Frugal Tips for your Household

We've seen how to be frugal when buying your groceries; in this article we'll take a good look at being frugal in the area of your household expenses.

There are tons of ways to save money around your house. We don't usually think about it, especially if we are always on the go. Our home is typically the biggest asset and the biggest draw on our income. You can save literally hundreds of dollars with just a few small changes in the things that we normally do, and it's amazing what can be done once you really get started.

Although it may seem contrary to our theme (although it's really not), one great way to save money is not to skimp on the important things. After all, you get what you pay for. There's a difference between 'low priced' and 'cheap.' Oftentimes the two terms are used interchangeably, but they are actually quite different when talking about frugal living. 'Cheap' refers to something that is of low quality. Buying inferior products means that you will only have to replace them sooner and thereby spend more money. 'Lower priced, on the other hand,' is defined as an item of similar quality that simply costs less. This can often be seen with name-brand and generic items. The store brand items probably came from the same manufacturer (and possibly even the same production line) as the name brand items and are of comparable quality. Yes, there are some things where you'd do well to stick with the name, but you can compare those when you're shopping.

Stock up

Here are some items that will save you money in the long run if you shoulder a bit more expense today:

  • Items you use frequently. When things like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent and the like go on sale, stock up on them. You will always need these items so it's okay to buy as much as you can afford. Store them in a cool, dry place until you need them.
  • Water filters are a frugal buy. We spend so much money buying bottled water that we don't consider the alternative, which is to install a water filter. A good filter may cost you forty or fifty dollars in the beginning, but you will save much more than that by not buying bottled water.
  • Rechargeable batteries also save money. If you have a lot of electronic devices, you undoubtedly also have a number remote controls. Each remote needs at least two batteries. Kid's toys need batteries, too. You could spend a small fortune buying batteries that have long life to get the most from your devices. Rechargeable batteries and chargers for all the battery types that you need might cost $100 up front, but you’ll certainly save over time./li>
  • Compact fluorescent lights are all the rage. You've seen those coil-like light bulbs for sale, haven't you? According to the manufacturers, they use much less energy and last far longer than a regular light bulb. They come in smaller sizes for ceiling fans or larger for standard light fixtures that can handle them.

Cleaning solutions

Cleaning is a chore that virtually no one is thrilled to undertake. Worst of all, there are so many cleaners to choose from, how do you know if you are getting the best one for your needs? There is one for the kitchen, one for bathroom, and even one for outdoor patio furniture. Some claim to be able to clean anything. But besides the cleaning aspect, we are also looking for disinfectants. When something is clean we want to know that it's germ-sterilized clean as well. This is important throughout the house. Germs can carry diseases, so the fewer there are around the feel better.

The following cleaning tips can be employed using items you generally already have around the house. Occasionally you may need to purchase an all-purpose cleaner, but see what you have around the house first that will do the trick.

  • Baking soda. Baking soda helps freshen the inside of your refrigerator and freezer by absorbing odors. But, did you know that baking soda can also remove carpet stains? Apply it to a new stain, leave it overnight, and then vacuum it up in the morning. Use an unscented laundry detergent and baking soda to give your clothes a fresh scent.
  • Dryer sheets. They freshen clothes and also repel ants. Place a piece in the corner of a room, on a window sill or a countertop to keep ants away. They can also be used to clean soap scum from sinks and tubs.
  • Vinegar. It's good for other things besides cooking. Vinegar and water can remove the smell from stains on your carpet or furniture and deposits from showerheads. Combine it with an Alka-Seltzer tablet to unclog a drain. If you don't have an effervescent tablet available, use baking soda and white vinegar. After fifteen minutes, flush the drain with hot water.

Managing utility bills

  • Talk to your utility company about a bill payment plan. Many companies offer an 'equal-' or 'average payment plan.' This plan averages your payments for the previous twelve months of service to determine the amount you'll pay monthly. At the end of the year, your account is credited if you used less energy than your payments totaled, or you'll be charged an extra payment if you used more.
  • Lower your bills by using some energy-saving tips. It goes without saying that you should turn off lights, televisions, and other items when not in use or when you leave a room. When you finish using your computer, shut it down instead of letting it run in hibernation mode all night. Changing air filters monthly can help to heat or cool your home more efficiently. Keep your water heater at a lower setting and your thermostat set at a constant temperature. More energy is used when you continually shift these controls up and down or off and on.
  • Bundle services when it's practical. Many telephone companies now offer Internet access, telephone and cellular phone services for one price. Cable companies do the same.

