I like saving money. I like it a lot. I also have some quirks and one of those quirks is challenging myself to find new ways to do something cheaper. I also think reusing items is cool and recycling items are the best.
Those closest to me will just tell you I am weird and they look for opportunities to tell me when I go too far. Apparently, it isn't cool to take the Sunday coupon flyers out of the county recycling bins to see if there are any coupons you can use. I have also found out that it is better to say you got something from a free pile at a garage sale rather than say you trash picked an item.
I don't have a lot of shame in my money-saving game. However, the ways I save money and live frugally are not glamorous. They will probably not wow you or anything like that. These hacks are probably more along the line of "Why didn't I think of that?!?!".
My Top 10 Frugal Living Hacks
1. I reuse plastic bags of every size and shape. Yes, I have a drawer dedicated to plastic bags. Actually, I have two small drawers, a bag holder, and possibly a basket full of plastic bags. Unless they have held raw meat or something very greasy/oily, I will rewash them and reuse them until they leak. I reuse sandwich bags, bread bags, sugar bags, and almost any other kind you can think of. My mom made me this cool little contraption that has a wood base, four 1/4 inch dowels sticking out of it, and four balls on those dowels that hold bags open as they dry after I wash them.
I also reuse plastic grocery bags too. I don't particularly like plastic grocery bags and think they are pretty flimsy. I usually use cloth at the store, but sometimes I forget them at home. I use plastic bags as trash bags. I also keep them and donate them to the local thrift store who reuses clean plastic grocery bags.
2. I hate buying shoes. With a passion. So when I find a brand or style of shoes I like, I tend to be their most devoted fan for a very, very, very long time. I am pretty hooked on Keens and have been for over eight years. However, have you seen the full price on those shoes?!?! Eek!
I buy my favorite shoes on eBay and at garage sales. I can find my shoes brand new or almost brand new for 1/4 - 1/3 of the retail price which makes my frugal little heart sing! I also will replace the insoles in these shoes too because they are pretty well made which makes them last a long time! I wear these shoes every day for several hours a day and can make them last a couple of years easily.
3. I try to live without things and services. Every single day, I talk myself out of buying something or doing something that will cost money. Why? Because I question if (1) I really need that item or (2) whether I need to really spend the money. Yes, I like to stockpile and have a very well-stocked pantry, but that can get out of hand quickly. So I try to stop myself from making the quick trip to the store or stopping at the convenience store for a pop.
I also try to wait a while before replacing an item. A lot of times, when I rush out to replace something that broke and is unfixable, I usually find out I don't use the item or I didn't really need to replace it. The older I get, the more I find out I don't need nearly as much stuff as I thought I did.
Although the internal argument on whether or not I should replace the dishwasher is getting really intense. I miss my dishwasher, but I don't mind washing dishes. However, I don't have as much time as I thought to wash dishes. Frugal conundrums...
4. I cut my own bangs and pluck my own eyebrows. I actually started doing this in high school and have kept doing it ever since. I have tried growing my bangs out but hated the results on me. Even when I used to have really short hair, I would trim them. Now, I only get my hair cut 2-3 times a year and I trim my own bangs every 4-5 weeks.
When my girls were little, I cut their hair too. They all had cute bobbed haircuts in the summer and longer hair in the winter. I kept doing it until my youngest daughter was seven and we needed to cut her hair short for a while.
5. I make my drinks at home and take them with me. I make my own coffee, hot tea, cold tea, and flavored waters and take them with me to work and on road trips. I also carry bottles of water and drink packets in my vehicle and at work. I often refill plastic water bottles and reuse them until they crack or leak. This usually covers everything I drink in a day and then some, but I detest paying convenience store prices for drinks and will get upset with myself for having forgotten my drinks at home. In the summer, I use a small soft-sided cooler (that I got for free or bought pretty cheaply at a thrift store) to keep the drinks colder. I also make my own smoothies and take them with me too if I am in the mood. I use plastic, glass, and stainless steel drink containers that I got for free or at garage sales/thrift stores.
Bonus hack: Always bring your own drinks to sporting events too. While I believe you should support the concession stands, the drink mark-up is ridiculous. We bring our own water bottles and sports drinks (My kids are long-distance runners who need the electrolytes at the end of the race). I can buy an eight pack of sports drinks on sale for what one of the drinks are at the concession stand. You can save a lot of money over the years by bringing your own.
6. The kids take cold lunches to school and I take my own lunches to work. This seriously saves so much money. I am not eating out which saves more money, but I also eat leftovers which cuts down on food waste. My kids are not eating school lunches which also cuts down on the school food bill and eating out (high school has an open campus at lunch). I have a problem paying for school lunches because the food is not great and there isn't enough food served for growing teenagers without having to pay for seconds if the option is available. We take our own food, we know what is in the food, and we all get enough to eat. We also save money!
I also make our own bread most of the time as well as granola bars to pack in the lunches. Making your own lunch food for school and work helps cut down the expense even more!
7. I buy almost all my clothes at garage sales and thrift stores. With the exception of undergarments (which if I find store tags on them at the thrift store, I will buy them), I buy my shirts, jeans, and shoes at thrift stores and garage sales. I do this for my kids too when they need something. My son is in adult clothes now and I do have a much harder time finding his clothes (28-inch waist!). I would rather pay $3.00 for a shirt and not feel bad it got ruined versus a $20.00 shirt that could get ruined at work or home. I do have a clothing allowance at work, but I try to reserve that for coats, jackets, and boots.
8. I put away money in my 401K at work. This may not seem like a frugal living hack, but if you have a pretax 401K with an employer match, you should be doing this. Saving money for retirement is very important especially with today's current social security barely covering expenses. I know I would never put away money by my own initiative, but doing this means I don't see it and I don't have easy access to it. By living frugally in other areas of my life, I can put away 4% of my income now for my later years. In a way, this is saving money for an important future stage in my life.
9. I accept a lot of free things. Most of my furniture was free. Almost all of my canning jars were free. My mattresses were free from family. A good deal of my dishes and serving dishes were free or very cheaply acquired. My laptop was free. I don't turn down anything free that I can use or find a use for. Some people want new and that is fine, but I don't care if it is used. Accepting and using free things is my ultimate way to save money!
However, don't be a jerk. Always be grateful! If you received something for free and can no longer use it, find a new home for it for free also. What comes around, goes around.
10. I shop primarily the loss leaders and big sales for groceries and supplies for our home. I center our meals around what is on sale and I stockpile according to what is on sale. This way, I can keep our grocery bill down, make meal planning easier, and keep the essentials stocked at home for less. I also grow and preserve a lot of our own food which saves us a lot of money too. I get a lot of bang for my buck by having a garden and having edible perennials around the yard. Sometimes the initial investment can cost some money, but the return on investment is great. Plus, you can garden pretty frugally if you are willing to put in the work and be creative.
Like I said, nothing flashy or glamorous in my money-saving game. However, by being frugal, I help my money stretch further and can afford to do what I want to do. It helps me be more sufficient, affords the items that I need to be a better prepper, buy more books (cheaply), and funds the homestead. In tougher times, it helped me to pay my bills, keep a roof over my head, and keep my kids in clothes.
What are your favorite frugal living hacks?
Thanks for reading,
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