Posts filed under ‘frugality’

Frugal to a Fault

Most of the time I’m happy with my frugality. I don’t mind clipping coupons, waiting for sales or even going without. I like watching the figures in my bank account rise while simultaneously watching my mortgages shrink. I’m the kind of girl who brings a $10 coupon to brunch with my girlfriends and then asks, (without batting an eyelash), if they’d mind choosing the half-priced matinee over the late-night show.

I’ve been counting pennies for as long as I can possibly remember and while I relish the fruits of my labor I recognize I can also be frugal to a fault. There was the time I wasted thirty minutes searching for coke reward codes that I clipped but temporarily misplaced. Do you know how many codes it takes to earn a decent reward? Let me just say that twenty minutes could’ve been better spent.

There was the time I nearly kicked myself for losing $5 worth of coupons somewhere between the entrance of the grocery store and the checkout line. I actually spent thirty minutes after I left the store mentally retracing my steps.

Or how about the time I tortured my husband by searching for coupons for every item he unexpectedly threw into our shopping cart. Our fun little romp to buy ingredients for a new recipe turned into a torturous forty minute trip.

A few weeks ago I realized that the crappy, too-short-for-a-six-foot-girl stroller I registered for was preventing me from taking walks with my son. The weather has been relatively warm but I’ve walked through the neighborhood only a handful of times this winter.  To be honest it feels like pure torture to push that awful stroller around. I feel my shoulders hunching to reach the low handle and within twenty minutes or so my back begins to ache. I still have a fair amount of pain from prior medical problems, so I’m not keen on making this part of my body hurt anymore than necessary. As a result we haven’t been walking much.

I knew the stroller was downright awful, but I hated the idea of shelling out money to buy a new one. Simply put, strollers that fit my size and stature aren’t cheap.

One particularly warm day I took my son outside to run around the backyard. When he was finished we took a walk down the street, holding hands, picking up leaves and investigating every acorn he found along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon and I wanted to stay outside but I knew he was getting too sleepy to walk much further.

I wanted to take him for a walk, but really didn’t want to push that stroller. As we headed back inside on that sunny day I realized the simple truth: my frugality was interfering with my enjoyment.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my compulsions. I don’t clip coupons too often anymore and I don’t wake up early every Sunday morning to stock up on freebies at the drugstore.

While I’ve gotten better about things I still have to remind myself every once in awhile to sit back and relax. While saving money is important it is not the end goal. In fact, in my mind there is no longer a finish line to this race.

I want my life to feel like a healthy 5K challenge where I can run, jog or walk my way up and down streets while people clap and cheer no matter how fast or slow I travel. I want my life to feel balanced. I want to save when and where I can, but also recognize that I will not deprive myself just to save a buck.

Stroller

With this new philosophy in mind I bought not one, but two new strollers. One very tall jogging stroller for long walks around the neighborhood and one easy to fold stroller that fits neatly into my very small trunk.

January 14, 2013 at 8:25 PM 10 comments

A Pink Car Seat for My Son?

Baby A’s car seat will support him until he reaches 22 pounds, but he’s growing like a weed and is currently in the 90th percentile for height and the 85 percentile for weight. Needless to say he’ll outgrow his original car seat much faster than your average baby.

Rather than waiting for him to outgrow his current seat I decided to begin searching for a new one now. I figured I’d have a head start that would help me find a really good bargain. According to the experts car seats are one item you should never buy used. The reason being that you can’t guarantee a used car seat has never been in a car accident before.

So I scoured the Internet for new ones and found a few good deals on Britax models. Late one night, long after I should have been asleep, I found a really great sale at Target.

I was clicking around on all sorts of things. Adding them to my cart and then removing them after further review. Well as some point in the night I found a much less inexpensive Britax model that had outstanding ratings, so I did what any sleep deprived mother would do I pulled out my credit card and purchased it.

A few days later a large package arrived outside my door and sure enough when I opened the box I found my car seat had arrived. There was just one problem. Inside the box I found a bright pink, flowered seat in a place of the black and gray one I expected to find.

I thought for sure the store made a mistake but when I went back and looked at my order I realized I’d accidentally ordered the wrong car seat for my son. While I did pay just over $100 for this seat, which is a really good bargain, it is undoubtedly pink! Similar seats for boys are at least $60 more.

