Miscellaneous Frugal Tips
We recently realized that we have quite a few frugal ideas that don't fit any of our categories. Here are all the ideas (both our own and those sent by our readers) that just don't fit in!
Avoid buying a brand new car. In addition to the higher price you will also pay higher insurance, sales tax and excise tax.
With the price of gas as high as it is it's a good idea to combine trips to the stores so that you get everything at once rather than going back and forth several times a week. You can also car pool with somebody else who is going the same way. If you live in a city, use public transportation. It saves on gas, parking fees and the aggravation of driving in traffic.
Wash your car in the driveway with a bucket of soapy water and rinse with the garden hose. This saves on the cost of the carwash and keeping your car clean prevents rusting from the salt they use on the roads in the winter. Of course if you live in sunny California or Arizona you don't need to worry about that!
Electricity and Fuel
In summer keep the blinds closed on the sunny side of the house and in winter keep them open.
Use fans instead of air conditioners if the weather is not too humid.
In hot weather open the windows at night to let in the cooler air and close them during the day.
Wait until your dishwasher is full to run it.
If you do small loads of laundry be sure to adjust the water level in the washing machine. It's best to wait until you have a big load though because you're using the same amount of electricity either way (except for the amount of hot water).
Ideas Sent by Our Website Visitors
From Marnie: Whenever I go to the Hairdresser she always gives me samples of shampoo, conditioner and hair gel. I always save them for when my husband and I travel. It eliminates having to pack full size containers. I was given this tip from a friend a few years ago and I have been doing it ever since. I love scented powders. Depending on the fragrance, the scented powder can cost as much as the fragrance. Go to the fragrance counter and ask for a sample of fragrance (or use some of your own if you already have it) saturate a cotton ball and place it in a sealed container with baby powder. Let it sit for a few days and you have your scented powder.
From Morin: I go to the thrift store for clothes for quilting. Cut them up for patches and get a big, almost new sheet to back, or even just cover an old comforter. I made a queen size quilt in plaid and denim for under 20 Canadian inc. the comforter I recovered and the money I did spend went to the local hospital!
From Nikii Murtaugh, 2/03: I almost always get my notions from thrift stores in my area. Usually, I can get exactly the color that I need for a fraction of the price. For example, I made a reversible, mid-thigh length winter jacket from polar fleece this year. The fabric was on sale for 50% off ($25.00). I added (not in the pattern) four hidden pockets (one each behind a patch pocket), and found matching zippers at the thrift store for 10 cents each (yes, I had to do some digging), found bulkly craft yarn on a large spool - originally 99 cents a yard, but now 50 cents for the whole thing to use for the insert in piping (a quick run through the washer told me it wouldn't shrink and it was much softer too!) - also at the thrift store, and in my stash had silver elastic cording, which I used for button loops. The only thing I paid full price for was 4 buttons; I a coupon for 40% off the other buttons. I already had matching thread. Total price of the coat - around $35.00.
From CLBGrow: I have a few tips that I have tried recently and seem to work great:
- Fill the washer tub and stop it as soon as it is full, (as if you were doing a regular load of laundry) but only use 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent and let the clothes soak overnight or for several hours. They will be really clean and you will save approximatley 4 tablespoons of detergent.
- The compartments on the dishwasher that hold the soap hold up to 6 tablespoons! The manufacturer recommends only 1 on mine! I rinse the dishes really well and use on tablespoon between the 2 and the dishes look great.
- One of my kids had a "scrubby" (the kind you use with body wash) it came apart and ended up being one long piece of plastic netting. I had a bunch of soap slivers I didn't want to throw away and tied a knot in the bottom, inserted the slivers and tied a knot at the top. My husband loves it but unfortunately I will have to let the soap slivers build up for awhile again!
- I got a brand new (from a major big time store) king size bedskirt from Goodwill for $1.00 and they had a bunch of them so I bought another one and made swags for my bedroom. I used the white material inside to line some other curtains and they are both adorable.
From Gail Milligan: I wanted to share a couple of tips with you that I used last week. First of all I took a look at the calling plans for our cell phone. Since we rarely use our cell phone, but want it for travel safety, I decided to change plans from our 40 free minutes for 19.95 plan to the 0 free minutes for 9.95 with unlimited extra minutes at .35 per minute. Now, originally we signed on for 2 years at 14.95 but that offer had expired. We originally used our phone for many long distance calls within our calling area because these calls could be made for free. However, at .35 per minute we could theoretically still make 28 minutes of calls and pay no more than we did before. We rarely had this many minutes however. Also, I am eliminating stamps and time for bill paying on the cell phone and another utility. Now all of my utility bills are subtracted from my checking account when due. I figured that my day off work last Friday saved us $134.88. Not bad!
