2. Pack lunches for school and work. Family Fun magazine always has lots of great suggestions for kids' lunchboxes (which could work for adults, too) -- here are a few of their ideas. I also loved the ideas for Bento boxes that I saw in an old issue of Parents magazine - here's the link to that, too. Leftovers are also awesome for lunches - my husband takes leftovers for lunch and the guys in his office will often ask what he's eating. I always feel proud when he tells me about the oohs and ahhs over his lunches.
3. Wash your car at home, if the weather permits. My son thinks washing the car with the garden hose and a soapy rag is as fun as driving through the automated car wash. Plus, if you do it on your lawn, you water your grass at the same time.
4. Before you buy some Draino or call a plumber, try a plunger on any clogged drain. If you missed the post, I go into more detail here.
5. Cook from scratch. I know, I know - for some, that's easier said than done. It takes extra time and work in many cases, but the results are totally worth it. Not only is from-scratch food heathier and delicious, but you can also save a lot of money! Check out cookbooks and learn, one recipe at a time. Any amount of from-scratch cooking in your repertoire will make a difference in your budget.
7. Make your own cooking stock. Way cheaper than buying it in cans and boxes. How-to here.
8. Become a jam snob - make your own jam. Freezer jam is easy and works for anyone. You can also can it like I do in the fall. Totally worth the effort, trust me.
9. Learn to say 'NO'. Don't be afraid to say it to store clerks (trust me, having been one, they don't take it personally. And when I was one, we were trained how to pitch the store credit cards. Not good.). Say no to what the culture and trends say you must have. Say no to your kids sometimes; it's not good to give them everything they want anyway. And, most importantly, learn to tell yourself no sometimes.. It's a powerful thing to have control over your wants.
10. Try a clothesline during the warmer months of the year. It cuts down your energy bill and it makes your clothes smell heavenly.
11. Set your thermostat just two degrees lower in the winter and two degrees higher in the summer than you usually do. You won't really notice a difference and you'll save money as you do.
12. Stop drafts in your home by the windows and doors to save money on heating. This can be done through caulking, weatherstripping, or making/using draft stoppers (check here and here for some ideas how make one yourself; one requires sewing, the other doesn't).
13. Make bread. I confess that I don't make our family's bread all the time; occasionally, I just don't have the time or energy. But that said, even if you make a loaf or two every other week, you can still save yourself some money. Plus, is there anything nicer than having a house that smells like homemade bread?
14. Use a ceiling fan to cut down your energy bill. Not only is it great to use in the summer to cool off (we have them in our bedrooms - keeps things nice and comfortable), but you can also use in the winter time to keep the heat from rising to the ceiling. Check this link to read more and for instructions on what direction your fan should move, according to the season.
15. Clean your tub with baking soda. Skip the cleansers and forget the bubbles that scrub for you. This old stand-by works like a champ! Sure, it requires a little extra elbow grease, but it works great and costs hardly anything.
16. Try cleaning your face naturally with the oil-cleansing method (OCM). You use olive oil and castor oil to clean your face. It sounds weird, I know, but it's awesome. Check out this post on Simple Mom for all the science and details of the method.
17. So maybe it's not super-easy, but growing a garden is a great way to save money. You can do a lot or little; a huge plot out in the backyard or a container on the patio. Whatever works for your circumstances, tastes, and budgets. Plus, growing your own food is so rewarding - I always feel this surge of pride knowing I grew something myself.
18. Use cloth diapers. They've changed a lot over the years; they even look different from when my mom used them on us kids back in the 80s. Cloth diapers have become a lot more user-friendly. Though there's the initial investment, using cloth diapers, even just part of the time, can save you hundreds of dollars. I haven't tried this one yet, but plan on giving them a test run when I have another baby. I have a post on this very topic from a guest blogger coming up soon!
19. While we're on the topic of babies, why not mention homemade baby food? I have to admit, I didn't make my son's baby food. I bought into the idea that I had to buy the cute little jars of mashed food. To think of all the money I could have saved by just using my food processor! Anyway, there are tons of sites and recipes for homemade baby food. A few good places on the Internet I've come across are Smitten Kitchen Baby (I love just regular Smitten Kitchen and I was excited to see this new feature. She even makes baby food look good!) and this post on Simple Mom.
