Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Makes You Frugal?

We've been cutting back household purchases a lot this month, trying to prepare for Husband's upcoming 25% salary cut. It's tough. You don't stop eating or wearing underwear, just because the money isn't there! Fortunately, I'd put money aside for some of the big-ticket items, like our more-than-$900 property tax payment coming due. (Ouch.)

Frugal Miser talks a lot about the actions that signal his tightwad ways. I got to thinking about this, and yep -- there are things I do consistently that brand me as a Hollander:

*Checking garbage piles. Every time I drive past them. An armful of wood came home this week -- it will make a toasty fireplace addition sometime. You never know what's going to be hiding: I once found a good-quality frying pan in a bag of grass clippings. (Used it for years, too.)

*Stopping by the library's used book room. Working Census has really stepped this up lately, since we meet every morning there to drop off paystubs and "EQs." I've found several Christmas presents -- and the books look unused! ($2 each; books ship cheaper than any other present, too.)

*Clipping coupons. I may not use them all, but they combine nicely with sales. Did you know that if the product's not quiiite what it should be, a quick call or note to the manufacturer often gets you not just one, but several coupons for free products? Save these, combine them with a BOGO special, and you've doubled your money and time.

*Grocery shortcuts.  Adding 2-4 cups of water to whole milk to stretch it, and cut down on the fat content. Grade B eggs, which, because they're odd-sized, are often larger than the regular ones -- and 25% cheaper. (Our local King Soopers often has "EB" -- Egglands Best brand -- stamped eggs included in the Grade B cartons.) Checking the marked-down bins for meat, dairy, bread and canned goods every time I visit the store. Cutting down visits to every other week helps, too.

*Thrift Shops and Discount Outlets. If I'm in the neighborhood, I try to stop by. You never know what's going to be there...and if it's a bargain, it won't be there for long. Big Lots yesterday had a cartful of Pringles Potato Chips marked down to 40 cents each!

*Trying really, really hard not to pay any extra fees. No bounced check overdrafts or account fees. No interest on credit card charges. (Which means we must pay them off every month -- no exceptions. Cuts down on our purchases, too.) No speeding or parking tickets. (Messed up on this one a few weeks ago -- darn it. Never visit your parking meter 15 minutes after it expires; the parking fairies will not be merciful.) No late fees.

*Rarely buying any large-ticket purchases new. Our cars have been used; appliances ditto. We figure many times, buying them used means any bugs or glitches have already been worked through on the other person's dime. Other than a leather couch (on sale) and a patio set (deep clearance), we've done it for furniture, as well. Even our current house had been on the market for a while, and came with a discount on realtors' fees.
     The one big exception to this rule has been our computers, which were purchased new -- but also on sale.

Have we saved, with this approach? Thousands and thousands of dollars. Can I get too miserly about this? Sometimes. But I came by it honestly, as the daughter and descendant of hard-working farmers, Dutch and Scotch, that had to be frugal, or they wouldn't survive. Ashamed? Nonsense -- I'm proud of it.

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