Friday, November 20, 2009

Principles of Frugality

In this awful economy, it is more important than ever to learn and apply frugal lifestyles. But for those of us who were brought up in lifestyles of excess, how do we do that?? Here are some lessons I've learned:

* When times of excess do come our way, save, save, save! Even if we only have an extra dollar or two, stash it away where you won't be tempted to spend it. Who knows when you will need that little cash stash?

* Learn to cook. It is SO pricey to eat out! While eating out is great for a once-in-a-while treat, it is a real budget-buster when overdone. Groceries are so much more affordable, and with cooking skills, you can make restaurant-esque meals for a fraction of the price! And a great bonus here is that you control what goes into your food and your portion sizes, which is helpful in weight management!

* Learn crafts. Even if you learn just one new craft, you can save a bundle when you apply it to what your family uses. Take loom knitting, for instance. I can make the entire family winter hats from just one skein of yarn! Or I can use that skein to make a hat & scarf set for one family member! Or I can use it to make a baby blanket, hat, and burp cloth set for a baby shower gift! The possibilities with crafting skills are endless!

* Take the president up on his challenge to further your education. Just one class can become profitable if it is the right class. It doesn't have to be philosophy, business, or some other high-minded class. A basic auto mechanics class can teach you skills you can use to avoid costly repair and maintenance bills! Or you can try a cooking class, a sewing class, a budgeting class, etc...

* Use coupons. We've all been behind the "coupon lady" at the grocery store who searches through her endless purse of coupons for what seems an eternity. I'm not saying to become her, but when you go shopping, plan a shopping list, and take any applicable coupons you have. It adds up! You can get coupons online, in the mail, and in the newspaper! And don't just use coupons for groceries; they save a bundle when you use retailer-specific coupons for places you take your car, or buy your clothes, or eat, too! And when added to sales, the savings can be significant!

* Bundle trips. With gas prices ridiculously high, it's not worth it to take the car out just to the grocery store. Plan a menu and shopping list to last you a week, and then when you go out, use that trip to also put gas in the car, pick up any needed prescriptions, and run any other errands. That saves a bundle when you think about how many times you go to just one place, back home, then back out again--sometimes several times per day!

* Take care of your car. Along the gas mileage line, it saves gas to keep your tires properly inflated, stay on top of basic maintenance (keeping fluids topped off, regular oil changes and tune-ups), and avoid speeding (the most fuel-efficient speed is 55 mph).

* Trade goods. I got free apples from a friend this year, and in return gave him free spiced apple jelly. It's a win-win! You can also trade baby-sitting, driving the carpool to get the kids to school, etc.

* Do the "green" thing. We use CFL's in every light socket in the house, and our electric bill is so much lower than it used to be! When I remember to take my re-useable bags to the grocery store, they knock 5 cents off my bill per bag! These are fairly inexpensive ways to make a difference for the environment and the budget.

* Tolerate some junk-emails and surveys every now & again. Sites like and take a few minutes each day or so to go through your email or take a survey, but pay you back with gift card rewards!

* Take care of yourself. Not only will you be healthier, which cuts medical bills down, but sites like reward you with gift cards or health-related prizes for doing so!

* De-junk. You'd be surprised what you are hanging onto that you don't use, or really even want anymore! Sell items in good condition at a yard sale or an online source such as or in the classifieds section. An added bonus is that the house becomes cleaner and better organized while you get some extra money!

* And finally, when you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it! Food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, and the HEAT program are great examples of the helps available to those who need a little extra help. When you're in a position of abundance, it's always a great idea to give to programs like the food bank and fast offerings to help pay it forward, too. :)

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