20. Homemade popsicles are a cinch to make. If you use what you've already got on hand (the last of the chocolate milk, anyone?), it costs almost nothing to make them, too. You can find my thoughts on popsicle molds and ingredients here.
21. Be sure to stay on top of regular check-ups and exams. I thought of this one while in the waiting room at the dentist. Regular check-ups are not always so painless, I'm sorry to admit, but necessary. Like Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
22. Eat seasonally. Certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak at different times of year, which makes them not only taste their best but also cost less. For example, citrus fruits like oranges are in season in the wintertime, which is why you see such great prices for them in December and January and not-so-great prices for them in July. If you adjust your produce shopping according the season, you can save a lot of money. I found this website in my search for a good, comprehensive list of what's in season and when.
23. Netflix! I love it! We've never had cable, but if we did, I would totally drop it because of Netflix. Plus, it's cheaper than renting at a video store (are those still around, anyway?). For a small monthly fee (anywhere from $8-12, depending on how many movies you want a month or if you want blu-ray), you can watch just about anything you want. Gotta love cheap entertainment.
24. Wash and reuse plastic and glass containers, even if it's just once. You can find my thoughts on reusing here and some ideas here.
25. Drink water. Growing up, my mom bought juices and sodas rarely. If we were thirsty, Mom always told us to just drink some water. Kids drink too much sugary stuff anyway and drinking more water instead of lots of juice is not only healthier, but cheaper. When I do give juice to my son (or to myself, for that matter), I always water it down. The same advice applies for adults. If you can wean yourself a little off your favorite soda and drink more water instead, you'll reap not only economic rewards, but health ones as well. This is also a great tip for eating out -- just order the ice water with your meal.
26. I love my homemade bath salts. Cheap and easy to make, yet so nice. Not only are they stress-buster for yourself, but they also make a great, inexpensive gift.
27. Grow an herb garden, inside and/or outdoors. Just one plant usually costs as much as a bottle or bag of them at the store. Plus, when you grow them yourself, they keep giving and giving.
28. Avoid the inner aisles of the grocery store. Granted, there are some things you have to buy in those sections (like in the baking aisle), but there's a lot of processed junk you can skip. This goes back to making things from scratch. Start small and slowly eliminate the super-processed food on your shopping list. One good guide I learned from Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, is to try to only buy foods with no more than five ingredients listed. In other words, skip the bread that has 20+ ingredients in it. Not only is it a healthier choice to skip processed foods, but it saves money. Some of my homemade vs. pre-made recipes can be found here.
29. Try eBay. One man's trash is another man's treasure. I've made well over $100 just selling things around my house that I didn't want anymore. It only costs a few cents to post things on there and it's really quite simple. On the buyer's side, eBay is great for finding deals on certain things. This past Christmas, I got some Thomas the Tank Engine trains (which, to those who are familiar with Thomas, can be ridiculously priced at the store) for a steal! Careful, though, eBay can get kind of addicting!
30. It shouldn't come as much of surprise that I'm mentioning canning. Home preservation, whether you can, freeze, or dry your food is a great way to save money. Plus, it's so much tastier than the storebought stuff.
31. Clean your toilet with vinegar. It's a natural disinfectant. Just pour in a 1/2 cup of vinegar, let it sit for 20 minutes or so, scrub with the toilet brush, and flush. Inexpensive and eco-friendly.
32. Switch from paper to cloth. I haven't bought paper towels in months. We use rags for our cleaning and cloth napkins for meals. I don't even buy Kleenex - I made handkerchiefs out of some old blankets. Granted, there is a place for paper products - I don't think we'll ever be up for what is called the 'family cloth'. Different strokes for different folks, of course - if it works for them, great. I just won't be following suit. For a great overview about having a paper-free home, check out this post from Simple Organic.
33. Try a menstrual cup. I wrote about it here, despite my trepidations about coming across as a weirdo. I'm sure there are people who read this and think I'm as nuts as the people who use the 'family cloth', but I'm tellin' ya, it's not any weirder than the other methods. It's just a paradigm shift. Really.