So here’s the question. Do I stick with the bargain and keep the car seat at this unbelievable price or do I return it simply because it’s pink? I must admit it seems rather crazy to pay more just to get it in a different color. On the other hand it seems a little crazy to buy a pink car seat for my infant son just because it’s cheap!

*Note – I am not concerned about my son’s reaction to the pink car seat. He sleeps in a pink blanket every night. See picture above. I was more frustrated by my own mistake and I think slightly concerned that other people would recognize my cheapness, but in saying that out loud I realize that I really shouldn’t care what people think.

February 24, 2012 at 8:36 PM 16 comments

Friends Don’t Let Friends Feel Embarrassed About Frugality

It’s funny how people who spend a lot of money are always so happy to show off their fancy cars and big houses, but those of us who choose to a live a more modest lifestyle rarely discuss our money saving habits among friends.

Over the years a few closet couponers have opened up about their penny pinching habits and I’ve found that once the topic leaks out in conversation there is usually at least one or two other quiet frugalites hanging out in the crowd.

In fact when the topic of frugality and saving money comes up in conversation someone is bound to confess their little money saving secret. To avoid spending money one friend keeps a photo of her dream vacation home in her purse and another admits to keeping a fully stocked coupon binder in the side pocket of his car door. Others email me whenever they come across a deal on the Internet that might help me save money and in return I do the same.

In the past I would’ve felt awkward about pulling out a coupon after enjoying a nice meal out with a friend. Now I don’t think anything of it. In fact, I think most of my good friends expect to see one.

I wasn’t exactly sure where a friend and I were going to meet for dinner last week, but I grabbed a tiny wallet I keep at home that’s full of restaurant gift cards. While some of the cards were received as gifts others were purchased at great discount from places like eBay or Plastic Jungle. Sure enough I had a card for the place my friend chose to dine. When I reached inside my wallet and said, “wait I have a gift card.” She responded, “of course you do.”

The truth is that my good friends and I always split the bill so if I bring a coupon to the table we all save money and these days who isn’t happy to see that bill shrink a little?

I’m proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish in my first 34 years on this earth. I’m happy that my friends understand my desire to save and commend my frugality rather than being embarrassed by it.

February 3, 2012 at 10:35 PM 8 comments

Frugal Tip #3: Rethink the Way You Cook

If you’re vegan or vegetarian than this post certainly won’t apply to you, but if you eat meat and poultry you should read on. I’ve found the best way to stretch my food dollars is to rethink the way I cook.

I grew up with three food groups on the plate: meat, (in my case either beef or chicken), a starchy product (usually rice or potatoes) and a vegetable (often a small salad, peas, or broccoli). When I started preparing meals for my husband I cooked much the same way. If I brought chicken breasts home from the store I grilled or sauteed them and placed one on each of our plates.

That was the old way. Now I know to get the biggest bang for my buck I should focus on recipes that include meat as a component of the meal rather than as the main dish. I can bring a pound of ground beef home from the store and make four burgers or I can make chili with that same pound of meat that will last for days.

Similarly I can eat a chicken breast for dinner or I can slice it up and cook it alongside peppers and onions in a fajita, combine it with carrots, celery and leeks for some good, old fashioned chicken soup, or make chicken stir fry. In the summer time I can grill chicken kabobs with a whole host of vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant and squash.

The goal is to make the meat or poultry product part of the meal, but not make it the star. If you serve a chicken breast to each member of the family you’ll eat through the pack all in one night. If you mix it alongside other ingredients, particularly vegetables, your body will be nourished by lots of additional vitamins and minerals and you’ll stretch that same purchase over multiple nights.

This year I loaded up on poultry whenever my closest grocery store held a buy-one-get-one free sale. Most of the grocery stores around my neighborhood run this deal every four to five weeks, but I picked my closest store for convenience. Every time that sale came around I filled my cart with enough chicken breasts to last us an entire month. (If you like thighs and legs you’ll stretch your dollar even farther.)

I don’t know if I’ll continue to take advantage of these sales this year. I’m trying to incorporate more natural and organic foods into my diet and most of the chicken I buy at buy-one-get-one sales is not organic or natural. But if you buy name brand, non-organic chicken this deal can’t be beat. I saved over $300 this year just by waiting for these sales and stocking up.

