Category — Frugal Living Tip
Many people look at rising food prices and feel that it’s impossible to eat a healthy whole-food diet on a budget. But switching to and maintaining a healthy diet can be cost-effective and even cheaper than a conventional diet if a few simple shopping habits are established.
Most local newspapers have a Sunday edition that includes weekly ads for local grocery stores, and many stores now have digital copies of their ads available online. Take advantage of whatever format is most convenient and look through each ad at the beginning of the week. Write down sales on items you need or that are frequently used in your home. Pay particular attention to sales on fresh fruits and vegetables, as these can be helpful starting points for your weekly dinner menu.
Cut (or Print) Coupons
In addition to ads, newspapers can be a source for money-saving coupons. Taking the time to look through these and cut out any that seem useful can help your budget a great deal. And as awareness of the benefits of healthy eating grows, so does the presence of coupons for things like grains, beans, and meat-free products.
It’s also possible to take advantage of coupons from a variety of online savings sites. Websites like Coupons.com and MamboSprouts.com allow you to browse through coupons for everything from organic pasta sauce to dairy-free “milks.” More healthy savings can be found at OrganicGroceryDeals.com, where users submit helpful information about shopping for organic foods, including current sales and discounts wholesale food.
Co-Ops & Farmer’s Markets
When you want a good selection of local foods or are looking for a source of specific products such as organic, non-GMO, vegan, or gluten-free, it’s time to seek out co-ops and farmer’s markets. Co-ops are member-owned operations that may have a retail presence or be strictly mail-order. Be sure to inquire on whether or not you need to be a member before buying from a co-op, and familiarize yourself with order deadlines of those that operate by mail. Many co-ops offer bulk discounts on items like grains, beans, and even everyday things like bread. If you’re willing to buy in quantity, you can save a great deal of money.
Farmer’s markets are the best place to find fresh produce from nearby farms. Doing this helps you save money in two ways. First, by buying what’s in season you choose from a variety of foods that are growing in abundance and are therefore readily available. Second, the produce at farmer’s markets travels a much shorter distance than what you find in grocery stores. Lower transportation costs means a lower price for you, the consumer.
Whether you’ve been wanting to eat healthier or are looking for ways to include more whole foods into your diet, it’s easy to fit your lifestyle to your budget. If you have other money-saving tips for people looking to improve their health, feel free to share them!
May 30, 2011 No Comments
There are a lot of articles on how to save money, stick to your budget and cut corners. When the economy is down, people tend to get down too – but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to learn how to live frugally and have fun at the same time. Changing your spending and learning how to be more frugal can be a challenge, but learning to cut down on your spending while still getting “the good things” for yourself and your family can actually be exciting!
Let’s start with the biggest challenge of all – the grocery bill. One way to save is to only shop once a month. By making out a 30-day menu for your family including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, you can make one big list and buy all of your big items on one day. The more times you go to the store, the more opportunities you have to become tempted to buy things you don’t really need. You can get some great tips on shopping, freezing and even cooking once-a-month at websites like http://onceamonthmom.com and http://simplemom.net/how-to-menu-plan.
Another great way to save on the grocery bill is to learn how to clip coupons and get great deals that combine sales and coupons. One of the best websites that will help you to live the frugal life is http://dealseekingmom.com. You can learn how to get free items, low-cost to no-cost magazine subscriptions, amazing deals on multiple items and much more. There’s nothing quite like the happy satisfaction of seeing your store receipt and finding out that you saved 40-50% or more off your bill!
Entertainment is always a concern when people begin to live a frugal lifestyle. When it costs over $40 for a family of 4 to go to the movies – sans popcorn or drinks – you know it’s time to look for alternatives. Netflix is a great source of low-cost entertainment. For under $10/month you can get unlimited movie rentals and access to movies online via your wireless Wii, Playstation or XBox 360 devices. Redbox is another great source of low-cost and sometimes free entertainment. By joining their website you can get a FREE movie rental once a month and enjoy $1/day movie rentals all month long. There are even websites such as http://www.insideredbox.com that give you FREE codes – for FREE!
