10 Things Frugal People Do (Part 2)

Frugal people do things differently. Plain and simple. And regardless of where you stand on the frugality scale, you can incorporate changes today to save you a lot of money (and even stress) in the future!

If you missed part 1, check it out here!

Cut the unnecessary. In our modern world, we are bound to fill up our lives with unnecessary expenses from time to time! Do you use your gym membership? You could easily run around the neighborhood for free or do an at-home fitness video. Do you need your cable TV if you also have Netflix? Do you read all the magazines you pay for, and do you eat all your produce before it goes bad? Think of the ways you can cut out the unnecessary; once you start thinking, you’re sure to come up with something.

Use everything you have. I recently wanted to do some crafting, but I didn’t want to spend any money on any part of the craft. I had some burlap my mom gave me and some cardboard from Aldi, so I made a cute, J-shaped door hanger. When you start thinking of using only what you have in your home, I bet you’ll surprise yourself with how creative and inventive you are. This is also how I stopped buying paper towels in exchange for other household items.

Find ways to make money. Recycle, do side work, sell unused and unwanted items online or locally, sell clothes online (I’ve used Poshmark and Mercari, and they’re both good for different reasons; here is more about that). I’ve taken my juicer to work, along with some produce, and set up shop on my lunch break, making juices for coworkers; of course I also set out a tip jar (just make sure you’re following your company’s protocol for this!). The possibilities are practically endless!

Take care of what you have. Clean your vacuum cleaner when it’s time, not waiting until the belt is broken from overload or the filter is irreplaceable. My husband’s expensive Colehaan shoes have to be resoled and polished regularly, and using a shoehorn is best because it helps absorb sweat and keep a good shape. Resoling and polishing and shoehorns all cost money, but those costs are better than a new pair of expensive shoes! Bottom line: If you need it or if it means something to you, take the time and money to take care of it. Usually the maintenance is cheaper than the replacement piece, and it’s almost always cheaper than replacing it altogether!

Don’t turn down help when it’s offered. It’s amazing to me how God has always given us wonderful friends who love to help us. We have a beautiful kitchen table, thanks to some very wonderful friends. We have a nice 6-foot Christmas tree, thanks to some other very wonderful friends. When you live in a way that is “unlavish,” often your friends or family notice without your saying a word. And they usually want you to enjoy nice things, especially if it’s in their power to help. So if they offer, let them! If they are asking if you want to take home left-overs from an event, say “yes!” (This does not mean to go around, sounding like an impoverished soul that needs some help, in hopes that someone will feel sorry enough for you to offer to have you over for dinner or something!). I can’t count the number of coupons I’ve received – coupons for free things! – because a friend knew I could use some help.

Do you consider yourself frugal? Is there a tip or two you can incorporate today? Do you have tips to add? Let me know what you think of the list! If you missed part 1, check it out here!

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin | Cropped

10 Things Frugal People Do (Part 1)

We can all agree that managing our finances is not always easy. Sometimes we need a little reminder of what direction we are supposed to be heading. Sometimes we need a challenge or an idea of how we can be saving more money for a better financial future.

I like to think I grew up learning frugality. I am frugal, regardless of how I arrived here. Not I have arrived and know it all; I certainly do not know it all! But for lack of a better term, I’ve arrived at being cheap. Plain and simple. Regardless of being frugal or needing to learn it, I hope some of these tips will help you toward your next financial goal.

Don’t buy anything at the store that you can make cheaper at home. Now the list of things you can make at home for cheap is seemingly limitless, so you have to know your personal limits. I work full time and have chosen a rather busy lifestyle, so there are some things I need to buckle down and learn…when I have time. However, with our loose “no spending rule,” I’ve learned how to make homemade spray starch for clothes (no chemicals and about 5% of the cost for store bought? YES!) for starters and am excited to learn more! What can you make instead of buying?

Borrow instead of buying when possible. We don’t buy movies, games, or tools. We borrow. We have enough friends that these conveniences are readily available in a wide variety. Not only do tools and toys cost money, there’s maintenance too!

Don’t eat out. This is similar to #1, but it’s so important that it has to be reiterated and in a category all its own. Eating out is such a money sucker! It’s literally a moment of pleasure for double or triple the cost if you had bought the ingredients and made it yourself. Don’t let convenience win out. Plan your meals ahead of time, so you don’t have to wonder about dinner when you’re already famished. For the occasional times your spouse is treating you, even if it’s an anniversary, check Retail Me Not for good deals and choose where to go based on coupons you find.

