Your No 1 Frugal Tip for a 'Beginner'

@GreenMoo (11842)
May 9, 2008 2:08pm CST
I have a friend who is about to experience a major change of circumstances and will have to be cutting back wherever she can. It will be a completely new way to live for her, and she really doesn't know the first thing about living within limited means. She's asked me to help, so I've been trying to compile a list for her of some top frugal tips. What would your Number One frugal tip be for someone who is learning everything from scratch?
7 people like this
19 responses
@cher913 (25893)
• Canada
9 May 08
go shopping at thrift stores. a lot of people think 'ewww used stuff' but believe it or not, there are tons of NEW things there at most thrift stores! i have gotten a ton of new things there. i recently bought a purse there (brand new) for $1-!
2 people like this
@GreenMoo (11842)
16 May 08
I love second hand shops of every sort! In the UK the best sort are the charity shops where they sell all sorts of second hang goods. You never know what sort of a bargain you will find. I get almost all my clothes and books second hand.
1 person likes this
@saundyl (9690)
• Canada
9 May 08
1)Turn things off when you arent using them..lights tvs etc. 2)reuse things as much as possible 3) make a list of items you "want" keep it for a month then if u still want it then u can get it.
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@GreenMoo (11842)
16 May 08
I particularly like the third tip Saundyl. If you don't buy things straight away, it's surprising how many of them you realised that you can live without. A good way of stopping yourself from buying on impulse is to only carry enough money for your intended purchases. That way, if there's soemthing extra that catches your eye you'll have a 'thinking period' before you go back again with the money.
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@saundyl (9690)
• Canada
16 May 08
Thank you. I've found that tip has saved me alot of money. I didnt used to do it but I was also very very bad for impulse buying and had to find a way to stop myself. Now alot of times i find that If i dont buy it right away i find out i have it or someone has one theyre giving away and i dont need to spend the money on something new.
@GreenMoo (11842)
18 May 08
Yes, if you talk about things that you are looking for it's surprising how often one will be offered to you. I'm never too proud to accept soemthing that's offered, and in return I make sure I pass on as much of my stuff that I'm through with as well.
1 person likes this
• United States
26 May 08
Make a daily/weekly/monthly list of every single cent she spends. Go over that list every week and see where she can cut back/cut out the expense. Breakdown the expenses into how much she spends on those items per month/per year (to give her a perspective of how much she can actually save by just cutting back) Simple things like using an ATM at her bank or a free ATM can save a couple of hundred dollars a year, with just a little advance planning. Use coupons at the grocery store. A Sunday newspapaer is a couple of dollars, the coupons in it can easily save her 2X, 3x or more in saving at the store! Other money saving ideas... bring lunch to work a couple times a week or everyday if her situation warrants. As soon as she is able to really cut back on everyday expenses, she should really try to save whatever money is left. Open an online savings account with ING (or a similar site w/ a decent interest rate) and have the money deducted once a month. A forced savings is great way to have money put away for an emergency, or an important purchase. If she drives, try to car-pool to work to save gas. Plan out one day to go food shopping, running errands, etc to save on gas. My #1 tip would be make the list...every single penny needs to be accounted for. If she's honest about making the list, she'll see exactly how much money she can save herself just by cutting out a few daily expenses. (I used to spend $4 a day on coffee before work, now I bring work in a travel mug everyday and save over $1,000 a yr, just from cutting out this one expense. I wish her the best of luck.
1 person likes this
@GreenMoo (11842)
29 May 08
Thanks for an excellent post Robin. I agree that the first place to start is a really honest brakdown of every single penny. Unless you know where you're money is going, you can't really catch it! I think peopple are often really surprised at how much they spend on little things which they could do without. Coffees, as you say, are an excellent example. Or snacks when stopping to buy fuel. all those little bits don't feel like much at the time, but they sure do add up to a large sum!
