Monday, June 30, 2008

DIY Haircuts

We save a lot of money by cutting hair ourselves. Our tiled kitchen floor serves as a salon, and we serve as each others' hairdressers.

We save about $20 for every male haircut and about $40 for every female haircut. Plus, there is zero transportation time, zero waiting time, and the cut that we get is better than at the barber/salon.

Why not? Take a course in haircutting and find out how easy it is! It'll pay for itself in a few cuts.

Crush stuff into your green organic containers (Compostainers)

We live in a city that collects organic waste in green 'Compostainers' every two weeks. We often see people throwing out bags and bags of leaves.

Firstly, you can compost everything.

Secondly, if you don't compost, at least you can throw things out without throwing out extra plastic. Just take a big shovel and 'pile driver' it into the green bin. You will be able to fit a lot in there without needing to fill up extra bags with leaves/twigs.

You can spread this over several weeks and clear out all of your organics without ever using a single clear plastic bag for organics.

What is good for the environment is good for your pocketbook also.

You could also compost... more on this later.

Reuse envelopes as scrap paper

I keep a stack of old envelopes on my desk at work clipped together with a paperclip. I use them as scrap paper by writing on the back, provided that I shred anything that has an address (for privacy reasons) on them.

For larger envelopes, I often tear down the edges and flip them inside out. They make great scrap paper that way, but I also use them to line things that easily become oily or dirty.

For envelopes that are pristine and have no address at all (i.e. the kind that you get from credit card companies, taxation people, or alike), I typically use them again for sending out my own mail. We found some labels in our storage that we could stick to the envelope, effectively blocking any unwanted addresses. Voila, a free envelope.

We're saving the environment, one envelope at a time.

Let others take the depreciation hit.

If you don't need to buy new, don't. Let someone else take the depreciation hit on the good, and you can scoop it up (slightly used, or even brand new) without much cost.

We recently purchased a backyard 'Little Tykes" play gym for our son, and others that follow. These things cost an arm and a leg - well over $200. We got it for $20.

It was slightly used, but well taken care of. We don't really care because it's going to sit outside, get pooped on by birds, fade with sunlight, and get scratched up. Why buy it new?

Moral of the story: buy things slightly used or as a 'scratch and dent'. You can often find 'scratch and dent' sections at furniture stores - if it's something that will get scratched and dented while in regular use anyway, then you should be able to save $$ in looking in that section.

Some have asked us "why" we are frugal.

(editorial) Some have asked us "WHY" we are doing this, despite earning a good living. Heck, we could afford pretty much anything we wanted.

There is a greater goal that we have. As Christians, we want to be good stewards of what God has created and provided for us. We want to have a low environmental footprint, waste very little, and ensure that our children and their offspring have something left to enjoy. Plus, we know that we don't need to keep up with the Jones' because it isn't something we value., we can sleep well at night knowing that we don't have to get chased by creditors, have debt up to our ears, and have little financial freedom. We could go out and buy things, but we choose not to because we don't need it.

How we shop for groceries

With the cost of gasoline continually increasing, there is no doubt that's grocery prices are going to increase concomitantly. I'm sure you'd seen the price of bread and other necessities go up over the past year.

Here's how we deal with shopping for groceries in our household.

1. We always make a grocery list and purchase food that is on sale. This encourages diversity of our menu.

2. Always check the store shelves for generically branded products. These products are always found high up or very low down on the shelf. You may have already noticed that a lot of things that are within easy reach of the consumer are usually much higher priced - i.e. those in the middle of the shelf space.

3. We pay off your credit card bills every month so we put our grocery bills onto the credit card and collect points at the same time.

4. Realize realize that the grocery store is a psychological game. What do I mean by that? Have you noticed that a lot of the essential items, such as milk, eggs, and bread are placed in the back of the grocery store? This tour will make you walk through the entire store, placing things in your path that are potential impulse buys, before getting to the essential items. Have you also noticed that various small items are placed near the checkouts or within easy reach of the checkouts and to encourage impulse buying? What we do is we head directly for what is on our grocery list and avoid buying things impulsively.

