Friday, September 4, 2009

Frugal Friday: Tips From A Cheapskate

I'm always on the hunt for finding ways to live more cheaply. It has come in handy-- especially as a one-income family living in several expensive cities over the years. I have previously posted my top ten ways to live cheaply, but I'm always living and learning, so here are a few of the newest tricks we've found-- tricks that I hope will help make our No Spend Month successful.

* Make stuff at home. I have made bread and granola at home for a while, but have recently expanded to some items that I never dreamed I would be making at home. We have started making tortillas at home-- which are pricey at the store, but super easy to make and gratifying at home. We have also started making our own popcorn (I never even KNEW you could just pop it in a pot with a lid! Just as easy as the microwave, but over half as cheap). And then there's our recent experiment of making our own bread starter (more on this soon), which will hopefully eliminate the cost of yeast from our budget.

* Find ways to have a treat on a budget. Sometimes it's nice to spice things up on the weekend and do something different or special. We often will have picnics in the yard or on a nearby field with a simple homemade dish. Or, another special treat is taking some fast food-style burgers (cheap as possible!) and doctoring them up at home. If you take a plain burger and add arugula, your favorite cheese, and red onion, it transforms the burger experience. And with this tip our whole family can eat dinner for under 5 bucks.

* Troll websites for items that you are going to have to buy anyway. I bought this adorable wooden toy (along with a set of dozens of wooden zoo animals, cars, and 'people' off of craigslist for a few bucks). But, as with all things, do this in moderation. For this month, I am disallowed from looking for stuff on craigslist because sometimes it just feels like a deal is too good to pass up... which is dangerous.

* Eat vegetarian several times a week. I was a vegetarian for years, which comes in handy, because we're used to cooking/eating without meat. This makes a huge impact on the cost of week's groceries. And when we do eat meat, we choose economic options.

* Don't use recipes, or use recipes that are flexible. I love Cook's Illustrated, but I only cook from one of their recipes once in a blue moon because they require some little ingredient I am missing, which they guilt me into buying (like arrowroot? Who's heard of arrowroot?). Instead, I do simple meals that only use a few ingredients from my head, or recipes that have lots of flex room (which is why I live by More With Less and Simply in Season, both of which use simple recipes that can be switched up in dozens of ways).

Those are our most recent "tips" for cheap living. What are your tricks? How do you live on the cheap? Please do tell!


One and Doll said...

coupons- actually if you only clip coupons for things you are going to buy you can REALLY save money.

Recently we were given gift cards to safeway (grocery store) but we needed to get a book at Barnes and Noble- we went to safeway and purchased a Barnes and Noble gift card at safeway using the gift card and voila money moved from one gift card to another.

Figure out where you can get wild produce... in Seattle- more than in any other city I've lived in- there are peas, blackberries, and blueberries everywhere- having a blackberry pie is cheap if you picked the berries yourself at a public park!

Goodwill- find a good one- like one in a high end neighborhood- and don't go there too often but when you are figuring out stuff that you need like baskets or storage containers, even balls for a dog, or a winter coat for a kid- goodwill! Don't be tempted to get too much though these stores can be dangerous!

Breastfeed instead of bottle feed!

Sell stuff you don't need on craigslist. .. it's not about buying it's also about simplifying!

Adele said...

So I would love to know more about coupons. Where do you find them/use them? I've dabbled in them, but am not a hard core coupon user.

I also have a comment about the selling stuff-- I am very drawn to this idea, but have found that if there is even the most remote possibility that I will continue to use said object/clothing item, etc in the future, it's worth it to hold on to it (because buying another one would be more money, effort). Which is why, after a long debate, I am not going to post our baby swing on craigslist, even if that does mean it has a future sitting in our basement.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

I buy yeast in bulk from Sam's Club. It is VERY cheap that way.

Arrowroot powder is a thickener. You can use cornstarch in it's place, or even flour.

Here's what I do to save money:

I also have a link to a great couponing site there (Adele) and to a site where a woman lives from foraging (One and Doll).

~Sara said...

These are all great ideas. I too am having a no spend month.

Good luck on yours! Have a great weekend.

Adele said...

Wow, thanks for the tips, Prudent Homemaker! I will definitely add yeast to our costco list, and am checking out your saving tips right now. And good luck with your no spend month, Sara!

Mom2fur said...

I like the Cook's Illustrated TV show on public TV--Test Kitchens. And I have no problem leaving out or substituting ingredients. Most of the time you can't tell the difference.
BTW, I think arrowroot is another name for cornstarch. Which makes me wonder why they don't just say 'cornstarch.' Might be a New England thing.