Friday, June 11, 2010

The Bargain Post!

A couple days ago I mentioned that I had gotten the following request for a blog dedicated to cost saving tips.

Q. How about Becky Smith's cost saving tips? You seem to have a great handle on that. How do you do it? Please share with us or at least me. Tips from anyone welcome.

Anon, That is a great topic and one that we can learn from each other on, especially since frugal living is on a lot of minds right now. Here are a few budgetary things that come to my mind; at the end, I also included a few tips from my readers.

1. Eating Out

We eat out very rarely. (Maybe once a month unless we’re on the road somewhere.) I figure that it costs a family of three at least $30-$40 to eat at a steak house or at an Applebee’s type restaurant. And then I figure that I could buy meat for our family for two weeks with that money and it doesn’t seem quite so hard to eat at home! (The good thing about not eating out very much is that it’s quite a treat for us when we get to do it.)

We also (almost always) order water instead of soft drinks/tea when we eat out.

Also, since most portions are huge at restaurants, Steve and I either split an entree or take the leftovers home for lunch or dinner the next day. (And speaking of leftovers, I am the Queen of Leftovers. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of leftover stuff if you apply some creativity to them)

2. Staying organized.

I can’t say that I succeed at this all the time, but I am working at being more aware of what things are in my cabinets, cupboards, closets and freezer. Just last week, there were two non-food items that I needed and was planning to buy. In the process of reorganizing a few areas of the house, I discovered that I already had those things; I had just forgotten about them. I saved myself almost twenty dollars, just by doing a little organizing.

3. Thrift stores

If there is one thing I hate in life, it is walking into a store and paying a high price for an item of clothing. I can get one pair of pants for $40 at a department store or go to a good quality thrift or consignment store and get a bag full of stuff for $40. No contest!

In the past, Steve has not been real sold on thrift stores because (in his words), “Men hold on to their clothes a lot longer than women do, so there’s not as much good stuff to choose from.” That’s no doubt true!

However, recently he’s been stopping in at the thrift store right up the street from us and has scored several nice pair of dress pants for about $4 each. Sure, he might have to dig a little bit, but $4 instead of $80 makes it worth it! (Men’s dress clothes are so expensive)

4. Window shopping

I have discovered that window shopping is not cheap. If I go to a mall just to “look around,” 9 times out of 10, I will see something I didn’t know that I “needed” and will buy it.

The solution? I don’t shop unless I am looking for something specific. Besides, life’s too short to shop for no reason!

5. Fix its

I am blessed to have a husband who is wonderful at fixing stuff, all the way from doing household repairs to engine repairs. Over our 28 years of marriage, he has saved us tens of thousands of dollars by doing work himself.

Obviously, not everyone has a family member around who is so handy; however, if there is something that you can do (or take a quick class and learn to do), it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to do something yourself and save that layout of cash.

6. Craig’s List and Freecycle

Our “old faithful” copier/printer/scanner broke right after we spent $40 buying new ink for it. I happened to see the very same machine on Craig’s List for $25. Bought it, installed our unused ink cartridges and we’re back in business!

Also, Craig’s list is not just for buying. If you have a bike, a ping pong table, or a couch that you’re not using it, list it, sell it, make some cash! (And is a great place too, if you like giving/receiving things absolutely free.)

7. Greeting Cards

As a pastor’s wife, I am always needing (and looking for) greeting cards for all different occasions. Instead of going to Hallmark or Wal Mart and buying them individually, ($2 to $4 apiece) I get nice ones in a box, which come out to less than .50 apiece. I’ve been amazed at the excellent quality of the boxed cards; you have to shop around a bit, but they’re out there!

8. Cost Comparison Websites

Nextag, Bizrate and Pricegrabber all allow you to type in the brand and model name of products and see the price you’ll pay at a variety of stores, including shipping and sales tax.

And finally, here are a few comments from readers.

Guerrina said:

1. I barter my computer/graphic skills, sewing skills and staging "skills". Sometimes I receive money. Other times I've had an expert redo my resume and once I received a keyboard that looks like a piano (now for some sheet music - I only have a book of Christmas songs which is great in December!)

2. I save my old shower curtains and use as drop cloths for projects and painting and outside for the annual dragging of the fallen leaves back into their woods. They do make good tarps!

3. I found out a neighbor down the street does small engine repair ($40) versus the local "big business" that wanted to charge me almost $100 for the same repair.

4. Another person in my life is an auto mechanic for a big dealership and does work on the side for wholesale prices. Another person left working for an HVAC company and cleans / repairs furnaces on the side (and is not invested in a particular oil company).

5. I've learned that there are only a very few recipes that I need to buy brand specific ingredients for and can often go with the store brand. So I try to find the "little guy" down the road that charges less.

Now if I could just find someone who needs one or two of my skills in return for cutting down some (more than 5) trees! :)

Leece wrote:

Here's my money saving tip. I have a rectangular greenhouse...I think in America they may be called glass houses - anyway, you grow your veggies in them! For years now whenever the glass breaks I simply hang up a clear plastic shower curtain instead of paying for new glass. I know it sounds weird but it works really well, the heat and light can still get in even if you use a patterned one. I use hooks to hang them on and wedge the bottom to the floor with flower pots.

(If you have some good tips of your own to share, please leave them in the comments area.)


And just because a blog entry is always more fun with pictures, here are a couple (completely unrelated photos) of Nathan and Meagan that I love. Don’t you love a picture that shows a man doing dishes? (This was in our house in Smithfield.)


This is more current, taken in Florida; it’s especially cute the way he’s looking at her. They are a wonderfully wonderful couple!


2 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Anonymous said...

Coupon Queen at WRAL-TV.

Michelle said...

If I had all the money in the world, I'd still be frugal - so, naturally, I love the way you think! ;)

And, I have to confess ... Snowy looks absolutely adorable with his "puppy cut". I mean, this has taken YEARS off of him! :)