Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Frugality Tips

The internet is a pretty amazing place, you know?  And now, with Pinterest, there’s such a stupidly simple way to share recipes and ideas and tips and tricks.  However, so much of what’s pinned speaks to the rampant consumerism in America – the throw-away culture that we’ve developed over the past 100 years that will, if we let it, keep us from contributing money to our kids’ college funds or our retirement or whatever.  Sometimes I look at my neighbors and think, “how are they possibly saving any money?  They buy everything!”  And then Tony says, “they’re not saving a thing.”  And that’s probably true.  I think a strong case can be made for stewardship of our possessions as a good way to save money and keep from re-buying the things we use most.  In this way, I’m terribly frugal.


Tony would say I am too frugal, and I’ve listed reasons here before.  But I think that a large part of my frugality is the import of purchases in my life: I will wear a pair of jeans until they fall apart, and I expect to do so.  Therefore, I will agonize over a decision on purchasing jeans until I find the exact right pair.  And I will spend good money on that pair of jeans, though I have never, ever, been able to even consider paying more than $75 for one pair of jeans.  Bottom line, though, is that you spend money to get the right thing and then you take care of it so that it lasts a long, long time.  This is how I buy clothes, furniture, house wares, kitchen stuff, and toys.  I’m not very good at remembering to use coupons and I refuse to skimp on healthy food (though I certainly don’t shop the expensive stores and I do look for bargains and buy store brands when I can), but I do have more than a few ways to keep expenses down and our existing stuff in good use for a long time.


So!  Here are some tips that I’ve learned over time to keep my things looking their best and wearing for as long as possible.


1. Wash clothing the way it’s supposed to be washed.  Use a dark detergent for your dark clothes, like Woolite Dark, and they will not fade (my brother once accused me and my mom of keeping “laundry secrets” when he found out that we had been using dark detergent all these years).  Use the hand-wash function on your washer when things are supposed to be hand-washed and then lay them flat to dry like the tag says. 


photo (10)


2.  Shine your shoes.  These boots are six years old, and the soles are finally wearing out to the point that I need to purchase new ones.  But six years!  Come on, that’s forever in shoe time!  AND, they probably only cost about $60 to begin with.  I had the heels replaced once and I shine them every time I wear them.  You can buy little shoe shine sponges like this to quickly brush out scuffs and keep your shoes looking like new.  Why don’t people do this anymore?  Shoe shining is not just for old men’s shoes!  Also, add an insole.  They keep things cushy and keep your feet from hurting, enabling you to wear your shoes for longer.


3.  Every time I make pancakes or waffles, I make a ton.  I add lots of good stuff to mine, too: pumpkin or squash, applesauce (unsweetened), wheat germ… whatever looks good.  The boys can never tell, especially if I also add cinnamon or some other spice.  Then, I freeze all of the leftovers in plastic baggies.  Even Jamie now knows that he can get a quick pancake from the freezer.  We have a bottom-of-the-fridge freezer drawer, and he toddles over, points, and says, “Da!” which must mean pancake, since every time I open the freezer, that’s what he reaches for.  They are good in the toaster or the microwave and so much less expensive and healthier than prepackaged frozen waffles. 


4.  In the same vein, I  frequently make extra dinner.  It’s pretty easy to make an entire 9 x 13” pan of casserole and then freeze the leftovers.  Tony or I can just reach into the freezer in the morning and by lunchtime, plus a couple of minutes in the microwave, we have a healthy meal.  If I do this often enough, the leftovers will be of such variety that it’s not at all like eating the same thing we had for dinner last night. 


5. I bought good plasticware (Tupperware, but I think I got the Rubbermaid brand) and, surprise, surprise, it lasts a LOT longer.  The other crap was splitting and leaking and this stuff, well, I expect it to last forever.  Or close.


6. Learn to cook.  Yeah, I know, duh, right?  But seriously, when you learn to cook and cook well, you learn how to stock your fridge with the building blocks of meals rather than just easy snacks and throw-together food.  It’s far more expensive to buy pre-made processed food than it is to stock milk, cheese, eggs, meat, vegetables, and spices and then combine them in new and interesting ways to make amazing meals.  I shop for chicken broth, green beans, diced tomatoes, black beans, produce, chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, meatballs, marinara sauce, pasta, bread, wine, cheese, flour, sugar, and rice at Costco.  Yes, that is to say that I buy all of those products (and more!) in BULK.  I have four ten-gallon food grade buckets in my garage and I keep the flour, sugar, and rice in three and dog food in the fourth.  YOU could do this, too, but you’d have to convince your husband to give up a bit of garage space.  But think!  You’d only have to buy these staples infrequently, and then you’re totally justified in investing in pretty canisters for flour and such for your kitchen counter.  And you always have a can or twelve of chicken broth for that crockpot soup you’re making.


Okay, now that I’m looking back over this list, it all seems pretty obvious.  Like, take care of your stuff and it will last a long time, right?  Don’t buy a bunch of crap.  Stock your freezer and your pantry.  Cook.


So you tell me: what are your life hacks?  Tips and tricks, I want to know yours; I want to know what keeps your life running smoothly and/or frugally.


Tony said...

I love that you think of these things and have made them a part of your life. I'm a pretty lucky guy!

Sarah said...

I am sure you already do this, but one thing I do is when I see something on sale, especially a really good price, I ask myself if I would have bought it anyway. If I wouldn't then I'm still spending more than I need to because 80% off of something useless is still something useless.

Amelia said...

Sarah, I do that all the time! There's such an enticement to buy when things are a good price, but really, space is so limited and if I don't need it, I don't need it at any price! I always cringe at ads that tell people they are going to "save" money by shopping at a store or a sale or whatever. Well, no, you're only saving money if you were going to buy whatever it was regardless of the sale. If you hadn't planned on buying it in the first place, buying it at all is SPENDING money.

Solene said...

I've been going through a self-questioning since we moved into our house and finally recovered years of belongings that were left at our parents. I feel weighed down by the amount of stuff we have and the money we spend replacing this stuff, accumulating more of it when most of it barely gets used.
I've started to be more ruthless with clothes. They have to be worn, fullstop! Shoes are tricky but I do get lots of use out of them: My favourite pair of boots I have owned for over 10 years, they are good quality leather and have been resoled 3 times. Maybe you could have your shoes resoled and give them a few more years? cheaper than buying a brand new pair if the rest of the shoes is still in good shape.
For food, we systematicaly make chicken stock from roasted chicken which is then used to prepare soups with a few veggies. We also buy bread reduced because it's close to its sell-by-date and freeze it. We're currently rethinking our pantry and our biggest problem is partially used packs which are forgotten and left to go past their sale by date.
My goal: shop with a plan in mind and only get what I wanted to get and the amount I need.

Amelia said...

I buy bread reduced and freeze it, too. There is a bread outlet shop here (Franz brand) that has killer deals and a free loaf for every $5 you spend. The boys go through so much bread that it almost never goes to waste. It helps that we bought an extra full-size freezer for the garage last year with the intent of stocking up.