10 Great Ways To Live A Frugal Life

There is a huge movement in this country of people who are learning to live within their means rather than using credit cards and other forms of credit that can get you seriously into debt. While some may laugh at those who make their own home cleaning products, and freeze their leftovers, there is something to be said for learning to live frugally and within your means. For one thing you can save money a lot easier, and for another you can actually make extra cash. Here are 10 tips for living frugally.

1. Clear out the clutter. One of the first things it is crucial to learn to do if you want to live frugally is to clear out the clutter. Most of us are like pack rats holding on to old furniture, clothes, toys and even art supplies way past the time we should. Think how much money you could save if you take the time to slowly go through your house, and storage lockers and begin getting rid of those things which you do not use now and will probably never use again. You may find you never need to pay for extra storage again, and just think of what you could do with the extra money!

2. Organize your home. For everything a place, and a place for everything is an old saying, but it is also a true saying. Once you have cleared the clutter from your home and any other storage areas you have (and hopefully gotten rid of the ones you are paying monthly fees for), designate a place for everything in every room. This does not have to be done overnight, in fact it will work better if you do a little bit at a time until you complete the project, even if it takes you several months or a year.

3. Instead of getting rid of and replacing clothing that may only be missing a button, or needs a patch on the knee, do the repairs. Make a time each month to check for clothing that needs minor repairs and then do them. Now the money you might have spent purchasing something to replace these clothing items can either be saved or used for something else you really want or need.

4. When you shop use coupons. Make it a point to clip coupons, I usually do mine on Saturdays after purchasing the early Sunday edition of the paper, that way when I go shopping I will have the coupons already clipped for that week. There are also many places online that you can look for coupons to use. Also, have a way to organize your coupons for shopping so you are not losing them or digging around in your purse for them while you’re in line.

5. Take advantage of rebates. Many of us don’t take the time to apply for rebates, but we should. You can save a significant amount of money on everything from toothpaste to computers just by saving your receipt, the packaging the item came in, and filling out a little form to send in. It’s worth it, and the money you get back can be funneled back into your savings, or used for other much-needed items.

6. Sell those items you are no longer using which are in good condition. Have a garage sale, or if you live in an apartment, sell your items in good condition online. The money you earn can be recycled back into your finances for other items, to pay bills, or just put into your savings account.

7. Eat at home, or brown bag instead of eating out. It’s amazing how many people get into trouble financially because they are using their credit cards to eat out several times a week. If instead of eating lunch and/or dinner out, you brown bagged your lunch, and then had dinner at home, you would save all that money you are spending on eating out. It is a sad day when you are still paying on a credit card used for meals from a year ago, and you cannot even realize any kind of tangible gain from these expenses. You can’t drive nor wear the deli sandwich you ate a year ago but are still paying on in credit card interest fees this year!

8. When it comes to clothes, have only what you actually wear plus a few extras in your closet. Many of us have closets filled with clothes that we never wear, we may have our “skinny” clothes, or our “work” clothes, or our clothes from by-gone eras that we can’t bear to part with and such. But how many of these clothes do we actually wear? Probably only a small percentage of what is in our closet. Instead we have favorites, and we wear these until they wear out, and then go looking for new favorites. We may have a few “nice” clothes that we save for church, or weddings, but other than that, the rest of what is in our closets sits unused. Get rid of what you are not wearing. You only need enough clothes for about 10 days, and then a few outfits for work and special occasions. Sell your good items to a consignment shop, online, or have a garage sale and then use the money for savings or to buy a few new or at least new to you items!

9. When it comes to furniture, go for the spare look. The idea with furniture is not to fill up every free amount of space with something, instead only have furniture items that you actually use and which you like to look at. For example if you have a small living room, and a tiny kitchen, don’t purchase a dining room table and chairs, and try to cram them into your living room along with a couch, easy chair, and bookcases, they either aren’t going to fit, or it’s going to look as though you have no space. Instead get stools that you pull up to a counter or bar so you have a place to eat meals. This will also save you money on food and liquid spillage on your carpets! Also you will find that your living space seems larger when you go for the spare look.

