Living Better With Less
Whether by choice or financial circumstance, we are sometimes required to make do with less. Surprisingly, this change in life style can be a very good thing. This is a guide about living better with less.
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I quit my job 13 months ago and started traveling with my husband. We are living on about $30,000 less a year, and are loving it! We own a 3,000 square foot home but have reduced my needs to what will fit into Rubbermaid bins and the back of the truck. All of this has been so freeing.
- Fry Daddy
- toaster oven
- Seal a Meal
- 1 large Rubbermaid bin for the previous season per person (I use seal a meal to compact).
- small printer
- 2 sets of bed sheets
- 2 towels and wash clothes each
- 2 foldaway outside chairs
After a recent visit home, I realized that I was getting tense because there was so much work associated with all my stuff. I have pictures of my family as my only one splurge on the road. I am in the process of scanning and loading onto CDs to see as a slide show.
My tip is to unload a lot of the stuff that is not essential to everyday life. If you have to dust it, move it, or clean it and it is not adding anything to your daily life, get rid of it.
I am naturally frugal by nature and often complain that there are NO new frugal tips and hints. These are not new or difficult ideas BUT they do work for me and are tried and true ways to save money!
- Re-use dryer sheets, cut in half OR dampen a washcloth with liquid fabric softener.
- Pre-treat stains caused by cooking oils with dish washing liquid. This gets even the WORST grease stain out of fabrics.
- Pre-treat stains as soon as you notice them.
- Do not dry garment that is still stained, re-treat and wash again.
- Use a cold water rinse in your washing machine.
- Use the lowest amount of water and detergent for each load.
- Don't overload the washing machine. Clothes need to be able to agitate to get their cleanest.
- Re-use bath towels. Our family uses 2 towels a week per person, changing them out on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- Purchase the best quality bath towels you can afford. I have towels from Land End that are 20 years old that are still not frayed on the edges.
- I like to use facial cleansing cloths-they are not cheap so I cut them into quarters and don' feel so bad about this purchase.
- Use showerheads that use a lesser amount of water but feel like a full blast.
- Use drain cleaner as necessary to avoid costly plumber bills.
Kitchen and Pantry
- Use a micro fiber cloth to clean glass top tables, stainless steel sinks and range tops-no chemicals and they sparkle, no chemicals to purchase.
- Use your waffle iron as a panini or quesadilla maker.
- Don't purchase the latest gadgets. If you MUST have, try to get it used at a yard sale.
- Learn to cook! Teach your kids to prepare some basics like mac and cheese, grilled cheese or omelets to help out when you are bushed or time doesn't allow you to prepare a meal and you are tempted to order takeout.
- Keep FROZEN pizzas on hand for that quick meal at the end of a busy day.
- Use as little prepared food as possible. Wash and then tear up the head of lettuce when you get home from the grocery store so it will be available when you need it.
- Purchase in bulk ONLY when you will use the items before it expires. Check the price to be sure the large size REALLY is more economical.
- Make a large batch of meatballs at one sitting, make 2 meatloaves and freeze one, etc.
- Keep your pantry well organized-it is easier to see what you have and use what you have.
- Know the prices of items you purchase regularly so you can stock up WHEN you find a really good deal.
- Check with your grocery's meat department to see if they will sharpen your knives for free.
- Use your coupons. Combine store with manufacture coupons if your grocery permits.
- In the grocery store be sure to watch prices as they scan your purchases. Many times, items do not ring up at the advertised price (some stores then give you this item for free).
- Know you stores Buy One Get One (BOGO) Free policy. Do you have to purchase 2 items to get the better price or do pay half-price for the first item?
- Buy the store brand or generic-many stores allow you to return it (or the empty packaging) and get a FREE replacement of the National brand if you don't like the store brand of the product.
- Plan a weekly menu and try to use the items that you have on hand as the basis for several meals. This is especially important when you have fresh produce that will otherwise go to waste.
- Use local produce, meats and cheeses. Do you REALLY know how much it costs to eat strawberries out of season that have been transported (using fossil fuels) thousands of miles? Read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life." It was a very interesting read!
- Brown bag your lunch.
- Eat your leftovers!
Bedrooms or Living Areas
- Redecorate your room in the spring and fall by changing out your comforter and throw pillows. I have done this for about 8 years now and am still using the same ones. I get to "redecorate" and no money is spent. Plus, it extends the life of my items.
- Use 3 way bulbs in the lamps so you'll have the option of brighter lights when needed.
- Buy the highest quality sheets, furniture, etc. you can afford. They will last for years.
- Rotate accessories for a fresh look. Just changing the flowers or color candles in your holders will give you a seasonal look.
- Turn off the TV when not in use.
- Set a weekly entertainment budget. Put CASH in an envelope and use it to pay for movie tickets and dining out. When the money is gone you have to do FREE things or stay at home.
- Volunteer at museums or theatres for free viewings of plays or events.
- Be a Docent at the Zoo.
- Take a stay-cation in your home town. Sleep late, see local sights, eat out but try to limit your expenses. It's fun planning that kind of "trip" and your children can really get involved in the research of this.
- Have a technology free day once a week-no TV, computer, cell phone, I-pods, etc. Play board games, read, walk. Spend time with your family. We host a family game night once a month and all the aunts, uncles and cousins get together. The kids love it and they range from 4-24 years old! Everyone brings a snack to share! YUM!
- Use your library for books, movies, music and books on tape. Saves the rental and late fees, improves your vocabulary and helps the environment!