@ruby222 (4848)
29 May 08
Like us all I can make every penny count ,and if its really tight I can make it stretch well,my purse stays shut unless its essential that it opens!!..I dont meal plan,but I buy what I need and really not a lot more...we like you all like to have a good meal a day...but I do admit that every now and again if I have a bit extra I like to throw a bit of caution to the wind,and have a splurge...for no other reason that it just boosts my mood maybe for that day!!...but I think it could be said in all fairness that ive never really been a spendthrift...ive always..or for the majority of the time lived on a limited income..or put it another way...ive been better off and worse off...but ive acclimatised to the situation.
• United States
29 May 08
I think your comment of "acclimating" is exactly what has to be done! When you have a little extra money, it really does feel good when you can splurge on a treat. Saving all the time is great, but it's nice to treat yourself & the family, as it boosts everyone's spirits! Great thread...there's some very useful suggestions here!
• India
10 May 08
Hmm, interesting topic GreenMoo... let me see, I will make a list of the things I did to cut down costs; your friend could modify those methods: 1. I discarded my extra mobile phone. 2. I converted all my old saris into salwars. This is because I hardly use those saris, while I wear salwars all the time. I still have plenty of saris left. This means I don't have to buy clothes for ages. 3. I decided to grow my own food. 4. I stopped eating out completely. (this alone saved plenty of money per month) 5. I stopped purchasing snacks and other junk foods completely. This is also good for health. 6. I walk short distances instead of hailing a taxi or catching a bus. This is an easy way to save money as well as burn fat. 7. I had a vehicle in the past; I sold it because using public transport is cheaper. 8. (I don't think your friend can try this) I quit my job and started earning from home. I am a freelance writer. This saves me in clothes, commute, and a dozen more extra expenses I had to bear when I was working at a regular job. 9. Remember to switch off the lights, fans, and other power consuming items when they are not in use. 10. We had two Internet connections at home. I had one for myself, and the total Internet and phone bill used to cross 1K. I terminated one connection and arranged things in such a way that now I have to pay just half that amount, and I am planning to cut even that down. Cheers and happy Mylotting
1 person likes this
• India
10 May 08
My latest, most interesting, and most exciting money-saving adventure: We love eating bread with butter in our house. But the butter we get here is awful. It is not only awful, but also costly. I decided to make peanut butter instead. Peanuts are cheap, and making peanut butter at home costs much, much less that purchasing butter from the stores. Moreover, it is good for health. :) Your friend will find out many cost-cutting methods soon. Of course, my first attempt at making peanut butter was a small disaster. I think I added too much peanut oil. But I have learned from the experience. Cheers!
@GreenMoo (11842)
21 May 08
What a brilliant list PositiveMinded! Thanks a million :-) I'm compiling all the responses into a list for her, and I'm going to talk through it with her when I see her next. Am I right in thinking that a salwar is like a short dress which you wear over slim fitting trousers? If I'm right, then I salute your sewing skills! My clothing conversion experiments are limited to cutting off the legs of my son's trousers to make shorts when they get too short or scruffy! I've just bought a sewing machine though, so it's a skill I'm hoping to learn.
• India
29 May 08
Thanks a lot for the BR. Well, you are absolutely right about the salwar, but absolutely wrong about my sewing skills. :) LOL Cheers and happy mylotting!
@skaterx (530)
• Finland
27 May 08
Eat at home! Be aware of prices per kilo, and try to work out a cheap and healthy way to eat by buying raw ingredients. Bake your own biscuits or cookies (if you eat them), it's much cheaper. Eat more fruit as a snack. Save leftovers.
@GreenMoo (11842)
29 May 08
Leftovers are good! There's been a media story in the UK recently about the massive amount of food which is throw out every day. It's astronomical and I guess it's because people don't use their leftovers and don't shop sensibly. There's no such thing as a leftover in this house, it's tomorrow's lunch LoL
1 person likes this
@ruby222 (4848)
29 May 08
Leftovers are not a problem in our house,I can generally find a way of recycling them.Sometimes in a more successful way than others,but they always get eaten.We have had quite a few roasted meat meals lately,I find if I buy a joint that I can get extremely good value from it,there are just the two of us and we will have it hot one day and clod the next ,then there are the remains which someting can be done with,when you consider i pay around £6 for that joint that works out at £2 per day..so that isnt expensive.
