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.
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.