ideas requested

cicadidaeJanuary 18, 2010


I am very new to frugality. My idea of happiness was spending most of what I had left after bills on ebay or in hardware stores!.

We are now pulling our small family (two adults, one dog, and three cats) out of a small debt problem and learning that frugality actually feels good. Appreciating what I have is something really nice and rather new. We are learning this frugality thing slowly and taking it by baby steps. Probably most of you would be shocked at what we still do wrong but we are getting it!

The following are areas in which I think I would like to be more frugal. If any of you have suggestions I would be happy to read them all.

Dishwasher soap: Can you make it yourself without having a bubblerink on your floor after turning the machine on?

Catfood: one of our cats has FUS. He needs CD food. Is there any way of getting cheaper than at our vets? It is really expensive and what HE eats, the others also eat so it is one pricey kitty.

Someone somewhere used to make fire logs out of recycled paper. I tried to do it and the thing was impossible to catch on fire.

What about dogfood? Please don't think of me as a jerk. I make sure my dog eats the right thing with as little fillers as possible. But he is BIG (mostly pyrenees) and eats more than I do. Any suggestions of places where good dog food can be purchased less expensively?

I will think of more things but have to get to work.


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Dog food---- check out the Costco house brand chicken and brown rice (not the lamb and rice) food. Lots of people are feeding that right now.

Some economies are false. For something like DW detergent, try the house brand at a store like Walmart, or look for a good sale on other brands. If you bought the ingredients for DW soap (enzymes? which is the basis for all the best detergents), and it didn't work well for you, that is a false economy. Try using less. If you don't have really hard water, you should do well with a heaping tablespoon. Most people use twice that much. If you can cut the amount that you use in half, you just saved 50% on DW detergent.

For cat food, if your cat is on a prescription diet, don't mess with it. Unless you want to prepare homemade food for your cat, which may not be cheaper.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 1:06PM
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Step 1: you need to set up a monthly budget.

Track all of your spending for an entire month. Write down everything you spend. Utility bills, fast food lunches, credit card interest, everything.

You won't know where to cut until you're really able to see where the money is actually going.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 1:29PM
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While it is good to look for small items to save money on, your biggest impact can be had by reducing your biggest bills. Housing - vehicles - utilities - clothes - food.

Write down everything you spend for a month. Then, start looking for the areas you can save the most money. It might be not eating out. It might be refinancing a house. It might be selling an expensive car and driving a little junker instead.

Re firewood - check out the free section on craigs list. In my area, someone posts free wood just about every day.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 5:15PM
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Hi cicadidae,

Congratulations on your decision to manage your money more effectively. May I suggest that you make a game of it, rather than a rather oppressive chore?

It'll be a lot more effective if you can get everyone in the family on board, as well - and if they can view it as a game, as well.

I agree with the suggestion that you write down every last expense for a month - that'll give you a better idea of precisely where your money is going ... and you may find some holes in the rainbarrel that you may choose to partially or fully plug.

Have you ever lived paycheque-to-paycheque, with no extra money on hand in case of unusual expenses?

I've never been in handcuffs, and I don't want to be in any, either. It's difficult enough being perennially short of money, which I call being in financial handcuffs ... but when we set up our personal financial affairs so that we operate on a paycheque-to-paycheque basis, I say that we're putting ourselves into financial handcuffs: not a pleasant experience!

Do you have some funds on hand available in case a substanial expensive emergency should rear its ugly head ... maybe next week?

Some people say, 'No problem - we'll just put it on the credit card' ... but before you consider that too seriously, have you looked at the interest rates that those issuers charge? About 18% for regular cards, and around 28% for store-issued cards, usually.

As most of the stuff that most of us buy isn't deductible, if you are in 20% income tax bracket, you must earn 25% more than that interest rate in order to have the after-tax money necessary to pay the interest - before paying off one cent of principal. For example, if you're paying 28%, 25% of that is 7, which added to the 28 becomes 35 ... 20% of 35 is 7, deduct that from the 35 leaves 28 - the amount that you need to pay the interest.

Do you have a good credit record? Can you set up a Line of Credit with your credit union or bank to use in case of an emergency - a "real" emergency, that is, not just some routine "want" that jumps up every now and again, masquerading as important?

If you put the price of an emergency expense on the credit card, such a line of credit could be drawn on to pay that account in full when due, to avoid the high interest rates.

And if you have some mutual fund or stock certificates to lodge as collateral with the financial agency almost certainly the interest rate that they'll charge will be lower than on an unsecured Line.

