Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pinching Pennies

Over the next five weeks I am going to try to live more frugally. Jump for joy! Not the reaction you expected?

I am doing this for several reasons. First, in some strange way I find being frugal fun and challenging. Second, I haven't been saving my money as much as I would like to so this will help me boost the money in my savings account. Third, I need a lesson in keeping track of my purchases as well as figuring out how to do this thing called budgeting. Have you heard of it? I don't think of myself as a big spender generally, but if I look at my spending over the last few months I definitely have been acting that way. So here goes.

I have already made some significant changes in recent months and in the last year to reduce my spending. I no longer highlight my hair and don't pick the fanciest urban salon to get it cut. I have completely changed my beauty routine. I no longer buy big brand makeup and use less makeup in general. I've figured out ways to make face wash, face scrub, and moisturizer at home with ingredients I already have. As I run out of cleaning sprays, I am going to begin making my own using vinegar, baking soda, and other common ingredients I can buy in bulk. I have also stopped using paper towels. So all of this is a good start to helping me save more. What else can I do?

Costs that add up in my expenditures usually revolve around travel and food. So over the next five weeks, and in general, I plan on taking the bus more often for local trips. Local trips in my neck of the woods account for anywhere the bus goes. Technically I could ride all the way from Seattle to Olympia, Issaquah, Redmond, Marysville or everywhere in between (a distance north and south of almost 95 miles!) for free with my bus pass. It is a yearly pass I buy from work that has already paid itself off. I will also be eating out much less than I have been. So that means cooking more meals at home, planning menus for the week, and packing my lunches for work. I've also gotten really good at buying clothes from thrift stores. I've found some really good finds out there! Don't think thrift stores only sell musty old clothing. I wore a dress to a wedding last week that I got at a thrift store for only $12. It was cute.

It is easy to think that spending less equates to less fun. But it just isn't so. It is actually fun to watch your savings grow. There are so many things to do for free for entertainment, especially in the Summer. I'm starting to go for evening walks and bike rides. Be creative. Have a potluck and play games with your friends and family instead of going to an expensive restaurant or movie. Here are some additional things I've come up with to help save more money in order to build up my savings.

What are your ideas?

  • Keep grocery shopping simple
  • Avoid the aisles at the grocery store where the expensive convenience foods live
  • Wash Ziploc bags and reuse them
  • Keep a water bottle handy to avoid buying drinks on the go
  • Hang dry clothing at least some of the time
  • Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste
  • Use half the amount of shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish washing soap
  • Cut dryer sheets in half
  • Cook from bulk food items like oatmeal, beans, and pasta
  • Buy fresh in season produce (it usually costs less)
  • Don't go to a store unless you have a list of what you need (not want) to buy
  • Choose to stay/eat at home more often than going out
  • Balance checking account regularly and set budgets

We will see how well I do over the next month at saving. In order to be more frugal, you have really got to be in the mindset of it. You have to think about it every day because you are constantly making decisions that involve money. But believe it or not, we do have choices in how we spend our money. We need not fall into the regular, easy traps that prevent us from saving. And, I'm sure you, as much as I, can figure out plenty of things to do with the money we save giving us more freedom in the future to make much more interesting long term decisions about such things as where we want to live, work, or travel to. It seems like it needs some convincing, but learning to live below your means actually does have its benefits and it doesn't take long to notice.

photo credit


  1. I stopped using dryer sheets when my daughter developed eczema. We thought it might be contributing. I don't miss them though. That is one cost you could easily cut out all together. Now if I could convince my husband to ditch paper towels....

  2. Oh yeah, and if you are looking for good free entertainment this is the season for cool free things in parks. Also, we frequent the library for movies. Ours has a pretty good selection and it's cheap as free!

  3. Those are great suggestions. Thanks Katie!