@Theresam (1181)
• United States
26 May 08
Many people can cut down on the eating out. Have your friend make a meal plan for a couple of weeks.
1 person likes this
@GreenMoo (11842)
29 May 08
Eating out will have to be one of the first things to go. Meal planning saves so much, as you reduce waste and last minute trips to the takeaway.
@ruby222 (4848)
29 May 08
Meals out are fast becomig a thing considered to be a luxury,and its my favourite way of relaxing ...but we used to go regularly ,now its just for a special occasion.As for takeaways im not too keen,the only one that I really enjoy is the good old fish and chips,theres not a lot that can beat them.We went last friday to a Brewers Fayre with two friends,and hubby nearly fainted,he thought he had been overcharged lol..so he got the bargirl to add it up again!!..he had four drinks..and that round came to £17..he was nearly crying !!!!lolol...then we had someting to eat...and it was a lovley time there...they have just revamped this local one....but we said when we got home that its just for high days and holidays!!
@Debs_place (10525)
• United States
25 May 08
If they are coffee drinkers - get a coffee pot and a thermos. Forget places like Starbucks. I used to spend a fortune on coffee, now I buy quality coffee and bring it with me. I probably save $60-70 a month doing this.
1 person likes this
@GreenMoo (11842)
29 May 08
Great idea! I don't buy those expensive coffees myself, I think they're terribly overpriced. But that's a great tip for someone who's just starting down the frugal route. A little money here and a little money there doesn't seem like much, but it sure adds up!
@dragon54u (31605)
• United States
9 May 08
Save on food! It's getting more and more expensive. Look at the circulars and see what's on sale. Plan your menus (yes, plan! every meal and snack!) around the sale items. If you see something you use often that's on sale at a big savings, buy extra. After you plan your menus using the circulars, look and see what you need in your cupboards--salad dressing, beans, canned veggies, condiments? Write it down. Now look through your coupons and see if you can use any. Beside each item you can match with a coupon, put a "C" so you'll remember you have one. Paperclip the coupons to your grocery list or, better yet, your cash or debit card that you're going to use to pay for them. (Notice I left out credit card! Cut them up!!) Try to organize your list so that the first item is in the first aisle, etc. By speeding through the store in a focused, controlled way, you won't spend more than you wanted to and can't browse the things you just want rather than need. Lastly, try to use cash. Figure out what that food will cost and then take that amount in cash. Or, if you can stick to a set amount budgeted you can do that. Add up the food as it goes in your cart and if you're going over budget, start putting things back. That's my advice. It works for me and helps me put a nice sum in the savings account every month.
@saundyl (9690)
• Canada
16 May 08
coupons - you can get them on line either mailed to you or printed!
1 person likes this
@GreenMoo (11842)
18 May 08
I don't really get the opportunity to shop around as I'm a bit limited on local shops, but I always make a point of stocking up when there is a sale on an item. I haven't got a freezer at the moment, but when I did I also used to take advantage of mark down items and freeze them. If you've been shopping at the same store for a while you'll probably notice that the same items come around on sale on a cycle. It's handy to work out how long this cycle is so that each time you can buy enough at the cheaper rate to last you until the next time. Of course, not everything on sale is cheap! Our local supermarket runs what looks like a very good offer on toilet paper sometimes where the brand is something like 40% off. However, when you work it out it's actually still more expensive than their cheaper one!
