2 yards or more of useable fabric!

I find zippers for 25 cents and trims for 25 cents - both unused and unopened.

The other thing I've been doing is adding "skirts" to t-shirts that are too short for our long-torsoed girls and getting extra mileage out of the shirts for them. I just take two strips of wide ribbed knit fabric and sew them together at the sides. I gather them to fit the bottom of the t-shirt and sew it on.
post #9 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv-my-boys View Post
Any leftovers are also frozen, we periodically have freezer days where we eat leftovers. In all reality it only takes an extra 2 minutes or so in the microwave from frozen.
I love this idea -- I used to freeze leftovers too -- but we don't have a microwave (by choice) so it would take few days for things to thaw out again, plus I'd rather use the room in the freezer for on-sale meat and other ingredients. That's why I started just using up what I've just made throughout the week. I'm glad that works for you, though. Every household is different!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaske View Post
--Conserve mental energy by planning ahead of time: household tasks, daily rhythms, meal plans.
This is so true. I've started planning out our weeks on Sunday. Just matching up meals with activities (quick meals with busy or early-start days, for instance) and errands with outings (so no back-tracking or extra trips) has been really useful to me lately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crunchy*VT*Mom View Post
Avoiding going into a store -- any store -- as much as possible.
This is totally good advice. It seems obvious but I think we always assume we can just stay strong. When I *do* have to go shopping I find myself looking around at *everything,* not just those things that are on my list, and I have to very consciously talk myself out of buying other things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KariM View Post
I've been shopping thrift stores for not only used clothing for the kids and me, but also for fabric, patterns, and notions to sew up new clothing for them.
This is a great idea, and makes me wish I knew how to sew! Maybe someday.
post #10 of 40
1) making homemade laundry detergent

2) using co-ops or wholesale pricing for food, personal care products and other items you might need
post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crunchy*VT*Mom View Post
No shopping.

Avoiding going into a store -- any store -- as much as possible.
Yes!

Every time I go to Target or Walmart somehow I find things that I "need" and end up spending way more than I intended. I almost never step inside a store now except for my weekly grocery shopping trip (from a list).
post #12 of 40
Keep a pantry. For example this week canned veggie's are onsale for 47 cents. Thats 22 cents cheaper than costco for the same brand so It makes sense for me to buy several cases than just a few cans.
post #13 of 40
Ok, I've thought about it.

Timely for us: shop prices for dentists and specialists, sometimes they're cheaper outside of your network for things like a root canal. Ask for cach discounts. compare prices for prescriptions. Pharmacy prices vary WIDELY and some will price match. This saved us a bundle today > $50.

A big thing I do that no one I know does is have a mileage budget. I used to drive whenever and where ever putting 20+k miles/yr. on the car we wanted to last for 15 yrs. for the last 1-2 years, I drive 10k/year. 4 k out of town trips and 6k in town. 500 miles/month in town. I have to combine trips and plan for some longer distance events in separate months. Good for the environment, our gas budget and the life of the car. Also, I used to run out to escape the house alot. Now I go for a walk or deal with what I'm feeling another way.

shorter showers does save on our electricity bill.

We do our own repairs and house projects.

We spend significantly less on groceries than anyone I know irl. 300-350/mo for a fam of 4.

DH and I don't exchange gifts anymore. The kids make gifts to give to us and each other. The kids made lots of little paper gifts, bookmarks, pictures, etc for my birthday last week. They gave them to me all day long. The love I felt all day was the best. Better than something they could have bought me. I love that they do this of their own accord.

No cable, no high speed internet. Only prepaid emergency cell phone. Most dvds from library except the rare one from redbox for a $1.

shop in thrift stores only- if possible. I stay out of retail or only get what I need and get out. It is tempting, and I start thinking I need things i know I don't. I also only go to the thrift store these days if I need to. I used to spend too much there.

My recent shopping example: I couldn't find a heavy coat for ds. The hand me down route didn't work. I checked lots of thrift stores,some multiple times, nothing in his size. Started checking retail last week. Had a heart attack at the price. Today had time to kill waiting for prescriptions. Went to 1 consignment, marshalls, tjmaxx, ross, walmart,and target all in the same area. Finally got a slightly big one he can wear next year too at Ross for $22.

love everyone's ideas
post #14 of 40
I use rags instead of paper towels. My family destroys clothes pretty frequently. So I have a black mesh laundry bag full of old clothes, and I cut up a few shirts or whatever when I'm sitting and watching the kids latest performance, and put them in the white mesh rag bag.

We had dial-up internet for years, but last year gave up the dryer to pay for high speed internet, which we wanted for homeschooling and other research. We spent over a year that way.

I check freecycle and craigslist a couple times a day.

