Last updated 2/7/10.
We went to one income in 2001, so I had to become very frugal. I've been off the retail grid for about five years now. We buy almost all our clothes at thrifts or yard sales for between .50 cents and $4.99 a piece. One thrift store prices their clothing at .50 cents, and another prices items from .99 cents to around $4.99. I draw the line at purchasing underwear at the thrifts, unless of course it's new in a package. I also don't buy shoes for myself at the thrift, but I have purchased like new shoes off ebay. For some reason the ebay shoes seem cleaner. I'm sure I could get toe fungus from both, so just to be safe, I spray the shoes with a disinfectant.
We work at cutting costs with food and household cleaning items as well. We shop discount stores where I buy mostly off brand/store brand items(least expensive), and I get multiple coupons from ebay for anything that is brand name. I do buy some brand name items because I'm trying to avoid trans fat, artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, and other unhealthy ingredients in our food. Sometimes that requires spending a little more for convenience foods.
We cook mostly from scratch which is healthier and less expensive. I rely on the cookbook, More With less, by Doris Longacre(on my sidebar)and allrecipes ingredient search for use-it-up recipes. Our breakfasts are usually scrambled eggs, toast(homemade bread) or honey-cinnamon oatmeal from scratch. We tend to eat dinner leftovers for lunch, or just bread, cheese, and fruit. Most nights we eat simple casserole dinners.
The adults don't snack, but we buy crackers for my daughter. I'll make the children bar cookies or some sweet bread a few times a month.
We are trying to cut out the diet sodas, and just drink water. I've got a Brita filtered jug, so we don't need to buy bottled water. I drink a little orange juice in the morning. Ds likes to drink apple juice at lunch. We do go through a lot of milk with the children. Most of the powdered milk which is readily available for sale in our area is not whole milk, so we couldn't give it to the children anyway. I do use the powdered milk for cooking.
We use the super inexpensive Sun brand detergent sold in the giant plastic pails, and manage to have very clean clothes. I use a laundry booster for stains every once in a while - Sun brand oxyclean.
Dollar stores are my favorite place for household cleaning supplies, toothbrushes, and shampoo. Family Dollar and Dollar General often have good deals as well.
I like to use the thrifts for furniture, appliances when possible, and decorative items. French Country and Shabby decorating styles lend themselves well to thrifted older worn items, especially if they can be repainted or touched up.
What we can't buy we make. We copied the style of a rough wood shelf system which we purchased at Lowe's, and made an entertainment center for the children's playroom(our den). It's not beautiful, but very sturdy, and I designed rolling toy bins underneath the shelves.
We buy most of our toys, books and baby items at the thrift, yard sales, and via freecycle.com or craigslist.com.
We made do with less when it comes to electronics. We have one cell phone(pre-paid, no service contract) which we use minimally. I have a cheapy dial-up service which works fine for me. I use Juno.com and pay $8.95 a month. We have basic phone service - no call waiting or other extras. We have an economical Brother HL 5150 Laser Printer, a scanner and an inexpensive computer. We have older medium sized televisions, some very old VHS tape players for the children's tapes, and inexpensive DVD players.
I really enjoy gardening, or at least having nice landscaping. It's so hot here in the summer, and I really have limited time and money, so we designed a garden which was almost self sufficient. I planted perennials which don't need extra watering. We got rid of half the front lawn and replaced it with a curvy bed of free wood chips courtesy of a friendly tree cutting company. I planted a variety of evergreen bushes and azaleas. We did the same in the backyards which is very shady, but planted mostly native shade perennials.
Instead of store bought fertilizer, we use a mulching mower all year round, and add free coffee grounds from Starbucks. I don't bag anything, everything is returned to the earth, which rots down into natural fertilizer. I planted some fruit trees two years ago, but no fruit yet. We also have a small vegetable garden.
Some other things I do to save money:
- Make use of plastic containers to save on wrap.
- Recycle junk mail for the printer(use the blank side of letters).
- Use the city recreation centers for activities.
- Use the library.
- Purchase yearly passes for cultural and educational centers.
- Use parks and other free community resources.
- Remember to use our membership discounts, like AAA.
- Take advantage of credit card points(great deal if you pay off your entire balance every month).
- Use Mypoints, Swagbucks, and other shop/click websites to earn gift certificates and discounts.
- Limit going out to eat to once a month at an inexpensive restaurant.
- Repair things ourselves, DIY projects.
- Cut our own hair.
- Do my own pedicure and facials.
We also use cloth napkins and microfiber towels for clean ups. Microfiber towels can be purchased very inexpensively in large bags from store automotive sections.
We completed a kitchen and bath remodel shortly after moving into our home. We saved quite a bit by giving mostly a face lift to a kitchen and bathroom.
More ways we save.