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This is a long, long post. It’s not “parrot related” necessarily, but families with parrots might benefit from it. I’ve done research on saving money and economizing…a subject of interest these days. This post is based on a presentation I’ve been planning on doing for my Condominium Association. It’s the result of some research I got interested in and I’ve compiled the best ideas from dozens and dozens of websites. So take your time with a bite here and there. 

 “I Have Met the Enemy and He is the Mall.”

I tend to look at being frugal as a giant game. How much can I not spend?  If you are in a situation where you’re experiencing a squeeze in your finances and most of us are, this might be quite valuable for you.  I have done lots of research on frugal living and learned how to take on a tough economy and turn it into a rather entertaining game. Some of these ideas will look trivial, but when run down like a football play, you won’t believe the money you can save.

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Some of these are obvious, and some might not have occurred to you. Being frugal takes discipline, continuous thought and concentration. This is a list of suggestions I have combed the internet for as well as ideas I have been using for years. There have been times in my life when I was extremely cash poor. I’m talking about a really, really severe “no money situation”. I’m talking about not enough money to eat. Later, when I wasn’t  poor and was actually stashing some cash, I just kept on with the program for the most part to assist with my retirement account and savings plan and it’s working.  I tend to look at the invisible things a lot of people don’t take into consideration when shopping, cooking, or going about their day-to-day life.

Home:

  • Stay put. The less you go out, the less you will spend. It’s getting to the point where even driving your car is costing big bucks. There are all kinds of things to do at home that cost you nothing
  • There is a program called “Freecycle”. And you can recycle, get rid of, or get stuff all for the cost of going to get it or be around for someone to pick it up.  www.Freecycle.com.
  • If you aren’t paying your bills on line, start doing it. It will save you the cost of the stamps. 5 bills by mail for a year is $25.20 just to mail the bill and that’s at current stamp prices. Over ten years that’s $252.00.  Personally I’d rather save that over a year.
  • Turn the thermostat up and wear appropriately cool clothing in the summer and turn it down in the winter, and put on a sweater. Close off the rooms that don’t need to be kept cool and close the vent. In my case it’s the bathrooms.
  • Turn lights and TV off when you leave the room. Turn freezer and fridge one notch warmer.
  • Many small appliances also continue to draw power when they are switched off. Unplug battery chargers, small appliances that have a clock, and other items when not in use
  • Switch to Florescent bulbs.
  • Used coffee grounds are a great addition to potted plants. They introduce nitrogen into the soil.

Use fans in your house along with your air conditioning to improve circulation. On mild days, turn it off entirely and open the windows.  If you have a ceiling fan, make sure it is spinning counterclockwise. In the winter, run it in the opposite direction. Close the curtains or shades during the hottest part of the day.

  • Weather-strip your doors. If your windows are leaky, caulk edges and use towels on sills as well as in front of the doors.
  • Turn stove off 3 or 4 minutes before an item is done cooking. Residual heat will continue to cook the item.
  • Wash out plastic food bags and reuse with the exception of the ones in which you store meat. Storing stuff in reusable containers is even better.
  • Turn out the lights when you leave a room and unplug everything you aren’t using at the moment. Watching T.V.? You don’t need lights on for that. Turn off your computer and printer when you aren’t using it.
  • Be aware of how much toilet paper you are using….obviously less is better.

Are you good at anything? Try bartering. I barter and pick up odd jobs any time I can. I cook and someone else cleans for me. I babysit pets, and I looked after a house for someone for 2 weeks. I pick up extra cash writing articles for magazines. I also attend a once a month meeting at work for extra income.

  • Buy used or shop yard sales for needed household items.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.

laundry

  • LAUNDRY
  • Retire your “dry-clean only” clothing items for a while.
  • Use cold water to wash clothes. The dryer will zap any lingering bacteria if it manages to survive the laundry soap. Hand-wash certain items as you go along.
  • Do you really need to launder clothing you’ve worn only once? A pair of shorts or jeans doesn’t need to be laundered every time you wear it.  Your bath towels don’t need to be laundered after one use. Hang them up to dry so they don’t get that mildew smell. You are clean when you get out of the shower. Laundry costs you money, (soap, water, time, energy) and uses energy
  •  Use less detergent to clean clothing. Half as much is fine if you add a little borax. Soap Companies recommend more than is necessary because the more you use, the more they sell. Extend soap with “20 Mule Team” borax or washing soda.
  • Forget using expensive laundry spot cleaners. A bar of “Fels Naptha” soap moistened and rubbed on collar rings and spots is fine for a fraction of the cost. Don’t “Shout” it out. “Fels” it out with a laundry bar of soap. It will last you forever.
  • Bleach is bleach and it needn’t be flavored to be effective. All bleach is 6% Hypochlorite.
  • You can make your own dryer sheets or if you have dryer sheets, cut them in half. Use an old pillow case and cut up into 4 inch squares. Place it in a jar with some fabric softener. Remove one square, squeeze out and put in the dryer.  They’ll last forever. Sponge squares will work too.

