Thursday, February 21, 2008

Frugal Tips

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a reader to provide some frugal tips that I've found useful in my everyday life. I don't consider myself frugal. I'm just cheap. With all the money that we lost in real estate, I don't have the luxury of buying much of anything.

I'm allergic to spending money on stuff that I don't need. My children have taught me that shiny new merchandise in the store mysteriously turns into broken ugly junk when it passes through our front door. As I ogle an item that I'm tempted to buy, a vision of what it'll become flashes through my head, and I drop it like a hot potato. So my first tip is not to buy anything that won't last for at least 10 years.

Since I've grown quite attached to the children, I can't give any of them away (plus, some are old enough to find their way back). So I'm not going to say that the best money-saving tip is to have fewer kids. The more you have, the more use you get from the toys that the first one was given for various holidays, birthdays, and for just being born and burping all the time.

Now that we've established the fact that the kids stay, I'm forced to employ money-saving tips in my home. The best way to save on utility bills is to rip the thermostat from the wall the second escrow closes on your home. If you haven't done that yet, go now. Run, don't walk. Believe me, without heating or air conditioning, you'll save a fortune. You live in a state where the temperature drops below freezing? That's what fireplaces are for. Isn't it worth staying up all night to feed the hearth instead of wasting your hard-earned money on natural gas or electricity? Firewood is cheaper than propane. Take my word for it.

When the little ones are hungry, I just make a trip to Costco . . . during lunch. For free food samples. I save so much on our grocery bill that it more than makes up for the membership fee. If we stay long enough, we can have dinner, too. It's so great when Daddy can join us for a family supper and we all sit around the dining room table on display enjoying our plates full of tiny taste cups!

In addition to the tips above, we don't perform frivolous repairs on our vehicles. A hubcap is missing? Oh well. We tried to attach one that we found in the street, but it fell off, too. So what if the van, with gigantic tires, looks like Lucy Ball when she blacked out her front teeth. I can't see it when I'm driving. A door comes off when your teenage driver jolts forward while you're still getting in? Just wear a raincoat if you have to go somewhere when the weather is bad. Otherwise, enjoy the ambiance of cruising through Whine Country in an open sedan on a bright sunshiny day. Don't forget to buckle up!

We do see the dentist every six months because it's less expensive to prevent a cavity than to fill one. We travel to San Diego because that dentist is very nice and charges us a fraction of what others cost. However, we save by not seeing the optometrist regularly. I mean, literally, that we are unable to see him when we finally go in. We can't see the chart for that matter, either. I guess we've decided that having a sparkly smile is more important than reading a street sign.

And, last but not least, learn how to mend. The myriad holes that crop up in kids clothes may tempt you to buy more for them. But it's not necessary. It only takes a minute to thread a needle and close up that pesky eyesore. If you have to sew an item more than once, it may become cinched enough for the younger boy to wear it before his time. Socks, underwear, etc. all can be passed down from one child to the next (as long as they ignore the stains). An added benefit to learning how to use a needle is the money you save on ER visits for stitches. Do-it-yourself is the way to go!