5. Stock up when things are cheap. We tend to do this on frozen items as we have a chest freezer in our basement. How do you know things are cheap? My wife often has a specific price point in her mind, having visited many grocery stores. This is the equivalent to keeping a "price book" ( a book that features grocery prices across different stores).

6. Always shop in the morning if you can. That way, you are able to take advantage of discount bread or other discounted items before other shoppers do so. At our local grocery store, they often have 50% discounted bread and the best selection occurs in the morning. This bread we often purchase and subsequently freeze.

7. Always bring your stack of coupons wherever you go in order to take advantage of deals by stacking coupons on top of discounts. Do this only if it's possible.

8. Cheap is not always good. For instance, if you stumble upon a box of cookies that seem too good to be true-pricewise at least-just take a look at the ingredients. I'm sure the cookies have significant amounts of trans fat, a highly un-digestible fat that clogs arteries. Anything that contains this type of fat typically has a very long shelf life, as bacteria and fungi do not digest this fat either. I would rather eat something that has been butter and it done something that has margarine or any other hydrogenated vegetable oil. So, buy the ingredients and stay at home and bake rather than by highly processed foods.

9. If you're only going to the grocery store for one item, do not take a basket or a shopping cart.I was reading somewhere that taking either of these two items tends to slow the shopper down and can increase the probability for impulse purchases. We just buy the item and leave the store.

10. Plenty of food purchases to occur together, and with as few outings as possible. We've noticed that one of our grocery stores has the cheapest milk but is located very far away. We try to combine this trip was something else so that we don't have to just go for milk.

Good luck with grocery shopping and let us know if you have any more tips!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Why buy when you can rent or borrow?

In today's society we are trained by mass media that purchasing something is probably the best thing to do.

Have you ever thought about renting a movie rather than buying it?

Have your thought of going to the library rather than buying a book from the bookstore?

Have you ever thought of renting a larger vehicle for use on the weekends were potentially renting a truck for moving something rather than buying your own truck and parking in the driveway?

What about power tools? Can you rent a saw rather than buying one? Can you borrow a saw rather than buying one?

There are probably more examples that I have not identified and that you can come up with. Overall, you can easily save money by not buying something that you will only use once and never again. If you use it multiple times, then buying it might not be a bad idea. Conversely, if you want to be a super stingy person than you can also rent it multiple times or even borrow it multiple times.

Sort grocery bags into 'food grade', clean, and garbage (for reuse)

At home, we sort our bags into three main categories or grades:

1. Food grade - bread bags (after shaking out crumbs), cereal bags (after eating the cereal and the crumbs), clean unused produce bags - these will be reused for packaging things like meats for the freezer compartment. Definition of 'food grade' = if food can touch the bag without being wrapped in something else, and that the bag was intended to contain food. Those bags which are clean, but previously had electronics in them, should not be used for this purpose!

2. Clean - something that is not food has been previously put in it, but the bag appears visually clean (i.e. bags from department stores that have had dry items put into them). We reuse these bags for general purpose, and when we're done using them, we classify them into our #3 category, for triple reuse. Triple reuse? [once at the store, once doing something else, and finally to contain garbage]... you could theoretically use them more than three times before their final common pathway, the garbage bag.

3. Garbage grade - these are also 'diaper grade'. We relegate these bags, which are slightly dirty, and definitely not clean or food grade, into a big bag in the closet. These bags are used for throwing out dirty diapers or lining the insides of trash cans.

Why buy garbage bags when you get bags of all sorts at the stores? This basically ensures you have an endless supply of garbage bags for life!!

Flat tire patrol: population frugality

I was walking to work the other day and spotted a car with a flat tire. Firstly, the flat tire can have dangerous consequences, especially if it had blown on the highway and potentially caused one or more collisions.

But... thinking frugally.... what if we kept an eye out for flat tires in cars that drive by? We could save gas for others, eventually reducing our carbon impact on the environment, and potentially decrease consumption? Personally, it's about the safety of the passengers in others' cars, but if we did this as a population (i.e. kept vigilance for people with flat tires), we could save our society a lot of gas.

Just some random musings.

