Frugal Tips for Saving Money

Feeling the sting from the expiration of that 2% payroll tax credit that expired at the end of the year? It affected everyone who works as it raised social security taxes another 2% on our income – back to what we all paid before the tax credit was passed. I know I could still use that extra money, so I’m always looking for ways to save money in the everyday little things I buy. (And so I can have a little extra to occasionally splurge on the luxuries I love – like handcrafted artisan goods. *wink*) Following are some ideas on how you can stretch your budget. I’d also love to hear some of your tips for saving money on everyday purchases, so please share them in the comments so we can all benefit from one another!

One huge way to save money is to make your own household cleaners. 

If you have sensitive skin you can start by making your own handmade soaps. Try using soybean oil in lieu of olive oil for a great bar of soap that’s much cheaper to make. You can also go in with a few friends to buy a 50lb. bag of lye from a local chemical supply company for soapmaking for a lot less than buying individual 2lb. containers of Roebic lye from Lowe’s or buying online and having it shipped. 

Use your handmade soaps to make your own laundry detergent. Or, if you don’t have the time or resources to make you own soap, you can use Fels Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap – beware if you have sensitive skin as I’ve heard this has a strong perfume like odor – Zote Laundry Soap,Kirk’s Hard Water Castile Soap, or Ivory Soap. (Basically you’ll want to use a true soap, not a body bar that’s made with cheap commercial foaming agents.) Simply grate your soap, then mix in a blender or food processor until it is rendered into a powder. Then combine two parts Arm & Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda – or Nellie’s All Natural Laundry Soda- with two parts 20 Mule Team Borax and one part grated soap. Use 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup per load depending on load size. You can also use Borax to clean your toilets and baking soda to clean your sinks and tub. Add orange, lemon, or lime essential oils to your concoctions for any application in which you need to cut grease.

Buy distilled white vinegar by the gallon at the grocery store for a fraction of the price of smaller containers and use it in most all of your household cleaners. Not only is great straight out of the bottle for cleaning windows and mirrors, but it’s also super effective at preventing mold and mildew in the shower. You can also use it in lieu of fabric softener. Just add 3/4 cup of vinegar to your final rinse cycle. 

Handmade Wool Dryer Balls - Great Way to Save Money - Never Buy Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets Again
Handmade Wool Dryer Balls from Devon’s Creative Design

Alternately, you can use Nellie’s Dryer Balls which are re-usable and act as a lint and wrinkle remover, soften clothes, and help your clothes dry faster. (I used these for a long time with great success. Though they now offer a newer version that is PVC free and has a place for inserting scent sticks if you’re a fan of fragrances.) You can also make your own homemade wool dryer balls or buy them from any number of sellers on Etsy, including Devon’s Creative Design. These dryer balls help to soften clothes and reduce static cling and drying time. (It’s the same principle as Nellie’s dryer balls but these are made from a natural material rather than plastic.) You can scent them by adding a few drops of essential oil to them before tossing them into the dryer. They are also great if you or your family have sensitive skin.

Here are a few recipes for crafting your own diy cleaners:

 
Cloth napkins not only save money over constantly buying paper towels, but they are eco-friendly too!
Spring Market Cloth Napkins from Stitch Lightly

Additionally, you can also craft and use re-usable Swiffer covers that get tossed in your laundry instead of buying more which is healthier both on your pocketbook and the environment. Switch to cloth napkins versus buying paper towels – I never buy paper towels anymore because they are so expensive. Instead I own quite a few handmade napkins I have purchased from various etsy sellers over the years, similar to those pictured above from Stitch Lightly. (I just love her fabric choices and color combos!) You may also try hanging more of your clothing out to dry, such as on a drying rack – or drying part of the way in the dryer, then hanging to dry the rest of the way. You can also use the energy saver option on your dryer if hanging clothes to dry is just not an option. 

Other ways to save money including changing your habits. 

There are so many pre-paid phone options now available that almost doesn’t make sense to pay for a cell phone contract. Plus you can keep your smart phone – even your iPhone – and use a pre-paid plan. I personally use Virgin Mobile with an HTC smart phone and pay just $35 a month for my phone. $35 a month gets you 300 minutes a month with unlimited texting and internet. (I don’t really make a lot of phone calls except for doctor appointments.) $45 a month gets you 1200 minutes with unlimited texts and internet and $55 a month is unlimited everything! You might also consider getting rid of your home phone and switching to a mobile only. 

