Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Are You Really Frugal?


Do you save water from the shower or in a pan in the kitchen sink to water houseplants, the garden, clean the floor, etc.?
Do you water down shampoo and liquid hand soap? (Some of it actually works better that way.)
Do you make your own plastic scrubbies from vegetable net bags?
Do you borrow books and DVDs rather than buy them? Shop at thrift stores and on sales racks exclusively?  Refinish furniture rather than buy something new (or second hand)?
What about transportation? Do you drive a car until it really needs to be replaced (rather than just when you get "tired" of it).

These are some of the ways that frugal people save their money and their sanity for more important things. 


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Who Are the Frugal People?

Note: This was originally published May 17, 1999, when I was the Frugal Living Guide for About.com Other sites have since picked it up and published it, but I own the rights to it. I am not complaining; on the contrary, it's a compliment when people think what I have written is worth repeating - as long as they attribute the work to me.
 

Frugal people are familiar with things like self-sufficiency, homeschooling, midwifery, simple living, alternative energy, dumpster diving and wild food foraging. We are also familiar with budgets, bank rates, and personal finance.

We live in every circumstance and situation imaginable, from past the end-of-the-road rural cabins, to highrise apartments. Some of us are passionate about the natural world around us, others feel as if allowing our hair to grow an extra inch is going natural. For some, "back to basics" means cooking a meal instead of eating out, for others, it means sawing the winter's wood with a crosscut saw.

Just as we are a diverse, broad ray in the spectrum of lifestyles, we are also perceived in many opposing ways.

"Frugality" can conjure up visions of continual black bean soup and shoes with cardboard insoles. "Mean" and "stingy" are the synonyms that come quickly to mind. Doing without, deprivation, and poor, are other words used to describe a state of being that's a threat rather than a blessing; a thing to be avoided rather than sought after.

But frugality (synonyms: economical, money-wise, canny) can also mean creatively making the available money do as many things as possible, down to creating and maintaining a comfortable savings account and living debt-free.

What and who are we, really? Most of us will find ourselves on neither end of this seesaw -- and seesaw it is. Nothing ever stays balanced exactly, so there is always a little adjustment to be made here, a little tuck to be taken there. Probably the only thing that can be said of frugal people is that they are determined to get the most and the best from the resources they have.

Most of us simply continue trying to be more and more frugal in various ways, but there are those who have the courage to completely sell out. Voluntary simplicity, they call it. A simpler, more frugal life isn't limited to those who have already made it, and changed their minds, either.

In the final test, living frugally is all about choices... yours and mine. When we begin to make conscious choices about how, when, and if we use your resources, we are immediately more in control. And when we're in control, the responsibility is ours -- for a more frugal tomorrow, personally and globally.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Old Tshirts

Besides using old tshirt and tshirt material for "yarn" to make rugs, bags and the like, the material can be used in a lot of different ways!

  • Cut the front and back out, then fold them in fourths and sew them together at the edges. Sew an "X" or other design all the way across it to hold the layers together: Hot pad made!

  • Cut two or three inch squares and use them for disposable makeup or nail polish removal.

  • Use them for padding in potholders.

  • Snip them in small pieces and use as stuffing in toys, throw pillows or door draft stoppers.

  • Cut the neckline bigger (no need to hem as it will curl), sew the bottom together and put it on a hanger on the wall to hold rags, plastic bags, sewing projects, etc.

  • The sleeves and any leftover pieces make great dust cloths.

Other ideas? I'm sure we all have a few old tshirts around!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hot Days Ahead! Cool and Frugal Drinks to the Rescue

Cold drinks are so welcome during the heat of summer! It can be expensive to try to keep up with the demand, but don't whip out the credit card just yet. There are some things you can do to quench thirst without that.

Plain old fashioned powdered fruit ade drinks are still inexpensive. Add your own sugar to save money. You can sometimes find packets of lemonade or other flavors on sale; stock up if you can because it also makes excellent snowcone types of treats. To do that, mix it with half the water it calls for and all the sugar. Crush ice or, if you have a powerful blender, make snowcone consistency, then pour the ade over the ice.

Real lemonade is not expensive, if you start with fresh lemons. Heat them, then roll them against the counter while they are still hot and you will get the maximum amount of juice. Pick out the seeds if there are any, and add water and sweetener to taste. A little lemon juice will go a long way, so don't overdo it. A couple of lemons will make several glasses of lemonade.

