Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ways to be frugal when you're busy

Sometimes in life we all go through periods when we are ready to crash, when we are completely overwhelmed and can't do more. During those times, it can seem hard to buckle down and frugal up. Fortunately, there are lots of frugal things you can do that rather than taking up more of your energy and time, actually take less.

1. Wash less. Don't wash your clothes every time you wear them. If they aren't dirty, hang them back up or throw them in a basket for tomorrow. Ditto for towels. My husband and I each have a different color towel that we just hang back up and I wash a few times a week. By not washing stuff every day, you save yourself time as well as the money for detergent, energy and water. Oh, I also don't wash my hair every day, but that might be a different issue.

2. Eat easy. Planned leftovers or clean out the fridge night can save you a lot of hassle and pretty much give you a free meal once in a while. Other great easy meals that just happen to be cheap include sandwiches, salads, scrambled eggs. I also like to keep a few convenience meals around that I get for free or cheap with coupons. We don't eat that way all the time, but it is nice to have in a pinch.

3. Watch less TV. Spend your small amounts of free time resting, sleeping, or meditating rather than watching TV. You'll feel better for it, save energy, and not be exposed to so much marketing.

4. Get some tools. A programmable thermostat will put your energy savings on autopilot, requiring absolutely no frugal input for you. You can also get devices that turn off your whole power strip automatically when you shut down your computer or turn off your lights after a certain amount of time. When you're busy, it's good to know that you can keep being frugal while you're not around.

5. Pay your bills automatically. Take a few minutes to set up all your bills on autopay so that you never accidentally have to pay a late fee, and you can save time every month.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baby stuff is expensive

I'm expecting my first baby in September and we're trying to stock up on gear and supplies. We were fortunate enough to have a shower where some very generous relatives gave us a lot of the more expensive essentials (crib, pack and play,car seat, stroller, swing) and thanks to coupons and some great deal sites I have already started a fairly large stockpile of diapers and wipes. I thought I was doing well.

Until we started shopping to fill in the rest of the things that we needed. In the past couple weeks we've spent a few hundred dollars just on somewhat small things. I feel like I'm doing something wrong. Everyone writes about how babies aren't really that expensive, but I'm starting to not believe that. I don't feel like I'm impulse shopping or falling prey to a lot of marketing, but I don't have any way of knowing.

There are some things we've seen that I know I realy don't need. For example

  • Pacifier wipes/keepers
  • Wipe warmer
  • Diaper stacker
  • A lot of dresses/outfits
There are things that I'm pretty sure we do need:
  • Onesies in a few different sizes
  • Socks
  • Receiving blankets
  • Crib sheets
  • Waterproof crib mattress pads
  • Changing table covers
  • Burp cloths
  • Towels and washcloths
  • Thermometer
  • Safety gates
  • Outlet covers/cabinet latches
  • Monitor
  • Nursing attire
And things that we think we want although maybe don't need
  • Boppy/nursing pillow (and waterproof covers)
  • Diaper pail (and refills)
  • Baby bathtub
  • Extra car seat base

It adds up to a lot of money very quickly, even if we don't get a lot that we consider extra - and I know I'm still forgetting stuff. I am trying to shop for deals, but it's hard when you feel anxious to just get everything done. Does anyone have advice for things on my need or want list that I could remove, things I don't list that I need, or ways to save money on all of it?

Free Amazon Prime membership for college students

If you are a college student with a valid .edu email address, you can sign up for a free one year Amazon Prime membership at Amazon student right now. Amazon Prime entitles you to free 2 day shipping, with no minimum on purchases.

This is a great deal. I've had one month trials of Amazon Prime before and always been very happy with them. You can pretty easily change your settings to not renew automatically at the end of your membership so that it won't cost you a dime.f

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do Good with your smartphone

I recently discovered a smartphone ap called Cause World which allows you to donate to charity for free using your smartphone. Simply download this free ap to your Iphone or Droid and companies will donate to charity every time you do simple actions like walking into a store. If you already have one of these phones, it sounds like a great way to give a little extra.

For more ways to give for free check out Click to Donate on squidoo.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't forget to play

I think, if I could give one piece of advice to people looking for a way to get their lives, money and homes in order it would be this: don't forget to play.

It seems counter-intuitive. I mean, when you feel overwhelmed and there's only so much time in the day to get things done, the instinct is to spend all of it working. If I'm not doing something productive it's a waste.

But the truth is, I don't think the human brain or the universe works that way. When all you do is run around working, sometimes it starts to feel like you're running on a hamster wheel. For example, the more you work, the more tired you are, the more money you spend on conveniences and comforts, the more you have to work. And then there's laundry, which does have the annoying habit of popping back up again once you've gotten it done.

After a while, you feel tempted to just give up. You'll always be in debt, you'll always have laundry piles, you'll always be miserable.