@katsmeow1213 (29047)
• United States
9 May 08
Making changes like that is difficult for those who are used to a better lifestyle. They don't want to give up their little luxuries even though they must. My tip would be to cut up all the credit cards. I'm so against credit cards at this point it's not funny. Cut them up, pay them off, and never think about them again! If they're currently making 2 car payments, they may want to find a way to get rid of 1 car. Instead of financing or leasing a car they should buy an older model outright so they owe nothing on it. If they have a cellphone AND a homephone, they could get rid of one or the other. They can also shop around for cheaper plans, maybe sign up for an unlimited calling plan so they don't get charged for their minutes. They can get rid of cable TV, you don't really need that. You can borrow movies and CDs from the library for free. Instead of eating out they can buy ingredients to make stuff at home, like pizza. It's cheaper and tastes just as good made at home. I hope that helps. I think I have some more tips on my blog.
@GreenMoo (11842)
18 May 08
I keep my credit cards, but I have them set up to pay off in full each month. I use them as a way of just keeping my money in my account for a little longer each month! I got rid of my TV completely about 4 years ago. SO I save my cable fees and my licence fee. I don't miss it all. there is plenty of news available on the net and I can play DVDs or download films from the net if I need them. Good tips Katsmeow, thanks for contributing.
• United States
30 May 08
HaHa I have to laugh because I did not see one thing about cutting out the internet service provider. I was jus talking to hubby wanting to go to basic cable and cancel the house phone, he said what about the internet I said are you crazy lol
• United States
15 May 08
This will go against what almost everyone will say but for me it helps. Get rid of the plastic store it away, hide it away. No credit cards, no debit cards. Use cash, put it in your hand work with it see it and no that this is all you have, where plastic always has a way of lying to you.
@GreenMoo (11842)
26 May 08
Although I keep credit cards myself, it's only because I know how to work them to make them useful for myself. I completely agree with you that if you are starting off down the frugal route getting rid of them is a good idea. I think taking with you just enough cash to ocver expected expenditure is a good idea. Once it's gone, it's gone & it prevents you from being tempted by extras.
14 May 08
1) If your friend has any credit cards, advise her to cut them up and return them. It's too easy to rely on them when you're short, in the hope that your situation will improve later and you can pay them off. Instead, you're more likely to go into a spiral of debt. I wish someone had told me that ten years ago. 2) Switch off lights in rooms that she's not using. 3) When grocery shopping, keep an eye out for bargains. Supermarkets are always promoting loss leaders - two for the price of one etc. One place near me was recently doing a two for slightly less than the price of one offer! Also, things like tins of beans etc. A lot of supermarkets do their own brands, which are usually cheaper and very often just as good as the name brands. Focus on cheap foods, and tot up the price of what you're buying mentally as you shop. I save a pile of money that way.
@GreenMoo (11842)
25 May 08
Credit cards are top of my action plan with her. So many people don't understand how the interest works and just look at the monthly payment without ever calculating how much extra over the cost of the purchase they are paying. Scary!
• United States
13 May 08
I think the best way to start saving money is to make a list of where all your money is going and save from there. Cooking all your meals at home can save a ton too. Good luck to your friend. Send her here and we will fill her with great ideas and enthusiasim about saving money.
@GreenMoo (11842)
25 May 08
Making a list of where it is going is definately the place to start. When I did this the first time I was astonished at how much was just drifting away without my having anything to show for it. Bad habits!
• United States
12 May 08
Utilize used/thrift stores for items like electronics, utensils, household items, etc. I save a ton of money doing that. I have one particular store I know will only sell good items that are in working condition so I have no worries.
@GreenMoo (11842)
25 May 08
I hardly ever buy new when it's possible to aquire something second hand. Most of the time it's just as good, so this will be one of the first tips on the list I pass on. Thanks!
@ruby222 (4848)
11 May 08
My number one frugal tip would be to look at very simple dishes that need very simple and inexpensive ingredients Moo..ive been living fairly frugally for years now,and im so used to it it nevr has any effect on me.But if you take my sister..who i absolutely love to bits!!..she has no worries re the pennies and spends it as if its going out of fashionlol..ive always wondered what on earth would she do if she had to come down to brass tacks and live on a budget.I myself think if you can cook good basic and tasty meals on a shoestring then you are half way there already.There are so many dishes that need very little meat and a lot of veg,and if you use the veg thats in season,well its a good way to do it.Hubby is a meat lover,yet a while ago i mae a `chicken` curry,now the chicken had literally one a sprint through the curry,and it was packed with bits and pieces of allsorts,he sat and declared it was lovely,he could have eaten it twice over!!!The cost of it was just really not a lot more than pence!!!