Of course, you can also save money by making meals without meat or poultry at least once or twice a week. We often make pasta with veggies and cheese on those nights. They are quick to prepare and really, really cheap.

Overall I think we saved $600 this year by using creative recipes, stocking up during sales and going meatless at least a few times a week. While saving money is the main goal we also compiled a scrumptious list of new, go-to recipes by using these techniques.

January 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM 2 comments

Frugal Tip #2: Do Not Waste Food

If you cook at home fairly frequently you’ll find that isn’t too difficult to cook extra and learn to love leftovers. In fact, before long you’ll find yourself saving money and feeling much less stressed at dinnertime. While tip #1 helps you avoid fast food and restaurant bills, tip #2 ensures that you actually eat the food you prepared. The goal of tip #2 is to actually eat all the food you bring home from the store. In essence the goal is not to throw any food away.

If you’re really serious about not wasting food try to keep tabs of what you eat. You don’t have to write down every little morsel of food you eat but try to remember how many times you dragged that same green apple back and forth to your office. Write down how many times you intended to eat salad but never got around to it. You may think that you eat an apple a day but actually find out that you actually eat only one or two a week.

When you’re at the grocery store try to think hard about what you’re buying. Even if you’re in a hurry pause and think to yourself, “should I really buy lemons this week”, “will I really have time to make that new lemon chicken dish?” If you know your schedule will be packed to the brim stick with easy to cook foods that don’t require a lot of ingredients or require ingredients that won’t spoil.

Speaking of taking time at the store, take a second or two to look over the expiration dates of the foods you buy. I’m always amazed by shoppers who reach in and pull out the first gallon of milk they see. The difference in sell by dates can be more than a week.

If you find it really hard to eat all of the produce you bring home consider turning to frozen veggies. I always have frozen peas, corn, broccoli and spinach in the freezer. It lasts an amazingly long amount of time without spoiling. Best of all frozen veggies can often be added to soup and casseroles without even defrosting. If you aren’t specific about brands you can find a plethora of coupons for frozen veggies in the weekly newspaper. I’ve purchased bags and boxes of frozen vegetables for less than $1 after combining grocery store sales with Internet coupons.

If you decide to follow frugal tip #1 and end up looking forward to your leftovers you may need to purchase new containers to store them. I suggest purchasing clear, glass containers with reusable lids. Colored and/or tinted Tupperware is not a good solution for our family. More often than not when food is stored in opaque containers it ends up spoiled, moldy and rotten. I now stick primarily with clear containers so I can literally see exactly what I have left on hand. I prefer glass, because I think it’s better for us and the environment, but I’ll turn to clear plastic if I must.

Another trick is to spend 30 seconds digging through your fridge. If the leftover containers get stuck behind that gallon of milk and reusable water bottle you’ll never see them, which means you’ll never eat them. Every night before you go to bed move the containers back to the front of the fridge where they won’t get lost in the shuffle.

You may also want to take this time to dig through the vegetable bins. You can take notice of what you have on hand and what might spoil soon. My husband and I often create meals based on what produce is nearing it’s expiration date.

The goal of tip #2 is to spend just a few minutes a day thinking about what food you have on hand and what food you need to eat. It takes a lot of time and money to fill your fridge and pantry and it’s an absolute shame to watch it go to waste. If all of these steps seem overwhelming start small. Next time you grab a gallon of milk off the shelf stop and check expiration dates.

January 28, 2010 at 8:00 PM 7 comments

Frugal Tip #1: Cook Extra and Learn to Love Leftovers

About a year or so ago my friend M asked me for a list of frugal tips for busy people. I’ve thought and thought about this topic and I must say that I’ve found in nearly impossible to jot down my ideas on the matter. The fact is that frugality can take quite a lot of time.

Most of my yearly savings comes from reading the sales circulars, clipping coupons and making more than 90% of our meals at home. It also comes from planning in advance and being prepared. After all, nothing is worse than heading out on vacation only to realize you forgot your toothpaste, toothbrush or bathing suit. Failing to plan well in advance will always cost you more money. You’re bound to pay inflated prices as you run out to the nearest convenience store, drug store or mall.

