I grew up in a family that did not have a lot, but we always had everything that we ever needed. My mother was the ultimate scrimper, saver, and coupon clipper. I really feel so much like her when I try and save money. Her legacy lives on in me in more ways that I discover every year. Some ideas below are her’s and some are mine. Others I have heard about hear and there. Some of the ideas are laughably quirky but they really do work. There is a little bit of everything for everyone. And they are in no particular order.
Obvious! Reuse gift bags and bows. My Nana used to iron and reuse wrapping paper, she was the Queen of Thriftiness! Sorry, Nana, but that was a little overboard.
Every year, I donate my old magazines to the local hospital where Mom was. She always complained that they had a horrible selection in the waiting rooms. I clean out my living room of the old mags and let others enjoy them.
If you do find you want to save magazines but tend to get overwhelmed by them, clip just the article and then put it into an expandable file under an appropriate section. I then always go through the file once a year and if I haven't reread the article, I toss it.
Buy birdseed and winter rock salt in bulk. The upcharge is absolutely ridiculous.
I am one of those people that reuses Ziploc storage bags! They are pretty expensive, even the cheap no-name ones. I wash them, air dry, and then use them again (but usually the second time around is for nonfood use, like storing rubberbands or pens or something like that.)
Plan ahead and buy that case of beer and stick it it in the fridge. The upcharge from a 6 pack bought in a bar in Pennsylvania compared to a case of beer bought at a distributor is once again, absolutely ridiculous. And beer drinkers love more beer for the money!
Unless your college age kids are planning on starting their own liberal arts library, encourage them to buy used text books as much as possible. They are so much cheaper. When it comes down to it, when was the last time you looked at the text books you bought back in college? … I thought so.
Along the same lines, always check the sale racks for used books at Barnes and Nobles. Also, try and buy used books on Amazon.com. It is an excellent resource for used books where you can compare and contrast sellers. Just make sure you read the seller’s reviews! Buyer beware!
Pay parking tickets immediately! The amount of upcharge on the fine after the first fine period has ended is usually at least double! I speak from experience. I could have bought a new car with all the parking ticket fines I had while working at my old job in Montgomery County.
Donate your old car to the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Purple Heart, or another organization. Most of the time, they will come and pick it up for you and you will not have to stare at that rusting hulk in your driveway ever again!
Don’t skimp on dog or cat food. You may think you are saving money, but you aren't and in the long run, you will end up putting years on your furry companion’s life.
When shopping for fruit and veggies, they now sell reusable mesh bags you can take with you instead of using the plastic bags at the supermarket produce area. You reduce your consumption of plastic bags by reusing these mesh bags and they also won’t rip or tear like the flimsy plastic ones.
Instead of storing leftovers in plastic storage containers, which start breaking down in your microwave, possible leaching chemicals and plastics into your food, I store in glass containers made by Pyrex, Rubbermade, and Anchor Hocking. Instead, I just use the plastic containers for taking lunch to work.
I do spend money on good quality clothes. I like Banana Republic and Kenneth Cole clothes because they are made well and have classic looks. I know they will last too. If I want to have something fun or trendy, I shop at a hip reasonable store such as H & M. I know I won’t spend a fortune there! Spend on the classics, go cheap on trendy stuff.
Put coupons in an envelope in the car so you really use them. Too many times I clip coupons only to forget about them on my desk at home or on the fridge and then they expire. Also, only use what your need. It is so easy to buy stuff you don’t normally use because you have that coupon!
Keep an expired drivers license in your car. If you lose yours when you are out, at least you have an expired on in the vehicle. It’s better to have an expired drivers license than no drivers license at all.
Stop spending $10 or more just on candle stands from home design stores! Use old antique saucers for candles or teacups for tealights and votives. Something vintage becomes something chic.
If you are going to use plastic storage containers to store veggies and fruit in your fridge, the ones that are formulated to make the produce last. They really do work.
I rarely buy retail. Search first for sales and cheaper items on Amazon, Overstock.com, Craigslist, Ebay, consignment shops, thrift stores, flea markets, and yardsales. There are also great websites these days to comparison shop: Shopzilla.com, Pricegrabber.com, Comparisonshop.com .
To save money and guarantee fresh foods, rotate your dry goods items and perishable items regularly. Date frozen items so you know when to use them. You will waste less and save more!
I also try and clean out my food pantry every 6 months of items I haven’t used. I donate them to people who will use them.