Recycling items

Now here's where you can be creative and have a little fun. There are untold numbers of ways to get a second use out of things that we would normally throw away. It also keeps us from spending extra money on something that we could make at home.

  • Use grocery bags as trash bags. These plastic bags are perfect for wastebaskets and for use in the car while traveling. Fold up a few and put them in the glove box or trunk.
  • Got a chipped mug? Instead of throwing it away, use it as a holder for pencils, pens, and paintbrushes. No one will care about the chip then.
  • Use empty jars as drinking glasses. Wash out that pickle or mayonnaise jar and use it for your favorite lemonade or iced tea container. You can also use them to store nails and other small trinkets in your workshop or on your sewing table.
  • Cut the tops off of empty milk jugs and use them as planters. Paper cartons can be used to grow fresh herbs for cooking. Let the kids paint the jugs to make them more decorative.
  • Use old towels to make decorative door runners to keep the cold air out in the winter and the cool air in during the summer. Just stuff them with newspaper and seal the ends.

Cutting expenses

Cutting expenses doesn't mean that you have to cut out everything. Even cutting back on what you spend on one thing can be helpful.

  • If you want to watch movies, invest in one of the online movie memberships. These programs offer the option of renting one or more movies at a time, and you can usually keep them for as long as you like. You'll save gas by not having to travel back and forth to the store to take out and return rentals.
  • Eat at home more often. This can be somewhat challenging if your family is on the run all the time. Create low cost, easy-to-fix meals that can be ready in thirty minutes or less. It's a lot cheaper than eating out, even at fast-food restaurants.
  • Learn to do things around the house yourself. Instead of hiring a lawn service, cut your own grass. A lawnmower will pay for itself in no time, especially in the summer months. Use a truck and a friend to carry items home from the store and avoid delivery charges. Hire a professional for major things like electrical or plumbing problems, but shop around to get the best deal.
  • Use shopping alternatives other than large chains. Consider a thrift store or consignment shop when shopping for clothes. Many people think that these types of stores are filled with nothing but junk but, in fact, you can find lots of barely used clothes and others with price tags still on them. Habitat for Humanity stores sell good quality furniture and many other items at greatly reduced prices.

Get the family involved

For frugal living plans to work most efficiently, it takes the participation of everyone in the house. Working together to create a budget encourages kids to adopt the same financial values in their lives. Try these ideas:

  • Hold a yard sale. Clean out all that clutter. Go through your closets and the garage and find items that you don't want or need any more. On a clear sunny Saturday, hold a yard sale. Families can make extra money that can be put toward trips or other activities. Anything that's in good condition but doesn't sell can be given away to charity. Depending on the value of the items, you can even get a tax deduction at the end of the year.
  • Sell on eBay. Millions are doing it and some are making a whole lot of money at it. If you have a hobby such as crafting, try your hand at selling your products online on eBay. Membership is free, but you will have to pay a listing fee and a small percentage of the purchase price when the item sells.
  • Get everyone outside on a Saturday to do yard work. With everyone helping, it will take less time to get it done, and you won't have to outsource the project.

Stick to it

Change is difficult. In fact, for a habit to become a part of our lives it must be performed for at least two weeks. If you implement a budget, do it for three months. This will give you enough time to see if the changes that you've made are working. If they are, you'll be spending less and saving more, and it will show.

One very effective way to help you stick to the budget is to automatically put any extra money in a savings account. This includes money from yard sales, hobbies, raises at work, bonuses and any other outside income. Since you didn't have this money to count on before, you won't miss it by putting it straight into savings. When the balance reaches $500 or $1,000, place the money in a Certificate of Deposit or IRA account to earn more interest.

Remember that budgets are fluid instruments; they change as your financial picture and your circumstances change. If you find that the restrictions in one area are causing you to cheat on your budget, simply add more money for that area and lower the allowable spending in another area. Don't be afraid to do that. Use your budget to help you live the kind of life that you want.

Living frugally requires forethought, creativity, and common sense. Taking advantage of a good deal when you find it is the way to save money on the things you use most often. Saving money now means more money to utilize later. And that extra money will always comes in handy.

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