34. Give homemade pizza a go. Try my recipe. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised that you can actually make your own pizza. And it takes less than an hour to make from start to finish, including the baking time. My brother-in-law had it once and asked if he could pay me to make it for him instead of ordering out. I can take no credit for the recipe though -- I got the dough recipe from a neighbor and the sauce from a cookbook.
35. Buy chickens whole. They typically cost less per pound this way than in pre-cut pieces, especially the breasts. You can cook them whole (I love roasting whole chickens and freezing the shredded meat for future recipes), or you can separate the pieces for various recipes that just call for chicken breast/thighs/wings. Cutting up an entire chicken into separate pieces can seem somewhat intimidating, but it's not. Check out my step-by-step method for cutting a whole chicken here. Also, don't forget to save the bones, giblets, and neck for your homemade stock!
36. Coupons can save you money, but only if you use them on things you normally buy. I'm not much of a coupon user because it doesn't really work with my lifestyle, but I still use them for certain things. You can find my thoughts on couponing here.
37. The envelope system is a great way to curb spending and stay on a budget. I actually just posted about it a couple weeks ago. I love using cash.
38. Love those leftovers.
39. PaperBackSwap.com is an awesome way to save money on books. It's a free online book exchange where you post books you have that you don't want anymore. Someone else requests them and you send them at your own expense (if you send them media mail, it doesn't cost more than a couple bucks). For each book you send, you get one credit. With those credits, you can order any book in the system that someone else has posted and then they send it to you at their expense. I absolutely love it. Not only do I get rid of the books I'm done reading and ones that have been collecting dust, but I get all sorts of gently used ones (the books swapped have to meet a certain quality standard). Lately, I've been ordering a bunch of children's books. My little boy loves getting 'new' books in the mail!
40. However, as great as PaperBackSwap is, there's an even cheaper alternative: use a library card. Anyone can get one and they don't cost a thing. Now that's cheap entertainment!
41. Reuse spent flower blooms. You can harvest the seeds from lots of your favorite annual flowers once they've finished blooming and save them for the following spring. Nothing like getting free flowers for your yard! For more information on how and what flowers to use, check here.
42. Save money on directory assistance by calling 1-800-FREE-411. I just learned that one.
43. Buy clothes for next year at end-of-season sales. Sure, you probably don't want to wear a new winter jacket in March or April (although, in my state's climate, you never know), but you can score a great deal on one if you buy it then. Stores are anxious to get to rid of their stock at the end of the season in preparation for the new stuff coming in. This is especially a good idea when buying for kids - just get it in a size bigger.
44. Make your own mixes. One of my favorites: homemade pancake mixes (recipe for regular ones here; whole-wheat ones here). Once you make the mix, you have the convenience of all storebought ones. Just add some water, maybe an egg in some cases, some milk and butter in others, and you've got from-scratch pancakes. Yum! There are all sorts of homemade mixes for a variety of things to be found on the Internet. Just do a Google search. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
45. Plant berries if you have the space. I absolutely love having our berry bushes. In late June-early July, we get bowlful after bowlful of raspberries from our yard. And even when berries are in season at the store, they're pricey. Berry plants range in price, but you definitely get your money's worth.They don't take a lot of work and the fresh berries are worth any effort on your part. Plus, they spread like crazy. What started in my yard as two raspberry plants has spread into many, many canes stretching along my fence.
46. Bite the bullet and make a monthly budget. We do ours on a month-by-month basis and write it up the week before the new month starts. Basically, we follow Dave Ramsey's advice to budget every single dollar of every paycheck on paper. It sounds like a pain, but we have found so much peace and freedom in having a budget. Last year, we had some major car repairs and instead of panicking about how to pay for them, we only had to look at our budget for the rest of the month and the next and see where we could find the money. That's part of the reason why I'm in Disneyland this week - having a budget opens doors and helps you set goals. For advice and information on budgeting from Dave Ramsey himself, go here.