Vacations are another place where we tend to over-spend and with summer just around the corner, it’s time to think of some alternative ideas. Planning a “staycation” is becoming a popular solution, with many people spending their vacation money in other ways to get more fun out of each dollar. Check out the “Best Staycation Ideas” at Better Homes & Gardens or go through the top “16 Ideas for an Exciting Staycation” at Yahoo’s Shine website.
Once you learn the ins and outs of frugal living, you’ll be able to spot even more ways to save – and that’s when the real fun begins!
May 23, 2011 1 Comment
Although some might say travel is an unnecessary expense to begin with, some people just get that travel itch, especially as the weather gets warmer. Travel doesn’t have to mean spending money on hotels and tourist traps, though. Follow these tips to reduce the costs of each aspect of your trip so you can see the sights on a shoestring.
Where to Go: When planning a trip on a budget, avoid the typical tourist destinations. These places are usually expensive and not always the most interesting. For a more unique and adventurous travel experience, plan a trip to a city near your own hometown, or a small town with a beautiful natural landscape.
How to Get There: You can reduce your transportation costs to zero by staycationing, taking a vacation in your hometown. If you do want to travel a little distance, try Megabus.com for a cheap ride to a nearby city. In general, the slower the method of travel, the more inexpensive it will be, so consider taking a bus or train and packing some extra books rather than flying to your destination.
When to Go: Most destinations have peak travel seasons when costs will be higher, so consider traveling in the off season. If you are booking travel on planes, trains, or buses, book your tickets either well ahead of time or at the last minute to take advantage of discounts. Being flexible with your travel dates can allow you to get the best deals.
Where to Stay: Try websites like CouchSurfing.com or HomeExchange.com to find a unique and free place to stay. Both of these sites require you trust in the people you stay with, or you allow to stay in your home, but both websites have extensive reviewing systems in place so you can feel safe. Airbnb.com is another great option for cheap and unique lodging all around the world.
Where to Eat: Rather than eating out three meals a day, bring snacks like granola bars or fruit, and all the fixings to make sandwiches for lunch. Purchasing these items at a grocery store is much cheaper than buying lunches at restaurants. You can even bring mini cups of cereal for breakfasts. Just stop at a convenience store for individual milk cartons.
What to Do: Do some research ahead of time to find out about free and cheap attractions in the city you are visiting. Although it might be some distance away, the beach or a lake is often a very inexpensive place to visit, especially if you pack a cooler full of snacks and beverages. Many museums have free or pay-what-you-will pricing on certain days of the week. Ecotourism activities, such as hiking, bird-watching, or visiting a national park, are another inexpensive option.
Mix and match or follow all of these tips so you can satisfy your urge to travel without breaking the bank.
May 16, 2011 No Comments
There is no getting around the fact that living frugally takes effort. Nothing in the world is more difficult at first than changing your habits, even if the change is drastically for the better, and many attempts to better yourself will fall flat long before the benefits of any changes come into play. There are hundreds of small changes that can save a penny here or there, but making sure the changes stick is the real task at hand. Here are a few pointers that can help ease your transition from a lifestyle of habit into one that wont break the bank at the end of the quarter.
Rewarding Yourself is Key
Most of the bad habits you’ve acquired through life served at one point as their own reward: buying lunch at work saved time, buying a sharp outfit served to impress, and buying a snack here or there takes care of a passing hunger. These habits get reinforced over and over again, to the point that changing your habits feels like punishment. It’s a vicious cycle that locks you into a pattern of less-than-frugal activity, and its one that you can only notice if you go looking for it. You’re fighting against psychology if you’re trying to force yourself to kick these habits, and psychology will fight you right back. Instead of fighting an uphill battle, you can try to positively reinforce good habits through self reward, and you can do it without spending any extra money.
So What Sort of Rewards are Free?
