Monday, June 23, 2014

Blog Wrap Up: A Whole Bunch of Frugal Tips (Part 3 of 5)

As I discussed in my last post, the main way that we were able to dig out of debt was to go cash-only.  The way we were able to go cash-only was to considerably lower our everyday expenses.  If we hadn't also gone frugal, we would have certainly ran out of cash before we ran out of things to buy.  Here, in no particular order, are all of the frugal habits that we regularly use:

  1. We don't have cable TV; we bought digital over-the-air antennas for each TV.  For about $20 each, we will have free TV for life.
  2. We pay cash for our cell phones (usually on Amazon, sometimes at Walmart, and once on sale on the TMobile website).  Buying a cell phone over two years on a contract through the cell provider is the most expensive way to buy a cell phone.
  3. We each have the $30 TMobile cell phone plan through Walmart (1500 talk/text minutes and a little data for hubby, unlimited text and internet with 100 talk minutes for me).
  4. Because I often need to call in for meetings, I have a monthly plan through Skype for $2.95 for unlimited calling and $3.95 a month for a Skype phone number.
  5. We buy almost everything we need at the $1 store and the 99 cent store.  If we must buy something these stores we don't have, we go to Walmart (ie: I haven't bought make up at Macys for years...the cheap stuff at Walmart works just as well and recently I found that the $1 nail polish works just as well as the more expensive brands).
  6. I haven't shopped at a mall in years.  We buy all of our clothes, home decor, etc. at the Goodwill.
  7. We have recently started shopping at the Goodwill outlet which offers even better prices on clothes and other goods.
  8. For things we don't want to buy used, like underwear and shoes, we shop the clearance sales at Ross and TJ Maxx.
  9. Hubby makes his own coffee at home each morning in a $10 drip coffee maker.  No Starbucks, no Keurig...just basic, cheap, and tasty coffee for pennies a cup.
  10. We use half of the recommend amount of many things (ie: cut dryer sheets in half, use half the amount of laundry soap, half the usual amount of toothpaste, half the usual amount of shampoo, etc.  Obviously I don't recommend half the amount of medication since that is a whole other ball game).
  11. I clean our house each week (no more housekeeper).
  12. We also do our own (minimal) landscaping (no more yard guy either).
  13. We don't buy items that need to be dry cleaned (this is an added expense that we don't need).
  14. We hem pants that are too long, mend clothes that need repairs, iron our clothes before each wearing...basically do all of our own laundry service to keep what we wear looking good.
  15. We have minimal items in our bathrooms--soap, razor, shampoo, and hair conditioner in the shower (as opposed to a friend who has three kinds of soap, a product for shaving, a half dozen hair products, etc).
  16. We keep the heat down in the winter (and wear sweaters around the house, watch TV with blankets over us, etc).
  17. We keep the air conditioner up in the summer (we easily tolerate the AC set at 78 degrees).  We also use ceiling fans to keep the house cool as well as drawing the shades during the heat of the day.
  18. Instead of cable TV, we have a subscription to Netflix to keep hubby entertained.
  19. We use our library to get lots of free things--books, music, classes, a bajillion free Kindle books to read, etc.
  20. Everywhere we go I ask for discounts.  We get locals discounts (a common thing in Las Vegas), senior discounts (for hubby) and veteran's discounts (also for hubby).
  21. We get a big break on our annual car registration fee because our county offers this sort of discount to veterans just for filling out a form.
  22. We don't have vices.  Well, hubby uses his minimal monthly allowance to play poker but we don't drink, smoke, do drugs, etc.  
  23. I pay almost all of our bills online which saves the cost of stamps.
  24. All of our bank accounts are free of any charges (two credit unions and one bank which gave us a free bank account because they hold our mortgage).
  25. We are a one car family.  And this one car was paid for in cash and will be driven until it literally dies.
  26. I often walk to do errands and shopping.  This not only saves gas but it is also good exercise.
  27. I call our cable internet company every time our cable rate is set to go up and ask for a discount (this has worked well so far).
  28. When I saw that our car insurance rates were always going up, I shopped around and threatened to change companies unless ours could give us a better rate...and they did.
  29. We dropped full coverage insurance on our car and only have liability since the car is old and we would only get a few thousand for the car should it be totaled.
  30. I raised the deductible on our house insurance which lowered the cost of this insurance.
  31. We pay some of our bills (sewer, car and house insurance) annually or bi-annually which gives us a small discount over paying these bills monthly.
  32. We buy quality items that last longer and stay in style longer rather than buying less expensive trendy items that are cheaply made and go out of style quicker (like shoes.  I like quality shoes such as Keens or Clarks or Brooks but I still buy them at a good discount at TJ Maxx and Ross).
  33. We group all of our errands together which saves gas.
  34. We also try to stay home a couple days each week which also saves gas and keeps us from spending money.
  35. We buy store brand products instead of name brand products (like Equate hair gel, Equate dandruff shampoo, Equate hand lotion).
  36. We take advantage of hubby's military benefits (shopping at the commissary, my super inexpensive health insurance, etc).