Look for the best price possible. Using Krazy Koupon Lady, the Sunday morning newspaper, and countless other tools, you can easily find the best deals. Tiffany at Don’t Waste the Crumbs has this awesome idea of keeping a “price book,” suggesting you take a journal shopping and make a list of the main grocery stores you shop, the main foods you buy, and their prices per units, then refer to that when you’re wondering where to buy what. Such a novel idea.

Never pay full price for retail items. Not paying full price would apply more to clothes, shoes, home goods, etc. After all, sometimes you have to pay full price for gasoline, but you can still be getting the best deal. I always shop the clearance racks and cannot remember the last time I paid full price for our clothes. We just don’t go there. And even with not paying full price, I still look for coupons. There are too many clearance items, great sales, and coupons out there to pay full price for anything.

Part 2 of 10 Things Frugal People Do will be continued next week, but if you can’t wait, you can check it out here :). Until then, let me know what you can implement this week!

Photo credit: Ken Teegardin | Cropped

20 Items to Remember to Budget!

Ever built a budget for the month and realized later that you forgot about something so obvious? Been there! If you’re like me, you had an extensive meeting with your spouse to make sure every detail was cared for, but yet something came up that you probably should’ve expected and should’ve discussed in that “extensive meeting” and just didn’t.

Well here’s a list of basic things to be sure to add to your budget so you can build your best budget possible. It works for our family of 2, but I think it will be a decent guideline for any size of family (food is still food and bills are still bills, right?). I’ll start with the obvious and move to the less common.

Side note 1: we use a free app called Every Dollar for our budget, and we love it!!

Side note 2: get out your calendar for the month so you have an idea of the extra items like birthdays you’ll be spending money on!

Side note 3: for extra tips on saving money on your bills, check this out!

Here we go! (and if you use Every Dollar, you can choose to have your budget copied from last month, create an entirely new one, or edit your last month’s budget for the coming month…so no need to remember these items each time!)

1. Mortgage/rent

2. Food – groceries and restaurants (will you be having company at all this month?)

3. Gasoline

4. Electricity/gas

5. Water/garbage

6. Phone bill

7. Car insurance

8. Car maintenance/savings for car maintenance

9. Clothing – dry cleaning or needed items

10. Entertainment (Don’t forget your friends asked you to go to that show with them!)

11. Gifts (Whose birthday or baby shower is coming up?)

12. Emergency fund (for a flat tire, sudden death in the family, etc; $1,000 is a good goal for this!)

13. Savings

  • Short term funds (for things like computers and vacations that need more than one month’s budget to purchase)
  • Long term savings (for a house, a new car, bigger emergencies; Dave Ramsey suggest saving 3-6 months worth of income for the bigger unexpected things)
  • Retirement (don’t rely only on the government, please!)

14. Life insurance

15. Health/health insurance

16. Travel

17. Home maintenance

18. Homeowners/Renters insurance

19. Education

20. Miscellaneous

Bet you didn’t think the list could be so long for “basics!” Let me know if I missed something!

Photo credit: Pictures of Money | Cropped

3 Ways to Save $2,400 a Year on Bills

TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read): Call or shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible on your monthly bills.

Ever looked at your account and wondered where all the money went? Ever think that it’s disappearing before your eyes? It’s easy to feel that way in a normal day of adulthood and even easier when you don’t have a budget you stick to and check up on. I – of course – would urge you to get a budget if you don’t have one. And if you do have a budget and disparage of your finances still, it might be time to take a look at your bills to know for certain you are getting the very best deal possible.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we’ve saved at least $200 a month on our bills. That’s $2,400 in a year!

Shop around for the best car insurance rate. “We switched to Geico and saved $60 a month!” isn’t just a statement you hear on a commercial! Geico might not be your best option, but for us, switching from Allstate to Geico literally cut our bill in half, and we are getting the same, full coverage! If your insurance rate increases every time your policy is up for renewal, it’s highly doubtful you’re getting the best price. Geico has actually gone down a bit from the time we started. Don’t be bashful or feel bad about calling to ask for a discount. The easy switch saves us $60 a month.

Check your phone carrier’s competitors. We made the switch to T-Mobile and save at least $120 a month! Again, maybe T-Mobile isn’t the best deal for you. When we were faced with a large phone bill for average service and coverage and very average data, we asked AT&T to lower our rate, and when they didn’t, we decided to shop around. T-Mobile was having an excellent deal, and we were able to get unlimited data, talk, and text; 2 lines for $100 total. That is half what our other bill would have been. And there’s no contract. Consider what you could be saving and ask yourself this question: would I rather have great cell service or $100 extra per month? 

