It generally takes a lot to change patterns of behaviour but change is happening right here in Australia, and I'm sure all around the world. I read recently that people are using their cars less, staying home more than ever and giving up extras like magazines, newspapers and their cup of coffee on the way to work. Worry is changing those behaviour patterns because many people are trying to keep up with mortgage payments, ever increasing rents and the rising cost of child care, groceries and fuel.
The prices we are paying now for groceries, fuel and our homes will remain high for a while so I believe it's wise to plan a strategy rather than just cut back randomly. Here in our neck of the woods we've cut back just like a lot of others but ours is a planned approach, rather than haphazard.
I have no doubt some readers here have their own frugal plans already in motion but I also know that others would be a bit confused about how to cut back when they've already set a budget and are living without luxuries. So what to do?
I doubt there is one answer. We are so diverse and our circumstances so different that I thought the best way to tackle this, and to try to get some answers, would be to make a list of some of the things Hanno and I are doing and to ask you to contribute to the list with your own ideas. Then people can pick and choose what might work in their own circumstances. I'll break the list into categories so if it becomes really long, you can go to the area you're interested in instead of reading through the entire list.
As with most changes in this simple life, the suggestions will be small step items. I'm guessing you've already made the major and obvious modifications you need to make and just need to see those small things that other are doing to help you along. Remember, all those small things add up - even a saving of $10 a week will add up to $500 a year. That money could buy clothes and shoes for your children, pay for Christmas and birthday gifts or help with mortgage or rent payments.
If you are doing something that works for you that isn't already on the list, please add a comment and I'll add your suggestion to the main list. I thank you in advance for your help with this and for those of you needing help, I hope you find that something that makes a difference. Where you see different coloured text in the list below, clicking on it will take you to more information.
- Stockpile - when you have a little bit of extra cash, buy items that you use often when they're on special. Store them at home until you need them. I have written about stockpiling here and here.
- Cook from scratch - processed foods cost a lot more than basic food.
- Find and test more frugal food recipes.
- Cook a couple of meatless meals each week.
- Use a little bit less of everything. If a recipe calls for 3 eggs, use two and some milk, if you need 500grams of beef mince (1 lb) use less and add some mashed baked beans - no one will notice. Most recipes could be scaled back in some way without affecting the final product.
- Pack lunches for work and school instead of buying lunch out.
- from Eileen: People who live alone often have a harder time saving as many things are cheaper if bought in quantity. Besides the obvious ( make 4 portions and freeze 3) why not get together with others in the same position and have a day a week when you eat at each others houses. This also saves fuel both for cooking and heating on that day.
- from Eileen: Make best use of an oven and dont put it on half full. If making a casserole fill the other shelf with a fruit cake or make biscuits to last a week for example.
- from Kris: I always make casseroles and soups in double batches so I can either freeze half or share half with someone else that needs it. I also freeze leftover bread heels and such in the bottom of my freezer. I grate the frozen bread into crumbs and add to lots of dishes to make the meat go farther. Vegetables are delicious with a bread crumb coating on them as they cook.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: We have gone back to daily bread baking, only cooking from scratch, yogurt (& quark) making instead of buying. I am also keeping to a menu plan and shopping list, and stocking up on sale items, but only those items I usually use.
- from Jinger: I try to eat lower on the food chain...mostly plants and from scratch meals.
- from Hilde: Use your pressure cooker! Especially with food like beans, rice, potatoes etc. you save a lot of cooking time and electricity. You can also cook complete meals in it and save on the washing up too.
- from Konigskind: Instead of crisps I always have corn in the cupboard to make some popcorn. It is easy, it needs a small amount of storagespace and it is a great pleasure for the kids.
- from Hawthorn: Add rolled oats to minced beef to make it go further (do this when it is cooked....especially delicious in bolognaise dishes). By using this method, I can make a pound of mince serve 12 servings.
- from Young Snowbord: For people who cannot go without coffee, instead of buying the special roasted fancy brand, buy the most generic "restaurant supply type" brand that is already ground. Then take it home and send it through your own grinder 2-3 times until it is like powder. I worked for a German restaurant many years ago and the owner did just that. Everyone raved about her coffee, that it was the BEST, truely Gourmet. It's all in the grinding!
- Buy generic brands. It's very hard to tell the difference between generics and well known brands and the savings are really worth while.
- Stop buying soft drinks/soda pop. If you or the children want sweet drinks, make up a batch of fruit cordial or ginger beer.