47. Swap services and goods with family, friends, and neighbors. Baby-sitting. Dinners. Garden produce. Sewing lessons. Anything! Everyone has something that they're good at and most people like to share that knowledge. I'd be willing to help anyone with their garden or teach them how to can if they would help me with my wedding album. It's been 7 1/2 years since my wedding and I still need help figuring out how to make it look good. I just can't bring myself to actually do it. Anyone up for a swap?
48. Mix your own cleaners. I used to buy natural, all-purpose cleaner and I thought I was getting a good deal because it was concentrated. It was a good deal, in some respects, but then I learned I can make my own for much cheaper using common household products. I make my everyday, all-purpose cleaner by putting a few teaspoons of dish soap and a few tablespoons of vinegar in a spray bottle and then fill it up with warm water. Works great. You can find the recipe I use, along with others at this link.
49. Try the 'Pantry Principle'. Just read this post on the blog, Saving Naturally. She sums it up really well.
50. Give homemade gifts. Get creative. Even if you're not crafty, there's lots you can still do. The previously mentioned bath salts. This super-easy warmer pack. Or just baking something (I can attest to this as being an awesome gift -- my friend, who happens to be from France, made me a traditional cake called galette du roi for my birthday this year. It was so cool!). One of the best things about giving homemade gifts (besides being inexpensive) is that you give the best gift of all: your time. Talk about priceless!
51. After-holiday sales are sweet! Every year on November 1st (except last year since it was a Sunday. Too bad.), I get up semi-early and head to Target. All of their Halloween merchandise is 50% off. Granted, it's a bit of a madhouse, but I still get some good deals. I usually stock up on cool napkins and favors for next year's annual Halloween party. And, of course, being the huge lover of Halloween decor that I am, I buy a few decorations for cheap. It's always fun to pack it away that day, forget what I bought, and be surprised the next year when I unpack all our Halloween stuff.
53. Plant trees strategically. If you plant them right, you can shade your house and cut down on your cooling bill significantly.
54. Keep your freezer and pantry organized. It's a sure-fire way to avoid buying duplicates. Trust me on this one. Taking an inventory of your freezer's contents is worth the time. when you know exactly what you have, making dinner is a lot easier.
55. "Staycations" can be a lot of fun. Approach your hometown or a nearby city as if you were a tourist. Our family did that earlier this year when we got our carpets cleaned (they take forever to dry!). We went downtown, stayed in a hotel, and had blast exploring the city. You still get a break from the ordinary but without a ton of added expense.
56. Go meat-free at least once or twice a week. It's not hard at all and you can save a good amount of money by going vegetarian a couple times during the week. There's lots of meat-free options out there; here are some of the things my husband and I ate when we were vegetarians (and there's not even any tofu mentioned!).
57. Lose the luxury toilet paper. Do you really need quilted, triple-ply TP?
58. Give yourself an 'allowance'. Dave Ramsey calls it 'blow money.' Basically, it's an amount of money, in cash, that you (and your spouse, if applicable) give yourself to spend on whatever you want. Having that money set aside is big deal because it helps you stay on top of your financial goals without feeling deprived. Very, very important.
59. Instead of using expensive razor cartridges and shaving gel, why not have the man in your life try traditional wet shaving? My husband tried it several months ago and hasn't looked back since. He used to hate shaving, but now he looks forward to it as something relaxing. There is some start-up expense, but it definitely saves money in the long run. To read about my husband's experience and how to get started, read here then here.
60. Mend and patch your clothes. Mending used to be part of doing the laundry. Now, as a wise, 90-year-old woman at my church said, " "People these days don't wear out clothes. They wash them out!" There's lots of ways to spruce up clothes, extend their lives, and make them look good.
61. A few years ago, I attended a presentation about keeping things sane and organized during the holiday season. Not an easy thing to do. But one thing that stood out to me was the concept of cutting back just 10% when it comes to Christmas. She didn't only mean on gifts, but also on decorations, baking, and attending events. Just 10%, she said, would make the difference. Not only does this idea help me stress less during the holiday season, but it's a great way to cut back on all the spending.