But, when you play, when you budget in time for something you enjoy and totally immerse yourself in it, you feel better. You feel better in a way that you will never feel by earning more money or folding more laundry. Whether it's reading a book, going to the zoo, playing a video game, or throwing a ball around, somehow it is productive in a truer sense than vacuuming is. The reason is, once you've done that, you don't feel so defeated anymore. You don't mind doing some laundry or cooking a nice meal. When I meet a friend for coffee, I don't feel any more tired the next day than if I didn't. In fact, going to work is actually easier.

So, do it, take some time and play. By yourself, with your family, with your friends, it doesn't matter. Just go, be totally unproductive and enjoy yourself. It's amazing how much it will accomplish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trying to keep my frugal cool

So even though I moved to a much cooler part of the country this year, I still can't seem to get away from the heat waves. Temperatures here are tipping 90 this week, and I am definitely feeling the heat. Because I'm worried about the effects on my body of overheating at this particular moment, I'm not sure I can keep the air off as long as I have been, but here are some strategies I'm trying to use to hold out a little longer:

1. Keep an eye on the outside temperature. When it drops into the low 70's, open up the windows and air out the apartment. The movement of the air makes a big difference in how cold it feels. However, when the outside temperature is above 80, it's much better to keep the apartment sealed and try to keep the heat out.

2. Turn everything off. Okay, so my laptop is on, but the TV and lights are off, chargers are unplugged, and I'm avoiding running laundry or washing dishes during the hot part of the day.

3. Drink lots of cold water. I have a pitcher in my fridge, but I'm trying not to open it too often, so I am keeping two tall stainless steel water bottles alternately in the fridge. The water stays cooler longer in the bottle than it would in a glass so I can enjoy cool water longer without wasting energy. When it gets even hotter, I may keep a glass of ice too and just pour the water from the bottle over the ice every few minutes.

4. Take cold showers. Normally I shower at night, but if I'm home it's better to take a cool shower at the hottest part of the day and then leave my hair wet to keep me cool a little longer.

5. Air dry clothes. The dryer puts off a ton of heat, and when it's this hot, the clothes dry pretty fast. I don't have a clothesline, so I just drape things over chairs and set the chairs on my deck.

6. Wear seasonally appropriate clothing. I wore a tanktop and my husband's shorts (I don't have any I can fit into anymore) and only got dressed more than that when I had to run errands.

7. Relax. This is not the weather to do any labor intensive chores or to try to do a lot of exercise. I mostly am just sitting around, reading, writing, getting my little hand chores done (like fixing a seam on some pants and filing my papers). When it cools off this evening, I may try to get a more intense house cleaning session in.

8. Eat light and cool food. I absolutely will not turn my oven on once it starts getting hot in the summer. Mostly I rely on my crockpot and toaster oven, neither of which put off as much heat, and sometimes my stovetop, but on days like today I prefer to just eat salads and sandwiches anyway. Cold food won't raise your body temperature, and lighter fare is easier to digest.

Friday, July 2, 2010

When frugality stops being flashy

Five years ago, I had just gotten engaged, quit my job, and moved halfway across the country to be near my honey. It was the first time I had really had any major life change so dramatic (but not seemingly, the last time), and I was riding quite the natural high. At the same time, I suddenly had a ton of time and not a ton of money. Although I had some money coming in, I was majorly committed to finding ways to make my savings stretch and last.

So I started doing research. I went online and read every frugal blog I could find. I read Dollar Stretcher every week. I checked out The Tightwad Gazette from the library and read it cover to cover. I baked my own bread and made my own ketchup and salad dressing. I unplugged my chargers and turned off my water heater during the day. I was on a mission and it was all so very exciting.

But here I am now, all these years later, trying to remember where I found that love. Frugal people are still awesome and I love reading inspirational writing on frugality, but when I read tips I feel like "Yeah, yeah, been there, done that." I have had to discard things that don't work for us (hubby doesn't like sandwiches on homemade bread), and have become very routine about the things that do work for us. In a lot of ways, I have already achieved the simple quiet life that was my goal: I can afford to stay home for a while, and we really only spend money on things that matter to us.

But I want that thrill back.

It's not that I'm going to fall off the wagon and stop being frugal just because it's boring. I know what my efforts have accomplished, and in all honesty most frugal things I do are just easier than their counterparts. It's just that when I was filled with glee over each new frugal discovery it was easier to keep making more discoveries, to keep learning and connecting. I wanted to tell the world about what I was doing, to teach and to help other people; now it just seems so obvious to me that I don't bother.

But when I think about some of my younger friends who are just getting married, I realize that they don't know what I know, that for them these things are still hard and different - and perhaps a little bit exciting. So perhaps the best way to regain the frugal love is to teach it, to see other people's joy as their lives get simpler and better. Because I think that would be quite the thrill for me.

For more frugal inspiration, check out Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.