Monday, September 29

Frugal hacks so obvious, you may not be doing them (Part I)

The thing about frugality... What seems obvious to you, may be completely new to someone else. And sometimes we're so busy scouting out new ideas, we fail to see some pretty basic ones.

So this post (and its follow-up) will cover some of the ideas that are so intuitive that we tend to overlook them.

1. Reduce

  • Follow the actual serving sizes more carefully. You'll eat less and you may be shocked by how much you save -- in dollars and calories.
  • Reduce food waste by being sure to eat all your leftovers. This saves money two ways: The food you buy goes farther (lowering your grocery bill) and you never have to throw away Tupperware rather than open it.
  • As a columnist at BeCentsable points out, living green can save green. If you reduce your usage of paper towels, paper plates, and other disposables, you'll spend less. Don't have dish towels? The dollar store beckons.
  • Don't buy Gladware. It's nice in the short-term, but the fact that you can dispose of it means you're more likely to do just that. Meanwhile, my mom is still using Tupperware passed down to her... from her mom. 'Nuff said.

2. Reuse

  • Don't throw away containers. You can repurpose them: Put leftovers in them (saves you the cost of Tupperware); use them in bathroom drawers to hold tweezers, bobby pins or creams; or just have them around the house to hold pens, rubber bands, safety pins or bag ties.
  • For a few years, I used a piece of styrofoam to store my earrings. They went in easily and were all on display nicely.

3. Recycle

  • Most cities have free programs so you probably just toss everything in and don't think anything of it.
  • But if you take those cans and bottles (and, usually, even newspapers) to a paying recycling program, you can make a bit of money off the proposition.
  • If you live in a state with deposits, you probably do turn the bottles and cans back in for cash. But have you considered asking neighbors or friends if you can take theirs in for them?
  • Check the bin in your office's break room. People throw away an awful lot of things. My mom scavenges for Coke tops. (she's an avid MyCoke Rewards member.)
  • Or how about using walks for exercise, money and community service? Bring some bags and pick up discarded cans. This is especially profitable if you live in a state with deposits.

4. Make a dump run

  • Most people pay for a weekly service. It's not a bad deal, but:
  • In Seattle, if you have anything bigger than a 32-gallon trash can, you're paying at least $17.50/month than a monthly dump run. (That's $210 a year.)
  • In Seattle, if you can't completely close the lid, you incur an extra-garbage fee ($6 every time)
  • If you forget one week and have to double up on garbage the next, another $6 fee per bag.
  • Obviously, not the solution for everyone. Some people have nowhere to store the extra garbage, or simply don't want the hassle. But keep an eye on how much garbage you put out each week and check the math.

5. Coupons
  • You make a grocery list based on store specials. Great. You probably even clip coupons. But once the list is made, you should check online coupon sites, as well. You may see ones that weren't in the paper.
  • I tend to put coupons on the fridge... And then leave without them. I know a lot of people who are either misplacing or forgetting coupons. If you get a coupon organizer, you just have to remember it each time you go shopping.
  • You can sort by category, then just check which brands you have coupons for, once you're at the store.
  • If you're worried about forgetting the coupon organizer, put it in one of your reusable bags. Or, as soon as you're done sorting on Sunday, get up and put it in the car.

6. Newspaper

  • If you cut back on expenses by cutting the newspaper, reconsider.
  • Most papers have 6-month specials that allow you to pay for just Sunday's paper but still get the whole week. This is nice because some papers also run coupons or ads for store specials on Wednesdays.
  • Alternately, ask around until you find a friend or coworker who doesn't bother with coupons. Offer to take them off their hands. (Even if you already get the paper, this means you now have multiple coupons, allowing you to stock up.)

7. Take things back

  • If you're not satisfied with something, find out what the store's return policy is. Often, you can get at least store credit, if not an outright refund or exchange.
  • Obviously, you can't take back media, like CDs or software unless you can prove it was damaged when you got it.
  • Lots of people dismiss a dollar or two of grocery problems as no big deal. But it adds up. If you get home to discover some of the strawberries in your carton are molding, take it back. If you end up having bought something you already had (and it wasn't on sale), take it back. If you were overcharged, take it back. Watch the prices. At some stores, if the price rings up wrong you'll get it free.

8. Watch for sales (even after you've bought)

  • Tim recently bought a Swiss Gear laptop carrying case. It was $40. Two days later, the bag went on sale for $19.99. So he went back to Best Buy and got $20 credited back to our card.
  • Most stores have a 2- to 4-week period during which you can come back and requestRecent buy goes on sale, return to store, ask for the difference.



Blogger Jackie B. said...

Hi, again. I am trying to find out how to enter your giveaway you have pictured in the upper right hand corner. It is not clickable and I did not see a post for it. How can I get entered for it?

October 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM

Blogger Abby said...


I just checked the picture and it's clickable.

At any rate, you're already entered once because you're a subscriber. Other ways to enter are the usual:
comment on posts, social bookmarking, link on your blog, refer friends.

October 1, 2008 at 2:00 PM

Blogger Abby said...

This comment comes from Blue Violet: "These are so obvious that yes, they're being overlooked. Thanks for some of these simple changes I can make."

October 1, 2008 at 4:15 PM

Blogger katherine said...

Thanks for the link! Great list.

October 2, 2008 at 1:10 PM


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