10 Offbeat Ways to Be Frugal
But what more can you do after you've cut out every coupon, cut your own hair, cooked enough beans to last a lifetime and made every meal at home, recycled everything, cut out cable TV and vowed to go to the library every week? There's only so much penny-pinching people can stand.If you're willing to go that extra step and go beyond the basics of saving money that we've all heard about already, I've found some tips for being frugal that are off the beaten path and you hopefully haven't heard before. These are above and beyond the ordinary, and go beyond the 10 everyday ways to be frugal that WalletPop detailed last year.
Making your own clothes, buying overstocked items or shopping at second-hand stores is old news. For Susan Tordella, whose parents were raised in the Depression and then had nine children, frugality is in her veins. Tordella tells WalletPop that when her ski mittens finally wore out after 10 years, she couldn't bear to spend $80 on a new pair. She originally bought them at a ski sale for $15.
Instead of waiting for another sale, Tordella made her own. She had boiled sweaters to shrink them into wool felt, and used some leftover fleece to make mittens with a boiled wool shell, lined with fleece. She says they're really warm and ugly -- which is good insurance against getting them swiped at a ski area.
Any time she sees a deal at a local grocery or drugstore that has a pharmacy, Michelle Morton of Raleigh, N.C., changes where she gets her prescriptions filled. Many regularly offer money back in groceries or other incentives to have customers bring their prescriptions to them, thinking they'll stay as life-long customers. Morton tells WalletPop that Kerr Drugg offered a $25 gift card for transferring a prescription, which netted her $15 after her $10 co-pay on her drugs. She said Kroger does the same thing. Target offered a $10 gift card for any new prescription, and getting three filled cost her $21 in cash but she got $30 in Target gift cards, clearing $9.
Instead of spending money on entertainment such as going out to a movie or dinner, Heather Mann makes her own by saving money on her hobbies. She tells WalletPop that she buys most of her craft supplies at dollar stores, and if she can't find what she needs there, she goes to thrift stores, big-box stores, online supply discounters or to sales at craft stores. Spending $30 for supplies for a month of crafting is a better deal than spending it one time on a night out, says Mann, who has her own website on dollar store crafts.
This is something I've been trying to get going for years among friends, but could never get it to work. Erica Zidel says she cut her babysitting budget to zero by joining a co-op in her city, where families take turns watching each others' kids in exchange for points instead of money. Zidel says she plans to continue using the co-op after the economy picks back up.
This may be difficult if you don't have the right circumstances, but Janice Sellers says the most frugal thing she's done to save money during the past two years is to accept leftovers from a friend who works in a restaurant kitchen. Sellers says she hasn't been eating a wide variety of food during that time -- mostly American and some Chinese such as fried rice -- but it covers all of her meals for a week and she spends less than $25 a month on food.
She said her friend saves the meals up over a few days to a week, sometimes freezing them, until she can pick them up. She lives alone but often gets more than enough food for herself and shares with friends who are also having financial problems. She was on disability for a year, had a job for a year and a half, and has now been unemployed for almost a year. Sellers estimates she's saving more than $200 per month.
This may not save much money, but Stephen Smith estimates he saves 10% on postage -- a commodity that is rare to find on sale. Smith, who works in public relations for Logos Bible Software, said that stamp collectors often eventually realize that the common stamps they have will never sell for more than face value, so they sell them to a local stamp and coin shop for half off.
As his company explained in a blog post, the stamp and coin shops have a huge inventory of stamps that never lose their face value or expire, and are willing to sell them at 10% off. You just need to buy some penny stamps to make up the difference for what it now costs to mail a letter.
Home Insurance Re-assessment
Most home insurance covers the cost of rebuilding a home, and since those costs have dropped, so should your home insurance, says Connecticut resident John Boyd, who estimates he saves a few hundred dollars every six months when he asks for an insurance readjustment.
Make Laundry Detergent
We've heard of making all kinds of things to save money, but laundry detergent sounded a little too far out there. For $6 you can get enough Tide for 32 loads, so what is there to save? It adds up, says "Suddenly Frugal" author Leah Ingram, who gives the four DIY steps on her blog. Ingram tells WalletPop that it takes a few minutes to make the detergent.
Always Ask for a Discount
For about three years I've gotten my newspaper subscription at half price just by calling every three months when the current offer expires, and threatening to cancel my subscription unless the deal is continued. You never know what deal you'll get unless you ask.
Marketing sociologist Richard Kelleher says he's paying $12 a month at a gym while other members are paying $40. How did he get such a deal? By shopping around and asking what deals were offered. Kelleher said that when he joined Pure Fitness in Arizona, the best sales gimmick was for $19 a month with no contract. After his two-week free trial, the salesman told him he could pay $19 a month but could only use the gym and not use it from 5-10 p.m. on weekdays.
A few minutes later, the salesman admitted that there was another plan being offered: $12 a month to visit every club in the city whenever he wanted to. He accepted and since Pure Fitness was bought by LA Fitness in November, he now has access to all of its gyms with pools, saunas, basketball courts and other amenities for the same $12 monthly fee.
Drink Olive Oil
Not eating out at restaurants is a smart way to save money, and artist Arash Afshar found an incentive in the Shangri-La diet: taking a sip of extra light olive oil in the morning. Afshar says it curbs his appetite and is easier to pack a lunch or wait until he gets home to eat instead of spending $10 on lunch. He estimates he saves $400 a month on eating out.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.