- Check unit prices and always by the best value for money. If there is no unit price available, check it yourself by comparing weights and volume instead of going by the size of the pack.
- Don't shop when you're hungry.
- Try to shop without the children.
- from Jen: I don't know what Australia has in the way of thrift shops or garage/yard sales, but shopping at those venues can save you a fortune, too...especially on clothes. (The only thing is, you never know what will be there, so you have to go with an open mind or go often to get just what was on your list.
- from Elizabeth: Here in th US places offer Senior Citzens Discounts. It starts at 50 with some places but 55 is the adv. age. It has really helped us. When Dave got his eye checked and new glasses last week it saved us over 250.00. Then we get 10% off our food at the market.We ask about a senior discount everywhere we go.
- from Kris: Most of the time I do my grocery shopping only on the outside of the store where the essential items are. I find that if I venture into the middle aisles to just look I always find something I "need." I cook exclusively from scratch, so it is rare for me to need something from the middle aisles, which are mostly convenient (expensive) non-foods.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: We STAY OUT OF STORES...the very best way to save. When you have to go, put on your "blinders" and head in with a list and really avoid browsing or looking at anything else.
- from Lis: I do the menu planning and try to "shop" from my cupboards and freezer before I leave the house.
Buy your meat in bulk - if possible buy a 1/4 or 1/2 a cow and get the butcher to trim and package it for you. This works out heaps cheaper. If you don't have the storage space, get some friends together and split the meat between you.
Look into food co-ops in your area.
Find the food wholesalers that also sell to the public. This is a great way to buy flour and other dry goods. Again look at splitting it with friends if you don't have storage space.
Find your local markets for fresh produce and buy in bulk. Menu plan your purchases and then on-sell, freeze, preserve or barter the excess. My best bargain was 3kg of swiss mushrooms for $6 - the sell in the supermarket for $10 a kg. Yes, we ate a lot of mushrooms in two weeks and I sold some to friends but it added some luxury to our menus at a bargain price.
- from Em: keep a list for shopping and groceries - and only buy what is on the list.
I actually like to have my kids with me shopping b/c we talk to them how to work out what is the best value (comparing price per wgt), and we discuss what the advertising on packages is trying to make us do, or read the labels and discuss which foods are better for our body. I know this is a luxury of sorts b/c it takes time and energy from me, but I want them to have the tools to shop well themselves.
- from Konigskind: When I need something for my home I tell it everywhere I go Most of the time someone who heard this calls me to tell that they have the thing I need and don't use it anymore.
- from Stacy W: Don't just buy from auction sites/bootsales/yard sales etc sell at them too! Bric n Brack, old kitchen equipment, clothes and toys the kids out outgrown, old CD's and DVD's. All this can be sold and this means you get some money, the good are recycled which is greener than throwing them out and the goods are loved by someone else!
- from ITZME the Scavenger: Use Freecycle or Craigslist - especially good for swapping baby clothes (they grow so fast) and those fun toys that can cost a fortune.
- from Gwensmom: When you are doing errands that include grocery shopping, take along a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Grocery stores open earlier than other stores, so you can get the groceries first and put milk, frozen items, etc. in the cooler. Then do all your other errands and your food will not have spoiled or melted before you can get it home and into your fridge or freezer.
Also, make a Word document with a list of everything you buy at the grocery least once a month. Put the items the order they appear in the store you use the most. When it's time to go shopping, get your list and check the pantry and fridge circling the items you need to restock. Write in anything you need that isn't on the list. Your shopping trip with take much less time and you won't have to run back to the store for something you forgot.
- When sewing a pant or a dress use a wide hem (undo it when their height is gained add a trim if the hem line is faded.
- from Jinger: I make baby quilts from fabric friends and family have given me.
- from Konigskind: When you have a hobby it is worthwile to watch if you can make money with it or change services. I repair clothes for others. They pay me by cooking a meal or some tomato-plants.
- from Young Snowbird: I'm single and for years had a twin bed. I switched to a full size. Spent all my money on the new bed, no money for linens. I took two fitted twin sheets, removed one side of elastic each and sewed the two together to make a full size fitted sheet. This would work for Queen or King size too, as I had quite a bit of overlap. top sheets could be sewn together too. No wasting perfectly good sheets just because of size!
- Stop buying cleaners at the supermarket and make your own. There are recipes here.
- Cleaning floors and furniture.