Tea is always a good choice, but if you don't want the caffeine, buy decaffeinated tea. Loose leaf tea makes the best iced tea, but it's hard to find so make it with teabags made for hot tea. You can buy a box of 48 teabags for around $3.00 and that's pretty frugal.

It will take one teabag per glass. Heat a cup or two of water to boiling and pour over the teabags in a cup or other heat safe container, let it steep for at least five minutes, then remove the teabags and add water to equal as many cups as there were teabags. Add sweetener if you want it and pour over ice.

If you still want sodas, think about getting a Sodastream. No, it's not frugal, by the time you buy their syrups, but there are ways around that. Those inexpensive packets of fruit ade come in a great variety of flavors. If you make a syrup and add the flavors to it, you can use that to make a carbonated beverage with a SodaStream. After the initial cost, you can get some pretty cheap sodas.

Even if you buy the syrups to make special flavors like root beer and cola, it can be cheaper. Use it to make root beer floats or "coke floats." Remember those? They cost a pretty penny now, but you can have those treats a lot cheaper.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Do you like to chat online?

I enjoy spending some time just chatting with like minded folks online. It makes for a relaxing evening or afternoon when I have the time. If you enjoy forums or online chats  (Facebook? Twitter?) there is a particular site that you will no doubt enjoy, too.

I think they said there are 10,000 different forums now! If you can't find something you like to chat about, you can create your own. I've done that a couple of times and it's fun.

The name of the site is Chatabout It's fairly new but it's more than fairly busy!

And the best part? You get paid for participating. Take a look and see what you think.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Save on Hair Care Products

Just taking care of our hair can get pretty pricey, but there are ways around that and your hair won't suffer at all.

First, most of us shampoo the life right out of our hair. An every day shampoo strips natural oils and makes the hair shaft rough and hard to manage. A simple first step is to quit shampooing every day. Go to every other day and eventually every third day. Your scalp will adjust to the longer time eventually and you can move on to every third day. Hair does not get dirty in one or two days, unless we go out and play in a dust storm or rub mud into it.

Secondly, when you shampoo, add water to the product. Shampoo is made thick so that it takes a lot to distribute over your scalp and hair. When you thin it down, it's easier to distribute and it cleans just as well. If you don't believe me, put one teaspoon of shampoo in a jar or bowl and add one teaspoon of water. Mix them thoroughly, then put it on your wet hair and see if it doesn't go farther than two teaspoons of thick shampoo.

Thirdly, do not repeat. You don't have to shampoo and repeat, even if your shampoo is watered down and you're on your third day. One good lather and a super good rinse is all it takes after your hair and scalp have adjusted.

If you need a clarifying shampoo, don't buy it. Just use vinegar as your hair rinse and you will remove shampoo and conditioner buildup, which is what clarifying shampoo does.

As a matter of fact, if you want shiny, soft hair, a vinegar rinse will do it every time. Use a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar to 3/4 cup of warm water and pour it over your hair. You can rinse it off if you like, but you don't have to. The smell disappears in a few minutes.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Brand Name Mania

image courtesy morguefile.com
It doesn't do much good to keep the heat turned down, walk to work and scrounge coupons for groceries if we blow what we save on name brands. I hear you... some brands are worth it. I know that and there are a few that I will probably always use because they are quality products.

There are others that I have changed my mind about over time. I no longer buy brand name potato chips (and I do eat them sometimes and I don't always make them!). I don't buy brand name toilet tissue, having done the math. There's a store brand that works well for me and actually costs less per week. I have returned to a cheap brand of shampoo that I used to use long ago and my hair seems the same as when I used the more expensive kind.

Those are just a few things that I changed as I continue to pare down my spending.

Brand names don't necessarily equal quality, nor do they always mean value. Even if they seem to deliver a bit more, that little bit isn't always worth the extra money. Why should I pay for a gracefully shaped shampoo bottle with silver or gold lettering when a plain, square necked bottle holds shampoo just as well? The content is what I'm interested in, not the presentation, yet the price of a brand name shampoo includes the design and production of a fancy container. I just don't want to subsidize someone else's idea of beauty. If the plain jane bottle of generic shampoo bothers me that much, I can buy a pretty container and put the generic shampoo in it.

The fact is that when you buy a brand name product, you're not just buying the product. You're paying for the container design, the marketing and probably the CEO's yacht.

