I won’t claim I created a perfect frugal budget back then or that I have all of the budgeting answers now. However many of my frugal hacks started as a necessity so I could splurge on frivolous things like food and rent.
Even though I don’t have to follow such a strict money saving plan today, most of these frugal habits and tips are in my Swiss Army Knife of Frugal Hacks so I can make a truly frivolous splurge like travel and eat all the things!
26 Frugal Hacks and Tips
1. Date it to find out how long the package lasts. This is super duper anal tentative but it works to keep me from automatically buying staples every time I see them on sale.
I thought I was saving money when I actually wasn’t because I was buying more than our small family could use. I don’t do this all of the time for everything but I will if it is a new product or new size of something I regularly use.
2. Put batteries in the freezer so they will last longer. We use rechargeable batteries (I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience) for remotes, game controllers, etc. and those live in a drawer next to the battery charger. The conventional batteries we use for things like our smoke detectors and as an backup (apparently I am the only one who knows how to use the battery charger) are stored in the freezer so they keep their charge and last longer.
Extra tip: Storing rechargeable cordless power tool batteries separated from your tools will allow the charged batteries to keep their charge longer.
You can read the tutorial how I made my power tool battery charging station on my DIY blog Condo Blues.
3. Use student services at a spa cosmetology or massage school for beauty treatments. Students need lab hours before they can get their license and perform those services under instructor supervision at a significantly discounted price to the public. I’ve had better luck with spa services than haircuts because my hair is thick, layered, and a complicated cut.
If cosmetology students kinda scare you about the quality of the service, look for a deal on local flash sale sight. I recently had better luck and saved more money buying a professional massage on Groupon than a student massage at the massage school. Splurge? Maybe. But not after a multi day migraine that wasn't going away anytime soon.
4. Use grocery, frozen fruit and vegetable, bread, and parts packaging bags as household trash and pet waste bags. We use reusable shopping bags most of the time and for the majority of our purchases but there are times when disposable bags cross our path so we put it to reuse.
Sure the bags are smaller than a tall kitchen trash bag. You might have to make a trip to outside trash can a little more often to. The upside is your house won’t smell because trash isn’t is sitting in a giant trash bag waiting for you to fill it up before you take it outside. Try the mDesign Over the Cabinet Plastic Bag Holder if you find yourself with more plastic bags to reuse than paper.
5. Use bread ties, bread clips, or coffee bag ties to close small repurposed plastic bags, to organize power cords, and other household items. We use them to close open bags of frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer. Most often we use them to tie off empty bread bags, frozen food bags, small packaging bags when we repurpose them for doggie duty. Metal coffee bag ties are especially useful for keeping power cords neatly wrapped behind a desk, TV, etc.
6. Replace a disposable with a reusable option or don’t buy it at all. Check out my post 12 Things I Do Not Buy on Lazy Budget Chef for ideas!
7. Find a good shoe repair store and have them repair your favorite shoes for less than replacing them. I’m starting to do this more along the lines of keeping my favorite shoes in service a little longer because it is hard to find shoes that don’t have cartoon characters or light up for my tiny size 4 feet. When I compared the price of resoling my Birkenstocks to buying a new pair, and was pretty happy with the significant savings.
8. Regularly clean out and/or rearrange a cupboard, pantry, or closet shelf. Chances are you will find thing you forgot you had and won’t need to buy for awhile. I learned why this is important the hard way, read the details in 6 Reasons Why I Need to Organize My “Organized” Kitchen.
Anyone care for a spot of tea or twenty?
10. Use auto deposit into a savings account with limited withdrawals. I am a big crazy huge fan of Christmas clubs for this reason. Depositing a mere $10.00 a week for 52 weeks gives you 520.00 dollars of your own cold hard cash to spend when the funds are available (usually in October). A mere $20.00 a week gives you $1000.00 of you own money to spend!
11. Calculate the unit price. Sometimes bulk buys, dollar stores, and using coupons with a sale will not save you money, in fact it could cost more money.
How do you tell?
You need to find the cost per unit (per ounce, pound, grams, kilo, etc.) and compare the unit prices of the same product in large and small packages on the store shelf to find the product with the lowest price.
Read my post How to Know You are Saving the Most Money: Find and Compare the Unit Price here. I reread it for this round up because I often forget to do it.
I learned when talking to a representative from Protector and Gamble that the formulas for many household items can’t be patented because it is is like trying to patent a vanilla cake recipe. They are variations but for the most part there are always common ingredients necessary to make a vanilla cake.