From Helen: My husband will use all the dishes in the cabinet before washing one he just used so...there are only 2 people who live in my house so I only keep 2 plates, 2 cups, 2 bowls available in the cabinet, and even 2 sets of silverware. The others are but out of immediate use but are readily available in case of company. This way I don't have alot of dishes to do when I get home and it has helped with saving water (I don't have a dishwasher)
I my area (Phila, PA) you can pay your utility bills right in the supermarket and even in the check cashing places . You can save the stamps and even the checks you would have written. Get a receipt
Hold on to your empty water bottles and refill them at work . I don't mean 10 at one time but enough to take home with you.
Ask your employer if you could have or buy the empty toner cartridges from the printer & copier. You can recycle them and get $5-$10 sometimes more. Your employee may just be happy to get them out of his/her hair.
Some frugal ideas from college student Misti K.: As a college student, I've learned to save money a few ways. For those students who live off campus, ask someone on campus if you can come over to dolaundry....most campuses provide free washer and dryers to their residents. Find out when "move out" day is for a local state or private college. I've seen perfectly good shelving units, brand new rugs, and refrigerators galore being thrown away, especially at the girl's dorms!! I've gotten two perfectly fine area rugs that now decorate my apartment! The same goes for moving in; people realize they don't have room for their entertainment center in their dorm room, and chuck it in the parking lot. nother obvious one is the dollar store!!! They have name brand food and health and beauty items for waaaaaay lower than supermarkets. I've gotten my deodorant, shampoo, razors, soap, bath gel, crackers, coffee, canned soup, and tuna....enough for a month....for around $12.....I'd spend that buying shampoo and razors alone in a local supermarket!!
This hint comes from Jen, who calls it "A Really Tacky Money Saver": You can even save money on your charity giving (isn't that an awful spot to scrimp?) I recent discovered that my bank offers a credit card program that doesn't cost me a penny but by which they donate a % of what I spend on the card (Very little, only when there is no alternative, but every penny to charity helps)to the charity or school or police agency of my choice. And I even get a nifty card with a Panda Bear (my program of choice is the World Wildlife Fund). At the Royal Bank in Canada it is called the Affinity program.
Al Garner has so many ideas he really ought to have his own webpage! Although some of these could be placed in other sections of the website we decided to keep them all together in order to give him proper credit:
- Don't shop when hungry; it's harder to resist temptation.
- Watch the cash register ring up items. Count your change. Check the receipt.
- Drink plenty of water and eat 3 light meals a day.
- Avoid eating out.
- Avoid meat - you can get protein through nuts and other food.
- Keep water and reducing candy bars like SLIM-FAST and POUNDS OFF in the car so you don't pull into a restaurant when hungry.
- Don't buy prepared food.
- Insurance(These are specific to Southern California where Al Lives...check around your area for similar deals)
- Calif. Dental Health Plan. 800 228 3384. $47/yr. for free x-rays and cleaning and l/3 -l/2 off on the rest.
- For homeowners and renters insurance, ask for discounts for burglar alarms and smoke detectors.
- Less expensive car insurance through 20th century, Mercury, Kemper, CNA Ins, or Wawanesa.
- If You're Handy
- Cut your family's hair with a kit and thinning shears.
- Do home repairs with the help of books.
- Browse "as is" yards in thrift shops for furniture, appliances, parts, etc.
- Cars over 7 years old don't depreciate and insurance is lower. - Get parts from a junkyard.
- Where to shop
- Garage sales and swap meets. Sellers take lower offers toward the end of the day.
- Thrift stores - check periodically as the better items don't last.
- Outlets for "day-old" bread. Freeze it.
- Auctions through the post office, police depts, etc.
- Outlets for "seconds" and "imperfects" in quality clothing.
- Never buy a new car.
- Never buy a used one without checking its ratings in Consumer Reports Annual Buying Guide and having your mechanic drive it.
- Cars owned by the elderly usually have low milage.
- Don't buy a car that's been in a wreck or has rust. Thus avoid cars from snowy climates.
- Four door cars are generally cheaper; station wagons are handy.
- If you repaint, consider white as it doesn't fade and is cooler in summer
- Practice "preventative maintenance."
- You can often avoid lawyers when you divorce, make a will, sell your house, or file for bankruptcy. If you need one: be clear on fees, be organized, don't call him much; and don't use him as a therapist.
- Use mediation, arbitration, and small claims court.
- l0%-30% of doctors visits, medial tests, procedures and surgeries are unnecessary.
- When possible have all tests done in advance on an outpatient basis. Keep copies of the results.