Start a microbusiness to help cover the costs of your 'necessary extravagance'. I am a TF mama, and I couldn't afford raw milk. So now I pick up milk for ten people every week and my milk and gas to and from the farm are free.

Find the UNFI or Azure Standard or similar group in your area. You won't be sorry!

Even if you can't yet get into bulk buying, try to get ahead enough on stocking your pantry that you can buy only stuff that's on sale, and base your menu on the loss leaders (cheapest stuff in the ads that the companies use to draw customers in, even though the company might be losing money on that item). If you have time to shop more than one store, those items can save you tons.

Learn which things only go on sale twice a year so you don't miss them (natural dish detergent and good vanilla extract are two I've noticed here).

Make sure to include ethnic markets in your price book. Some spices are dirt cheap at the Middle Eastern store, other stuff at the Korean Mkt. There is soap for 99 cents at one of the ME stores that they charge 3.50 for at the health food store. Ditto produce stands, and stores in bad neighborhoods.

Work the wholesale or barter angle with everyone. For instance, a friend's husband in construction could bring you a whole truckload of sand (he likely gets it for free). What could you offer or trade him? My husband is a chef; he'll order cases of things for me and sometimes for others (if his work wasn't so disfunctional we could barter more often with that).

Go to the store right as / after the department head leaves- she'll usually mark stuff down before she goes. To get the best prices on meat, go right after the butcher leaves on Sunday or Monday night (they'll be marking down what didn't sell over the weekend.) Here they seem to mark meats down around 8pm, and produce earlier at 6 or so. And the stuff is usually still wrapped and neat (rather than overhandled and icky). I just learned this trick, so I haven't figured out if Sunday or Monday is the best day. Also, markdown deals stick around longer in rich areas of town- they don't like to buy marked down meat. It's gone in a flash in my 'hood. This also works at my hfs, but their employees buy most of the good markdowns.

There may be a food ministry in your area not aimed at giving away food to the poorest, but aimed at helping those on the borderline buy better food.

I have heard of closet swap parties, where ladies bring clothes they don't want. I've never wanted to go to one. But a pantry items swap party- that I would love!
post #15 of 40
KariM
I am sort of a novice sewer. What sort of fabric do you use to make the *skirts* for too short t-shirts?

We have plenty of those in our house.
TIA,
Kathryn
post #16 of 40
*Put up heavier (less attractive) curtains in the winter.
*Make fingerless gloves from wool sweater sleeves to keep comfortable on the computer.
*When showering, I pull up the tub drain. The warm water helps heat the bathroom, and I get a guage on how much water I am using.
*I shop one of our grocery store's clearance meat section. It's the only way I can afford lamb, for example.

Also, on my most recent thrift store trip, they asked what I was looking for. I told them canning jars, but I never see them. Well, apparently they had a TON in the back, waiting to be cleaned up. And all they have is windex and paper towels for clean up - no running water. So, now I know to ASK AT THE SMALL THRIFT STORE.
post #17 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amys1st View Post
Figure out after meals, what is left behind on the plates. That is food that you payed for and could potentially be throwing out. Start serving up proper portions. Use smaller plates. This also trims the body.
I serve on serving dishes which cuts food waste even more.
post #18 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by provocativa View Post
Make sure to include ethnic markets in your price book. Some spices are dirt cheap at the Middle Eastern store, other stuff at the Korean Mkt.
Yes, this! I just bought a big bag of curry for $2. It costs $4 and some change for a tiny little bottle at the grocery store. Huge pieces of ginger root were a quarter! Def. going back there!
post #19 of 40
Ooh, I forgot two. The soup bag. A gallon ziploc, or similar container in the freezer. In go the odds and ends of stuff people don't finish, the leftovers that can't be used- almost nothing gets wasted. This is for mystery soup day. You can do a separate bag for fruit odds and ends, for smoothies, crumbles etc.
Of course make your own yogurt, but I make kefir too and I use the milk that gets left out by kids who ask for too much (I have one that never finishes a glass of milk).
post #20 of 40
This may sound very dirty hippie of me *haha* but I save A LOT on soap and shampoo this way... I take baths, and always wash my hair first. Little bit at a time, gauging by when I run out of lather it must still be dirty. Extra suds hit my face and pits. Because I have long hair I use a pretty good amount of shampoo... So when I rinse into my water, I just scrub up. I figure there is plenty of cleanser in my water to do the trick. No soap needed, unless I feel it's really necessary. I do this for my kids, but in reverse fashion. Add the soap to their water, as their hair doesn't get greasy like an adult's would. We use only all natural/organic soap/shampoo so it's a big deal to use them wisely. A 12oz shampoo and a bar of Bronner's last us about a month for a family of four. That's less than ten bucks. We used to spend nearly triple that with the conventional method.
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