- Host a book club, Bible study or weekly coffee or play date at the park to stay connected to friends.
- Exercise with friends, take walks or ride your bikes.
- Make a list for everything you need to purchase: I have a grocery list, wholesale club list and need to purchase this week lists. I carry them with me.
- Match your coupons up with the lists.
- Use sales flyers to find the best prices OR use self control and wait to purchase an item until it comes on sale.
- I organize my coupons and carry them with me at all times just in case I need to make an unexpected purchase.
- Set a little aside for unexpected purchases each week.
- Pay in cash. Using your credit card or debit card generally adds an additional 15% to your purchase price.
- Don't grocery shop when hungry. Leave the kids home if possible. Shop early in the morning if you are able to do so. You are fresh and the shelves are stocked.
- Get rain checks when the store is out of a featured product.
- If you fail to redeem a coupon take it and your receipt to the service desk on your return visit and ask them if they will honor it.
- Organize your errands to avoid backpacking and to use the least amount of gas.
- Keep receipts in order to return items when necessary.
- Obtain gift receipts and include with gifts (tape to the lids of the gift box).
- Be aware of time limits on receipts. Often you can only return for a store credit after a designated period of time.
- Consign clothing and toys your children have outgrown. Our church hosts a consignment sale 2x a year and I make 60% of the purchase price plus a tax receipt for any donated items after the sale.
- For items that are not eligible for sale (too old and worn or out of style), clip off buttons, buckles, appliques, etc for future craft or repair projects.
- If you are crafty, recycle your clothing into a new garment (men's ties into a skirt or handbag, favorite t-shirts into a quilt, etc.).
- Host a clothing or accessory exchange party among your friends. Select a party night set out a few munchies and invite your friends to bring their unwanted accessories, shoes or clothing items for exchange. Even if you have to take it all to the goodwill afterwards, you've had a good time with your friends for very little cost!
- Learn to make minor repair to garments, sew on a button or tack up a hem.
- Have your shoes resoled or re-heeled instead of buying a new pair.
- Put on a sweater when you are cold.
- Limit purchase of items that require dry cleaning.
- Learn to iron your husband's dress shirts! Better yet, teach HIM to iron!
- Use things until they are worn out.
- Do not purchase trendy clothing items. Stick to the basics and limit your trendy purchases to accessories.
- Host a potluck party, dinner or progressive dinner to lessen the expense associated with parties.
- Make some of your holiday gifts. Do you knit, paint, craft?
- Give the same gift to several people.
- Give gifts of your time (Take a child to the park and out for an ice-cream, clean your grandmothers' kitchen and then make her lunch, surprise your spouse with a picnic). You'll be surprised how appreciated and meaningful these gifts are to both you and the recipient.
- Buy items on sale AFTER the holidays whether it is household decorating items, paper products or stocking stuffer, sprinkles for cooking, linens or costumes.
- Purchase items for gifts all year long (record in a spreadsheet and store in a box under your bed so you'll have them when the birthday or holiday rolls around).
- Return unwanted items and purchase something you'll REALLY use.
- Make mittens out of 100% WOOL sweaters you've purchased from the Goodwill.
- Knit scarves form yarn scraps. These are some of the MOST beautiful I have created.
- Glue buttons, belt buckles, seashells or bottle caps onto old frames for an unusual gift.
- Create a scrapbook using only papers you have in your stash-combine for unusual color combos. Scrapbooks make great gifts.
- Buy old necklaces at a yard sale for beading crafts.
- Vow to finish the many projects you have on hand before purchasing the next one!
- Use old Christmas cards to create greeting cards or gift tags. Use greeting cards to decorate gift bags.
- Use your clean jars to make gifts in a jar (cookie, soup, or beauty items etc.) Find gift in a jar recipes on line.
- Use the library's craft books and magazine subscriptions instead of purchasing your own.
- Host a craft swap with other creative friends for gifts or your own use
- Attend craft fairs and browse for ideas you can make yourself. Purchase a sample, never steal an artist's idea!
- Save your scraps and combine for interesting projects.
- Borrow items from friends and neighbors that will be used infrequently like a roto-tiller.
- Consider renting an item for a repair or yard project instead of purchasing.
- Clean your own carpets with a rented or borrowed machine.
- Perform routine maintenance on your appliances (lubricate, vacuum, clean or replace filters or replace hoses, etc to keep them running in top condition).
- Read the owners manual prior to calling the repair man.
- Turn your thermostat up or down 2 degrees and put on a sweater.
- Use your crock-pot in the summer to keep the kitchen cooler.
- Do without! See how many days you can go without making a purchase. Or swear off purchasing (the latte', lunch or craft supply).
- Save more than you spend.
- Save for Christmas every week. Even if it is only $10, you'll have saved $520 dollars in one year.
- Plan for the unexpected emergency and have some money in the bank to cover it so you don't have to use your credit cards.
- Pledge to use what you have on hand for one week (each month) whether it is for dinner, a craft .or entertainment (re-watch that old movie sitting on your shelf).
- Color your own hair, use a cosmetology school for haircuts on children.
- Wash the dog in the backyard.
- Walk, ride your bike, exercise to videos instead of joining pricey clubs. An added benefit is the time spent with friends and family!
I hope a few of these work for you and help you save some of your hard earned money!
Diana from Prospect, KY
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I know this isn't a "Nuts and Bolts" description of frugality but this is how I feel with the holidays approaching. The older I get the more I realize that living as simply as possible is not only frugal, but good for the spirit.