Squawkback: What Are Your Top 3 Frugal Living Tips?

I want you to squawk with me. Yes, the world is big enough for all of us to squawk. So every Wednesday, if I’m not picking tomatoes or wrestling bears, I’ll launch a question for everyone and anyone to comment upon. I’ve just deemed these weekly queries as Squawkback Wednesdays.

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This bloggy blog is a growing community, and I want to hear you speak. There are no rules with commenting. You can use your real name or not. You can agree or disagree. Whatever your squawk, your words are likely to help someone out there!

Question: What are your top 3 frugal tips?

Fox’s Answers:

  1. Use a grocery shopping list.
  2. Get a Diva Cup (if you’re a girl).
  3. Plan your family meals.

Your turn! Get frugal and Go Squawk!

Your two cents:

  1. Jules October 8th, 2008

    1. Make/do what you can yourself: laundry detergent, cutting hair (seriously, not all that scary!), cleaning agents, clothing, home decorations, presents, cards, costumes, plumbing, simple electricity problems (we blew a fuse not too long ago, and I know some people who would have called an electrician for that).

    2. Flossing. In all seriousness–my boyfriend spends at least €500 every other year or thereabouts because he won’t take care of his teeth. He has dental insurance, but it won’t cover the kind of damage his teeth get put through. I’ve never carried it–and I haven’t been to the dentist since I was 8 (though I have visited a periodontist for cleaning). Generally, take care of yourself.

    3. Go green. Turn down your thermostat at night, turn off the lights as you leave the room, turn off appliances, unplug chargers, line-dry your clothes…actually, most Green tips are quite money-saving.

  2. Kathryn October 8th, 2008

    1. Reuse (elastic bands, string, bags, milk bags, aluminium foil … anything that you can).
    2. Bring your lunch. Make & take your coffee. Eat out for special occasions only.
    3. Make do. Last year’s boots, shoes, fashions … they will be fine.

  3. Patricia October 8th, 2008

    1.Increase deductibles on insurance and re-assess your insurance needs annually. Shop around for the best rates.

    2.Use long distance phone cards if you do not have a decent long distance phone plan. 4 cents or less a minute vs. 10 cents a minute makes a difference.

    3. Buy washable clothing vs. dry cleanable, including outerwear such as coats. Buy quality items rather that will last more than one season.

  4. MoneyGrubbingLawyer October 8th, 2008

    1. DIY just about everything – home renovations, auto repairs, plumbing, electrical, and whatever else needs fixing. With basic tools and a little bit of patience, there are very few things that you can’t accomplish yourself.

    2. Put on a sweater – instead of turning up the thermostat, make yourself comfy at lower temperatures. This can save a surprising amount of money.

    3. Don’t be a slave to fashion – If you’re replacing your wardrobe every season to keep up with Paris and Milan, your clothing budget is going to be much higher than it needs to be. Wear what you like, not what’s trendy.

  5. Unspender October 8th, 2008

    1. Drink water: Carry around a water bottle and you won’t buy pop, juice, coffee, etc. I think I save about $10/week just drinking water at work. Great financial and health rewards!

    2. Biking/walking: Another financially and healthy frugal tip. Although I have a car, I only drive it when I have longer trips or to get groceries. Walking and biking around the city not only makes me feel better about my body and wallet, it’s also much better for the environment.

    3. Food. I completely agree on planning meals. It’s certainly saved me money (http://unspending.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/take-out-takeout/)

  6. Jennifer October 8th, 2008

    1. Bring your own lunch to work!!! I know this is simple, but I work with about 6 other people and I’m always the person who brings in my lunch. So while everyone else is going out and spending too much money on food (and that doesn’t even include the gas to go pick it up) I can enjoy a relatively healthy meal, on the cheap, at my desk. And as a bonus, I use my lunch to look up stuff on the internet from Cosmo or other magazines that I used to pay to subscribe to.

    2. Don’t was your hair every day! Now I know for some people who have extraordinarily oily hair that you can’t skip, but for most people you can go a day or two (or maybe even three) without washing your hair! It saves water, electricity (from both the hot water heater and for the hair dryer) and saves you on the products you use (shampoo and conditioner last twice as long!).

    3. Freecycle. I don’t know if this is available in the UK, but in the US I use a “program” called free cycle (www.freecycle.org). Find a user group in your community and get started. Use this distribution list to seek out items that you may need (or give items you no longer need) – and its all for free. You cannot charge for anything on freecycle. So far, I’ve gotten materials I needed for a craft project, an electric guitar, and mulch for my yard all for free. Make sure you give too – I’ve actually now given more than I’ve taken, and I’d like to keep the balance that way….but it saves me from having to hold a yard sale and/or buy things.

  7. Susan Lamphier October 8th, 2008

    1) Get a library card. Borrow books, CD’s, films–even use the free wifi!

