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You can either be a ‘lazy and broke’ girl or a ‘frugal and slaying’ girl. I choose the latter. I enjoy challenging myself to examine what is necessary in life vs. what is convenient. Often times, we pay for convenience, even though the alternatives aren’t all that bothersome. Or, we pay for things because we don’t realize that there are alternatives.
I abide by the mantras that unless it compromises the quality of the product or service, there’s always a cheaper alternative. Frequently, that alternative is a quick DIY.
Let’s examine a few areas in life where we could probably pinch a penny or two:
I did say it was for the broke girl, didn’t I. Anyway, tampons and feminine products are stupidly expensive – such that I could likely make a long, ranty blog post on that topic alone. There are a few ways to get free tampons (besides stealing them from fancy hotel bathrooms), such as signing up for samples. But, free samples only go so far, and the demand will soon outweigh the supply.
That’s why I’ve invested in a Diva Cup. This little buddy is the embodiment of frugality. It’s under $30 and depending on how fast you go through a box of tampons, it will pay for itself in under a year. Not only that, but it’s safe for the body and zero-waste. It’s not for the squeamish, to be sure, but never having to buy a box of tampons again feels like freedom.
Grinching It Up
I don’t decorate for Christmas. Or, any other holiday. Like… at all. I don’t know where it all went wrong in my childhood, since we bought a Christmas tree and decorated it every year. As an adult, however, I find it all tedious and a waste of time. It might have something to do with the fact that I live alone in a rural area, so literally the only person seeing any of it would be me. I’m more impressive to myself when I’m saving money rather than when I’m shelling out hundreds of dollars on wreaths and ornaments.
To take a step back and make it globally applicable – whether it’s for Christmas or any other holiday where you would spend money for decorations – I challenge you to ask yourself, “What value do these decorations add? Do they make me or my family happy? Do they help deepen my appreciation for this day and help me internalize the true values of this holiday?” If you answered “None, no, no, and no” then ask yourself if you really need to be spending the money.
Living in misery
Again, we pay for comfort and convenience. I live in the Midwest of the United States, where the summers are humid and the winters are soul-crushing. Being a relatively new homeowner has made me understand Obsessive Thermostat Disorder – the blight of fathers everywhere. I learned my lesson the hard way when, one December, my heating bill was over $275 for my <1,000 square foot ranch for just me.
This is where lazy girl was the death of me: I’d crank the heat up, leave it on high overnight, and then forget to turn it down in the morning before I left for work. My furnace was burning gas and pumping heat into an empty home, all because I didn’t bother to learn how to program my ancient thermostat.
Still lazy, but a little bit smarter: I invested in a Nest. This little doo-hickey of a smart thermostat is perfect for me; it has suggestions for optimizing cost-effectiveness, and you can control it remotely – since I’m still terribly guilty of leaving the heat cranked up when away from my house. No more empty, 70F houses.
Mostly, it’s taught me that the difference between one degree is pretty negligible in terms of comfort, and that it’s much cheaper just to put on a sweatshirt, burrito myself in a blanket, and run a space heater for a little while.
Learn how to sew
I don’t mean making your own clothes (although, that certainly aligns with the mores of frugality). Knowing how to thread and work a sewing machine is a valuable skill, as is having a little know-how on things like fabrics, stitches, and threads. You’ll save money for being able to mend and alter your own clothing, and the shelf-life of your clothes will double. I buy most of my clothing second-hand at thrift stores like Plato’s Closet or online at ThredUp; I go in with the expectation that the clothing I buy won’t fit perfectly, but with a few nips and tucks, it’s still cheaper than buying a brand-new, tailored blouse or skirt.
Plus, if you’ve mastered the sewing machine, then you’ve also given yourself the freedom of artistic license. Inject your style and Frankenstein your clothing however you’d like. I like to experiment on the clothes I buy, and since they’re used and relatively cheap to begin with, I don’t feel badly if/when I ‘ruin’ it (that is, when I’ve added one too many sequins).
Use my referral link to sign up with ThredUp and get a $10 credit to use toward your first purchase. Believe me, $10 will go a long way on that site. It’s good-quality clothing at amazingly affordable prices. Plus, you can get your side hustle on and sell your old clothes, too!
Scouring Freecyle.org and r/Freebies
I check these two sites almost daily for freebies. I live near two college towns, and students will post offers on Freecycle at the end of the semester when they’re moving out of their dorms. So far, I’ve scored an end table, futon, and two floor lamps just by being the first to see the posting and the first to pick up the goods. While I never respond to posting for things I don’t need, I still see amazing things every so often, like a beautiful cherry-wood piano that was in perfect condition or a near-new flat-screen TV. A lot of times, people would rather these things go to good homes rather than take up space in a landfill.
The Freebies subreddit is a more hands-off approach. It’s crowd-sourced finds for free stuff (or worthwhile samples) available over the Internet or a store near you. While not as impressive as Freecycle, I’ve still got quite the stash of single-use allergy pills, tea bags, face moisturizers, and even snacks like Kind bars.
For mobile users, check out the app Next Door – it’s not specifically made for freebies, but your neighbors have the ability to make a posting for free things they’re trying to offload.
Yes, you read that right. This should be top of the list if we’re measuring by the degree of ratchetness. I don’t do it out of desperation, as I’m certainly able to put a meal on my table every day. But, if you have any passing familiarity with the community of dumpster-divers or trash-pickers, then you’re bound to have heard the phrase, “It’s amazing what things people and companies throw away every day.” at least once or twice. Having dumpster-dived myself, I can say, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
It’s generally frowned upon in the DD-ing community to say where products came from, but the above pics were just from two nights in a row at a store two minutes from my house. It only took ten minutes of my time to grab everything, too. Everything was sealed, clean, and unexpired. Since I live off a stupidly cheap grocery budget, any extra snackage is basically manna from heaven. If you’re curious to see what else people have found, check out r/DumpsterDiving where redditors will post their hauls.
If you’re going to leave a comment to tell me how gross I am, I think you ought to re-read the title of this post.
Can you DIY it? Probably.
I won’t make the lofty claim that everything is a DIY if you try hard enough, because there’s a line between frugality and insanity. However, you can easily replace a good chunk of your pantry, cleaning supplies, and even your makeup kits with cheaper (and just as good) alternatives.
I spoke about it briefly in my grocery budget post, but I firmly believe in making your own sauces and condiments. Not only are they quick, easy, and cheap to make, but they also taste better as they aren’t loaded down with preservatives. Here’s a few that I frequently take time to whip up:
- Vinegar + peppers + spices = hot sauce
- Buttermilk + mayo + spices = ranch
- Eggs + oil = mayonnaise (can you tell I love the Pioneer Woman?)
- Mayo + sweet relish = tartar sauce
- Ketchup + horseradish = cocktail sauce
- Pine nuts + basil + olive oil + spices = pesto
- Arrowroot powder + cocoa powder for coloring = dry shampoo
- 3 parts rubbing alcohol + 1 part water + spritz bottle = eye glass cleaner
- soap + borax + washing soda = laundry soap/detergent
- Pencil tin + magnets glued onto the back of de-potted eyeshadows = your own eyeshadow palette infinitely cheaper than a Z-palette
- Oils + pigment (optional) + glitter (obviously) + container = lip gloss
- Essential oils + water + roller-ball container = perfume
There’s so much more out there that you can DIY, but that’s probably another post for another time.
What do you think? What other money-saving frugality tenets do you live by?
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