It all depends on you and those around you. Though no one likes to admit it, nothing is more motivating than seeing others satisfied with your success. Get your family or friends involved, and celebrate your first day, week or month of kicking an expensive habit. Do something you really enjoy every time you hit a milestone, and get others involved to share in your elation. Alternatively, do something for yourself like take a stroll on the beach, or a relaxing bath. Celebrate how you see fit, and use your imagination to avoid activities that cost you money. Don’t throw a big party with cake and beer every week, but feel free to watch a few old movies and celebrate with resources on hand. If you can, reward yourself with a day off where you do nothing but your favorite tasks.
And Remember it Doesn’t Have to be Free
Though the ultimate objective is to live frugally, don’t be afraid to splurge on the rare occasion. Take a small percentage of the savings from your new habits and spend it on something just for you, be it a party or a much desired item from a fancy store. Reward yourself with the bounty of your efforts, and make your effort meaningful to you. Frugal living does not mean a life of total self denial. Just be sure to keep in mind that it’s only by not spending that you have a reason to celebrate.
May 12, 2011 No Comments
Have you ever bought a car online, or heard friends or family mention anything about buying one online? Have you ever dealt with the fleet manager or sales manager at a local dealer even if you were only buying one car? Chances are that if you have tried either of these methods, you did so in efforts to get a better deal. Oddly enough, “buying a car online” is essentially the same thing as negotiating with the fleet manager—you go directly to the gatekeeper who can offer discounted pricing due to their high volume of sales. Even if you’re just buying one car, wouldn’t you still want to get it at wholesale rather than retail (invoice rather than sticker)?
Buying online is not what you may think—it doesn’t involve you sending in money online and doesn’t involve your car getting delivered to your door like other online purchases—though a car can be bought like this if you really want to. Rather, buying online simply means that you utilize one of the many online car buying sites out there to do your research and to use their negotiating power to get a better deal. Once you find a deal you like online, the remaining transaction is carried out in the traditional manner—you pay for, and pick-up your car at the physical dealership.
So how does this all work? Simple. In essence, buying a car online is usually nothing more than getting some free quotes shown or emailed to you online, which you can either accept or reject. These quotes will be from local dealers, and right away these will usually be better than what you could get negotiating yourself. Of course you can try to negotiate some more off these quotes, but usually large auto sites such as Automotive.com and Cars.com (and others) will have a very good relationship with their new car dealers and you’ll be getting a quite a good deal if you’re referred through them. The point of online auto buying sites is threefold: get the buyer a better deal, create more sales for dealers, get commission from the dealers for referring buyers. It’s almost elegant in its simplicity, and can save the car buyer some serious hassles and travel.
Even if you prefer negotiating the deal and working the deal car face-to-face, you can still greatly benefit from looking up cars online. For example, say you were looking for a new Toyota Tacoma to buy, and you have 3 dealers in your area that you want to get prices from. Wouldn’t it make sense to simply go to Automotive.com’s 2011 Toyota Tacoma Prices Page, click “Get My Price!” and have the internet sales managers from these same local dealers send you a quote on the what’s the best they can do? You can follow up with them via email or phone, and just like that without having wasted any time or driven anywhere you now have a spread from 3 different quotes and have established a perfect starting point for your negotiations. For those that are timid and don’t like to negotiate, buying a car online is even better since they don’t have to spend any time physically going to the dealer and being subject to pushy sales techniques. Of course if you want to test drive a car you’ll have to visit the dealer, but test driving and then walking away is different than negotiating and walking away—less pressure.
If this sounds interesting, there’s many online car buying sites on the net you can visit, but only a handful or so of these are truly nationwide and have a well-developed dealer network. Also, many smaller sites will simply be affiliates or partners of the larger sites and will do nothing more than display their same car information. Here are some of the better car buying sites: Automotive.com, Cars.com, CarsDirect.com and AutoBytel.com
May 11, 2011 No Comments
Spring is here and many people start to get the itch to do something; anything, but the poor economy has every-ones wallets screaming for mercy. Taking a trip, going out to dinner, even seeing a movie seems out of reach. Adopting a frugal living lifestyle may be just the ticket, no pun intended. All you need is a little pre-planning and good resources to have a night on the town the frugal living way.