- Cleaning the kitchen.
- Simple cleaning here.
- Cleaning with rags here.
- from Donetta - When doing the dishes fill your sink half full then wash, rinse dishes over half full sink and the rinse water becomes wash water for the deeper items.
- from Kris: I dilute shampoo. I buy several bottles when it goes on sale and as soon as I get home I pour some out into containers I have saved and add water. If you keep turning the bottles for a few days it will mix together. I then store these under the sinks in the bathrooms. The shampoo goes twice as far, cleans exactly the same and is actually easier to rinse out of your hair.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: I routinely use only half or even less of the recommended amount of laundry dtg. There is no difference in the cleanliness of the clothes.
- from Lavonne: Tear up old linens or clothes and use them for napkins, toilet wipes, feminine hygiene, diapers, baby wipes, etc.
Wash sponges with laundry and make them last longer.Make a baking soda/water paste to wash hair and use 1/2 vinegar-1/2 water to rinse it.
Use natural or homemade dish soap for laundry. One short squirt cleans as well as the recommended cup of detergent.
Use a mix of half vinegar and half water with a drop or two of dish soap in spray bottles for cleaning countertops, walls, windows, appliances, etc.
Stop buying specialized cleaning products -- make your own. Here are some good places to get started: here and here.
- Stop using the car for short trips.
- If you use the car to go out, do as many things as you can while you're out.
- Rediscover your public transport system.
- Ride a bike.
- Start a walking bus to school if it's close by. Arrange to pick up neighbour's children along the way. Take it in turns with other parents to supervise the walking bus.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: We are using our little Toyota Echo almost exclusively rather than our larger farm vehicle. It saves us a fortune.
- from Lis: I've started catching the bus to work on average once a week - saves wear and tear on my car and petrol.
Make sure your tires are properly inflated and try and combine all your trips out to one day per week.
- from Jinger: I try to have one non driving day per week.
Include your children in the changes. Explain why it is necessary, without worrying them, and suggest ways they could help:
- Turn off the lights, TV, radio, Xbox when not in use.
- Care for clothes and shoes.
- Stop asking for junk food in the supermarket.
- Use the library more - libraries often have DVDs, videos, computer games and board games as well as books and magazines.
- Show them how to read the water and electricity metres and have them monitor everyone's usage.
- Teach them how to make good pizza at home and replace your Friday night delivered pizza with a delicious homemade one.
- Record children's movies or documentaries during the week so they have something special to watch on the weekend.
- from Donetta: Make toys out of recycled things. My kids use cardboard and elastic to make a toy today and love it. Show them fine motor skills doing this.
- from Hawthorn: Invest in Cloth nappies/diapers and wipes - saves a fortune on the disposable type.
- from Young Snowbird: For those with cats who feed them wet canned food. Use a half or a third of the amount they you normally feed and add water to it. Mix to create a gravy. The cat will still get its "wet", you'll stretch the food, and the cat will get additional water intake which most of them desperately need as they really are reluctant drinkers.
- Make sure you pay your bills on time, especially if you get a discount for early payment.
- Check EVERY bill that comes in. Make sure it is correct before you pay it.
- Check your bank statement every month. Banks often make mistakes.
- Are you on the best plan for your mobile/cell phone, home phone, internet, TV? Do some research and change to a better plan if you find one.
- Think carefully about the services you're paying for. Maybe you could give some of them up while the prices are so high.
- Make a plan to pay off your debt.
- Make a budget and stick to it. There are plenty of budgeting posts under 'budgeting' in my side bar.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: We had scaled back our TV package. Also changed our long distance plan to a less expensive one. We recently called our cell phone company to make sure our plan was the best one for our useage. It was and is quite reasonable. but worthwhile to call and check.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: We do only online banking and save postage. Also we use a chequing account that is very cheap in terms of service fees.
- from stuff: Make sure that any savings you have is doing the most it can for you. Savings accounts and cds vary greatly.
Do an audit of your insurance policies and get new quotes. You want to be covered, but sometimes it doesn't pay to have full coverage on an older car.
If, and only if, you are comfortable with credit card use and don't carry a revolving balance, make your credit card work for you. I am moving what bills I can to credit card for several reasons. I get cash back, most of my bills are on one statement, payments are automatic so no late fees, money can sit in an interest bearing account for longer before it goes to bills. You have to stay on top of things, but it works for me.
