articles / Frugal living

Pinching pennies leads to dollars saved

At one point or another, pretty much everyone has looked in the grocery-less pantry and fridge and looked at the small amount of money left for groceries.

These are the times when we learn to be creative and stretch those dollars further than we ever though possible. The funny thing is, it’s only when we need to pinch the pennies that we do it. I’ve had this revelation that if we’d just pinch the pennies all the time, we’d have a lot more dollars to work with.

For example, I spent a year making my own laundry soap, mostly because when I was in the last few semesters of college all I could afford to spend on laundry soap was $5 or less. When we bought our house and things were looking up, I got into the bad habit of buying regular laundry soap. So instead of $5 every few months on homemade laundry soap, I was spending $8 or more a month on the more convenient soap.

I’ve gone back to spending the $5 every few months on laundry soap. The thing is, we have to have laundry soap, but I don’t have to spend $120 or more a year on it.

Over time I have found a few other areas where I can pinch pennies — the funny thing is, groceries is the easiest place to cut from and it is typically one of the most expensive bills (other than the house payment) there is.

Here’s a few pennies that can be saved when it comes to your food bill:

  • Buy when it’s on sale: Last week at the grocery store I bought five boxes of organic macaroni. Why? Honestly, would we really eat that in a week? No. But normally it is $2 a box and it was on sale for $1. So I saved money. I also bought eight jars of spaghetti sauce. Since I make double batches of spaghetti, I use two jars at a time, but I still bought four meals worth. Why? Two-packs were on clearance for a $1 instead of $3.
  • Find ways to cut back on meat. No, I am not a vegetarian. I really like meat, but there are creative ways to cut back. When making tacos, instead of using one pound of hamburger meat, use half a pound and a can of black beans. The beans make up for the other pound without altering the taste and you save the half a pound of meat for something else. Also, find ways to make meals that include meat, meatless. I really enjoy making Texas stew. It includes hamburger meat, but if you take out the hamburger and use an extra can of beans it still tastes good, but you’ve saved money because you replaced the meat with the beans. Shake things up. Try eating one or two meals a week that don’t have meat in them.
  • Save the juice. Since Josiah was old enough to drink juice I’ve watered it down for him. Most of the time it was half juice, half water. Sometimes he got a little more juice, sometimes a little more water. Out of curiosity, I’ve watered down juice when I drink it. It’s not bad. I really like cranberry juice and blueberry pomegranate juice, which are both pretty tart juices. Watering down these juices (and grape and apple) doesn’t change the flavor much it just softens the tartness. Not only are you sneaking in a little bit of water, but you’re saving the juice. By doing this you make the juice last twice as long.
  • Use your leftovers or don’t have leftovers. When Jimmi and I were first married, I became an expert at cooking the exact amount of what we needed for dinner. In the first year or two of marriage I used the toaster oven more than the real oven. At that point I would not eat leftovers so I made sure we didn’t have any, which saved us money on food. Now I try to make sure I make leftovers so we can eat them on the “fend for yourself” nights or so we can eat them for lunch.

Shopping and eating this way can save you about $20 or more a month (depending on what you normally spend and what sales are going on). That’s $240 a year. That’s Christmas money…or an electric bill or two.

There are a few other ways to save money too. For us right now it’s all about saving for little Samuel’s arrival. One of the BIGGEST ways we are saving with Samuel (and how we saved with Josiah) was by me breastfeeding. It’s time consuming, but it’s free and it’s natural. Do you know how much formula costs? You can be spending $15-25 or more A WEEK. That’s crazy. If you plan on using formula you better use the tips I mentioned above because your going to need that to cover the deficit due to formula costs!

Side note: I know not all women can breastfeed, but if you can, you should. Not only is good for you, it’s good for the baby, and it’s free.

Another way our family is planning on saving money when Samuel gets here? Cloth diapers. Yes, cloth. Now I know a lot of people cringe at the thought and think of leaky diapers and safety pins, but it’s not like that now. (I’ll be posting more about this soon so I won’t get into a lot of it.) The cloth diapers they sell now look just like a disposable except it’s cloth. They use snaps or velcro and they have many different kinds depending on the persons preferences. Cloth diapers are $10 per diaper for good ones. You usually need at least a dozen or more so you can spend probably $150-200 on diapers. That seems crazy, but have you seen the cost of diapers? A box of diapers, which lasts a week or a little more or less, is about $20. In a month you’ve spend the $100. The cloth diapers will last for several months (sizes are a lot different) so you’ve still saved at least $100. And no the cost of washing them doesn’t add up to that $100 saved.

If you want to be even more frugal (and you have a little time and are a tad bit crafty), you could do what my sister-in-law does and what I’ve started doing — you can make your own diapers. It’s not as hard or crazy as it sounds and I’m making them for about $1 a piece and they work just as well as the other cloth diapers or disposables. Enough on that, I’ll talk more about it when I post about diapers.

So there you go. A few places to pinch pennies can help you save a few $100 a year. Don’t cut out everything at once. The key to a successful lifestyle change is to change gradually. You didn’t make the spending habits you have now overnight so you not going to change those habits overnight.

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