Ramblings of a Penny Pincher

There are numerous ways to save money, some are big and some are small. Sometimes people will tell me that the things I do really don’t save much money, and I agree. I might not save much money, but I am always saving little bits of money. Eventually those pennies do add up.

Here are some little things you can do to save your pennies.

Reuse foil, ziplocs, and food containers. Much of my tupperware cabinet is filled with yogurt containers, and other plastic containers that I use over and over. (Do not reuse plastic containers that have been microwaved)

Switch from white meat to dark meat. I know, I know, we live in a white meat society, but prepared correctly dark meat isn’t so bad. During my last trip to the grocery store I noticed that chicken legs were $0.85 a pound. You can buy about 14 legs for under $3. That is a huge savings!

Skip convenience foods. It is cheaper to buy a big container of yogurt and divide it into smaller containers for lunches. All those prepackaged snack foods were invented to make money. If you are short on time, take an hour on Sunday night to divide up the bulk foods into lunch portions for the week.

Simplify your life. Elaborate get-togethers, birthdays, vacations, wardrobes complicate and cost you time and money. Host a potluck or progressive dinner. Have people over for dessert instead of dinner. Plan your own parties and skip the food. Especially for children’s birthdays, these things have gotten so out of hand. Most kids are happy with some wrapping paper rolls to sword fight and a homemade cake. Most families (at least the ones who read this blog) cannot afford expensive vacations. Find less expensive or free things to do in your area. Even better have a “stay-cation.” Stay home and be a tourist in your own town. By simplifying your wardrobe you will save time and money. Especially if your clothes require dry cleaning. Keep it basic and simple. Even when I had a closet full of clothes I wore the same few things regularly anyway.

Hang it out. Invest in a clothesline (they even make indoor ones for those of you who live under HOA rules). This saves so much money. I believe it costs about $0.25 to run the dryer, plus it heats up your house, which is the last thing you want to do in the summer.

Adjust your temperature. I know this is a tough one, but see if you can raise or lower your thermostat one degree every few days. I also noticed that on cool mornings you can open all your windows and lower the temperature of your house. When the day warms up, close the windows. This will help keep your house cooler during the day.

Cold showers. Okay, not really, but lower the setting on your hot water heater a few degrees. Plus, the side benefit of this one is that if the water temperature is a little uncomfortable your shower will probably be quicker. It will make a difference in your bill. While you are at it, buy a hot water heater blanket. They cost about $30 and you will make back your investment in a year or two. Especially if you live in a cold climate.

Evaluate extra-curricular activities. I realize that little Sally has begged for ukulele lessons, but if it means you will be living with her when you get old because you didn’t save for retirement she might have reconsidered. If you can afford it, great. But if you are struggling financially these types of things need to be the first to go. Not only do they cost you in fees, but there are usually fund raisers,uniforms, snacks, other incidentals, and the gas it takes to get to the activity.

Learn to love second-hand items. Almost everything can be purchased for less at a thrift store or yard sale. I have been to yard sales where someone could have purchased every baby item they would ever need (except diapers) for under $150. Items for younger kids are plentiful at yard sales. You can find items for big kids too, it just takes a little more work. I am always amazed when I go into someone’s beautiful house and realize that almost everything was purchased second hand. If you don’t have a knack for decorating, find a friend who does.

Stop your subscription to Netflix and stay away from Barnes and Noble. Today’s libraries are awesome, especially in metropolitan areas, and everything is free. If you are serious about saving money, and money is tight, cancel your subscription.

I take it back, the first thing I would do is cancel cable. This is my own personal opinion. Please do not email me and tell me how much your family loves watching shows on the Discovery channel and discussing them. I am sure that is true. This isn’t a debate about television. We are going on year 6 without cable and I don’t miss it. Even though I could easily afford it, I would rather dump that $30 a month into my IRA. Over the past 6 years we have saved over $2000, by not watching television. If I can keep it up I will have over $40,000 in savings in 30 years. I am not trying to beat up on cable television. I am just making a point about the little things adding up.

Eat at home. Eating at home is healthier and cheaper. Plus, you save gas by staying home.

Make your own coffee. I almost didn’t type this because I am not a coffee drinker so I have no love for Starbucks. But, five bucks for a cup of coffee, that is insane! Once again, if you can afford a five dollar coffee, then go for it, but if you are struggling, spend five dollars on a coffee maker at a yard sale and make your own. I have seen the people who work at Starbucks, I know people who work at coffee shops. They do not have years of coffee training. You can make good coffee at home, I know people who do it all the time.

Get out of your comfort zone. Many ways to save money are a matter of changing your perspective. You might think you don’t like chicken legs because you haven’t prepared them correctly, you might think you couldn’t live without Netflix because that is all you have ever known. Going to yard sales might be uncomfortable at first, so go with a friend and make it fun! You might not be a good cook, but most people can follow recipes. Experiment with new things until you find your own cooking style.

I once had a reader comment that I must have exceptional willpower in order to live a frugal life, believe me, I don’t. I just have a different perspective than I did years ago. I feel like I live a very full and exciting life even though our family does things differently sometimes. I don’t feel deprived of anything nor do my kids. Part of this is because my hope is not in the things of this world, and the other part is because I am looking to the future. I want to change my financial future for my kids. I don’t need to be rich, I already am, although not with money. God, family, and friends make me the richest person in this world. I am a penny pincher, but my life is so full I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Our lives have changed significantly for the better since we called Dave Ramsey on October 26, 2007 and screamed. “WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!!!!!” on the radio. The main reason we save money and are thrifty is so that we may bless others. If our money was tied up in debt and bills we would have little left to give away. We want our children to grow up in a paid for :) house where serving others is a high priority. Living debt free is truly freeing.

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