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CLEANING

If you are using toilet bowl cleaner, knock it off. Bleach works just fine…again, for a fraction of the cost.

Use a refillable scrubbing brush or sponge wand that holds dish liquid instead of squirting the liquid into the sink. Fill sink with hot water and let dishes soak a while before scrubbing them with the brush. This will use less water and less soap.

Use cloth rags instead of paper towels. If you want paper napkins, use paper towels.

Toilet paper is less expensive than Kleenex. Don’t buy facial tissue.

Newspaper works beautifully on windows and mirrors…it’s cheaper than paper towels.

superstock_255-31794Kitchen & Groceries

Go to the store with a list of what you need. Don’t go shopping hungry. This strategy takes pre-planning. You need to know exactly what you will be eating for all of your meals and how you will be reusing leftovers.

An easy way to stay on track with a food budget is to purchase gift cards for yourself: Purchase the gift card and keep it in your wallet. This is your budget for the week or for 2 weeks, etc. Use the gift card to purchase grocery items. When it’s gone, it’s gone. This will keep you more focused and aware of the food budget you have set up for yourself.

freezer

Remember: Your freezer is your friend.
There are lots of websites on how to plan for this.

When you go to the store, try and look low and high on the shelves. The less expensive things are there. Stay away from eye-level items.

Take your lunch to work. Bank what you would have spent. Ten dollars a day of these types of expenditures is over $2,600 per year.

Do not hesitate to change a recipe so it can be made less expensively.  It will help your budget, and may even taste a bit better.  Be creative.  For instance, does the recipe really need all the meat it calls for?  Or, perhaps, a different, less expensive, meat can be substituted.  Or maybe you can omit the meat entirely. Maybe you can stretch that hamburger by adding some bread or cottage cheese.  Or, instead of that brand name ingredient named in the recipe, can a more generic ingredient serve just as well.

If you don’t have a crock pot, get one. You can find these at yard sales as well as the Salvation Army and thrift stores. These will help you out with your budget immensely. Many people don’t have time to cook every night and end up eating out. You can prepare food in the crock pot the night before and refrigerate the crock. In the morning, put it into the cooker and turn it on before you go to work. When you get home, Voila! Dinner is waiting for you and you won’t be so tempted to dial up Papa John’s Pizza. There are a ton of websites with great Crock Pot recipes. Beans do well in crock pots and beans are cheap.

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Coupons don’t save you money if they are for junk food. If I clip a coupon for a bag of potato chips for instance; say 30 cents off for a bag of chips that are normally 3 bucks, I didn’t save 30 cents. I spent 2.70.

Remember, it’s not the money you make or the money you “Save”.  It’s the money you keep by not spending the money you make.

Don’t make an entire pot of coffee when you make it if you don’t drink it all. Refrigerate leftovers coffee and reheat the next day. If anything will stop you from brewing too much coffee, this will! That’ll teach you to waste coffee!

Eggs are eggs. If you eat 2 eggs in the morning, you are going to eat two eggs. Medium sized eggs are cheaper. Get those instead of the extra large. Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein. Is it Christmas in July? Nope…breakfast for dinner! The exception to this is using eggs in recipes.

Publix and other Supermarkets have “buy one, get one free” deals. Don’t get stuff you don’t need, but take advantage of these deals on items you do need and stock up.

Warehouse stores are a wonderful place for some items. The membership is about 40 bucks a year, but you can split the Membership or use a “Household” membership with someone and cut the price.

Check out the Dollar stores for canned goods that might be useful.

Aluminum Foil is aluminum foil. Cheaper foil is still foil.

Look at the “cost per ounce” on the price label. Just because something is in a bigger package, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. Always look.

Buy rice and learn to use it in recipes. Buy it in a 10 or 20 pound bag, it’s less expensive. If you don’t eat rice, start, but don’t buy a little bag. Bag in zip locks or vacuum pack and refrigerate. If you have it, you will use it more often. Brown rice is more nutritious if you prefer that.