    2) Sleep on it. Whatever the question, whatever the response to a need, it always, always changes with the coming dawn.

    3) Stick to cash only. Nothing else, unless there is absolutely no other choice. I can think of only one instance where you might need a credit card, and that would be to rent a car. Which, I guess, brings me to a 4th option!

    4) Get rid of your car. If can possibly can. I know not every one can do this, so then I would say,

    5) Hang onto your car. Car repairs are FAR cheaper than new car payments and insurance fees.

    6) And, finally, maybe I should take my own advice and just HUSH UP! No, really, duck low, stay calm, keep to you and yours, and take care of your own. The proverbial cow pies have only just begun to hit the fan!

  8. Susy October 8th, 2008

    I only have one – it covers all things:

    Dont buy CRAP you don’t NEED.

  9. Frank October 8th, 2008

    1 Avoid takeout meals, when cooking, always prepare extra portions…..

    2.Consolidate errands into a single trip…(pharmacy, cleaners, moviestore, etcetera

    3. Avoid redundant expenses…..example, paying for a broadband connection and paying for a data package to support a blackberry or Iphone is a redundant expense….

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself

  10. marci October 8th, 2008

    1. Learn to enjoy the simple (and free) pleasures of life.

    2. No pedicures, manicures, fake nails, fake tans, massages, perms, hair colors, perfume, or make-up (except lipstick)- Can you imagine how much I have saved over 40 some years of not buying these things?

    3. Library, library, library.

    4. Cook meals from scratch, freeze extras. Garden and dry, can, or freeze surplus. Take any and all free fruits or veggies offered to you. Buy a freezer if you don’t have one. And a dehydrator. Don’t let food go to waste.

    5. When butchering, take all the bones and throw them in a large pressure cooker for an hour. Get every last piece of meat off the bones – use in stews, soups, or as a shredded BBQ beef/pork/etc. Use the broth and some of the meat to make scrapple. Off one elk’s bones, I can easily get at least 10-15 lbs of meat, a gallon of broth, and from 1 lb of that meat and one quart of broth, I can easily make 8 loaf pans of scrapple. In other words, that’s a lot of people meals off what some people throw to the coyotes.

    6. Garage sale for birthday and Christmas gifts.

    7. Use your local recycling center for all types of freebies.

  11. marci October 8th, 2008

    sorry πŸ™ I missed that #3 and went overboard πŸ™

  12. Frugal Dad October 8th, 2008

    1. Try a “No-Spend Weekend” where you do not spend a dime on food, entertainment, etc. Eat out of your cupboards, go for walks, and basically do your best to avoid spending any money.

    2. Spend time with those less fortunate than you–it will help you become more content with what you have. Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen during the holidays.

    3. Get creative about trimming monthly expenses. Ask for a bare-bones cable television package. Cancel any entertainment subscription services (DVDs, audio books, club memberships, etc.). Reduce your cell phone plan and talk less.

  13. TheProfitMaze October 8th, 2008

    1. Take the car only if necessary. I live in a city and take the metro to work.

    2. I don’t have a cell phone. In a town, there is always a phone around (public or private). Because it’s expensive to call from a public phone, if I call it is for something that cannot wait.

    3. I never buy sugary soft drinks for myself. I drink water whenever I can and for the kids, I cut their apple / raisin / whatever juice with some water. It’s better for them and it saves $ in the end.

  14. Lise October 8th, 2008

    1. Don’t have kids.
    2. Bring your lunch.
    3. Love the ‘brary.

  15. Small Budget, Big Style Chick October 8th, 2008

    1. Pack your breakfast and lunch for work.
    2. Style/cut/dye your own hair.
    3. Don’t buy a car! (This only works if yo live in an area with reliable public transportation)

  16. Kerry October 8th, 2008

    Wow. All of us is smarter than one blog. πŸ˜€

    @Jules I love the flossing. Indeed, seemingly small steps like daily dental care can save BIG BUCKS over time. My mom always told me, “Take care of your teeth and feet. ‘Cause without them you can’t eat and you can’t walk.”

    @Kathryn Making do is perfect. I think I’ll take that advice to the bank. πŸ˜€

    @Patricia I’m a huge fan of long distance phone cards. I canceled my land line distance plan since the admin fee was MORE than my monthly charge. I save big bucks calling home by just entering some extra digits.

    @MoneyGrubbingLawyer In honor of your comment I just put on my sweater. Dang, keeping warm in Canada just got cheaper!

    @Unspender Drinking water is huge. I can’t even remember the last time I bought sugar pop or juice.

    @Jennifer I’m always amazed how few people at my work bring their lunch. This one young fellow eats lunch out EVERY DAY. He spends 12 bucks A DAY on lunch. When I explained he was blowing 3-4K a year on lunch, he didn’t believe me. O well!

