Hi, new here! I'm *trying* to learn to be more frugal. I know lots of stuff in theory, I just have to get into the swing of practicing it
It's mostly, for me, a matter of thinking ahead - like, baking a loaf of bread *before* I run out and have no time in the next two days and know I'll need some before I have enough time...
Anyway, as for dumpster diving - I used to. Haven't done much lately, mostly because my husband is averse to the idea and hates collecting things just because they might be useful some day... But, I ditto the college dumpster idea. I knew exchange students who would throw away whole computers that were only 9 months old, because they were too difficult to take back home on the plane. Carpet remnants, sofas, you name it.
And, for birthday parties, I have a few suggestions. I don't have a whole frugal birthday plan yet
but here are a few things that come to mind. This time of year, you can find plastic picnic ware at hell-mart or Target really cheap. Like, $0.10 or $0.25 each. Of course, if you're buying for a big party, this could really add up; But, over the course of only a few parties, it will really pay off if you can afford it now. The big disadvantage is that you'll have to lug all those dirty plates home from the park... Also, you can pick up a piece of fabric off a $1 or $2 rack to use for tablecloths, and use it later to make something. Or just keep reusing it it for tablecloths in the future. Of course, you don't need the fancy decorated napkins and plates that cost way too much money - or, if you do want them, you can buy just one pack and put them on top of a pile of plain ones. As for balloons and streamers, personally I don't worry about their price - it's like $0.89 for a pack of streamers and something like $1-2 for a pack of balloons (depending on if you go to a dollar store or a party store). You can do a nice decorating job for under $5. I agree with the dh who says no potluck, it's not very polite to say "Hey, come celebrate my child's birthday - you bring the food!" But, in my experience, most of my friends and family will offer to bring something and I have no qualms about taking them up on the offer. If this is the case in your crowd, invite early enough that there is time for these offers to roll in. Then you'll be able to take them into account when it comes time to plan/buy the rest of the food.
Ok, here's a question. Do any of you keep a price book? What method do you use? I tried using a Pocket-PC (got it for free when my dh's work was upgrading and throwing away quite nice but older model ones.) But, the batteries didn't last very long, and since I didn't turn it on often to see that the batteries were low and recharge it, every time I turned it on to enter something I'd find it was dead. Then I'd have to reconfigure it and reload my spreadsheet from my computer... it became a big pain in the tuchus. I tried a handwritten one, but I don't carry a large enough bag to keep the notebook with me all the time and frequently forgot it. Plus, I never found a method of organizing a handwritten one that I liked. (I'm too computer-perfect anal retentive, I want it alphabetized, and no cross-outs allowed!) So, currently my price book is a spreadsheet in the computer that could theoretically be loaded onto my Pocket-PC, but I'm bad about sitting down with my receipts. Plus, I'd like to list prices for things that I didn't buy at a particular store, but know I'd like to keep track of (i.e. if I'm at a new store and see things I regularly buy but don't need that trip, I'd like to note their prices.) Can't do that without a portable method.