Get smart about your utilities. 

  • Electricity – Did you know electric companies charge more per kilowatt at certain times of the day/days of the week or after passing a certain threshold of electricity? It does pay to be smart about your utilities! If you really want to save more on electricity and/or gas, you’ll change your tolerance level for the temperature in your home. It may mean adding or shedding a layer of clothing or adding a fan to your home (look here for even more helpful tips from a real guru). I even try little things like ironing all at once so that the iron doesn’t waste electricity getting heated up each time. Yes, it can be inconvenient, and it might not feel like you’re making a difference, but when you get your electric bill, you’ll know it’s paying off. We recently received a $15 bill for electricity (for our 2 bedroom apartment, to be fair), and I was one happy woman!
  • Gas (natural) – Our heat is from natural gas, so during these winter months, we are especially careful. Personally, I now enjoy bundling up when I go to bed, so I don’t think of it negatively. You might be able to close a vent in a spare room or keep the curtains closed to help keep the heat in. Between the two of these, we’ve cut our gas and electric in half, saving at least $20 a month.

You may not be able to cut $200 of your monthly bills, but I certainly hope you can look at your budget, determine where you might be overpaying, and decide what to do about it. Call the company and ask for a lower rate. Shop around and let competitors know your current rate and ask if they can do better. Figure out where electricity is getting wasted and fix it. Feel free to let me know some ways you save on your bills each month or if there’s something I missed! I’m all ears.

Photo credit: 401Kcalculator.org

Best Free Things To Do in Los Angeles

 

Living in or just visiting Southern California can get quite expensive, especially if you don’t know your way around. Not only that, but there are opportunities for fun everywhere! It’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in the LA area and are trying to have some fun on the cheap, you need to cross some of these items off your bucket list! Disclaimer: some of these destinations may require a parking fee. If you get creative about your parking and find a good, free spot, please let us know in the comments!

This list could very well apply to all of SoCal. I can only imagine that some of the best things to do in San Diego would include beautiful beaches, breath-taking mountains to hike, and pleasant shopping and social areas. However, I decided to stick to Los Angeles, at least for this post.

Check out these places and you’ll see why we rarely spend money on entertainment.

The beaches (here are some favorites):

Redondo Beach. Such a beautiful beach area! The vacation homes are so fun to look at and dream about. We actually saw Troy Aikman (famous, former Dallas Cowboys player!) on vacation with his family there! We had fun just looking at the homes and talking about what we liked about each of them. (Sorry, my pictures don’t do it justice!)  Cost: gasoline and parking money

Santa Monica Pier. With their recent enhancements, this is a big tourist attraction now and rightfully so. Come here to experience a care-free fun time, seeing different performers along the pier, just hanging out at the beach, or fishing from the pier. Cost: gasoline and parking money

Photo credit: Pacheco

El Matador Beach. If you’re looking for some scenic beach pictures, this is the place to go! There’s not a lot of room between the cliffs behind you and the water when the tide starts coming in deeper, but the rocks makes for some great pictures! Cost: gasoline and parking money 

 

  • Griffith Observatory. This is a fun place to go to see LA from a higher perspective! Parking is free, and there’s some educational displays and potential hiking (particularly if you don’t get the parking at just the right time). Cost: gasoline

Photo credit: Frank Steele

  • UCLA performing arts. We went to a free symphony and enjoyed their fabulous music, twisted with a little drama. On a separate day, we went and explored their beautiful campus.  Cost: gasoline 

 

  • Hiking trails. If you enjoy the great outdoors at all, the possibilities are endless!!! Here are some of the places we’ve hiked: 

The bridge to nowhere. The waterfalls at the end of the trail make it all worth it. Warning: it’s a 10 mile round trip hike. Please don’t go if you’ve never hiked before or if it’s been a while for you. And take lots of water. There’s a river along the way to help you stay cool and welcoming waterfalls at the end (did I mention I love those?). My husband and I got engaged on the bridge, so it’s somewhat sentimental to me :).

Malibu Beach area. It’s so nice to hike right along the beach!

Vasquez Rocks. A season of 24 was filmed here, as well as several other popular movies and shows. This place will suit all your exploring desires with trails, vast hills, little coves, and rocks that beckon you to climb them.