Cruise the internet for cheap recipes. Here are some links:

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/frugalf

http://www.frugalrecipes.com/

Those two websites are just two of the thousands of websites about lowering your expenses. There are websites on how to make your own cleaning products. You can learn so much from the internet.
Learn how to prepare beans and make them your best friend.  They are great protein and extremely inexpensive.

Buy bulk items on sale and store them, but use what you store.

Try generic or store brand products. They are getting better and better.

Try growing fresh herbs in pots instead of spending the money purchasing them.  Parsley, basil, cilantro and chives can all be grown in containers. Upside down tomatoes can be grown as well.

Flour tortillas are terrific for snacks and quick sandwiches and they are inexpensive. You can make a wrap or make quesadillas. Simply fill with cheese and veggies and microwave.

Rice cakes made with cooked white rice and eggs are easy to prepare and can be frozen. You can have them for breakfast with syrup or jam or you can serve them with dinner.

If you like tortilla chips, you can make your own from corn tortillas. They’re terrific and much better than the bagged ones.

The price of meat is reaching astronomic proportions:

Try and view meat as a “flavor enhancer” or condiment as opposed to a main course.  Cutting back on meat is healthier and cheaper.
Dark meat chicken is less expensive than chicken breasts. Bone-in chicken breasts are less expensive than boneless and you can use the bones to make soup stock.

If you roast a chicken, use the bones to make chicken stock. Strain and freeze in bags. You’ve just saved about 3 bucks on a box of chicken broth out of something you would have thrown out.  A box or can of any kind of broth is expensive. Make your own and freeze.

Go to wholesale meat stores to see if it will help your budget improve. This is not a full supermarket, but their meat is less expensive.

Purchase frozen concentrated juice and add a half cup to a cup more water than is called for. Serve it over ice. Nobody will ever notice. Don’t buy iced tea. Make your own from tea bags. Lay off the sodas. Drink water….from the tap. If you don’t like the taste, invest in a water filter. Don’t buy water.

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Curb your desire for prepackaged, instant, or precooked food. If it comes out of a box, it’s usually more expensive than to make it yourself. Most prepackaged, premade, and prepared food items are an arm and a leg.

Snack items like potato chips and such will kill your budget; popping your own popcorn will not. This includes purchasing pre-grated cheese, precut stew meat, and by the way, try and stay out of the deli section. Making anything and freezing it will be cheaper than buying it pre-made. Think of it as preparing your own T.V. Dinners.

Take it easy on the eating out and no more pizza delivery. Make a batch of pizza dough, freeze in one-pizza amounts and make your own pizza. It’s fun!

Packing a sandwich on a regular basis? Invest in a reusable sandwich container.

Bake your own muffins, freeze them and piss off Starbuck’s. I know you love Starbucks! Everyone loves Starbucks. Let’s just all pretend Starbucks doesn’t exist. 4 bucks for a cup of coffee is out of my league. And that’s that.

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Odds and Ends Soup is cheap and easy: Use that broth you made from bones and or vegetables. Add some root vegetables, frozen vegetables some beans and some rice. If you had vegetables and made too many, pop them in a plastic bag and freeze. When it is O&E soup day, throw these odd and ends into the pot, even mashed potatoes. It will thicken the soup.

Soup takes about 3 minutes to throw together and it can be inexpensive…very inexpensive. You can use this as a vehicle for your leftovers as well as cheap cuts of meat. Think of stew as a thick soup.

Make 2 casseroles from sale items you have purchased instead of one and freeze one.  Portion it into containers and take it to work for lunch if you have access to a microwave and a fridge.

Shake hands with a box of oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc. It’s better for your family and cheaper than boxed cereal.

Do you have a waffle maker? Use it to make waffles and freeze them. Don’t purchase those frozen ones. Pancakes are good budget helpers too. Learn how to make crepes. You can use them for breakfast as well as for dinner.

Buy a thermos and bring your coffee to work instead of purchasing it. This will save you lots of money over the long haul.

Think “Peanut butter”! Think eggs! Think beans. Think, “I’m going to make it myself!”

