by Leah Ingram
- Discover ways to get something for nothing. A recent survey on my blog uncovered that six out of 10 readers — savvy frugal people — had either never heard of or never used Freecycle. Freecycle, where one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, is a place where you can give and get free things, like plants for a garden or ribbon for wrapping gifts (two freebies I’ve scored via Freecycle). You can also swap stuff for free, such as clothing or books. In fact, thanks to sites like Paperbackswap.com and Bookmooch.com, I got my daughter’s summer reading list for high school last year without spending a dime.
- Make everything good to the last drop. The idea here is to get as much as you can out of every item you own, even if it means snipping the end off a tube of toothpaste to get a few more brushings or using a cotton swab to swipe out the last drops of lotion in a bottle. Additionally, you can make your shoes last longer if you take care of them by using products like Kiwi Shoe Polish (I grew up on the stuff) on a regular basis, and wiping off shoes whenever you are out in the winter salt. When your shoes start to wear out, don’t throw them out; have them resoled. Last winter my husband and I spent $100 to have five pairs of shoes resoled. Bought new, we would have spent 10X that! Finally, instead of washing barely worn clothing, give them a few spritzes of Febreze, toss them in the dryer for five minutes and fold them up and put them away as if they were freshly laundered. (I do this all the times with my kids jeans –shh, don’t tell them.)
- Buy from companies that stand behind their products. I have a down vest from Lands’ End that is missing a snap, and because of the company’s unconditional guarantee on all of its products, I can send the vest back for either a replacement or a refund. And I will be doing that shortly. Other companies that guarantee their products and will replace them if they don’t hold up include LL Bean (ask me sometime about my college backpack or my current winter jacket), Jansport (they call it their product warranty and Lia Sophia, the direct seller of jewelry. (I have a few of their pieces).
- Make your own laundry detergent – even if you don’t have a degree in chemistry. You’ve probably read my recipe for my DIY laundry detergent, made from borax, washing soda and soap. I continue to believe that this is the biggest bang for my laundry buck, especially since we moms do about 400 loads of laundry a year.
- Look for found money. Coinstar says that the average home has $90 in spare change just lying around. As you know from my recent coin-hunting experience, I was able to turn up hundreds of dollars in spare change, which I cashed in at my local Coinstar machine and got a gift certificate to Lowe’s. (The coin counting was free because I chose to get a gift certificate/gift card in return.) Well, in addition to cushion diving, you should look for other places and ways where you can save money. Don’t forget about bag credits — even Target is in on that now, offering you five cents off for each reusable bag you bring. Additionally, when you have to shop online, start your shopping at a shopping portal that allows you to earn cash back. Two such sites are Ebates.com and Upromise.com. The latter will funnel your cash-back money into a 529 college savings plan. What a painless way to save for college, right?
What are some of your frugal New Year’s resolutions? Do you have other money-saving tips to add to list?
YOU COULD WIN LEAH’S BOOK: Enter the Housewife Awards® by January 18, 2010, for your chance to win a copy of Leah’s new book, “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less.
Most mothers teach their kids to cook and clean. Leah Ingram’s mother taught her to compost. These days she’s passing along this green message to her own daughters as they all try to live a green and frugal lifestyle as The Lean Green Family. Visit her blog, Suddenly Frugal.