Instead companies trademark and protect colors, flavors, or especially scents. If a brand repackaged a version of their product as a private label store brand, it may not have the exact same color, flavors, or scents as the name brand but the base formula is the same. In some cases, the private label asks for their own unique shapes, colors, flavors, and scents.
13. Use pump dispensers for dish washing detergent, shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap to stop you from accidentally adding a giant SLOOPSH of soap when you don’t need that much to get the job done. (or does that only happen to me?) I accidentally found out a bottle of shampoo and conditioner lasts a little longer once I started using a pump dispenser when my real goal was to contain clutter in the shower.
I bought a four chamber bathroom shower dispenser like the one shown here. The Dispenser also makes them with less chambers if you don’t need four (truthfully we don’t always use all 4 chambers at the same time.)
14. Volunteer to get free admission. Almost all of the theater ushers at our Broadway series shows are senior citizen volunteers. They are smarter than Husband and I because they are seeing the same show for the price of helping someone with their seats while we buy a ticket subscription.
15. Use an electric razor and never buy another razor or shaving cream again! Men have been doing this for years but women can too! Yep. Women’s electric razors exist! I use a Panasonic Close Curves Wet/Dry Ladies Shaver from Amazon. It is fantastic for a quick touch up after I put on a pair of yoga capris before class.
17. Use the program on your programmable thermostat. Many people have programmable thermostats but according to American Electric Power, they don’t use them. Guess what? Their power bills are sky high.
According to my last natural gas bill my house uses less energy to stay warm and cool than the most energy efficient rated homes in my area. Boom! And this is after we tweaked the program to make the house a warmer during the day and evening since both husband and I work from home now.
You don’t need a fancy (and expensive) internet enabled thermostat either. I have a Honeywell & Day Programmable Thermostat (read more about it here) and if you get one like mine it already comes preprogrammed so you can easily change the temperatures to fit your needs.
18. Use meat as a condiment instead the star of the show in some meals. I am not going to deny how good the typical Western diet meal of a big hunk of meat, big pile of starch and some vegetables tastes. But it can be spendy to feed each family member a steak (or chicken, pork chops, whatever) and possibly make enough for seconds for almost every meal.
If you don’t want to go meatless (which is absolutely an option) try making recipes with less meat than you normally would. Instead of making spaghetti with sauce or chili with a pound of hamburger, try using a half pound and adding extra kidney beans and vegetables (frozen works great for this) or an extra can/cup of beans to the recipe. Consider making stir fry by slicing the meat and using one less than you normally do while adding more vegetables and rice. This is usually what happens when we find only one chicken breast left in the freezer to feed two people right before dinnertime.
My Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup Recipe is a good example.
20. Put door sweeps, draft blockers, or draft dodgers on the inside of closet doors that are on outside walls. Installing metal draft stoppers like the one pictured below on the front and back door helped us use less energy to keep the house warm and cool but it wasn’t until I made door draft blockers like this one for the closet, utility, and pantry doors on the outside wall of our house that our bills where significantly lower.
21 Freezing pantyhose and tights keeps them from running as easily. Wet the hose, wring them out so they are damp, put them in the freezer overnight, and defrost them the next day. I do this with my dance tights.
22. Make vegetable stock/broth from clean vegetable peels. Make chicken, turkey, or beef bone broth/stock from the bones. Learn how to make my easy crockpot stock and bone broth here.
23. Borrow it. Libraries are not just for books! Some areas have tool lending libraries, (which I use and love. Read the post on my DIY blog Condo Blues here.) Some libraries lend more than books and media, like toys and shaped baking pans.
If you don’t’ have a free lending library, renting if you can’t borrow is another option that’s cheaper than buying for one time use.
25. If you run out or need something, think of a way to get by without buying it. Many of my crazy money saving experiments are born from my personality of working on a project, running out of a key component, and wanting it finish the job NOW while I’m on a roll which usually means I’m too lazy to run to store for whatever I ran out of while working on the project.
I organized and ant proofed my kitchen with mason jar organizers because that’s what I had at the time. Best. Decision. Ever.
Sometimes that isn’t possible or desirable and that’s OK. Sometimes the DIY or temporary thing doesn’t work and I spend more money buying the original thing I should have in the first place. And sometimes, I save money which carries me over until next my unpredictable freelancer paycheck comes in or lets me splurge at Sephora without guilt because I’m going to a fashion blogger’s wedding.
Some things are cheaper at our ethnic markets like dried beans, spices, and rice and some are more expensive when it comes to the more exotic and uncommon ingredients.
What are your money saving tips?
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