@GreenMoo (11842)
25 May 08
I think that you are right Ruby, and that the kitchen is the first place someone without frugal living experience can probably make savings. I couldn't cook for toffee when I first started trying to live a bit more frugally, but I've now got a range of cheaper options under my belt. It was learn to cook or learn to live on beans! It's all just confidence and practice I suppose.
@Ldyjarhead (10157)
• United States
11 May 08
Rather than give you one good tip, here's the link to a discussion I started yesterday that has several websites/newsletters with great information. http://www.mylot.com/w/discussions/1509887.aspx Hope you (and your friend!) can get something from it.
@GreenMoo (11842)
25 May 08
Thankyou, I'll head on over there and take a look. There's loads of great information on frugality on the net, it's just a case of finding it so links sound superb!
@dragon54u (31605)
• United States
10 May 08
GreenMoo, I forgot to tell you about a program I recently learned about. My sister works with a county in Florida and had flyers printed for her clients after I told her about Angel Food Ministries and she checked it out. For $30, you get about $75 of food! Good stuff, too, from all reports--things like bags of chicken, bacon-wrapped steak, vegetables, fruits, etc. Here is the link: http://www.angelfoodministries.com/ Check to see if they have that in your friend's area. When my mom moves back with me during hurricane season, I'll start ordering from them. Can't pass up that bargain! And they have extra boxes you can buy, such as a box of meat or something, at terrific prices. Hope she can use this or you know someone who can. I don't know how they do it, but everyone I've heard that uses them loves it.
@GreenMoo (11842)
23 May 08
i've heard of Angel Food Ministries before. It sounds great for those who can get it. Unfortunately my friend and I are not in the US, but I'm sure your post will help someone else reading through this thread.
@newtondak (3950)
• United States
10 May 08
Get rid of all unnecessary services - cable or satellite TV an cell phones are the first that come to mind. Quit eating out and do not use convenience foods when cooking at home.
@GreenMoo (11842)
23 May 08
I think the services thing will be fairly for her to come to terms with as she's having to move, but the convenience foods is something she'll have to learn.
@Adelida2233 (1008)
• United States
10 May 08
One of my standby meals is so ridiculously cheap, I can't not put it here. Make spaghetti, I use Angel Hair, but any will do.(Just make whatever portion you are going to eat, its better fresh anyway) Put italian dressing over the noodles and stir until all the noodles are coated. This totally depends on how much pasta you are making, but a serving of pasta(like an actual serving, not whatever the nutrition people think is a serving) shoud take about 3-4 tablespoons of dressing Drizzle Parmesan cheese over the whole thing and stir. You can use real parmesan cheese, but the kind in the plastic jar is actually better. Sometimes, If I'm not lazy I will grill a piece of chicken, cut it up and put in on the pasta. Enjoy! (I'll admit it sounds a little odd, but I've been eating this for about 15 years now!)
@GreenMoo (11842)
22 May 08
This sounds like a really nice dish. I'm a massive pasta fan myself and make lots of pasta dinners as they're easy as well as filling. I loved this line you wrote ..... " like an actual serving, not whatever the nutrition people think is a serving "
@MissGia (955)
• United States
10 May 08
I guess i would have to say conservation. turn off lights, get energy efficient lightbulbs (they last for a long while and will knock down your electric bill)..stuff like turning offlights when not in use...Unplugging things not in use. Dont cook too much food, make a big enough portion to feed yourself and whoever else lives with ya. Recycle, any plastic bottles, cans or glass bottles you use... cant get alot out of it...but its a good way to get a lil cash...out of the stuff you've already used. all conservation.
@GreenMoo (11842)
21 May 08
Concern for the environment and frugality are linked in so many ways.