- Treatment in a doctor's office is the least expensive. It's more in an outpatient center, and most in the outpatient dept. of a hospital.
- Some immigrant doctors charge less.
- Don't use inpatient services when outpatient ones are as good.
- Use a community hospital over a teaching hospital.
- Don't go into a hospital from Friday afternoon through Sunday, unless it's an emergency.
- Don't go to a specialist until you need one.
- Get 2nd opinions before surgery. Many insurance plans will pay for this.
- Carefully check your bill.
- Try free samples of prescribed drugs to test for side effects. Later shop around and buy generic drugs in bulk by mail order.
- Owning a house
- Vines on the southern and western walls cut the summer heat.
- Turbines on the roof let out summer heat. Cover them in winter.
- Insulating the attic (in southern Calif.) pays for itself in 3-4 years, insulating the walls does in l0 years.
- Turn down the temp. on the water heater. Insulating the tank saves $55/yr. Insulate the pipes.
- Carpet and padding cut down on heat lose.
- To the south of the house plant trees which lose their leaves in winter and shade the house in summer.
- If repainting, chose white - it doesn't fade. Buying an airless sprayer for jobs like this can pay for itself in the long run.
- Put in double windows with a high R-value when replacing.
- Buy a carpet machine for rugs, furniture, and car upholstery rather than renting one every year.
- Look for an insulated apt. or house.
- Heavy duty door closers on exterior doors keep the heat inside in winter and outside in summer, and they prevent slamming.
- Turn off the furnace pilot light over the summer.
- Turn off the stove's pilot light and lite the stove with a lighter (on the low setting to keep from getting singed).
- Hook up the washer only to cold water. This saves 90% of the cost of washing. Wash only full loads. Dry only full, consecutive loads. Keep filters clean.
- Low-flow shower heads claim to save families up to $250/yr.
- Turn down the water pressure for bathroom and kitchen faucets.
- Use an aerator in the kitchen faucet.
- Don't use a "frost free" refrigerator. Use one that is partially self-defrosting (you defrost the freezer but not the food compartment). The freezer should be on the bottom. Make sure it has a self-closing door. Don't put it close to a range, dishwasher, or sunlight. Don't let the ice get thicker than a pencil. Keep the freezing and food compartments full. This means there is less cold to air to spill out and less space for warm air to enter. Keep the food compartment at 35-45 degrees.
- Use an electronic thermostat which turns the heat down when you're sleeping. Close up to l/4th of the vents outside the bedrooms.
- An inside/outside thermometer shows when to open and shut windows and doors.
- Close shades and drapes to keep heat in in winter and the sun out in summer.
- A 220 volt air conditioner (if your house is wired for 220) is more efficient.
- Mount air conditioner in the shade and wind. Close off rooms not being used.
- A timer for long distance calls.
- A "restricted line" allows unlimited calls within a l2 mile radius for a flat rate (perfect for teens). Be sure it has additions which block collect calls and 3rd party calls.
- A fluorescent bulb in the bedroom ceiling saves $30/year and is cooler.
- Build a compost pile for fertilizer and mulch.
- Plant things you can eat.
- Automatic sprinklers probably pay for themselves. Water only before dawn.
- A soil sample will show if you need to add elements to your soil. If you do, you will save water, chemicals, and time in the long run.
- You're in trouble if over 25% of your take home pay goes to credit cards and personal loans (include car loan but not mortgage, rent, food and utilities).
- You're in trouble if three of the following are true:
- you get new loans to pay for old loans;
- you don't know how much you owe;
- you charge items because you have no cash; or
- you borrow to pay for food and utilities.
- Your rent or house payments shouldn't be more than l/4 of your gross income.
- Pay off credit cards lst; then get rid of them. Cut back on vacations, toll calls, and entertainment.
- Buy off season and in bulk.
- Don't buy anything on time.
- Don't gamble.
- No pets, except for security.
- Single lense and bifocal ready-made glasses at Sears, K-Mart, Save-on, Thrifty's, & CVS for $l0-$20.
- Save receipts; send in warranties.
- Don't be tempted by "specials" and sales unless you have planned for a long time to buy the item.
- Rent a room in your house (to earn $340/mo in Org. County, Cal. '92). Look for tenants over 40 who work full time. Rules: no alcohol, smoking, pets, or visitors.
- Rent your garage or yard for storage.
- Buy tv's, vcr's, stereos, answer machines, telephones, etc. as separate components.
- Use rechargeable batteries and a battery checker.
- Take your lunch to work to save $l000/yr (in '92).
- Have a certain % of each paycheck automatically put into a savings account.
- Put aside three to six months income for emergencies.
