This brings to mind a funny You Tube video. It’s possible it’s funniest if you met your hubby in German class in college, but hopefully everyone will get a chuckle out of it.
There’s such a wealth of advice available in print and online media about how to save money and live more frugally. Of course, not all of it applies to everybody. This approach is how I maximized information to fit our needs. One day, I was sure our financial ship was headed into rough waters. The first thing I did was make a list of all the ways we could cut back on spending. There are two main things I look at when cutting back:
(1) one big change that continues to save–like cutting off cable, and
(2) trimming back repetitive expenses like food and utility costs.
First, I made a list of anything I could think of that we that could do and then I worked my way down the list implementing changes. Later that week, I grabbed a notebook (a binder or computer would work too) and made sections such as:
Kitchen and meals
Switching to research mode, I scoured magazine articles, websites and my well-marked frugal living books, adding ideas for reducing expenses and improving quality of life in each category. Each idea had to be do-able for my family. If it took more than a few words, I referenced back to the source material. So, instead of including the recipe for lentil soup, I referenced the book and page or website it came from. I checked out a library book on home-energy savings and added more notes to that list. Some of my favorite resources for this project were back issues of Mother Earth News magazine (most libraries carry this one), Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette, The Simple Dollar (www.thesimpledollar.com), Money-Saving Mom (www.moneysavingmom.com) and my personal notes. A study session lasting over several days is also a great way to recommit to a course of action, like frugality.
After the initial research blitz, I made a master list of a dozen or so ideas to implement. They were in two columns—one for items I could do and one for items that could be delegated to the children.
Here are a few of the little things that we implemented and continue to use:
- Implemented a budgeting program that works better for our family.*
- Added a lamp to the counter in the master bath. We don’t need 8 vanity lights to brush our teeth or wash our hands. For most purposes, the light from the lamp is sufficient.
- Visited all the rooms in our house looking for other simple savings like the lamp idea above.
- Cut out cable—we hadn’t watched television in months anyhow.
- Made “paper towels” and quit buying them (we used to use several rolls a week, now it’s less than one a month).*
- Continued researching and adding to our savings notebook.*
- Used more fans, less air conditioning.
- Tracked food waste as part of being more vigilant about not wasting food.*
- Planted a square foot garden and tended it (as opposed to planting and ignoring which was my usual—wildly unsuccessful—method) *
- Showering using only natural light from the window (I can’t see much without my glasses, which I never shower with anyhow and it’s not like there’s anything new to see in the shower, eh?)
- Made wool balls for the dryer.*
- Cut the dryer sheets in half and use half plus a wool dryer ball or two when drying a load.
- Re-use dryer sheets on some types of loads.
- Started eating bean or bean and rice centered meals (made from dried beans) more often.*
- Reduced meat consumption.
- Found meals that could be made without heating up the kitchen in the summer, including new cooking methods.*
- Re-started our compost pile.
- Started consigning clothes. We bought plenty this way, but never sold clothing.
- Updated our price book.*
- Actively looked for ways to use less (less toilet paper, less shampoo, less food, etc)
The point is that a few general guidelines—like “stick to a budget, live on less than you earn, save as much as possible”—apply to everyone, but the “nuts and bolts” of how to do that are usually very individual. For example, hanging a load of wash to dry outside is a great way to save money unless your family, like mine, lives in a very humid climate and has lots of seasonal, outdoor-induced allergies. For us, the dryer is the way to go. Because of health, age or life-style choices, we don’t need to read the “how to save” sections that cover pet, alcohol, babies or destination vacations—we just don’t spend anything in those areas. Savings=100%. (OK, full confession—with two new grandbabies, we DO spend on gifts in that area, but since they don’t live nearby, we don’t need to invest in diapers, etc.)
*These items will be the subjects of future posts. Also, check out the series “100+ Savings Tips: A Quick List Of 100+ Things You Can Start Today To Save Money”