63. Soup is one of the easiest and most inexpensive dinners there is. You can make it as simple or extravagant as you want. And it's so filling and comforting. I always get excited when fall rolls around again because a whole new part of my cooking repertoire opens up again.
64. Use drapes and blinds to heat and cool your house. Closing your drapes and blinds at night can help keep the cold weather out. Keeping them open during the day lets you heat your house for free. You can keep your home cooler in the summer just by keeping the drapes and blinds shut at peak hours.
65. Keep it simple when it comes to entertaining kids. Like many children, when my son turned one he got a ton of presents, but he was most interested in the ribbons and wrapping paper. It's amazing what fun a kid can have with a giant box, some bubbles, some colorful wooden blocks, or some sidewalk chalk. It's also good for their imaginations when the toys do less.
66. Pamper yourself at home. There's lots of ways to do facials, pedicures, and other relaxing, spa-like treatments in the comfort of your own bathroom. Don't get me wrong -- I've been to a day spa and it's pure heaven. Nothing you do at home quite recreates that feeling. But, if you don't have the money to fork over at a day spa, this is a good runner-up. There are tons of ideas on the Internet; here are a few of mine.
67. Always shop around before you make a big purchase (as in, appliances, furniture, electronics, etc). Save up for it and use cash. Not only will you get the best deal, but you'll avoid interest payments as well. It seems like common sense, but in this society, that sense isn't always so common.
68. Compost. Use your yard clippings, extra grass, dead leaves, and kitchen scraps to make mulch. Seriously, it's like black gold. There's tons of information on this topic. Martha Stewart has a great article in her October 2010 issue; you can also read this link from her here. Call me crazy, but I think my compost pile is totally fascinating.
69. Although there are lots of awesome medicines and methods in mainstream medicine, there are also lots of great time-tested natural remedies. Granted, you have to do some research before trying them out because some are outdated and unsafe. But there are some that really do the trick. To see some that I use, click here.
70. A price book is a great way to cut down on your grocery budget. Simply write down in a notebook the things you regularly buy, visit a couple stores in your neighborhood, and write down the prices. Not only will you learn which store has the best deals for certain items, but you can also use your price book with the weekly store ads. You can check the various sales at different grocery stores and compare them to the prices in your book. After a while, I pretty much memorized how much I usually spend on certain things and I can tell if something is on sale without looking at my old price book.
71. Speaking of prices at grocery stores, one way to find out if you're getting the best deal is to check the unit price. Most stores list it next to the price. It shows how much an item costs per ounce or unit. So, if you're looking at different sizes of milk, for instance, you might find that the gallon is cheaper per ounce than the half-gallon carton is, even though the overall price is lower. For a better explanation, check here.
72. Though this isn't saving money, per se, figuring out how much to withhold for taxes is a good way to make the most of what you earn. If you get a really large tax return, you may be having too much withheld. Sure, it's fun to get a big check from Uncle Sam in the spring, but really, when you have too much withheld, you're just giving him an interest-free loan. Not cool.
73. Skip bottled water. Use a filtered water pitcher or mounted faucet filter. They improve the taste of tap water dramatically. Buy a reusable water bottle and you're set!
74. When on vacation, try to make dinner the only meal you eat out for. Many hotels offer continental breakfasts. Pack foods that you can prepare for lunch. Bring your own snacks. I even know a family who doesn't eat out for dinner - they cook dinner in a crock-pot in their hotel room! It's a great way to save money, but if you want to eat out (I know I like to when I'm on vacation), only eating out for dinner is a good way to save on your food budget.
75. During the summer months, use your slow cooker or outdoor grill. This can save energy because you're not using a hot oven or stove and heating up the house.
76. Buy hair clippers. They're not expensive and if you know how to use them, they can save you money. My husband cuts his own hair and our son's. Ask someone you know for lessons or pay attention when you go to the barber/salon. That's how my husband said he learned.
77. Close vents in unused rooms. Doesn't make much sense to heat or cool rooms people don't use frequently, right?
78. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. As much as I love the nostalgic look of the incandescent bulbs and as annoying as I think enforcing laws that you have to buy CFLs are, you can't deny that they do save energy and last longer than the old-school bulbs.