“Gang up” on a recipe. If you have like-minded friends, you can get together and make a big batch of spaghetti sauce to freeze and split the cost of the ingredients and the work.  This will save you time and it is more fun making a big batch of sauce if you have friends to help and socialize with while you are doing it.

vintage_gasDriving and Saving Gas 

Go on the internet and look up “hypermiling”. Essentially, stop driving aggressively, coast to stop signs and lights, and take it easy on the brakes as well as the gas. Stop jack-rabbit starts, and if you are going to stop longer than 1 minute, turn off the engine. Driving 55 instead of 65 will save you an average of 14% on your fuel gauge.

Plan your driving. If you have errands to do, start at the furthest point and work your way back. Do your errands and shopping on the way home when you are driving home from work.  “Hypermiling” can be done safely and you will immediately see a difference in the amount of gas you use.

Finances

Try and set aside 1000.00 as soon as you can. This is to be set aside and not touched except for dire circumstances. This will get you more relaxed and more confident about the process of frugal living.

Try and transfer any extra money into a savings account…even if it’s 20 dollars. Get it out of your checking and into savings as soon as you can.

Pay off your credit cards. Don’t charge anything you cannot pay for every month. Be very aggressive with this. The finance charges they whack you with are outrageous.

Work on an “Emergency Savings Account” as soon as you get the 1000.00 into an account. Put this in a separate account.  Most finance specialists recommend 3 to 6 months of expenses. If you try to work some of the ideas in this plan as best you can, it won’t be nearly as hard. But you have to stick with this plan over the long run. Patience is a virtue.

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Start a “change jar”. Throw all of your coins into a jar at the end of the day. Don’t cash it in until it is filled up. Deposit this money into a savings account. I’ve been doing this for years and always managed to save a couple hundred dollars each time I did it. This is invisible money.

Personal

Want a really good once a week facial? Olive oil. Yup. Slap it on and get gooey.

Get your nails done? How often? If you have crap natural nails like I do, you need to get them done. Or not.  The problem I have is that I need to look like a human being once in a while and I have to get them done. But I stretch it out for a few weeks before I get them done again.

Drag out the time between haircuts. Less often is less expensive. And while we’re on that, if you can‘t color your own hair, I’m sure everyone has a friend who can do this for you.  I sometimes look shaggy. I sometimes look like a plucked chicken. It all depends on the time of the year. And by the way I go to “Supercuts”. It is 17 bucks including the tip. I know it looks like it. I don’t care because I won’t be eating cat food when I retire.

Community

Try not to flush the toilet every time you use it. Pretend you living on a boat and only flush when it would be, for lack of a better way of saying it: offensive.

Get a bag of marbles and insert them into your toilet tank. The marbles displace water in the tank allowing you to flush the toilet, but using less water.  I did an experiment: A baggie with pebbles in 4 cups of water (2 pints) displaced 2 and a half cups.

2 cups in a pint

8 pints in a gallon

Let’s say each flush is 2 quarts of water.  (4 pints)

you save over half of the water with each flush. Reduces flushes as well as the water and:  This will save you tons on your water bill.

Try doing your laundry using cold water. Studies have shown that laundry gets just as clean using cold as hot.

If you haven’t done so, attempt an herb garden and growing tomatoes or anything else you can manage.

If you find yourself having to replace a purchase a big-ticket item, buy quality and take care of it. A sale item that has to be replaced down the road isn’t one you want in the first place. Ask me about my Laptop.

Final Frugal Thoughts

Concentrate! Think about saving money every minute. Get intense about it and track how much you’ve saved. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually fairly easy and it becomes a habit. Once it is a habit, it gets to be a challenge…more of a game really. And it’s quite fun. Start writing down how much you’re spending now and keep track of how much less you spend as you go on with your “frugal living” plan. You will be amazed at how much money you’ll save.

It’s a choice. You can make a game of it and make it amusing or you can be unhappy about it.  I prefer to make a game of it and see how well I play the game. So far it’s working for me.  Just make sure that the money you don’t spend goes into a savings account or goes to pay bills owed such as credit card debt.

Is it easy? Well, yes and no. You have to change your lifestyle a bit and you’ll be constantly thinking of ways to go about this, but if your friends and neighbors are doing it, it will encourage you to try a bit harder and you can support each other. You’ll rethink the way you shop, the way you consume, the way you eat and the way you live. In the end, it’s about being happy.  I’ve never met a happy person who was in debt.  It’s not about having a lot of money…it’s about not owing any money and not worrying about money. Having a lot of money doesn’t make you happy.  But not owing money and not having to worry about it, frees you up to be happy about other things that are more important. Like your life.

Thanks for flying by…

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