Frugal living does not mean you have to compromise. Merely look for more inventive ways to stretch your dollar. Livingsocial.com is part of a growing number of Internet sites that offer deals at local restaurants, bars, spas, theaters and even entertainment for the kids. Many restaurant deals offer a forty-dollar voucher for fifty percent off the retail. Once purchased the buyer will receive a link on the next business day. The voucher can then be printed.
Groupon.com is another popular site that promises huge discounts for their customers. The Groupon sites offer a daily deal, where each day the site sends you one deeply discounted deal for a local business. Of course there is a time and quantity limit when purchasing vouchers. Some online sites offer something called “share for a free deal” in which the buyer is allowed to share the deal with others after purchase. In many cases the frugal person comes out cost-free concerning the item. Groupon sites involve no signup fees. This makes them a valuable resource for frugal living. Keep track of your coupons by using CityPockets.com
If you are not such a great planner, never fear, you too can find help. Many towns have a dollar theater with prices as lows as 50% below what the large chain cinemas are charging. For the frugal living lifestyle this is a dream come true. These theaters often show the same new release movies as the higher priced cinemas, and with competing sound and picture quality. An average family of four can purchase tickets, drinks, and even spring for large popcorn, all for around twenty bucks. This price pared with discounted concessions is a real find for the frugal living consumer.
Another form of entrainment on the comeback is the drive-in theater. To locate a hometown option, try Driveinmovie.com. For the cost of one admission per car, the typical frugal living patron gets to enjoy two movies for the price of one. Patrons are even permitted to bring a picnic dinner complete with candles. By providing a romantic, if not nostalgic, under the sky view, drive-in theaters offer an alternative to the normal entrainment world.
Join us in the advancement of a frugal lifestyle. Share your unique ideas and tips on family, life, relationships, and money saving ways to build better memories. Tells us about your experience at the dollar theater or a half price visit to the spa or even a family night at the local drive-in theater.
April 26, 2011 No Comments
Just because you’ve decided to live frugally doesn’t mean you have to give up all of the luxuries you enjoy. Daily coffee runs, eating out, beauty salon visits, and watching movies are still within your budget as long as you follow these simple tips:
Change Your Coffee Order
Anyone who is watching what they spend is probably aware of how costly that daily stop at the coffee shop can be. A convenient, tasty, warm and cozy treat; coffee can be a difficult habit to give up. Swapping out what you’re ordering for much cheaper versions will pleasantly surprise your taste buds and your wallet. For instance, if you love Lattes, try a plain cup of coffee but request cream. Better yet, request they leave room for cream and doctor it up yourself to the consistency you like. Many coffee shops also provide flavored creams, sugars, and spices that you can add in to your cup free of charge. For a third of the price you’ll enjoy a hot brew that is equally delicious.
Dine With Discounts
Thanks to the Internet, finding coupons, discounts, and free meals is easier than ever. Many restaurant chains provide coupons or free meals when you sign up for their newsletter or provide your contact information. Simply check your email and you’ll be amazed to discover free entrée, appetizer, dessert, or drink coupons that you can print out and take on your next visit. Online discount sites, such as Groupon or Restaurant.com, are another incredible way to save money. These sites offer deeply discounted products that are similar to gift-certificates with some restrictions. Once purchased online, these can be printed out and taken to the restaurant and redeemed like a gift-certificate.
Pamper Yourself Frugally
Skipping hair appointments and forgoing manicures and pedicures may be easy for some, but for many people it’s a necessity. For those people, it’s reasonable to come up with cheaper alternatives, including going to a local beauty school for salon services. Costing about half the price of a normal salon, beauty schools offer an array of services. Trained students are supervised by educated professionals as they work, providing a safe and relaxing experience. If you still prefer going to a salon, many nail technicians, cosmetologists or hair stylists publish coupons online or in local papers and partake in Groupon deals as well.