Seriously, endless possibilities in SoCal. Cost: gasoline (just be sure to plan your drinking water and meals properly)

  • Shakespear plays at the park. This was a neat little experience for us! Take a blanket to sit on and maybe a pillow or two for comfort. The actors did a great job, and the sound quality and staging was pretty good as well! Cost: free

 

  • Snow! I absolutely love the snow in Tehachapi in the winter months. Just wow. There’s also Wrightwood, but I find it quite overwhelmed with tourists, as is Big Bear. My husband found this amazing area of Tehachapi where we saw next to zero snow-deprived Californians, and if there had been many people, there would have been plenty of snow to go around. It started snowing while we were there… I was in heaven!!! We didn’t have to pay for parking, and there were even bathrooms with toilet paper along the snow-covered trails (always a plus, right?). This only required gas and warm clothes, and we made some AMAZING memories!!! Cost: gasoline

 

 

  • Downtown Disney. Parking is free for the first two hours. Walking around and getting the essence of Disney without the price of Disney is great for us. Visit the lego store and other fun shops (this girl has awesome pictures!). Just don’t get so carried away that you forget about your car’s time limit! Cost: gasoline and potentially parking
  • The Grove. This is such a beautiful shopping area to walk around in. They have lots of shops, a nice fountain, and a little bridge. My best friend got engaged on the bridge; her fiancé sang and played his guitar and then proposed. It’s especially romantic at night if that’s what you’re going for. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking

Photo credit: Prayitno

  • The Americana (Glendale). While this place is awesome all year round, I have to say that Christmas time is the best!!! They have a beautiful fountain running through the middle of the outdoor shopping area, and at Christmas time, the lights make it even more inviting. As my husband and I were enjoying the scenery, we hear “Let it Snow” by Michael Buble, and snow starts falling from above!! It was fake of course, but it was still magical! Just magical. Cost: gasoline and possibly parking
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list (and I hope to keep adding to it!), but I hope it helps some locals to figure out inexpensive ways to create family memories! Yes, some of these places may tempt you to spend money. However, the goal is simply to give you some fun destinations that don’t require a huge entrance fee and certainly don’t break the bank. Now, please. Let me in: what are some of your favorite, inexpensive things to do in LA? 

7 Tips for Saving Money in the Kitchen

I tend to spend a lot time in the kitchen, and that’s also where I get to do a lot of thinking. So I started thinking of ways I could be saving money in the kitchen. These are some random, money-saving tips for the kitchen: basic and unusual. 

1. Use washcloths instead of sponges. I get that some things just clean better with a sponge (or so we like to think), but if you’re trying to save money, use a washcloth that can be washed and reused, and if you think some items might need a sponge, soak them for a while.

2. Rinse all your dishes before washing, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher. Having food and beverage residue stuck and dried onto your dishes will undoubtedly require more soap. And since water is cheaper than soap, rinse those babies! This also keeps away bugs if you’re not able to or choose not to wash them right away, and that saves you more than just money!

3. Meal plan. If you’ve never tried this before, you must try it! There are some great, free meal plans out there! If you’ve tried it and it didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, I encourage you to give it another try. I’ve experienced personally the savings from this – savings of money and time and stress, simply by making a comprehensive grocery list for the next week or two. If it seems daunting, try doing just one week. You’ll be glad to not have to make more than one trip to the grocery store, and you’ll save money by having food on hand and not going out to eat or making impulse purchases during another trip to the grocery store.

4. Save resealable, plastic bags and containers. Unless you use the plastic bag for raw meat, why not wash and reuse? My husband taught me the easiest way to wash plastic quart or gallon sized bags: turn them completely inside out and then wash! Works magically. I’m only referring to quart and gallon sized bags, as sandwich bags are so flimsy and thin that it’s not worth the time and effort to me. But hey, if you can get another use out of it, why not?

5. Wash and reuse foil. I just recently started doing this, but so far I like it and appreciate not messing with tearing off the foil again!

6. Save paper bags from take out or other shopping and use them as lunch bags or whatever else you want to transport! I use these again and again for taking lunches or snacks to work.

7. Repurpose citrus peels to make an amazing aroma on the stove (that’s my favorite use for them – just add some cinnamon, clove, or rosemary and water!) or use the peel to make a zest to save for later (dry out before storing), or if nothing else, use it to freshen your disposal.

Have you tried any of these? How do you save money in the kitchen department? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Ginny | Cropped | No endorsements