10. Buy second-hand and discounted. When you are purchasing anything see if you can buy it second-hand or at a huge discount. There are even discounted grocery stores such as the Canned Foods stores in Oregon that have frozen foods, canned foods, bread, cheese and even meat in some cases at large discounts. Also, you can often find new or nearly new items at thrift stores, garage sales, and online if you make the effort to look around.

These are my favorite tips for living frugally which I have found when applied saved me the most money. I hope you find them just as useful!

Saving Money At The Gas Pump

While a lot of recent attention has been focused on rising home heating costs, the price of gasoline is still a source of concern for many Americans. To help reduce your overall gas consumption consider the following tips:

  • Drive wisely. Aggressive driving (raking, speeding and rapid acceleration) is not only unsafe but a waste of gas – you can use up to 33 percent more gas by driving aggressively at highway speeds!
  • Keep it at 60. Because of most cars’ design, it will actually cost you gas (and money) to drive above the speed limit. A good rule of thumb is that each 5 mph over 60 mph is like paying an additional 21 cents per gallon for gas. Using your cruise control on the highway can help you maintain a safer (and more economical) speed.
  • Keep it tuned up. Replacing dirty air filters, improving your car’s emission system and other standard tune-ups can help improve your mileage considerably, meaning you will have to make fewer trips to the pump.
  • Pump your tires up. By keeping your tires property inflated to their proper pressure you can increase your fuel economy up to 3%.
  • Get the right oil. By using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil for your car you can increase your car’s fuel performance by 1-2%. Also look for motor oil that says “energy conserving” on the label to make sure it contains fuel- reducing additives.

To really reduce your cost of gas, consider temporarily using public transportation, car-pooling or taking a bike ride for your next trip. Even a periodic trip by foot, bus, carpool or bike can help lower your gas costs…and it can help the environment at the same time!

Top Strategies For Lowering Your Heating Bill

If you’re like most Americans, you expect to pay more to heat your home this winter. Households using natural gas are expected to spend $350 more to heat their homes this winter, up to 60 percent more in the Midwest. Propane users can expect to pay up to 30 percent more and it will cost approximately 5 percent more for people using electricity to heat their homes this winter.

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do now to take the bite out of your home heating bills this winter.

  • Consider asking your local utility company or an independent “energy auditor” tocheck your home for its energy-efficiency. An expert can use a variety of technologies such as a calibrated blower door, infrared cameras and surface thermometers to identify subtle leaks and drafts that you would otherwise not be able to detect. The audit will assess how much energy your home uses and can help you determine what changes you can make to increase your home’s energy-efficiency. To be best prepared for your energy audit, have copies of your most recent energy bills, preferably a full year back so the auditor can see how much energy your house has been consuming. The auditor will examine your home’s physical property (i.e. exterior features, windows, wall area, etc.) and then ask about how you use your home, such as if you work from home during the day, how many people live in the home, and the average thermostat setting.
  • You can find an expert auditor under “Energy” in your phone book, through your state or local weatherization office, or your electric or gas utility company. Check out potential auditors, and suggested references from friends and family members, with the Better Business Bureau before contracting someone to perform the audit. If you prefer a more “hands-on” approach, click here for a list of “do-it-yourself” home energy audit tips from the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Check your home’s insulation. It may sound obvious, but the less insulation you have, the colder your home will be. Only 20 percent of homes built prior to 1980 have adequate insulation. Places to check your insulation (or asking a contractor to check) are your attic, ceilings, floors, crawl spaces, and basement walls. If you have less than 6-7 inches of insulation you will probably benefit from installing additional insulation. Insulation is relatively inexpensive to buy at any hardware store and not difficult to install. If you have one choice, put additional insulation in your attic to see an immediate difference in your home’s temperature and heating bill cost!
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows. Cracks let out the heat and let in the cold air. Simple caulking or putting in new weatherstripping will help reduce drafts and lower your bill.
  • Check and replace furnace or heat pump filters once a month, or as needed.
  • Shut vents and close doors in unused rooms.
  • About 16% of an average family’s home energy bill is just for heating water. You can lower your home water heating costs it by using cold water for washing clothes, installing low-flow shower heads, doing only full loads of wash or dishes, and lowering the temperature on your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees (which is a recommended safety tip particularly for families with young children).
  • Check for an open fireplace damper. Don’t let that precious hot air escape up and out your chimney! If you don’t ever use your fireplace, consider having it plugged and sealed by a professional. Check and re-caulk your fireplace hearth if necessary.
  • Set the thermostat as low as is comfortable, and if you have a programmable thermostat, program it to lower the temperature at night while your family is sleeping and then begin to warm up before you begin waking up.
  • Insulate your hot-water storage tank and pipes, especially if the tank and pipes are in an unheated area such as a basement or garage. Uninsulated pipes and hot water tanks require more energy to heat the water inside.
  • If you are considering new appliances, look for the Energy Star and EnergyGuide label to compare energy-efficiency ratings. The more energy efficient the appliance the less energy required to run it, which results in lower utility bills for you!
  • If you have single-pane windows in your home, consider replacing them with more energy-efficient double-pane windows. Storm windows can reduce your winter heat loss by 25 – 50%! If you live in a cold climate, look for windows that are gas-filled with low-emissivity (low-e) glass coating which reduces heat loss. Some simple steps to take include closing curtains and shades at night, and opening them during the day, and installing storm windows or insulating plastic to reduce heat loss.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators and make sure that they’re not being blocked by furniture, carpet or draperies.