- Save your tax records at least five years.
- Look over CONSUMERS REPORT's Annual Buying Guides.
- Make saving a challenge, a game.
Al Garner, Midway City, CA, copyright '98
Tina Emory is another person with lots of ideas: I am really new at frugal living but started becoming interested when I realized that I was being charged by random businesses on my credit card and paying it off for 7 months!!! without stopping to think that I might be the victim of fraud. Anyway I started realizing that I needed to change my lifestyle and hopefully get some money. Here are some tips that I have used. I hope that they help.
- I grow my own herbs and use them instead of buying seasonings
- To get those pesky carpet stains left by new puppies- use warm water and shaving cream. It really works
- The cheapest soups that I have ever made include chicken broth and leftover veges. Kids love just plain chicken soup with old spaghetti or rice in it. It tastes like those ramon noodles but its cheaper
- To stretch out my gas in the car. I have checked my odometer anytime I go anywhere to see how far I really am driving.
- I have switched from going to the gym by buying a second hand bike. I get my exercise and get out of the house. I also go to yard sales on my bike and the local produce stands.
- Once a month, I take my blanket and comforters and bring it to a laundromat to get it cleaned because they have bigger cycles
- Instead of lint brushes, I use cheap masking tape
- I found that a lot of money I have gets wasted on really bad purchases- esp. clothing and food at grocery stores so I have a system. I will pick up something I think I am going to purchase and think if I will be using it once or over and over again. Most of the time, it goes back on the shelves.. I do the same thing with free stuff!!
- I like making a recipe notebook and pasting recipes from magazines, newspapers, labels, friends etc. If it has ingredients I have never heard of or requires equipment I dont have, I wont keep it. I only have 3 cookbooks and the rest I get from the library. THe all time best cookbook is by Helen Nearing who writes the Good Life. All of her recipes are one to three ingredients and just incredibly good and easy
- Its so much cheaper to email than call someone so I have disconnected my phone and use my cell phone for long distance only since my parents are getting older and live out of state.
- If you want to live happy and healthy then detoxify your diet and eat healthy. Cut out coffee- drink hot water with lemon, cut out alcohol and cigarettes, eat a vegetarian meal a week, and by all means get outside and take walks, turn all the lights, tv, and computers at night and just relax. I have a friend who can still cut her electricity bill to nearly nothing. She actually washes clothes every other month, and besides doing dishes and listening to the radio, she has not used her electricity at all.
From Megan Kesich in Canada: Second hand stores here have fill a bag events or 50% off days, my kids dress in all designer stuff and I am always buying two sizes ahead for basics like jeans and tshirts, I have found some amazing deals...Laura Ashley crib set (bumper pad, skirt and blanket) for $5 total...entire set of cookbooks $3. Be there when the doors open, know what you are looking for and hustle to that section. We have a family clothing chest...winter coats, mits, sporting equipment etc all get held on to and passed through the family. Check to see if your area has a barter exchange. I carry a household inventory book, it lists what I am looking for, what I am wishing for, what is about to fall apart etc I carry it around so if I see a good deal I can remember if I really need it, I also give it to my mom when she is doing garage sales. If you use a product and are unhappy or even happy call the 800 number; Pampers gave me $50 in coupons because one bag I had the tabs were ripping off.
From J. Apodackis: I have been saving hundreds of dollars by not using our dryer. We have a clothing rack and hang our clothes with a fan on them. Once the clothes are dry we put them in the dryer on the “less dry cycle” with a little mist and they are ready to hang after a minute or so. We live here in Texas and we put a rack in the garage also which dries the clothing even faster. It takes a little work, well worth the effort.
From Marina B: Get 3 tiny boxes or bags or little things you can store money in. Label the 1st one "Entertainment", this will be the money you use to go to movies, shopping, etc. The 2nd one will be the name of the item you're saving up for. A bike, a telescope, whatever. The 3rd one is "Extra" - ironically, this is the money you don't spend! You invest in it and save it, after a few years you'll get quite some money. Save it your entire life and you'll be rich! :) If you get $15 a week, put $5 in each box. If you get $20, put $6.66 in each one, and so on.
From J. Apodackis: I just reviewed my home policy and cut my rate 50%. I went to bigger deducible and the same can be done on your auto insurance.
From Jerilynn Darnell: For those petlovers out there, I have an alternative to those expensive pet beds. Take an old pillow that you can't stand anymore and some worn towels or extra cloth you have lying around. Make a simple pillowcase or covering, you can sew this or velcro together. Slip it over the pillow and you have a inexpensive pet bed that your pet will love! One tip though, don't make this an excuse to go out and buy yourself new pillows or you defeat the purpose!!