  37. We get our hair cut at the cheap Great Clips place instead of an expensive salon.
  38. To make my haircuts last longer, hubby trims my hair between cuts which means I only need to pay for about four haircuts a year.
  39. I do my own manicures, pedicures, waxing, and hair coloring.
  40. When we color our hair, we only mix half of the product and save half of the hair dye for the next time (we each have short hair so half of the hair dye works fine for our hair.  Just don't mix the product together and save it as this won't work).
  41. We have inexpensive pets (gold fish.  And hubby cleans and reuses their filters to extend the cost of these filters).
  42. We also have inexpensive hobbies (I like walking, hubby participates in a few inexpensive bowling leagues--he also happens to be a great bowler so at the end of the season he always wins more in award money than he spends on the weekly fees).
  43. Since hubby is a senior, he paid $10 for a lifetime National Parks Pass which we use often.
  44. There is so much free entertainment in Las Vegas that nearly all of our entertainment is free (free movies, free guided hikes, free rodeos, free community events like parades and art shows, etc).
  45. We are also members of House Seats (for a flat $89 fee, we can attend a myriad of Vegas shows, every day if we are so inclined, for two years!).
  46. Hubby uses his monthly allowance to play poker.  When he plays poker he gets comps for free meals so any time we want to eat out, it is free.
  47. Hubby also plays free poker online and through this he wins prizes such as $50 restaurant gift certificates and free rooms at local hotels.
  48. We shop loss leaders at the grocery store and make our meals based on what is on sale.
  49. Unless we are eating our free with hubby's comps, we cook almost all of our meals at home.
  50. We make much of our food at home from scratch (it's super simple to make yogurt, pizza, baked goods, etc).
  51. Using a whole paper towel is wasteful so hubby cuts the roll of paper towels down the middle so we only use half a paper towel at a time.
  52. We use basic cleaning products (bleach, ammonia, vinegar, scouring powder...and a lot of rags instead of disposable cleaning products).
  53. The SIL gave us a Swiffer but when it ran out of disposable Swiffer pads, I just made my own out of rags.
  54. When we host parties, we also do all of the cooking (it's cheaper and tastier than catered).
  55. When we attend dinners with friends, I always bring baked goods, etc. instead of purchasing items to bring.
  56. We moved to an area with a much lower cost of living (this saves us an inordinate amount of money).
  57. Hubby likes a certain kind of cologne so we found a place to buy it cheaper than retail (at the military exchange store) and he uses less of it (it used to be six sprays each morning, now he is down to two...this really stretches out the product to the tune of 1.5 years between purchases instead of every six months).
  58. When items come on sale we stock up (like right now all of our closets are full of toilet paper because the commissary had it on sale for a third of its regular price.  Ditto for pork that we found on sale for 99 cents a pound).
  59. We occasionally use coupons on items we purchase but it needs to be items that we would have bought anyway.
  60. When we know we will be away from home during a meal, we make sandwiches and take them with us.
  61. On occasions when we are out at meal time and didn't bring food with us, we hit up a fast food place and eat off the $1 menu only (this tides us over until we get home for a very cheap price).
  62. When we do eat out, even with hubby's comps which get us free meals, we almost always order one meal and share it since restaurant portions are so huge.
  63. We purposely bought a small house when we moved (this saves on heating and air conditioning costs, cleaning time, decorating costs, etc).
  64. When we first moved to our new place, we recorded our electricity usage daily and worked on ways to reduce our electricity costs to save money (ie: keeping the air conditioning on low 24/7 uses a massive amount of electricity so now when we leave the house we set it on 82 then lower it down when we get home).
  65. We shop for things on Craigslist rather than buying new (ie: we couldn't find a treadmill at the Goodwill so we checked Craigslist and bought a barely used one for $50).
  66. We only shop the Goodwill on Wednesdays because it's half off for seniors on that day.
  67. Whenever we have a problem, we try to Google the problem and fix it ourselves (so far we have fixed a dripping shower, a dead microwave, and a clothes dryer that kept shutting off...the parts for these repairs were pretty cheap and the labor, of course, was free).
  68. We don't go to the stores unless there is something we absolutely need to buy (just wandering around stores aimlessly makes us buy stuff we don't really need).
  69. The hubby and I debate nearly every purchase from what kind of tortilla chips to buy (I have a favorite brand at the 99 cent store) to what kind of computer to buy (hubby tested out a new one, didn't like it, and promptly decided to live with his old one until something better than Windows 8 comes out).  Basically we start with "do we need this" and if the answer is yes, we move on to "which is the best deal for our money, what features do we really need and really don't need", etc.
  70. I pull our free credit reports each year and review it for mistakes (instead of paying a credit company to do this for us).
  71. I also do our taxes online at H and R Block for a super reasonable fee (this has turned out to be more accurate than me doing them by hand).
