Sunday, December 13, 2009

Extremely Useless Frugal Living Tips

I feel like I'm part of a flight of lemmings, the recent economy has us all trying to think of ways to save economize.

However, I've been working on frugal tips for a long time, close to 20 years. Reading the blatantly obvious and superficial frugal living tips posted on the web are a huge waste of time. Most are obvious copies of tips from other publications.

Here is a list of some frustrating and useless tips.

1) Grow your own vegetable and herbs to save money.

Have you ever made pesto or pizza Marguerite? These recipes will kill most pots of basil after one or two dinners. And some of us who live in expensive portion of the country are paying top dollar for real estate. You want us to devote it to growing tomatos?!!!

2) Buy in bulk

Hey, I'm single. It will rot if it is perishable. And if it isn't perishable, it will cost you extremely expensive real estate if you live in an expensive portion of the country. How much pantry space do I want to devote to beans?

3) Buy in bulk and divide it up with friends

I've tried this. First, your schedules don't really ever match. Second, do you ever really agree brands and types of food? Astonishingly, people get really picky especially on items like TP or soap.

4) Clip coupons.

Hum. It takes about an hour to clip the coupons from the local circular... then add some time to each trip to the store to match the coupon to the desired items... Average savings for me... less than $3 everytime. It is easier and requires less focus to just use mass transit or a bicycle to get to the store. You save gas money, eliminate the need for a gym and since you have to carry all the stuff back, you limit any impulse items.

5) Make "free" presents for others by baking cookies or knitting socks or whatever...

Free??!! Have you seen the prices for butter or wool recently? What is your time worth even if you are unemployed? However, I agree this can be lower cost than an equivalent purchase.

6) Winterize or insulate your house to save heating/cooling costs.

This is not a useless tip. It's extremely valuable. However, it's been repeated so often, I hate it. Kinda like Madonna's "Material Girl". And, yeah, it's the first thing I do whenever I move into a new place.

7) Cook at home instead of eating out

See comment about tip 6. And doesn't this depend on what kind of groceries you purchase?

8) Use less energy by 1) washing in cold water or 2) use a clothes line instead of a machine

Obviously 1) you are not allergic to dust mites and 2) it isn't raining outside and 3) if you hang it to dry inside, you're still not allergic to dust mites...

9) Buy energy star appliances

By golly, is changing your appliances really that frugal? What if I change jobs and have to move?

10) Buying a coupon book to save money

Check those books with an eagle eye. I was offered a restaurant coupon book with close to 60% discounts had I used all the coupons. However, internet reviews of these restaurants revealed most were... less than exciting. Much less exciting than eating at home.

11) Avoid daily cups of coffee from those national chains....

Argh. Enough already. I never started this nasty expensive habit. You want good coffee? Use a french press.

Some frugal living tips that worked for me.

1) Accept lower quality of life and figure out how to get around this.

I paid less for a condo that was close to the railroad tracks and to the airfield. Yes, it is noisy. I wear earplugs at night that I picked up at the Amazon Friday sale for 75% off. You get used to the noise during the day.

And it doesn't have laundry hookups but has laundry facilities in the building next door. I spent $14 on a special laundry bag which will haul heavy loads more easily. But my place is quieter. And costs less.

I rent out my spare bedroom. What did I pay more for the spare bedroom? To get into the 2 bdrm, 2 bath single family entry level market and keep my property values stable.

On the plus side, it's really easy to use the train to commute to work. Free, too since my employer is generous enough to distribute annual train passes to employee.

2) CFL's have been written to death. LED's aren't really ready for prime time (although this may change within the next year). I use LED night lights with motion detectors. It extends the life of the CFL's by eliminating the need for quick short bursts of light (less than 15 minutes).

3) Rechargable batteries with a "smart" charger (one that will monitor the battery and recharge/discharge as needed)

4) Insulate your windows (after you've already weatherstripped). You can use insulating panels but the downside is complete light blockage or inconvenient removal. Others use window quilts or Roman drapes. If it is physically possible, why not just tuck your curtains under your blinds? It is quite effective.

5) Drinks are always expensive. Downgrade across the board. If you are drinking bottled water, switch to filtered water. Use the less expensive filtering option that gives you great taste. Those filters aren't really extracting all that much lead, arsenic or cadmium out of your drinking water because it's pretty safe to start with. What, you thought the water treatment plants don't have filtering technology?

6) Dieting is one of the most effective ways to lower your grocery and medical bills! Never eat out - the food is very fatty. And eat less! I'm not joking. I brown bagged my lunches, cut the volume of food consumed by 2/3 and went from gaining about 3-5 lbs per year to losing over 10 lbs per year. I don't have to cook as frequently.

7) Eating healthy is another effective way to lower your grocery and medical bills. Substitute beans for meats, oatmeal for processed cereals...adding poached chicken to my roster of recipes has been a real money, time and calorie saver.

8) You wanna save energy? Don't want to pile on another blanket/comforter and spend lots of money, ya da, ya da? Wear a sweatshirt and pants to bed. Want to take it to the max? The body loses the most heat from the head, neck, hands & wrists and ankles and feet. Wear gloves, socks, arm/leg warmers, a hat or scarf to bed. However, I am not so extreme that I wear my boots to bed.

9) Good cookwear saves time, money, is more energy efficient, offers higher performance and lasts longer. I once tested a decent quality vs. high quality skillet. The high quality skillet cooked the food in 1/2 the time. Plus the high quality skillet has a lifetime warranty. I'll be sending it back to the company for replacement. Just as soon as it wears out. I'm sure it will one of these decades.

10) The Internet offers free e-books, free movies and TV. Have you considered canceling your cable subscription?

11) Due to a generous employee phone plan, I eliminated the land lines at home (also at work but that didn't save me any money) and consolidated my personal and work cell phone accounts into one. It is a little confusing getting work calls when you're on vacation but I'm saving at least $40 per month. Check with your employer. Or consolidate your cell phone plan with family members.

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