Thrifty Tips

Today is the Frugal Tips Edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, so check out the money-saving ideas there!  I happen to prefer the word “thrifty” myself.  This is my big anthology of ways to save money!

I have to start off by responding to Kristen (hostess of Works-for-Me Wednesday)’s first tip, which is to print your own gift tags instead of buying greeting cards.  That does save money, but you know what will save even more?  Making your own tags (or full-size cards) out of free materials.  If you print things, you’re paying for printer ink/toner, paper, and electricity to run your computer and printer.  Some ideas for virtually-free homemade gift tags are in my article on saving money at Christmas.  Here are a few more options:

  • Cut up old file folders (bright-colored ones are especially nice) and use the stiff paper for gift tags or cards.  You can punch a hole in one corner with a standard paper punch and use a bit of ribbon to tie it onto the package.
  • Grab an unwanted sheet of paper that has a lot of text printed on one side but is blank on the other side.  Hand it to your child along with a large set of colored pencils or markers.  (Crayons won’t work unless they’re very new because their tips are too large–unless the text is printed at a largish size.)  Tell him to choose a color for each letter or number and color on all of them: make all the A’s red, all the B’s blue, etc.  This is educational and makes a beautiful pattern!  (It also keeps the kid busy while you are wrapping gifts.)  Then fold the paper in half and write your message on the blank side.
  • Use your sticker collection.  I still have mine in the shoebox where I started it in third grade, when sticker collecting was all the rage; I toss in whatever stickers come my way from junk mail, and once in a while I buy a packet of stickers at a good price, and I’m still using up all those stickers I bought with my allowance (or traded for) in elementary school!  Decorate paper with stickers to make a unique card.  I have made some very surreal ones in a sort of mad-lib style by putting together stickers with words on them.  Other times I set up animal or character stickers in a scene and draw word bubbles.
  • Clip silly or pretty pictures from magazines as you come across them.  Glue them onto paper in a collage to make a card, or glue just one very neatly on the front of the card and maybe draw a fancy border around it or give it fancy edges with pinking shears or scallop scissors.
  • Use those greeting cards that come free in the mail from various charities.  If they aren’t your style, draw in extra bits or add stickers for ironic humor.

Now for some other thrifty tips I don’t think I have mentioned before . . . 

Cutting your own hair (or family members cutting each other’s hair) saves a lot of money!  I don’t even know how much because I’ve had only one professional haircut in my life . . . and I was snipping at it by the end of the day, so I decided it hadn’t been worth the money.  My parents cut my hair until I was a teenager, and then I began cutting it myself.  A couple of times when I’ve wanted to change the style or solve a problem (like ends flipping outward) I have found helpful illustrated books in the public library.  I do my own nails, too, and have never felt seriously tempted to get a manicure or pedicure.

Speaking of the public library, it lets you read lots of books and magazines for free!  Our local library also has some wonderful toys in the children’s room, so it’s a fun place to hang out for a while between errands.  It also sells used books at nice low prices!  I rarely buy new books because I find that plenty of good ones come my way used or can be checked out of the library.

Use your public parks instead of spending money on swings, climbers, basketball hoop, etc. for your own yard.

Buy used clothing and household furnishings, when you can find things you like at a thrift store, at a yard sale, from a friend or relative who doesn’t need it anymore, or through a classified ad.  When Daniel and I first began living together almost 16 years ago, we saw an ad in the Pennysaver for a food processor for $20, about half the price of a new one at that time.  It must have been made around 1980 (judging by its earth-toned decorations) but the lady said it was a gift she’d used once and kept on a shelf ever since.  We’ve used it a lot!  After about two years, our housemate accidentally broke the thin plastic safety rod (that went through the handle to press a button so that the motor wouldn’t run unless the bowl was properly locked into place), and he thought it was broken, but Daniel figured out that we could put the bowl on with the handle at the opposite side and then press the safety button with a chopstick!  We’ve been doing this ever since; our son thinks it’s just normal. :)  Last month, though, the plastic thing that holds the grater or slicer attachment finally cracked . . . and the acrylic bowl is riddled with small cracks and could go at any time . . . so we are finally looking for a replacement food processor.