Watching Movies the Cheap Way
Major movie theater chains are known for their ridiculously high prices but there are second-run movie theaters that can be found all over. Showing movies that have usually been out for longer or have a smaller crowd following, these theaters are able to charge much less at the box office and the concession stand. Even if your area does not have these cheaper theaters, it’s still possible to save money at the larger chains by going to a matinee showing and simply passing on the concession stand food and snacking before or after the show elsewhere.
April 11, 2011 1 Comment
Frugal living is a state of mind that leads to a far more wholesome way of life than the consumerist lifestyle. Adopt a frugal lifestyle and many good things follow because there is a synergy to frugal living that benefits the entire family. The seasonal process of canning garden produce at home is a great example.
The only real requirements for home canning are a large pot, good quality jars, lids and rings. What goes in the jars is up to the individual, but most people can whatever their garden is producing in excess. Interestingly, a garden is not a requirement if there are any U-pick farms within reasonable driving distance, and for fruits and berries this is an excellent outing for the whole family. Many U-pick operations are organic, offering quality organic produce for a fraction of the price in supermarkets.
The first step is to have the equipment and supplies ready, so either order online, find a local supplier, or check yard sales. Used canning equipment is often available at yard sales for ridiculously cheap prices, especially the jars. Quality canning jars are an excellent value, just be sure to check the rim of each jar carefully for cracks or chips that would prevent the lid from getting a good seal. Lids and rings are often available locally or can be ordered online.
Find a U-pick farm with strawberries, for example, and take the children to the farm in the morning on a day that is completely free. The goal is to enjoy the time doing something productive. If picking with small children, keep the visit short and fun, but get the fruit you need. Picking fruit can get tiresome very quickly, especially on a hot day, and the fruit has to be processed and canned later that same day.
After returning home, wash the berries and cut off the stem and leaves. Any school-aged child can do the paring, and “many hands make light work” so get the entire family involved. Time spent around the table working on a common task can be quality family time. After washing and paring, process the ingredients according to the recipe. Pour the contents into the jars, place the lids on and put the jars into the water-bath on the stove. The Ball Blue Book explains how to do everything in perfect detail, and it’s been guiding American families through the process of safely canning food at home for many decades.
Depending on the season there are many options in terms of what can be canned. Apples purchased in bulk from an orchard, for example, can be sliced and canned as apple pie filling or ground and canned as applesauce. The value of the canned produce can’t be measured in just monetary terms, but has to include memories as well: Take one quart of apple pie filling, a frozen piecrust, five minutes of preparation and an hour later there’s a fresh-baked apple pie cooling on the counter. On a cold winter evening, that’s the smell of home.
Please share your ideas related to saving money, building great memories with children, working together as a family and building relationships in a frugal lifestyle. Do you have memories related to common family projects like summertime canning to share? We’d love to hear them.
March 18, 2011 No Comments
Looking for small ways to cut back on your spending?
Taking your lunch to work can be an excellent way to save money and eat healthy. The average person will spend about $8.57 a day eating out during a typical work day. Over the course of a year, that can add up to over $2000 dollars. Taking your lunch means eating healthier, too, as you will have a lot more control over the amount of calories and ingredients you use in your food.
Start by figuring out a few menus that you know you can make easily.
To make menu planning simple, prepare a few different meals that can be varied by swapping out a few ingredients. Start with the most basic menu you can think of, a sandwich or salad and a piece of fruit. At the grocery store, buy whichever cold cuts and cheese are on sale (and, preferably, that you have a coupon for). Typically, it’s cheapest to buy cheese by the block. By avoiding pre-cut slices such as American cheese you can save money and calories. Use a cheese slicer to portion out the cheese into 1 oz slices, which should be about 70 calories a slice. Be sure to shop for whole-wheat bread; grocery stores typically put one brand of bread on sale each week. If possible, buy your fruit in season and try farmer’s markets or look for sales at your local grocery store.
