03 April 2012

Five Tips for Frugal Living

While things certainly aren't as bad as they used to be for us financially, I still have to be very careful with our budget and watch what we spend, and I'm always looking for ways to cut corners and save a bit here and there.  Here are some of the principles of frugality I live by:

1. Hang on to loose change.
I keep a freezer bag on a bookshelf in the bedroom.  Every time I clean out my purse or my pockets, all the change goes into the bag.  Every few weeks I take the bag to the bank, dump it into their change machine, and come back with a wad of bills.  This goes right into my savings envelope.  You'd be surprised at how much change you'll have floating around after a couple weeks.

2. Never buy anything new if you can help it.
We're lucky enough to have multiple thrift stores in town.  I can come back with a bag full of clothing or books that I picked up for a few bucks.  I don't think Sydney has worn a new item of clothing in the last year, but you'd never know it from looking at her- even complete strangers come up to me and tell me how much they like her clothing!  If you have a discerning eye and take time to check items for stains or rips, you can get some amazing deals when you buy secondhand.  As an added bonus, it's much better for the environment.

3. Use homemade cleaning products.
You'd be amazed at what you can clean with a spray bottle, some baking soda, and a jug of vinegar, and at how much cheaper it is than buying ready-made chemicals that are bad for your family's health and the environment.

4. Try to fix it before you scrap it.
With a screwdriver and enough patience, you can fix almost anything.  I've repaired stuff from toys to computers to vacuums with a few minutes and a bit of fiddling.  I'm hoping to learn how to fix bigger and more complex things as well, but unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day.

5. Grow your own herbs.
This is oddly specific, I know, but hear me out.  If you a) do a lot of cooking from scratch and b) have been to a grocery store in the last ten years, you've probably noticed that herbs are insanely expensive, unless you never wander beyond the exciting world of parsley.  With some dirt, a windowbox, and a few seed packets, you can save hundreds of dollars every year by growing your own herbs and snipping off what you need.  There's less waste, because you aren't stuck trying to plan meals that include basil every day for a week, and fresh herbs make anything taste amazing.  And if it tastes great, your family will be much more likely to eat all those leftovers and save a bunch of cash.

That's it for now, but I'll have more tips in the future.  When you're as broke as we were for so long, you become very creative, and I've learned much over the last few years- the silver lining to the dark cloud of long-term unemployment, I guess.  And even though the hubby has found a good job, we still do these things because, well, it's silly to spend more money when you don't have to.
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