- from Gill: One thing I do is have a variety of different pots, which I put money into each week, for a variety of things. I explain more about it on my blog. I also have a simple way of saving money by doing a daily savings pot, which basically means putting your change into a pot.
- If you grow vegies or have spare eggs, ask you friends if they'd like to buy some. This might be embarrassing for you but I can assure you many people out there really want to buy home grown food.
- If you have a fruit tree, barter your fruit for something you need, maybe eggs or honey. Remember, many people are in the same boat as us, they'll be looking for ways to save and will probably welcome the offer to barter.
- Do you have children constantly growing out of their clothes? Swap clothes with friends.
- You can also swap games and toys your children are tired of playing.
- Form a buying co-op with friends and neighbours. You can bulk buy things like meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. Take turns with the buying and sorting and have everyone pick up their own box.
- Invite friends around for a BBQ, ask them to bring a plate or food to share.
- Rent a movie instead of going to the cinema, record a movie on TV instead of renting.
- Make a deal with a friend to watch your children while you have a morning out. Return the favour to your friend.
- Okay, this is anti-entertainment to some, but stop smoking, drinking at pubs and clubs and gambling. You'll save a fortune.
- from Stuff: Make get together with friends productive. Don't head out to eat and shop...walk, sew, can, cook, etc. Any time with a friend is good time, even if it's cheap.
- from Jinger: I take advantage of all my city's free entertainment, for example the outdoor symphony concerts every Sunday evening and free outdoor movies in the summer.
- from Judie: For those of us trying to reduce TV or cable expenses, remember the public library. There are any number of magazines to read, CD and DVD rental in addition to best sellers and how-to's. There is no fee for checking them out and if the due date sneaks up on you, renewal can be done by phone or internet. By the way, if there is a college or university nearby, check into non-student library privileges.
- from Donetta - A clothes line is a good thing.
- from CB: we walk through woods with the dog on a daily basis and in the Summertime we pick up pine cones and small twiggy branches that have fallen down.Sometimes if we walk where trees have been cleared we can pick up some nice sized wedges that the woodcutters slice out of the trees when they're being felled as they always leave them leave behind.As it's Summer and the weather is good, everything is mostly dry and so fairly light to carry home with us. We save the sacks from the dry dog food we use to keep the bits of wood and cones we've collected dry until we need it to burn on our fire in the Winter, it saves us quite a lot of money.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: I try to give homemade gifts. I have a standard Baby Afghan I make for all new mothers and babes. I will work on these over the year, in between other projects and just put them away, for the next baby gift.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: Hostess gifts or small token gifts are usually knitted dishclothes, candles or soap.
- from Niki Ruralwritings: Bigger gifts to friend are usually knitted or crocheted afghans, or very simple sewing like table runners.
- Joanne from Dubbo: I have recently received my electricity bill and I am proud to say we have virtually halved our usage from the same time last year, We went from 38kwH per day to 20.74 kwH per day and our bill from $510 to $330. (There has been a price rise in this time) Our strategy was turn everything with a shiny standby light or display off at the wall when not in use eg TV, computer, stereo, DVD, microwave. We got rid of our bedside alarm clock and use a wrist watch or a mobile phone alarm if very important to get up on time. We also changed all lights possible to CFC variety. We have a Lopi wood heater for our heating which is cast iron?? and has a large area on top of it that you can cook on. We keep a kettle on it for hot water at any time like washing your face in the morning, doing dishes or cups of tea and the great majority of our meals have been cooked on there eg pasta, stews, steak, risotto, steamed veges etc. I am also batching what I cook in the oven, doing 3 to 4 things in a row. So for those people that think little things dont make a difference our proof is in the pudding and in being organised. If anyone is looking at getting a wood fire I would recommend looking at one you could use as a stove in winter and save on electricity. Ours is about 25years old and still going strong.
- from Konigskind: One thing we do in our familiy is putting a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water that comes before warm water arrives. This cold water we use for flushing our toilet.
- from Jess: Not sure if this would be a tip of sorts but once the mornings start getting cooler, instead of turning on the heat I just spend the morning baking. The oven warms the house until the sun comes up.
- from Elizabeth: Here in the UK most of us heat our homes with gas central heating and the gas price has just been raised by 35 per cent - scandalous!! I'm hoping to really cut down on our gas usage this coming winter by turning down the thermostat, making sure all drafts from windows and doors are blocked, fitting aluminium foil behind each radiator to reflect the heat back into the room, and putting on extra jumpers to keep warm.