Salads are healthy and easy to prepare, as long as you make sure not to use too much dressing or croutons. When shopping, look for whole heads of lettuce. While washing and cutting your own lettuce can be a bit time consuming, whole lettuce is usually much cheaper than bagged, pre-washed salad. The same is true for other vegetables, dice whole carrots, radishes, onions, and tomatoes on your own. To add some dairy, shred one of the1 oz cheese slices from making sandwiches. Carefully portion out the deli meat and add that as well. Since cheese and meat are the two most common areas where people add too many calories to their salads, this will enable you control the amount of fat and calories you add to your salad. As you review grocery ads, you’ll notice that salad dressing goes on sale about once a month. By combining these sales with a coupon you can get bottles of name-brand salad dressing fairly cheaply, or sometimes even free.
Pack your lunch in sturdy plastic containers. Consider using disposable plastic storage products for your sandwiches and salads, as these items can be squished fairly easily in brown paper bags. Use small plastic cups for dressings and dips, adding these to your salad or sandwich in the morning will cause it to be fairly soggy by lunch time.
March 9, 2011 1 Comment
Frugal living does not have to mean living without enjoyment. Entertainment is important to release tension and stress, and to remain close to those you love. Whether you are trying to spend some fun time with the kids, host a pleasant visit with extended family, neighbors and friends, or share a private night with the one you love, there are many options to plan an unforgettable get-together without breaking the bank.
At Home with the Kids
Fast-paced lifestyles and technological advances have left many families feeling detached. The kids are in their rooms playing computer games or texting their friends while Mom and Dad are in the living room, often doing the same. Scheduling family night at least once a week helps to solidify relationships and bring family values back to the table.
Turn in the computer games for a great board game. Although high-tech games can be a fun diversion, losing the graphics and sound effects will allow more interaction between family members. There is a wide array of fun board games on the market today, many costing under $20, or you can find printable games at www.family-games-treasurehouse.com/printable_board_games.html. Charades or card games should not be overlooked, either. The only reason they have been around so long is because they still prove entertaining and fun.
Bring on the Neighbors, Friends and Family
Spending time with friends and extended family members is a great way to bring back the feeling of community. If you live in a rural neighborhood, an old-fashioned block party can be fun. Check with the town to see about obtaining a gathering permit, and inquire about blocking off the street for an afternoon. Have neighbors make their favorite dishes, especially those that are specific to their cultural heritage, provide music and games for the children, and spend some time getting reacquainted with your neighbors.
Another fun way to visit with extended family and friends is to have a backyard cookout in the summer, or a progressive dinner in the colder months. When hosting a cookout, provide activities such as horseshoes, Frisbee, water balloon tosses and sack races to keep everyone entertained and make the day memorable. Progressive dinners do just that-they progress from one home to another. They allow people the chance to visit each home while spreading the cost of the meal among several household budgets. Carpooling with fellow progressive diners will save on gas and let you spend more time with loved ones. For more information and tips on how to organize a progressive dinner, visit http://www.essortment.com/planning-progressive-dinner-41365.html.
Romance the Frugal Way
Spending time alone with that special person can be quite costly. However, with a little planning and ingenuity, romance does not have to break the bank.
Send your sweetheart a formal invitation for a romantic evening. Use paper, not electronic media, for a more personal touch, and employ fancy fonts, hearts and flowers to set the mood. If you can cook, prepare a meal of your sweetie’s favorite foods. If cooking is beyond your skill set, order food from his or her favorite restaurant. By eating in instead of dining out, you will save tip and beverage expenses, and are able to provide a more romantic, personalized setting. Get out the fancy tablecloth, pick up a single rose in a bud vase, get out the candlesticks, and play soft music in the background. Lay a trail of rose petals from the door to the table for an extra special touch.
Looking for something a little less fancy? Discount movie theaters are popping up in many areas that show major motion films just before they leave the cinema and become available on DVD. The prices can be as low as 40% of what other theaters are charging, so as long as you can wait for the new release to reach these venues, it can be a great way to spend a night while saving a buck.
If you have any useful, low-cost entertainment ideas, please share them below.
February 28, 2011 No Comments