Saving Money Through Frugal Living:
Coupons, Sales, and Other Money Savers
By Joan Whetzel
The world offers many ways to save money by living frugally. That means looking for ways to spend less on the things you buy and use every day. The more these frugal habits become a part of your life, the easier it becomes to save money without really thinking about it, and the more money you will save over time. The money you save could be put to better use, like paying off the car, house, student loans early or paying down credit card debt. If being frugal gets you out of debt and keeps you out of debt, it's well worth the little bit of extra work here and there.
Coupons are worth the time to cut them out of the Sunday paper. It's also worth the time to hunt down extra coupons online. There are many places that offer coupons for groceries as well as other products and services. Red Plum and AARP are two such internet sites. While there are still stores that allow "Extreme Couponing", the reality show by the same name is causing many stores across the nation to rethink their coupon policies. Personally, I have never found a store near me that allowed extreme couponing. I have, however, made use of double and triple coupon offers. So keep those in mind also.
Also look for in-store coupons for additional savings. These coupons are only available to customers who go inside the store. They frequently are tied to store brand items which are already lower in price than national brands, so the savings you get are over and above the savings you'd get for buying store brands vs. national brands. If you aren't afraid of trying a store brand, this is a great money saver. Besides, you might just find that the store brand is just as good as or even better the national brand.
Look for those coupon books that scout troops and other organizations sell every fall. They have coupons for all kinds of restaurants, stores, and services. Yeah, you pay about $20 to $25 up front, but you quickly get that back and more, the more coupons you use.
Everyone know sales are for marked down prices on goods offered in stores. I see one problem with this: how much was the merchandise marked up before the store put it on sale? If this doesn't bother you so much, then go for the sale. It's still better than the marked up price. Look for items at the end of the season. Buy grills, lawn mowers and patio furniture in August. Buy Halloween, Christmas and Easter decorations after the holidays when the stores are trying to get rid of excess inventory.
Look for discount and outlet stores that sell the name brand merchandise from mainstream stores at deeply discounted prices. These are the items that didn't sell well at the regular price, were way overpriced, or items that the stores over bought. They are in good condition and frequently still trendy. You'll save money on some really nice items.
Cook at Home & Make Your Own Coffee
Two ways to save money over going out are to cook at home and to make your own coffee. If you're a fan of those gourmet coffee shops that sell you a cup of Joe for $5 to $10 each, then it's time to start buying a less expensive can of coffee and all the fixings from the grocery store. You can make that same cup of coffee for $1 or less a cup.
As for cooking at home, the savings over restaurant food can be enormous. If you like seafood, many grocery stores have seafood departments now that have an excellent selection of all your favorite fish and shellfish. You can buy enough salmon and produce for sides to feed four people for the cost of one salmon dinner at any moderately priced seafood restaurant. And if you're creative, and enjoying playing with ingredients, you can guess the recipes used by your favorite restaurants - or at least come really close. Better yet, create some tastes that you and your family love. They may even decide they like the homemade food better than restaurant food.
Another good way to save money on food is to use leftovers. Some leftovers can be used simply. Make a meatloaf sandwich, or a grilled pork loin sandwich with a little barbecue sauce. Others can be used to create a whole new meal. Extra grilled chicken, for instance can be used to make a chicken and broccoli casserole using cream soup and cheese. It can also be used to make chicken enchiladas, chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, or chicken and gravy over noodles.
Brown Bagging It
Save money at work by brown bagging it instead of going out to lunch all time. Taking sandwiches, chips and fruit and even your own sodas and water will always be cheaper than going to the local sandwich shop. Why not take some of those leftovers and microwave them/ You'll get a nice hot meal, use up some leftovers and - if it smells good - make your coworkers drool with envy. For additional savings, reuse the brown bag or get one of those insulated lunch bags.
Buy Bulk Items
Buy bulk items. Yes, it costs a lot to buy the huge bundles of toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent. But ounce for ounce, it costs much less than the small containers. Besides you'll also be left with less packaging to try and dispose of, which means you'll be filling up less landfill space.
Avoid Late Fees and Credit Card Interest
This one is a no brainer. Pay your bills on time and pay off your credit card bills. You'll avoid those late fees and interest payments every month.
Adjust the Thermostat, Turning Off Lights
Save electricity. Turn off lights when you leave the room. Also adjust the thermostat by keeping the house warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. To keep your family from complaining, only adjust it up or down by increments of 2 degrees. Once you get to about 4 to 6 degrees cooler or warmer than you have been setting it, then stop and see what happens. If you don't have pets, then get a thermostat timer that adjusts the temperature by several degrees (10 degrees or more) when you're not at home, then readjusts it to a more comfortable level about a half hour before you're due to return home. You'll save even more money.
Reuse Water Bottles
When you purchase individual water bottles at the convenience store, don't throw them out. Save them, rinse the lids and mouths of the bottles. Then refill them with tap water and either freeze or refrigerate them for future use. Better yet, get some reusable drink bottles at the store. Keep them clean. Rinse them out from time to time, and give them time to air dry between uses.
Savings with your Car
First, shop around online for the lowest gas prices and make use of grocery stores that offer gas savings whenever you buy groceries at one of their stores. Next, once you pay your car off, keep it for as long as possible. Just think of all the things you could do if you didn't have a car payment. Finally, keep up with car maintenance. Regular maintenance is cheaper than having to pay costly major repair bills.
If you love new movies, rather than going out to the theater, rent new releases more cheaply from Redbox or by joining an online DVD membership club. If you have a lot of your own DVDs - and so do your family and friends - set up a DVD exchange where you can check out movies from each others' libraries.
For all those bibliophiles out there, you know how expensive books can get. Instead of paying full price try finding those books you've been looking for at one of the discount book stores - like Half Price Book Stores. When you're done with your books, sell them or give them to these same discount book stores for others to enjoy. For free books, why not go to the library. Their selection is huge. BTW, this is another place to share your used books. They can either put the books on their shelves or add them to the collection that the "Friends of the Library” can sell to raise funds for the library. Another way to save money on books is to share books from your personal library in exchange for checking out books from the personal libraries of your friends and family.
This is only a drop in the bucket. But these few tips can make a huge dent in your cash out-flow every month. Plus, you may find that you can save money and still enjoy your meals and free time just as much or more than when you were spending all that money to have others feed you and entertain you.