Friday, January 27, 2012


That's what our pennies say when we pinch them.

I thought a good follow up to telling you about our luxuries would be to explain a little about where we save money and how we are making one income work for us. Granted, we are only a little over six months into it but I think we have a good start.

1. Coupons. I'm not anything like those people on on Extreme Couponing. Not even close. But I don't hesitate to use coupons anywhere I can. The grocery store is the most obvious place, but I use them at restaurants, department stores, the farmers' market, and even for discounts on car inspections at our mechanic. Don't be embarrassed to whip them out; merchants wouldn't print them if they didn't want you to use them.

2. Don't Do Disposables. You already know all about our cloth diapers and wipes and our savings there, but I think a big part of saving money is replacing one-use items with things you can use over and over again. For example, a couple years ago we bought a dozen plain white washcloths at Target (they might have even labeled them as bar towels). We use them for napkins instead of paper ones. We keep some paper napkins around for when we have guests, but for daily use, it's the washcloths. Then we just throw them in anytime we do a load of laundry. You could also trade in your dixie cups for a juice glass in the bathroom.

3. Reuse, Reuse, Reuse. Give things a second life whenever possible. When our underwear, socks, and t-shirts have outlived their usefulness as garments, they become dust rags or rags for Keith's work bench (after one final trip through the washing machine, of course). We wash out freezer bags and use them over and over. And over. Aluminum foil that isn't messy is flattened, folded, and put in the drawer to be used again.

4. Don't Be Trashy. We recycle any packaging and containers we can, and compost almost all of our kitchen scraps (except meat scraps). Not only does this save a lot of stuff from ending up in landfills, it saves us garbage bags. We have a twice-weekly trash pick-up, but we typically only have one bag to put out each week. If we didn't compost and recycle, we would be using a lot more trash bags and even though it doesn't seem like a big deal, all those little things add up.

5. Second-Hand Savers. Some of the best deals out there come in the form of used goods. I grew up with a lot of hand-me-down clothes and didn't mind a bit (though it helps to have cousins that like Gap and J. Crew). We still aren't adverse to hand-me-downs, mostly furniture. In fact, Bert's crib and dresser and our dining room table and chairs are the only newly purchased furniture we have. Bert has toys and clothes from yard sales and thrift shops. I even bought a three pairs of shorts, a pair of capri pants, and a t-shirt, all maternity wear, for about $5 total when I was pregnant. Keith loves to score well-made tools at flea markets. He is also not above pulling something out of the trash, like the glider chair for Bert's room that he refinished. I admit, I do cringe sometimes when he comes home and says, "Look what I found on the sidewalk!" It's only a good deal if you'll use it, but don't be afraid to scour thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets for stuff you need.

6. Know What's For Dinner. I'm not always the most committed to planning meals in advance, but when I do, it makes grocery shopping and cooking so much easier and more cost-effective. I like to plan at least a week in advance, though I have been known to do a whole month at a time. It helps me to take stock of what we have in the pantry, fridge, and freezer and use things up, and also to make sure we don't end up with more leftovers than we can use up before they go bad. Which leads me to my next topic...

7. Eat Your Leftovers. We try really hard not to throw any food out. Most days, Keith packs leftovers from the night before for lunch, and I eat them at home as well. If the recipe makes more than we will eat in the next day or so, we will freeze the rest. Having things like lasagna and soup in the freezer works out well because if we aren't going to be around to cook, we can just thaw something out and heat it up. Saves on take-out.

8. Speaking of Take-Out... We don't order food in nearly as much as we did before Bert's arrival because it can get expensive. Plus, now that I'm home, I have more time to think about and prepare dinner than I did when I was going to work every day. But when we do decide it is time for take-out, we go pick it up and save a couple bucks by not having to tip the delivery guy.

9. Feeding the Baby. Bert has been breast-fed since day one, and we are really fortunate that it has gone so smoothly. Well, smoothly after the first week. Anyway, nursing Bert has saved us a lot in what formula would have cost. Now that he's eating solid foods (are they still called solids if they're pureed?), we have been able to save by making most of his food ourselves. We have bought some packaged food for him, mostly so we don't have to take his frozen food with us when we are out and about or away for the weekend, but the bulk of what he eats is homemade. I would guess it saves us more than a dollar a day by feeding him homemade baby food rather than purchasing jarred food.

10. Put It On the Card. We use our credit card for most of our purchases, then promptly pay it off each month. This way, we rack up points that we can cash in for gift cards. Most recently, we got $100 worth of gift cards to JC Penney so Keith could get some new clothes for work. The trick here is to put those points towards things you would otherwise be spending your own money on. So don't save up all those points just to buy an electronic wine guide or something ridiculous.

11. Pay It Early. We make sure to pay all our bills on time so that we don't incur any late fees, but in one case, it helps to pay it early. When we have our tank filled with heating oil, we get a discount of four cents per gallon for paying the bill within ten days. That comes to eight or ten dollars we can save each time we have it filled, which is two or three times every winter.

12. Beg, Borrow, and Steal. Well, don't beg or steal. Really, just borrow. As in, borrow books and movies from the library or borrow tools from a friend. If you aren't going to read/watch/use it frequently, see if you can borrow it from someone. But be sure to be a good lender then too, even if all you have to lend is a hand.

13. Keep It Hot. Minds out of the gutter, people. I'm talking about Keith's thermos. Keith likes to have coffee all day long at work, but cup after cup at 50 cents each from the office pot was adding up, so he got a thermos and fills it each morning at home. Imagine what you could save it you switched from a Starbucks habit to a thermos.

14. Keep It Short. The first Christmas we were married, I bought Keith a set of hair clippers. Ever since, I have been cutting his hair. I wouldn't say it's particularly stylish, but he seems happy enough with it. And when you figure a guy's haircut costs $10-15 with a tip, the $40 investment in the clippers has probably saved us about ten times that much. Someday, Bert will also be getting his hair cut by me. Now if only I could trust my hair to Keith...nope, not going to happen.

I was just going to do ten tips but once I got going, it was easy to add a few more. Kind of like college football's Big 10 and its twelve teams. I hope these ideas help you save some money and I would love to hear how you stretch your dollar. Let me leave you with a Depression-era saying that has become our budget mantra: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.


  1. You're my hero. I shop thrift stores and use coupons but could do so much more if I put more thought into it! I did buy my wedding dress at a thrift store on half off day but since then ... not so much.

    1. Whenever anybody talks about wedding dresses, I say, "My best friend bought hers at Salvation Army! And then she altered it herself!" Or was it Goodwill? Anyway, that goes down in the record books for some serious thriftiness.

  2. You truly are Edna's greatgranddaughter! She would be proud.


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