    @Susan Lamphier The library is amazing. I love my books, but sometimes it just pays to borrow. πŸ˜‰

    @Susy Not buying “CRAP” is my personal motto. I even wrote a blog post: Just say “NO” to Crap! Thanks for reminding me! πŸ˜€

    @Frank Consolidating trips saves a lot over time. It’s amazing.

    @marci You are full of wise frugal words. I think I’ll head to my local recycling depot this weekend to check it out! Awesome suggestion.

    @Frugal Dad The classic β€œNo-Spend Weekend” is something I think we all can benefit from. Time to bring out the board games, or go for a hike, or play in the backyard. Not spending is actually quite doable!

    @TheProfitMaze Public transportation just makes sense. I got more mileage out of my bus/train passes and carpooling over the years. I even moved closer to work once just so I could WALK. I got fit and frugal at the same time. πŸ˜€

    @Lise Very very very true. Having kids is very expensive.

    @Small Budget, Big Style Chick I am with you on not buying a car. I have been car free for over 12 years. I do own a few bicycles though. πŸ˜‰

  17. Treva October 8th, 2008

    1. Plan your meals and then shop based on that — not on your whims! I have a recipe database for my family with 3 months of our favorite meals. I shop weekly for produce, milk, eggs, etc. And I make whatever I can from scratch. Knowing how much meat, frozen items, etc. for a 3-month period makes shopping easier. It took me a while to do this, building it one week at a time and then finally, slowly, combining it all into a spreadsheet.

    2. Every weekend we have a no-drive day. We get our errands done on either Saturday or Sunday and the other day we simply don’t drive anywhere. Staying home has forced us to explore new endeavors and take up old hobbies. This summer this allowed me to tackle several books, something I’ve not done since college ended 7 years ago. When we do go out we make a list of where we need to go and what we need. We then plan a route that makes economical use of our gas.

    3. Stop visiting a salon every 6 weeks. I get my hair cut only every 8 to 10 weeks instead. And I alternate my visits. I see this one lady who really does a fab job with my hair every other or every two cuts. The in-between trimming cuts I go to another lady who’s inexpensive and does a good job, but can’t style the way the first lady does. I have longer hair so I admit this would be harder for those with shorter haircuts, but even adding 1 extra week between cuts can make a dent in your pocketbook. Imagine a hair cut every 6 weeks costing $50/cut or $433/year. A hair cut every 7 weeks at the same $50/cut would be only $372/year. My way cost me about $225/year (3 haircuts at $50/cut and 3 at $25/cut).

  18. Gina October 9th, 2008

    1- Stop subscribing and reading most magazines. They only create an urge to shop and spend. I realize since I stopped reading magazines I am happier with what I have and don’t feel the need to shop as often.
    2- Shop at thrift stores. This one is amazing. I get great stuff, always dress nicely and have a very nice home, mostly through thrift shopping.
    3- learn to cook and plan menus.

  19. Sara at On Simplicity October 9th, 2008

    1. Cook at home (and get a few indulgences so that you actually want to stay home)
    2. Cultivate an appreciation for minimalism
    3. Use the public library

  20. Beth October 11th, 2008

    1. power down. unplug your toaster and other kitchen appliances when not being used. same thing for your phone charger, power bars, etc. you’d be surprised what has a phantom load and just how much power a phantom load can draw!
    2. skype/video msn instead of long distance calls. why pay for long distance when there are means of talking that are free?
    3. find a no fee bank. banks post record profits because we let them ding us with fees for nothing.
    lise, i agree, kids can be expensive, but worth even single penny.

  21. Frank October 12th, 2008

    Beth, Skype/MSN is a good suggestion.

    Another suggestion is to look at what services are delivered by your high speed internet connection and learn how to use it more effeciently. Some suggestions.

    1. Beth mentioned Skype; a broadband delivered service. Also examine some of the Internet phone services. For $10, you can get all of your home phones connected to a service and make unlimited domestic calls…..

    2. Use Pandora and other free internet services

    3. Drop your movie channels and subscribe to free IPTV services such as HULU.

    4. Use wireless broadband for internet connectivity….

    Personally, taking these steps could reduce monthly costs by $100’s…..

    F

  22. Beth October 15th, 2008

    oh, and one more…stop complaining about the “type of light that they give off” and get yourself some compact fluorescent light bulbs. they’re not as bad as they used to be and they will save you a *lot* on your electricity bill. we outfitted our house a year and a half ago and have yet to replace one, too!

  23. marci October 15th, 2008

    Re: CFL light bulbs. Just remember to dispose of them as hazardous waste due to the mercury, and not put them in the landfill. Most areas have a free hazardous waste collection day twice a year or so.

    Yes, they definitely save $$.

  24. Renee October 22nd, 2008

    Just be careful with the CFL bulbs and don’t put them in any fixtures that could get knocked over by rambunctious kids or pets. Also, they don’t suit rooms where you have lights on for short periods such as a bathroom — I’ve had a few go bad there.

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