 

How Should I Budget For A Trip?

There are two times in your vacation/travel planning process that you should consider your budget. First, as mentioned in the post about decision making, you should think about it before you even begin to plan your trip. The broad question to consider here is: How much can I spend? That is, how much can I afford to spend and how much am I willing to spend? (You may be able to afford to spend $10,000 but only want to spend $1,000 or you may want to spend $10,000 but can only afford $1,000.)

The second time you should think about your travel budget is after you’ve researched how much your transportation and hotel should cost. It’s hard to create a vacation budget before you do any research on the cost of transportation and hotel because these are large expenses that vary greatly depending on the time of year, etc. So, once you have found the approximate cost of these two main expenses you can get into the nitty-gritty of your budget.

Here are some categories of expenses to consider when developing your travel budget:

  1. Transportation– getting there and away; including taxi to the airport
  2. Lodging
  3. Food– don’t forget about drinks and snacks
  4. Expenses before you go (new clothes, passport, traveler’s checks, etc.)
  5. Miscellaneous Expenses once you’re there (ATM fees, money changing fees)
  6. Transportation while you’re there (getting around via rented car or public transit)
  7. Entertainment once you’re there (tours, museum entrance fees)
  8. Expenses at home while you are gone (house/pet/baby sitting, etc)
  9. Incidentals when you’re there (tips, phone charges, internet charges, etc)

When creating your budget be realistic. You are not going to be able to get by spending $10 a day on food if you plan on eating at a restaurant for every meal. And, you don’t want to have a crappy vacation because you haven’t budgeted any money to get into museums.

You can create your budget with just a simple piece of paper. Or you can design your own spreadsheet. I have designed a Travel Budget Spreadsheet that you can download here. (Note that all of the categories are listed per day/person except for two. At the top of the budget you list the number of days/nights you will be gone and the number of people going on the trip. You just fill in the rest of the numbers based on your estimated expenses per day per person. I’ve designed the spreadsheet to calculate the cost of the entire trip, the cost of the trip/day, the cost of the trip/person, and the cost of the trip/person/day.)

Creating a budget for your trip may not be the most exciting thing in the world; but it’s just as important as creating a budget for your everyday life. If if you find that the estimated cost of your trip will be more than you can afford, try to come up with some other options, maybe take a trip closer to home, or think of ways you can eat more cheaply. No matter what: Don’t spend more than you can afford on a vacation. There’s no point ruining your vacation worrying about money or ruining the memory of it by having to pay it off in years to come.

I have already written about how to save money on some of the expenses listed above including how to save on Transportation and Lodging . In future posts in this series I will give ideas on how to save on other expenses.