Stop paying for cable or satellite tv. These luxuries are insanely expensive if you can’t afford the luxury. Most of the people I know who have cable or satellite tv pay over $100 a month for it. You can use a digital antenna instead and get all of your local stations. I pay $8 a month for Hulu Plus – which also takes place of a digital recorder – to watch all of my favorite shows. In the summer I put my subscription on hold while it’s only re-runs showing. I also pay $8 for Netflix streaming for movies and other shows. My dvd player also lets me stream shows from these services on my tv – although I am currently without one at the moment. And if there’s a movie I really want to see I wait and rent it from Redbox. Redbox often sends out coupons for fifty cents off so I can usually get a movie for eighty cents. All in all, Netflix, Hulu Plus and a Redbox or two a month is still less than paying for basic cable. And if none of these are options, most networks offer free streaming of various shows online. 

Of course, the less options you have for watching television, the more likely you are to get up and do something which can be a very good thing. Or try reading a book instead. Amazon offers a free free kindle reading app for your Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, Blackberry or Windows phone. With this app you can download hundreds of free books from Amazon’s Best Seller list without having to make any additional purchases!

When grocery shopping, plan your meals ahead of time. There are so many great recipes online now as well as sites that will spit out a grocery list for you, that you don’t need to wing it in the grocery store. Planning out meals saves a lot of money in long run as it’s much cheaper to buy this way rather than buying pre-packaged or ready made meals. It also makes sense to stock up on staple foods with a longer shelf life by buying them in bulk when you see them on sale. You can also use coupons, though this is the one thing I have never been able to really grasp as it’s a little too time consuming for me. Also, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. This is one of my worst downfalls.

You can also save money on clothing necessities by bargain hunting. I have heard time again that shopping at thrift stores and the Goodwill are great ways to get clothing cheap. Personally, I have a hard time shopping at these places and finding things both in my size and that fit properly so I don’t frequent them. Having worked in retail for many many years, I have found that it is possible to buy clothing new at a comparable price as buying something used. And you can find name brands for not a whole lot more. Hit stores at the end of a season and buy for the following year. Generally these are the times to find the best sales. Last year I found three pairs of pants for work at Sears for just eleven dollars and change with tax. One January, I was able to buy a dress after Christmas from Ann Taylor Loft for just $12 – it retailed at over $100. And don’t forget to shop online. Don’t impulse buy and wait for sales. I have been able to find clothing at Abercrombie & Fitch for example for just $12 per article – shorts, shirts and jeans that ran $60-$90 full price. If you have a brand you really love, sign up for their emails. They send out multiple coupon codes every month so you never have to pay full price.

Stop buying things on credit – especially if it’s not something you don’t have to have. Buy what you need, not what you want if your budget is especially tight or if it means you’ll have to charge something on credit. Instead, save for those things you really want. Look at how much money you can afford to put into a savings account if you are budgeting. Allow yourself a little for entertainment luxuries so it doesn’t feel like punishment putting money into savings. Whether you can only put away $5 in savings a week or $50 or more, the point is to save. Once you have the money to buy that item you wanted, you may realized you don’t want it so much anymore or a better option may have come along. And sometimes a newer version of whatever it is you wanted may come out by the time you have money saved, and you’ll find you can get last year’s model for a hundred to several hundred cheaper than the version that was just released. Even better, if you no longer want what you were saving for, you’ll have some money put away for emergencies like tires or car brakes.

But more importantly, as my ever so brilliant son likes to point out, you should always be grateful for what you do have because there is always someone who is worse off and less fortunate with less than what you have now. Putting perspective on what you do have and not the things you want to own can go a long way in helping you to budget better and curb your spending habits. And when you do have some extra flexibility with your budget, be sure to put some of the money you spend back into your community by supporting local farmer’s markets and craft artisans!

Comments

  1. I love your blog!

  2. Thank you! I have so much fun writing it, so it makes it even better knowing it’s appreciated.

  3. Thank you so much, Rebecca, for this amazing list of tips and how-tos!!♥ xoxo

  4. You’re welcome!

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