Don't skimp out on insurance

You should never skimp out on insurance. Insurance is for those times that are catastrophic (i.e. house burns down, you hit something/someone in your car, you lose your arm - and you are a surgeon, or you end up dying and leaving your dependents in debt). Make sure you have enough insurance to cover your specific situation.

Being frugal doesn't mean skimping out on insurance for catastrophic events. You need to be frugal lifestyle-wise (i.e. buying normal clothes, having normal 'stuff' - rather than designer), but when it comes to shelling out for the appropriate amount of insurance, you should do so.

When it comes to insurance, shop around and don't engage in high risk activity that could increase your premium. Increase deductibles but keep an appropriate amount in the bank in case you have to pay the deductible. Ask the insurance company how to go about decreasing your risk (i.e. install fire alarms, driving less, etc) and ask if there are any discounts associated.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

If it's disposable, it's probably more expensive

Think: if it something you can reuse, costs will be lower in the future. It's also more environmentally friendly.

- reusable grocery bags
- cloth vs. paper towel for wiping up spills
- diaper cloth vs. moist wipes
- reusable lunch bag vs. paper lunch bag

Can you think of other examples?

Stay at home Vacation = Staycation

This is an interesting concept that probably will start catching on, now that higher gas prices are at play. It's a good way to relax and take a vacation.

It's called a 'staycation' = stay at home vacation. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ten Painless lifestyle changes to save money

These are ten FREE lifestyle changes that could save you money instantly. Just a little effort is required.

1. Keep the tires pumped up in your car (don't overinflate, as this can also represent a danger)

2. Unplug appliances that are consuming power even though they are 'asleep' (i.e. phantom power)

3. Keep showers short

4. Turn the thermostat down 1 or 0.5 of a degree, and wear extra clothing

5. Cool hot items to room temperature before putting them in the fridge (cooling on a tile floor is faster; if you have a window that is cold/drafty, you can cool it there too)

6. Hang dry your laundry

7. Clean garbage and unnecessary items out of the car (reduce weight, save gas)

8. Start a dishwasher when it is full, not partially full

9. Start a compost pile in the backyard

10. Increase the deductible on your insurance (car, home) - but make sure you can pay the deductible if your insurance policy was to be triggered by something.

10a. Make sure your fridge's coils are clean.... okay, this is the 11th.

Lose the costly (and potentially hazardous) habits

This is probably harder than it sounds, but it can be done.

Do you drink?
Do you smoke?
Do you gamble?
Do you buy lottery tickets?
Do you buy pop from vending machines?
Do you have to buy coffee from a coffee shop?

I'm sure there are other habits that are costly, and potentially hazardous to your health. Try to calculate how much you could save, and that may open your eyes to quitting some of these habits.

Cook at home and brown bag the leftovers

In the era of rising prices, it is much easier and cheaper to eat at home. Here's how we pack our lunch for the next day.

Dinner is cooked the night before, keeping in mind the need to bring lunch the next day. Before dinner is served, a portion is set aside and left to cool on the countertop while dinner is eaten. It is then packed in the fridge and eaten for lunch the next day.

We have done this ever since getting married, and it surely has saved us a lot of money. Plus, I get gourmet meals at work!

Reuse those Cereal and Bread Bags!

When you finish eating cereal, you are often left with a box and a bag. That bag can be used for something else!

We use those bags for freezing meat - instead of using cellophane wrap, cereal bags are quite thick and free way of portioning meat for freezing.

Just take the bag, shake out the crumbs, and put a portion of meat into it. Once you are finished with a portion, put an elastic over the portion and put more meat into the bag. At the end of the exercise, you will end up with a meat/elastic/meat/elastic sausage which you can freeze.

You can do the same for bread bags. This sure beats using cellophane wrap.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water...and don't throw the bath water out either

You can wash your baby's bibs, clothing with their bath water after they are finished bathing (provided that it's not contaminated with poopsies). When you are finished with the clothing, you can even water your garden with it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Use Coupons, and stack sales

Do you throw away those flyer coupons? Don't! Use coupons, as these will save you money, and it is quite painless.

Stacking a coupon on top of s sale increases your savings.