But that's a temporary plan: you should plan to build an asset base so that you have a financial cushion in case of need.

Do you have kids that are going to need education beyond secondary school? How do you plan to finance that?

Do you plan to retire? With a pension? If not, or yours may be inadequate, start planning and building toward funding it now. If you are one of the decreasing group who have one, and you figure that it's secure ... maybe ask some people who worked for failed companies how pleased they are with their company's promised pension. Maybe start planning how to finance some backup, just in case. ... And the best day to start planning for one's personal retirement fund is the day that one's born: every day that we delay not only planning, but beginning implementation makes the steepness of the hill to achieve our goal just that much more acute.

There are 33 pages of messages here, with 30 topics on each page, for a total of 990 threads. If you make a plan to read 3 per day, you'll get through the whole mess in less than a year ... and when you start looking at a number of them, you'll find them of little interest ... so you should get through the whole thing in about four months.

Then check the 'Household Finance' forum.

Also, possibly, 'Trash to Treasure'.

There are a number of other forums where people can pick up a good deal of practical information, that should save substantial financial outlay ... at zero cost (except reading time).

If you have questions, come to ask ... and don't feel embarrassed to do so: in this game, there are no foolish questions, O.K.?

You refer to having some unexplored earth ... would that include some space that you could use for a veggie garden? That will give you not only lower cost but fresher veggies, plus a respect for the productive capacity of the earth and the necessity that we preserve it carefully.

Again, congratulations of your decision, and beginning to implement it, of managing your money more effectively.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:36PM
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What is your purpose for using firelogs? Are you burning them for heat, for the look, or some other reason? There may be a cheaper alternative, but it probably depends on why you burn them.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 12:44AM
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1. Ah yes, the relentless restrictions of a budget. Write it down. As others said, write down every penny you spend. It will surprise how much money slips through your fingers.

2. Budget a specific amount of money (in cash) for groceries - which is for FOOD ONLY (people food), and stick to the budgeted amount. Budget another amount for non-food items.

-My food budget is $75/every two weeks for two adults. I never spend the entire amount, but as the money accumulates I purchase 100-pounds of wheat ($20) several times a year, a year's worth of a powdered whey-based milk substitute we use instead store-bought. I mill my own flour and make all our baked goods for a fraction of the price of commercial breads and baked goods.

-Contact your Vet. for recipes for homemade options for your pets. My sister-in-law made a rice-based recipe for their pooch (as prescribed by their Vet.).

-I keep meat purchases to $2/pound or less, AND no more than $10/week. Figure those unit prices. If you purchase a 5-ounce can of tuna for $1.29, that equals $4.13/pound. That's not a meat bargain. You can't STRETCH meat by adding more carbohydrates (which most people already consume far too many servings of per day). The only way to "stretch" meat is to use low-priced sources of protein in order to get your recommended amount of protein each day. I make ground gluten at home and mix it 50/50 with ground beef/pork/turkey. Gluten (aka seitan) is an excellent source for inexpensive protein. I also make it into a crunchy cereal, "jerky", cutlets, "meat"balls, etc...

-Reduce meat (the budget buster). Friday is vegetarian day for us - using eggs, cheese, beans, and gluten for our protein servings. Wednesday we have stir-fry, which is a low-meat day. I mix small amounts of meat with beans (Mexican and Italian Meals) on Thursday. Sunday is homemade pizza, another low-meat day. Saturday is soup and/or sandwich day. The only day I make a large portion of meat is Monday and that large cut of meat (roast beef, baked chicken, turkey or turkey breast) serves the rest of the week for many meals, base for homemade soup, sandwiches, casseroles, and possibly some for the freezer. That leaves Tuesday - leftovers...

-When fresh shell eggs are more than $1.60/dozen I switch to powdered whole eggs (which are less expensive per egg at that price point).

-Avoid eating out, take-out, and convenience foods. Cook from scratch. I make my own "convenience" foods. We choose whole foods which tend to be less expensive and easy to prepare (Mother Nature's original "fast food").

-Watch those portions. Over-eating ANYTHING is expensive.

-Avoid wasted food - that's the most expensive food you purchase.

-Eliminate junk food. Snacks at our house are air-popped popcorn (less expensive than microwave), home-dehydrated apple slices, home-dehydrated zucchini (we use them instead of potato chips), nuts, homemade granola...

-No single-portions (juice boxes, chips, fruit/pudding packs, etc.), they always cost more than portioning your own food from a larger package.