  72. I Googled each of our utilities to see what kind of freebies and deals they offered and have received everything from free shower heads and faucet aerators to rebate coupons and home weatherization materials.
  73. We buy some things in bulk (like 50 pound bags of rice which we know won't go to waste).
  74. We only use free apps on our tablets and cell phones and free software on our computers (there is so much good free stuff out there you really don't need to pay for these things).
  75. We let people know we like hand-me-downs and used stuff (when we moved in to our new house we were inundated with free, used furniture, appliances, curtains, clothes, decor, and other stuff from the cousins who had lots of used stuff in their garages that they didn't want any longer).
  76. We hit up Asian and Hispanic markets for specialized items that cost and arm and a leg at regular grocery stores (like coconut milk, special cuts of meat, produce, and ingredients for Asian recipes).
  77. We wash all of our laundry in cold water.
  78. We don't use the dishwasher, choosing instead to wash dishes by hand (this is quick and easy as there are only two of us).
  79. When we travel we do it as cheaply as possible (taking Megabus, getting day passes for the local transit system, staying at friends and relatives homes, watching for cheap airfares, etc).
  80. We've severely cut back gift giving (when the immediate family expanded past 100 people we pretty much stopped gift giving all together, choosing instead to send cash to the kids to spend on their families for holidays).
  81. We keep our car in good repair (check the tires often, regular oil changes, etc). 
  82. We clean filters regularly (the filter on the clothes dryer, the filter on our HVAC system in our home, the air filter in the car, etc...this prolongs the life of the items).
  83. We don't buy extended warranties (we do make sure the product is of good quality, has good reviews and has a reasonable manufacturers warranty).
  84. We look for ways to minimize our bills (at the start of each year we review our list of bills to see if there is a way to reduce it--like cutting down the amount of garbage pick ups we get--or get rid of it all together--like cancelling subscriptions).
  85. We pay attention to postage rates (when we do consider sending gifts or packages to friends or family the first thing we look at is the cost of shipping...flat rate boxes are usually the way to go).
  86. We eat leftovers and never waste food (when hubby cooks Filipino food he usually brings the leftovers to the cousins who love this or to Filipino staff where he plays poker.  We have also "adopted" a homeless guy we pass on a road near our house and often bring him leftovers, extra clothes we don't need, etc).
  87. We get rid of things we don't truly need (we haven't had a land line phone in ages, we ditched the gym membership in favor of free exercise activities, we no longer subscribe to newspapers or magazines, etc).
  88. We pay cash for gas for the car and choose the cheapest gas station in our area (Arco). 
  89. Hubby also tracks our gas expenses so we can tell when we are driving too much (which means we aren't being careful to group our errands enough).
  90. We wear our clothing two or three times between washing (they don't get dirty and this saves the expense of washing and drying them plus wear and tear on the clothes).
  91. When we need to make a bigger purchases, we compare prices, read reviews, find out about price matching, basically we do everything we can to get the lowest possible price on the items we buy.
  92. Whenever I buy something online, I Google the coupon or promo code for the item.  If there is a place that says "promo code" that means there is probably a promo code to be found for it which can often be found online.
  93.  We try to be patient in order to save money.  This might mean watching the sale ads until the item we want is on a good enough sale to warrant buying it.  This also means instead of picking up a cell phone cover for $20 at the local store because I want it now, I buy it on Amazon for $2 and wait a couple of weeks until it is delivered.
  94. We look for a cheaper way to do the things that we want to do.  If we want to go to a movie (this is rare) we choose senior day or matinees over the cost of a full-priced movie (or better yet, we wait until the library gets it).  Ditto for checking out a new restaurant--we will go for lunch which is cheaper instead of dinner which is more expensive.
  95. When we purchase items with cash, or buy a bulk of items, we will ask for a discount (this often works).
  96. We avoid fees like the plague (ATM fees, credit card interest fees, monthly payment fees for some bills, etc).
  97. We don't bounce checks (and the one time that hubby accidentally did this because he wrote a check on an account that we rarely used and had very little money in, he immediately called the bank and asked for the fee to be waived which they did).
  98. We help people when needed and ask for help when needed (ie: when the cousin needed a new hot water tank we immediately took her around to the stores and helped her get the best deal; when we needed a ride to the airport she happily picked us up and dropped us off).
  99. I read everything.  By doing this I have: found great tips for freebies on reddit, found out that Saturdays are 10% off for military folks at our local grocery store, got a great deal on House Seats, filed for a class action rebate on a product that I regularly used, etc.
  100. We retired.  Oddly enough, even though we have less money, we also have considerably less expenses (no second car, no business wardrobe, no business lunches, etc).