79. Change air filters in your furnace regularly. This allows for better air flow and efficiency.
80. If available, use public transportation or carpool. My husband carpools to work with three other guys he works with and it saves us a lot of money in gas.
81. Try to buy your clothes at outlets, close-out stores (like T.J. Maxx and Ross Dress-for-Less), and even thrift stores. If you take the time to search, you can find some great deals. Personally, the last two options haven't worked well for me because I haven't developed the patience to sift through everything, but I know a lot of people who find really great stuff at really great prices.
82. Skip the name brands and try the store-brand products. Sure, there are still a few things I buy name brand, but there's a lot more that I buy generic.
83. Churn your own butter. Just kidding. I was just checking to see if you're still reading this.
84. Go to a matinee showing at the theater.
85. Learn to sew. It's not as scary as you'd think. And that doesn't mean you have to become a pro and make your daughter's wedding dress someday (though, I know people who have). Just a basic knowledge of sewing is beneficial and opens you up to a lot of fun and frugal projects.
86. Make your own playdough, silly putty, and sidewalk paint. It costs next to nothing.
87. Homemade nut butters are cheaper than the storebought kind and easy to make. I haven't tried that yet, but I'm definitely thinking of making my own almond butter. That stuff is expensive at the store!
88. Don't waste money on pre-washed bags of salad. It's much cheaper to buy your greens as is, wash them, and spin-dry in a salad spinner. Store the greens wrapped in a clean cloth and store in the salad spinner for up to five days. Then, when you're in the mood for salad, it's ready to go!
89. Stock up on and freeze items like milk, butter, and meat when they go on sale. This not only saves you money, but also a trip to the grocery store. This is when a second freezer definitely comes in handy.
90. Use the bulk section of the grocery store. You can stock up on grains, dried beans, spices, flours, and nuts for cheap. It's amazing how much packaging adds onto the price of food.
91. Befriend beans. They're not only a great, meat-less source of protein, but they're also really cheap. They can make a simple meal very filling!
92. Change your own oil. My dad taught my husband how to do it years ago and that alone has saved us a bunch of money. Buying the oil and oil filter and doing it yourself costs at least half of what it does at a shop. If you don't know how to, I'm willing to bet you have someone in your family or neighborhood who does. Remember that whole swapping services thing?
93. While I'm mentioning cars, I should also say that regular car maintenance and tune-up can be a huge money saver. Just keeping your tires inflated properly can improve your gas mileage and save you money.
94. Use household products to remove stains. There's no need to buy a stain remover spray. Most stains can be removed with either vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or just a mixture of dishwashing soap and water. I've laminated this chart and I keep in my laundry room so I know how to tackle any stain that comes my way.
95. Break a bad habit. Be it smoking, eating out too often, or drinking too much soda, breaking a habit can save you a lot of money. Now if only I could save money by not biting my fingernails...
96. Avoid unnecessary fees. Try not to use ATMs that charge you; stick to the ones associated with your bank or credit union. Make a budget and stick to it so you can avoid late fees on your bills. Stay on top of your expenditures so you don't incur overdraft fees. Also, don't go to a bank that charges you for a bunch of little things: ATM withdrawals, charges for too many checks written, or fees for funds transfers. Stick to banks that offer truly free checking and savings accounts.
97. If you have adequate savings, raise the deductible on your home and auto insurance. For example, I read on one site that if you raise your out-of-pocket amount from $250 to $1000, you can save 15% or more off your premium. Be sure to have enough in your savings should you have to pay the higher out-of-pocket amount. You don't want to go into debt to save money. That doesn't make any sense.
98. Raise chickens and/or bees. I'm just kidding on this one - kind of. I would love to have my own chickens and have fresh eggs. My parents are seriously considering having a beehive and I keep encouraging it just for the honey. But, really, these aren't painless ways. I'm just running out of ideas.
99. Have clear goals. It makes all your efforts worthwhile and it helps you stay disciplined and motivated. Really, goals are the foundation of all this frugality stuff.
100. Give. No matter how tight your budget is, there's always someone who is faring worse than you are. Plus, it's amazing how it always seems to come back to you.