Hey guys, take a trip down memory lane and start going to the old fashioned barber shops on the corner in town. You will save a bundle and get some great conversation! I go to the barber shop at Rennigers Antiques and Farmers Market in Kutztown, PA, and only pay $11 for a buzz cut.
Unless you are the Octomom, buy perishables in only amounts that you truly need. Is it really necessary to buy a bushel of apples or 24 ears of corn just because they are on sale? I can’t tell you how much fruits and veggies I used to throw out because I was roped in on “what’s on sale”. Now I only pick up what I will use for the week. I don’t waste as much and save money in the long run.
Be like the kids! Why buy an entire CD of an artist you may or may not like just for one song? Download the Mp3 file of the song, save it on your computer, and when you get 10 of them, burn it to a CD. The technology is so easy these days. I also have sold off most of my CDs. I just burn the songs I want to my computer creating an Mp3 file of the song. If you have trouble figuring this out, ask someone at least 20 years younger than you and they can do it almost instantly. Gee, it sucks getting older.
Recycle your electronics at Best Buy. If there is a charge, they usually offset the charge with a gift card in the same amount good towards a purchase in their stores. (You should be recycling electronics these days anyway!) Check out their website for details.
Recycle your old cell phones to organizations helping the military and women in need. Just remember to entirely delete your information from it or destroy the sim card if the phone has one.
Use those old toothbrushes for cleaning in hard to reach places in the bathroom and kitchen. They make awesome little scrubbers. I prefer the soft bristle type though to prevent scratching of porcelain tiles and chrome fixtures.
Obvious! Start using cloth or reusable grocery bags to cut down on consumption of plastic bags! They make them in such cool designs and patterns now. Buy several for 99 cents and throw ‘em in the back of your car for next time you are at the store. I used to feel awkward carrying them in. I am not exactly “eco” crazy, but trying to do my part. So many people are doing this now!
Donate old towels to your local ASPCA, veternarian’s office, or animal shelter. They could really use them for the animals!
Once a month, I go over to the Hillside ASPCA in Pottsville on a Saturday afternoon and bring over a case of catfood to donate. I get to play with about 100 healthy cats and give them different names every time. Odd, yes ... but relaxing and fun.
I had all of these left-over tea bags and I really don’t drink hot tea so during the summer, I take about 6 bags per quart and make iced tea with them! Steep the tea bags for 5 minutes and remove them. Then chill the tea in the fridge. Sure it’s unsweetened but you can make iced tea with some kick ass flavors from flavored tea bags for a fraction of the cost of buying the gallons of iced tea.
Boxed wine is good and cheaper! It lasts longer. There are a myriad of articles showing this online. So get over the wine snobbery and try a boxed wine. Some good brands are: Rabbit Ridge, Black Box, and Fish Eye.
Keep your tires inflated to their proper levels because you will get better gas mileage. I read this somewhere and figured I'd try it. I inflated the tires to the correct pressure and then monitored my gas mileage two weeks. I found I was going further on each tank!
I stretch my meat sauces for pasta with olives or mushrooms. Their meatiness lends themselves well to meat. Or just use olives and mushrooms and go for a “meaty” vegetarian tomato sauce!
Don’t skimp on dishwashing or laundry detergent. From my experience, the cheaper dollar store brands are usually thinner and don’t suds as well.
I love Redbox and the new Blockbuster blue boxes! You save so much money on rentals. I haven’t tried Netflix, but my sister and friends love it!
I love and endorse Priceline for hotel rooms! I have never been disappointed with the hotels they have picked for me at my low bids. I always go for the 3 star hotels.
Stop paying ATM fees! If you need money under $50.00, stop into your favorite supermarket, buy a pack of gum or something you will always need like a $1.00 box of tissues, and take money out fee free when you check out! If you are going to spend $1.00 or $2.00 on fees, why not actually get something for that buck or two?
During the summer, I recycle the water from my dehumidifier in the basement and the water dripping out of the air conditioner from condensation on the outside of my house. It is an economical source of water for your outside plants. Just make sure you cover whatever container you are using outside with wire mesh so know animals fall in!
Instead of paying all that extra money for the 100 calorie bags of snacks, by a large bag of chips or pretzels and doll out 100 calorie portions yourself. Zip up the correct 100 calorie portion into a Ziploc and you are ready to go!
These little tricks have helped me get through some tough financial periods through my life. Luckily, I am not as obsessive as I once was but I wanted to pass on some tricks of the trade. With the economy still rather sluggish, I felt we need all the help we can get. What are your own hints and ideas?