And 10 things we don't do (but other people do find frugal and useful):
  1. I don't hang our clothes out to dry.  Yes it saves money but the clothes are so crunchy!
  2. I don't have a monthly bus pass.  In Seattle this is a great way to get about and save money but the transit system in Vegas isn't that great.
  3. I don't grow my own food.  I tried this and it was a fail (not sure if it was me or trying to garden in 100+ degree heat).
  4. We don't have kids at home as they are all grown and self supporting (you wouldn't believe how much money this saves!).
  5. I don't make my own laundry soap (although I should definitely give this a try).
  6. I'm not a coupon queen (as much as I like free and cheap stuff I don't want to spend the time/reserve the storage space for massive couponing binges).
  7. I haven't cut out every vice (my particular expensive vice is a weekly trip to Baskin Robbins for a Capuccino Blast.  It would save me money not to do this but I like this weekly treat too much to give it up).
  8. I don't rewash and reuse plastic bags.  Many people do but...ick.
  9. We don't have pets.  Many people do and this is an added expense but we are hardly ever home and it is hard enough to find a fish sitter when we go on vacation.
  10. By luck or circumstance we haven't been in situations that can cause a financial catastrophe (like getting divorced, becoming a single parent, having a major medical catastrophe without insurance, co-signing for a loan that is defaulted on and comes back to us to pay, paying for bail or lawyers, having massive student loan get the idea).


  1. Wow, what a compilation! Great tips all around. I too cut my dryer sheets in half, and water down my detergents and shampoo/conditioner. Ditto when I used liquid soap for showers, but I can't use those anymore. We prefer handwashing dishes too... we grew up doing it, so it feels semi automatic these days.

  2. I've stumbled across your blog this evening and I'm having a good old nose around, because I'm nosey and tight! I hope you don't mind. Some good tips here, thank you x

  3. SUCH a great post... thank-you!!