I can’t provide tips for busy folks who don’t eat at home, but for those who do I have a few suggestions. First, learn to love leftover night and whenever you cook at home, cook extra. If you make a pot of chili, make it an extra large pot. If you saute chicken add a few more breasts to the pan or put another pan on the burner and make two meals at the same time.

If you’re using the oven, try to bake multiple dishes at once. This saves on time and electricity. Last night I made lasagna on the oven’s top shelf and baked, diced, red potatoes for tomorrow night’s side.

My husband and I eat leftovers at least one night a week and sometimes two or three times. I tend to cook extra on Sunday nights so we’ll have a quick and easy heat-up on Monday. We typically add the leftover chicken to pasta, serve it over rice with a few extra seasonings or turn it into tacos. If you make chili or soup, (chicken tortilla is my favorite), plan to eat it every other night. After all most of us aren’t fans of eating leftovers two to three days in a row.

The key is to have something on hand that you can heat up in a matter of minutes. It’ll take you a lot longer to order and pick up food than it will to preheat a pan and throw in last night’s dinner. If you can’t imagine eating the same thing night after night cut up the extra chicken and fold it into a chicken wrap or toss it on top of your lunchtime salad. It’s a great way to diversify your daily brown bag and will cost much less than going out to eat.

Rather than thinking of leftover night as a dreadful event begin to look forward to it. I used to hate the idea of eating the same thing twice, but once we started cooking more delicious meals I really began to enjoy it. I actually think some meals taste better the second night, particularly those with thick sauces like spaghetti.

If you’re already in the kitchen you might as well spend a few minutes preparing extra food. By having tomorrow night’s dinner at your fingertips you won’t find yourself asking what’s for dinner, you won’t need to run out at the last minute for additional ingredients, and you won’t be tempted to drive to a restaurant or pick up fast food. By planning ahead and cooking extra you’ll save yourself time and money. I save at least 45 to 60 minutes a week by doubling meal preparation and planning for leftovers.

January 26, 2010 at 10:00 PM 4 comments

Dinner is Salvaged By An Eight Hour Soak in the Crock Pot

On Wednesday I came home from work unbelievably hungry. I planned to make steak quesadillas for dinner that night and I spent the better half of the afternoon dreaming about the smells and tastes of that scrumptious meal. I thought I planned everything well in advance and I was sure dinner would turn out perfectly as soon as I got home. I had all of the ingredients on hand and the steak was defrosting slowly in the fridge.

Of course, traffic was heavier than expected so I arrived home about an hour later than I originally intended. Luckily my husband was on hand as soon as I stepped in the door, so we immediately got to work slicing onions and peppers and mincing a handful of garlic.

I pulled out the recipe and began to leaf through the list of ingredients when I noticed a detail I clearly missed earlier. It seems I was supposed to marinate the steak for at least four hours before cooking. Unfortunately, I was hungry, it was late and I made an executive decision to forgo the marination process. I dumped the ingredients into the pan and began to heat things. up.

As soon as the steak began to cook it became completely inedible. It was thick and tough and overall rather disgusting and unappetizing. There was simply no way my husband and I could eat the meal I originally planned.

It was nearing 9 o’clock, I was discouraged, and we were both starving. We ran downstairs and searched the pantry for something to prepare. In the blink of an eye we decided upon a very relaxed version of spaghetti. I boiled a pot of water and ten minutes later we ate noodles with store bought, about to expire marinara, right out of the jar.

After dinner my husband suggested throwing out the awful, stinky steak, but I had no intention of dumping good money and good meat down the drain. I was convinced that I could salvage it. I poured two cups of beef stock over the steak and placed it in the fridge to rest overnight. On Thursday morning I dumped the steak into a crock pot, added another two or three cups of stock and left it on low for roughly eight hours.

I checked on the progress every once in a while and by mid-day I noticed the meat began to soften. Sure enough by dinner time it was perfectly moist and tender. We heated up some tortillas, placed the drained meat mixture on top and slathered with cheese. It was absolutely delicious!

I had no idea that tough, cooked meat could be salvaged by a simple eight hour soak in the crock pot. Hopefully I’ll remember to marinade the meat next time, but for this go around I’m happy to report that we didn’t waste a thing and dinner turned out scrumptious.