I am planning a big article about grocery shopping strategies soon . . . but for now, I’ll just briefly mention: Look for coupons in newspapers, magazines, and ads that come in the mail.  Scan weekly sales circulars for particularly good prices, and stock up on things you know you’ll use.  Look for opportunities to get more for your money by buying a larger package.  (But check out this advice on when you should NOT bulk-buy.)  Plan your meals around ingredients you already have and things that are on sale or in season now.  Consider using customer loyalty cards that give you discounts or extra coupons.  When you plan to visit a particular store, see if its Website is offering coupons that might be useful to you–I often find good coupons for Target.  Use multiple shopping lists to organize trips to the stores that have the best values on your staple items.

Here are some more Earthling’s Handbook articles (and a few other links tossed in…) about saving money:

Don’t throw away food!  Here’s how to use not-so-fresh fruit, odds and ends of vegetables, leftover beans, not-so-fresh tofu, stale bread, and cauliflower leaves.  When your favorite vegetables are in season, make your own frozen vegetables.  If you’ve peeled tomatoes for canning or sauce, make the skins into Penniless Parenting’s Tomato Basil Garlic Spice Blend.  Penniless Parenting also explains how to turn citrus peels into candy or all-purpose cleaner and how to eat other fruit peels in Banana Peel Chutney, Watermelon Rind Curry, and Watermelon Rind Salad.  If you accidentally froze some cucumbers, they’ll work fine in one of these cucumber salads.  Also check out Katie’s 9 Ways to Cook with Garbage and these many ways to use citrus peels and Danielle’s ways to preserve bulk-purchased bell peppers and ways to use the stems from Swiss chard.

Don’t throw away things you can reuse!

Don’t waste your money on tissues, disposable diapers, disposable pads and tampons, or other instant garbage.

Use less electricity for lighting your home.

Instead of paying gym fees, try these exercise ideas.

Avoid buying new stuff by Running Things Into the Ground.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars every time you need furniture, use The Five-Part Furniture-Finding Plan.

Line-drying your laundry lowers your electricity bill (or natural gas, if you have a gas dryer) and makes your clothes last longer.

Has your kid ripped the knees out of all his pants? Make them into shorts!

Entertain kids with these easy indoor games and knee-bouncing games, or teach them to amuse themselves playing The TV Game.

Buy the cheap sippy cups–they’re better anyway.

Instead of buying Gatorade or other expensive drinks full of weird chemicals, drink Homemade Electrolyte Replenisher.

Instead of soda or fruit juice at a party, serve lemonade.

Eat beans instead of meat.  Even canned beans are less expensive than most kinds of meat.

Save money on plastic food bags!

Have you been making a recipe that uses a processed food as an ingredient?  Maybe you could make it at a lower cost using the ingredients that are in that processed food, like I did with Raisin Bran Bread.

Do you really need a cell phone?

How much gas can you really save by driving a hybrid car?

Avoid unexpected fees when you’re in the process of switching bank accounts.

All-ages game night is a fun event for just about any group and costs almost nothing to run, assuming you already own a bunch of card and board games.

Quit buying expensive facial cleansers and just use honey.  For occasional exfoliation, try this easy two-ingredient recipe that’s a great household cleaner, too!

Consider not wearing makeup or using less of it.

Will shopping at a warehouse club store save you money?

About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

3 Responses to Thrifty Tips

  1. Wow have you ever packed so many great money saving tips in here!! Thanks so much for linking to my posts on using bell peppers and chard stems :)

  2. Pingback: Top 10 Articles Earthlings Read in 2012 « The Earthling's Handbook

  3. Pingback: Could you feed your family on a food-stamp budget? « The Earthling's Handbook

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