If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know by now that I’m a big proponent of using coupons, especially when you can combine them with a sale. But coupon shopping is far from the only frugal strategy we use. If you’re looking for new ways to frugalize your family, here is a list of 30 things we do.
This list is by no means exhaustive nor prioritized. It’s just the first 30 things that popped into my mind. And lest you think I’m some crazy frugal lady, I’m sharing four frugal things we definitely don’t do – and probably never will.
2. We don’t eat out at restaurants. Okay, so our one kosher restaurant just closed, but still, eating at home is a definite money-saver.
3. We buy and cook in bulk for school lunches and portion into Tuperware or plastic baggies, rather than buying individual serving size bags.
4. We repurpose Shabbat leftovers for weekday meals.
5. We take advantage of free shipping & other coupon codes when shopping online.
6. We think before we spend. We discuss almost all purchases over $30 and very rarely impulse buy.
7. We say “No” and “It’s not in the budget” to our kids. And to ourselves. Often.
8. We make as many of our online purchases as possible from Amazon, which accepts our Swagbucks for payment.
9. We use rags and old washcloths, rather than paper towels, to wipe down counter tops and to clean up spills.
10. We use real dishes and silverware rather than disposable (most of the time).
11. We buy almost everything second hand, from clothing to cars. When we don’t buy used, we buy on sale. With a coupon.
12. We canceled cable three years ago and never looked back (until we signed up with our new Internet provider 6 months and got free cable for half a year; on October 19th, the box is going back. And we’re really okay about it!)
13. We use the library for free movies and book rentals. We even get seasons at a time of our favorite show, Mad Men!
14. We carpool to and from school.
15. We give thoughtful, but frugal gifts, either consumable items we make at home, or inexpensive finds we stockpile throughout the year.
16. We don’t drink or smoke. Seriously, this is one of the biggest money drains for any sized budget. Not to mention what smoking and excessive drinking will do to your health and life insurance premiums — and of course your lungs and liver!
17. We fix stuff ourselves, rather than calling in a professional. Okay, my husband fixes stuff himself, which he learns to do by checking out books from the library (see #11) with titles like “Plumbing for Dummies”. When safety or equipment necessitates, we do call in the pros.
18. We travel frugally. Vacations for us are few and far between, but when we do take one, we take the frugal route. We drive instead of fly, we stay with family & friends instead of at hotels, and we pack our own food as much as possible. Our 3-week driving trip this summer was a blast, and the memories will most certainly outlast any ol’ mouse! (Not that there’s anything wrong with Walt & his world!)
19. We installed a programmable thermostat and keep our house a few degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. Our power company installed the thermostat for free in exchange for the right to override our settings for up to two hours at a time during peak consumption times.
20. We eat almost exclusively vegetarian during the week, saving meat for Shabbat and yom tov. Even on sale, kosher red meat and chicken is just prohibitively expensive.
21. We buy produce in season, and shop organic for the so-called “Dirty Dozen” — the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide count. (Here are more strategies for saving on produce.)
22. We get regular oil changes and maintain our car per the recommended manufacturer schedule. The money that we spend in maintenance is more than saved in repairs.
23. We budget ahead on yearly expenses, such as municipal taxes, insurance premiums and even day school tuition. By setting aside the money in a savings account every month, we earn interest on our future payments, rather than owing it to the insurance company/state/school in the form of “convenience fees”.
24. We bake our own birthday cakes. I had to buy a cake for the first time this year for my five year-old because life got really crazy and I ran out of time. It cost $27! For one-tenth of that I could have made a much nicer cake. Next year…
25. We don’t use dryer sheets. In the winter, if static cling really gets to be a problem, I just add a glug of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of my wash.
26. We – and here, by we I mean I - breastfeed our babies. I know that breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mom and baby, but I’m grateful that it has worked so well for us. And not just ‘cuz it’s saved us a bundle in formula.
27. We don’t buy clothing that needs to be dry cleaned. It’s a habit we picked up in Israel, where dry cleaning a shirt costs almost as much as buying one new.
28. We work from home. No tolls, no traffic jams, no expensive suits (that would need to be dry cleaned), no fancy coffee drinks on the way to work.
29. We plant a vegetable garden in the spring, and fertilize it with compost we make all year-round. Truth be told, I’m not sure if this saves us all that much money, but it sure is fun!
30. We don’t have text messaging or Internet on our phones. We have the basic plan with as few minutes as possible, which costs us less than $50/month.
4 UnFrugal Things I Do (consider this my Frugal Al Chet)
1. I drink Coca-Cola. And not just like once a week or something self-controlled like that. Yes, I know coke is filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Yes, I know water is better for me. And yes, I know all those empty calories are costing us a small fortune. I can’t stop. I’ve tried. Repeatedly.
2. I don’t cut hair. We tried this for a while. I was cutting my husband’s and our younger son’s hair in the kitchen every month. We saved $20-$30 a month. That’s not a small amount of money, so I totally get why people buy their own clippers and do it at home. But let me just say that the money we saved was nothing in comparison to the eventual bill for marriage therapy. We fought every.single.time I’d cut my husband’s hair. So not worth it.
3. We no longer use Magic Jack. MJ is a cheap — very cheap — VOIP phone thingamabob. We used it for 20 months. It saved us hundreds of dollars on our phone bill. It is super duper frugal. But it drove me up a wall. We had dropped calls all the time. We finally gave up and got an inexpensive land line. $19/month may not be frugal, but at least I can hear people when they’re talking to me.
4. We use our dryer. All the time. Even in the summer. Laundry is my nemesis. I think line drying might just send me right over the edge.
Well that’s my confessional for the day. Any interesting, unusual or embarrassing frugal things you do? Or don’t do? Share in the comments section! I can’t wait to read them.