July 24, 2009 at 7:20 PM 3 comments

How Large a Role Does Income and Net Worth Play In Your Propensity to Save?

Do you think that high-income families clip coupons more or less than those on the lower-end of the spectrum? I don’t know the answer to this, but I was surprised when a friend of the family told my mom she would never considering clipping coupons. When my mom asked why she simply answered, “We don’t need to. My husband makes a lot of money.” She went on to tell my mom that she never looks at prices and rarely buys anything on sale.

Right now I consider my quest to save money a bit of a game. I enjoy walking out of the grocery store with a long receipt in hand. As soon as I get into the car I calculate my total savings and commend myself whenever I save over a certain percent. My husband can certainly attest to that fact. As soon as I walk in the door I tell him exactly how much I saved!

In my opinion there are two inputs to the savings equation. The first input is definitely income. This can come from your primary job, a hobby, a passion, whatever, but somewhere along the way you need to bring money home. It goes without saying that the more money you make the more money you can save, but it is also important to note that a high income alone won’t provide you with abundant savings. You also need to maintain a healthy, moderate lifestyle. In essence you need to ensure that your standard of living doesn’t rise significantly alongside your wage.

I personally think that thriftiness, frugality and solid money management practices are almost as important as income in the savings equation. After all, if you spend every cent of your humongous salary you may still wind up destitute and penniless. On the other hand, if you watch your money closely and carefully you can grow a large nest egg from a relatively small income.

Right now I try to save as much as I can because, oddly enough, I have fun trying to save money and because I aspire to lofty goals including paying off my mortgages and reaching financially Independence. But I wonder, once I reach financial Independence will I stop clipping coupons and digging through the sales circulars? Similarly if my income quadrupled would I still see the need or desire to save so faithfully?

I wonder how large a role income and net worth play in my propensity to save? At this point in my life saving money is simply a habit that I do not foresee quitting. I cannot imagine having so much money that I wouldn’t consider cost a factor in my purchases and decisions. I also imagine that my financial goals will continuously expand. Right now my goal is to pay off my mortgages and achieve financial independence, but after that goal is met who knows what other goals I might devise? Right now I cannot imagine a point in time where I will not save, but of course I don’t know what the future holds.

July 11, 2009 at 2:40 AM 7 comments

I Make Too Much Money To Eat Icy Ice Cream

I am certainly the frugal girl, but tonight I threw out a $5 carton of iced over ice cream. Ok, I probably didn’t pay $5 for that carton, but nevertheless I did throw it out. I’ve been using my saran wrap trick for quite some time and although the top of the ice cream was perfectly silky and smooth, the sides were completely iced over. I took a bite or two thinking, “it can’t be that bad,” but it was worse than bad, it was awful. So I flushed the ice cream down the drain and popped open a brand new container. The whole while I couldn’t help thinking I’m so ridiculously frugal in so many aspects of life, but I make too much money to consider eating icy ice cream.

June 5, 2009 at 3:59 AM 1 comment

Would You Take a Homemade Sandwich to a Restaurant?

So here’s a frugal question… Someone I know, (I swear this story is not about me), has been brown bagging lunches in an effort to save money and eat a more balanced diet. One afternoon a bunch of coworkers asked if she’d like to go out to lunch with them. She considered the offer, but didn’t really want to waste a perfectly good sandwich.

She knew the lunch she packed was healthier and cheaper than one she would buy, but she didn’t want to eat alone while all her other coworkers went out together. After contemplating the options she decided to head out for lunch with her coworkers, but decided to bring her sandwich along for the ride.

When she got to the restaurant three of her coworkers purchased meals, while she purchased only a drink and chips. The four of them sat outside of the restaurant and ate their lunches at a picnic table.

After the incident a couple of coworkers commented that they would not have been comfortable taking homemade sandwiches to an establishment and one woman said she thought it was ‘wrong to bring your own food.’

So here’s my question… Do you think it is wrong to bring a homemade sandwich to a restaurant? The woman reasoned that she did purchase chips and a drink so she did not freeload on the restaurant and because her friends were eating at the same table she did not unnecessarily take up a seat. What do you think?

May 26, 2009 at 10:30 PM 18 comments

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