-No ready-to-serve fruit juice - it's cheaper to purchase frozen concentrate and add your own water. Use only 100% real juice. Avoid fruit "drinks" that contribute nothing in the way of nutrition. Don't use fruit juice to quench thirst. A serving of juice is 3/4-cup and equals one fruit serving.

-Pack your lunches using leftovers.

-Drink tap water (or filter/distill your own at home) instead of paying for pre-packaged water bottles. Reuse your own container.

3. Instead of worrying about how to save a few pennies on dishwasher detergent (although pennies are important and you can purchase a no-name brand of dishwasher detergent), lets focus on saving the dollars:

-Eliminate all subscriptions (newspapers, magazines, etc.)

-Cut the cable TV.

-Get rid of expensive monthly charges for cell phones and get a TracFone (we spend $99/YEAR on a TracFone and always have minutes that roll-over). Restrict your use of the TracFone. Cell phones, the new non-narcotic addiction.

-Eliminate memberships (gym, social groups, clubs, etc.)

-Eliminate expensive, unnecessary, self-indulgences: Coffee shops, hair care (I cut my own hair and nature has applied "highlights" free of charge), manicures and pedicures, purchases at convenience stores, any food/drink that doesn't have any redeeming nutritional value, shopping (without a reason and without a budgeted amount of MONEY)...

-Eliminate buying books and movies and utilize the Public Library instead. If you haven't been there for awhile, you'll find all kinds of wonderful things to take advantage of that will be FREE.

-Check your insurances and see if you can save money - increase deductables. Place home and vehicles with the same insurance company and save. Shop around for better prices for insurance.

-Are you paying for unnecessary bank fees? Move from a bank to a credit union. Use a debit card and eliminate ALL credit cards.

-Turn the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. We keep our house 62-64F. We've replaced as many lights as possible with LED and CFL.

From "The Tightwad Gazette" - by Amy Dacyczyn

1. But it cheaper
2. Make it last longer
3. Use it less


    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 8:48AM
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wow! this is a total treasure trove of ideas! I have to run to work but I am coming back to look at them all.
At this point we spend $60 per week for food. We pay in cash now to ensure no extra spending.
I drive a lot for my job. I keep my money for gas in cash and never use my debit card unless emergency (and that hasnt happened in awhile).
I have set up a budget whereby I believe I will have an emergency fund of about 2,000 by May. I intend to keep it.
We do consider this like a game. We ask each other on every purchase if we really need it or if we can meet the need in a cheaper/preferably free way. Believe it or not, we have found a lot of free alternatives.
One interesting thing that I have discovered is that gratitude works. Consumerism made it so that I only wanted more. Now, I find myself looking around at all of the things we have, weeding out the things we dont need, and truly appreciating (and caring for) the things we do.
Valentine's day doesnt have to be a day to spend a lot. I think it might be fun to put heart into creative free cards that mean more.
This is a total change for me and I am, for the first time in a long time, feeling peaceful and safe...and a lot happier.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 2:04PM
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You can make your own dog food. My sister does for her dog and besides being cheaper, the vet says it is better for the dog. Her recipe--1/3 protein--meat, eggs or dairy--1/3 grains, she mainly uses rice--1/3 vegetables. All ingredients are cooked just like you would do for yourself. She then divides it into containers enough for one day and freezes the rest. When she makes it she makes enough for a month. She does suppliment with a little kibble each day, but a bag lasts a long time.

As for your cats I'm afraid you are stuck with that one. This is a medical condition and I wouldn't even try changing the cats food.

You have the right idea from your last post. You'll be fine. just keep on keeping on.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 6:03PM
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one way to save on dog food---don't overfeed your big dog! we have 2 bigs dogs, and they will eat as much as you give them! we limit their food to maintain a healthy body doing so, can save $ in the long run on vet bills and arthritis meds, etc! (there are way too many overweight animals!)
the cats are is hard to isolate a cat and feed it....i don't know what fus is or what cd food is...but i would research the condition myself and just be sure that whatever the expensive food your vet is selling you is really necessary...

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 9:02AM
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Hi cicadidae,

I like the light-hearted, enthusiastic spirit which you show in your latest post.

I hope that you'll continue to carry on the program with a good spirit, not rebelling against it as being a drudge, too much trouble, etc.

As you say, if you can manage to accumulate some savings over a number of months, knowing that that money is available will make you feel less pushed.

If you can make an adequate diet for the cat with the illness, fine.

Do the cats feel the need to be together when they eat? Would it be possible to feed the cat with the special diet in a different room, with only him/her there?

Good wishes for success without substantial strain in this new - and profitable - venture.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 1:42AM
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