Something to think about. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five More Things You Never Need to Buy

Quart sized freezer bags. You probably throw them away every week if you buy frozen vegetables. Those bags are freezer bags. They wouldn't sell them in those bags if they weren't capable of keeping the vegetables fresh and frost free. Cut them carefully across the top when you open them and use a twist'em tie or rubber band to close them securely when you fill them.

Refrigerator containers. Cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt and more come in resealable plastic containers that can be used over and over again. Get some cheap masking tape to label the contents. A bonus is that they're ultimately stackable and hold more than they look.

Canisters. Storage jars are free. Really. Check your local restaurants to see if they will save you a few gallon jars. They buy them with everthing from pickles to boiled eggs in them. Most come with sealing lids so your flour and sugar will be safe. You can also use them for beans, pasta and other food products.

Compost. Make your own, of course. That's a no-brainer, but sometimes it's hard to accomplish, especially if you have limited space or it isn't conveniently located. Invest in a bowl with a lid to hold your compostable kitchen scraps and simply dig a hole in an out of the way place in your yard and dump the goods in there. Cover them with dirt and that's it. It will take longer to make if you don't turn it now and then and if it's dry, but it will eventually make good compost. Hurry it by turning and keeping it moist.

House slippers. If you have a warm sweater or one that is felted accidentally or otherwise, simply make a pattern by standing on a newspaper and drawing around your foot. Cut two pieces to match this pattern, then measure along the side from toe all the way around and back to the toe and cut a strip about two to three inches wide this long. Sew the strip. starting at the toe, to the sole so it's the side, then gather the edges of this strip with a piece of sturdy yarn in a needle, weaving back and forth. Draw the yarn up so that the shoe fits your foot and tie a knot, then a bow. Done.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Things You Never Need to Buy

Paper towels. Use rags cut from old clothing, linens or towels. Cut and hem them and they will last a very long time, wash after wash. You will no doubt wind up with clothing or other material that isn't absorbent or won't wash well. Cut those up and save them for nasty jobs so you can throw them away like you would paper towels.

Paper napkins. A very simple solution is to cut some squares of cotton or other absorbent material and hem it. Voila! Instant cloth napkins. Some people buy washcloths in special colors to use as napkins, but making your own is cheaper; your choice. Wash them with the other kitchen items like dishcloths and teatowels. Also, it doesn't hurt to use the same one a couple or three times if everyone has their own color or design (unless it's a messy meal!)

Trash bags. For the smaller trash cans, use plastic grocery bags. They're a sturdy or sturdier than bags you buy and you have them already! They even have handles. For larger trash cans, save bags that dog food, bird seed, mulch, compost or other garden amendments come in. Anything that comes in a large enough bag works. I have used the large plastic bags from Goodwill or other thrift stores (or even retail stores!).

Pots for starting seeds. Use any small container that you can poke a hole in for drainage. Some people use egg cartons, putting soil and a seed into each egg compartments. This is enough to get started, but plants will need to be transplanted soon because there is little room for roots to grow. Think: Soft drink bottles, cut down, yogurt containers, cottage cheese and sour cream containers or any plastic container that you can cut down to size.

Bulletin boards. Need a place to pin up pictures, notes or lists? Get a piece of cardboard from a cardboard box that is the right size for your space and cover it with piece of solid color cloth. Better if the cloth comes from an old sheet or tablecloth that you were going to use for rags! Wrap the cloth around the cardboard and tape it down with duct tape. You can either poke holes in it to hang from or attach a string from each corner to hang it. A few pins or thumbtacks and you're in business.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Bouquets: Get Them Cheap, Keep Them Longer


'Tis the season to bring those spring flowers inside to enjoy! If you don't have any of your own growing, you might be able to beg a few from someone who does, or finding some in a dumpster, but barring those things, go to the flower shop at your grocery store. Flowers and plants are much cheaper there than anywhere else.

Choose carefully so your bouquet will last as long as possible. Look at the flowers closely and get the freshest you can find and get the longest stems there are. Getting longer stems makes it possible make fresh cuts to allow the stems to take up more water and of course, the freshest blossoms will stay fresh longer.

When you get them home, immediately put them in water to wait until you have found your vase and whatever else you need. Use a solution of 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and a quart of tepid water. Make sure the sugar is dissolved, then trim the flowers and arrange in your vase.