Chris and I have a reputation among our friends and family for being very frugal, sometimes to the point of annoyance. We know that some of our habits are a little weird, and we try not to force them on other people. We relax the “rules” when we have company because hospitality is more important to us than saving a few bucks. Here are some of our strange money saving habits:
- We use grocery bags as trash bags because they are free and because it reduces our plastic consumption. We even use these in our large kitchen trash can. We haven’t paid for trash bags in several years. We usually have to run the full trash bag outside to the large trash can daily but, honestly, trash stinks. Emptying the bag daily keeps things fresher, especially if you have a little one in diapers like we do.
- We reuse disposable items like tin foil and Ziploc bags. We wash all our Ziploc freezer bags. I can usually get at least 3 to 4 uses per bag before they start to leak. If tin foil was gently used, we wipe it off and lay it out to dry and then use it to line the toaster oven or to re-heat leftovers in the oven. Tin foil from the dollar store is generally flimsy and doesn’t survive long enough to be reused. If you buy a higher quality, you can use less for longer. Side note, did you know you can recycle tin foil? Toss it in the aluminum recycle bin when you can’t reuse it anymore.
- We try to keep disposables to a minimum to benefit the environment as well as our wallets. Some people take this a LOT further than we do with boycotts against toilet paper, paper napkins, feminine products, etc. We don’t take it that far, but we try to do our part. We use our ceramic dishes as much as possible rather than using paper plates. We have glass storage containers for leftovers that are long-lasting and safe for reheating food in the microwave. We use BPA free water bottles rather than buying bottled water. We try to use microfiber cloths for cleaning rather than paper towels as much as possible. We keep some dollar store towels in the laundry closet to clean up spills so that we don’t stain our “good” towels or use up a roll of paper towels. Our family’s big exception to this philosophy is disposable diapers. If I find myself being a stay-at-home Mom in the future, we may switch to cloth diapers, but right now that’s not a feasible option for us so we’re going with disposables.
- We unplug chargers as soon as things are charged. Chargers left plugged into the wall continue to use energy even if they are not connected to an electronic. Unplug those energy suckers!
- We keep the thermostat a little uncomfortable. We used to keep it quite uncomfortable (like 80 degrees in the summer), but that was the first thing we cheerfully changed when we had a little extra money in our budget. We tend to adjust the thermostat to more “normal” settings when we have company, but otherwise, we keep it a little too warm or too cold and we dress appropriately.
- We repurpose things. Get creative with how things can be repurposed. A can of spray paint is cheap and can go a long way. I spray painted lamp stands, picture frames, and candleholders to make a mismatched hodgepodge of decor look coherent in our bedroom. Before you throw something away, take a good look at it and see if it can be repurposed to be useful to you. Don’t hoard things you can’t or won’t use, but don’t toss it without a second thought either. I mentioned in Frugal Life Skills You Need to Learn that even amateur sewing can save money. I have been able to take up and let down hems in the same set of curtains to fit the windows of a few different apartments. The hems weren’t perfect, but nobody else knew.
- We borrow items we don’t need regularly. We have friends and family members who own carpet shampooers, weed-eaters, belt sanders, drills, and staple guns. Our friends are not using these items very often and have been kind enough to allow us to borrow them. Make sure that you return items promptly and in proper condition after borrowing. Also, make yourself or your stuff available in return when your friends need something.
- We refurbish old furniture. Solid wood pieces will last a long time. If you hate the color, it’s not too hard to change it by painting or restaining. You can completely revive a piece of furniture with a little elbow grease. This takes time and it took us a couple years to slowly redo all of our scavenged and handed down furniture, but we’re finally getting there and we’re thrilled with the results!
- We reuse wrapping supplies. Y’all, the cost of gift bags is just ridiculous. The thought that you would have to allot %25 of a $20 gift budget to the WRAPPING makes me so frustrated! I often struggle with saving something to reuse it versus trying to stay minimalistic, but gift bags and tissue paper are worth hoarding to me. The same goes for Christmas bows and high quality ribbon. My motto for hoarding is to reserve my space for things I really do reuse. Since I hit up my wrapping stash at least once a month in the off season and almost daily throughout the Christmas season, it makes the cut. You can check out some of my other suggestions for saving on Christmas gifts here.
- Related to the above tip, we always buy our greeting cards at dollar stores. The variety is sufficient for our needs and the cards cost either $0.50 or $1 instead of $4 at other stores. Be careful, because sometimes they keep the same card in stock for a long time. I have almost purchased the same anniversary card for my husband two years in a row and then had a very real deja vu at the cash register and switched it.
- We NEVER pay full price for clothing. In all honesty, neither of us are very trendy. We try to dress professionally for our careers, but our closet is full of clothing staples, most of which we have had for several years. With that being said, my sister is excellent at scouring stores for great sales on cute clothing. She shared all her best tips in her guest post about Frugal Fashion.
- We shop around ad nauseam before purchasing expensive items. This often goes on for so long that we change our minds about needing it at all. Thankfully, we both do this because it seems like the kind of personality trait that could really annoy your partner. I kind of dread house shopping. It may last for months. We probably need to bring an objective third party with us to force a decision. We may take this process a little far, but investing your time to find good deals on big purchases will save you a ton of money in the long run. If you have been budgeting your savings, you can start price comparisons as you approach your goals and will know a good deal when you spot one when the time comes.
- We don’t have cable. We got an antenna and we get a few local stations. We also have Netflix. If it’s really important to us to watch something live, we can usually arrange to go to a friend’s house. Otherwise, we haven’t missed the extra channels.
- We (almost) always order water in restaurants. We have occasional exceptions to this rule (like my husband and his black coffee- bless the old man soul inside him), but for the most part we skip the overpriced drinks and just get water.
- We mostly live without lights. The credit for this one goes to Chris because I am terrible about it. I hate the dark and I often forget to turn off lights. The responsibility to go behind me flipping off all the lights I turned on has shifted from my father to my husband over the years. I’m trying to become more mindful about this. Our home has a lot of natural light so we are able to leave all lights off during the day and just open the shades. In the evenings, I insist on having the living room well-lit because I don’t like gloomy atmospheres and I’ll fall asleep if it’s too dark. I am confident that when I’m not at home, my husband sits in near darkness because it doesn’t bother him at all and saving money is his game.
- We always pack our lunch. I cannot recall more than one or two occasions when either of us have purchased lunch out at work in the past two years. I can easily grab an apple and peanut butter or some bread and cold cuts on the way out the door, but this has been a much greater sacrifice for my husband. Chris loves weight lifting and is very mindful about his diet and protein intake. His meals require more planning, but we have it down to an art now. He primarily eats grilled chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, oatmeal, nut mixes, hummus, carrots, and protein powder. I keep our pantry and fridge stocked with these foods and Chris cooks in batches on Sunday afternoons to eat for lunch throughout the week.
Not all of these tips will work for you, but you may be able to adopt a few of these practices to save a little more money. Remember, the small amounts add up over time. Building wealth is a lifestyle and it comes from these kinds of daily decisions to save instead of spend. What are some of the strangest habits you’ve developed to save money?
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