Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On being frugal...

There has been a request for more on ways we try to cut expenses. I must confess that I am not always frugal, and have a lot to learn (as well as more knowledge that could be better applied, in other words, a greater amount of self-discipline). Many people are much better at this, but in light of the reality of the current economic situation of our country (and the sermon a few weeks ago), this has been on my mind a lot recently.

First of all, here are some things that came to mind while driving home this evening. (Please allow me to digress here for a moment. I have been thinking WAY too much when driving lately which has led to some really humiliating - and potentially deadly - moments, such as running a red arrow a few weeks ago. I wanted to crawl in a hole...)

In random, train-of-thought order:
-haircuts: I cut every one's hair (which is probably obvious) except my own, which I only have cut about once a year (which is also probably obvious). A pair of clippers is the price of one (inexpensive) haircut, and we have purchased a sharpening stone, which has extended the usable life of our most recent pair.

-food: It is probably also obvious if you have read this blog much, that we eat pretty well around here. But we don't really eat "gourmet." We do try to eat fairly healthy, but don't go to lengths with that - no organic or high end "health foods." Some ways I am frugal with food: It is a very rare occasion when we buy meat that is more than $2/lb. When 93% lean hamburger is on sale, or chicken breast, or pork loin, we stock up and freeze it at that time. (We were blessed to have been given an extra freezer years ago.) I do use coupons, though I frequently wonder if they are really worth the time it takes to keep up with them. This may be something I drop at some point. I almost never buy something that isn't on sale, and this applies to everything, not just food. We don't eat out much either, and when we do, it is frequently pizza at Sam's or the dollar menu at McDonald's, though not always, of course.

-movies: We rarely, if ever, rent movies (or go to the theater for that matter), rather use our library's hold system to eventually get a chance to see ones we are interested in. Sometimes we have to wait for a while to get it, but between the 5 of us, depending where we rented, that saves a significant amount over the course of a month or two.

-library: Speaking of the library, this is one of our favorites. We take advantage as much as possible of the resources available there, from the obvious books, to movies, interlibrary loans, and requesting books they don't have that we really like but don't want to buy ourselves. Using the computer at home to find what I want there before we arrive is one way of trying to navigate that minefield with three in tow. It is so helpful and useful to be able to renew items online, put them on hold if they are checked out, make a list for out next visit, make interlibrary loan requests, etc. Each library varies slightly in their online offerings.

-cars: My dad recently brought this one to mind. We have been blessed to buy or receive various cars from our families, but when we bought our van a while back, kept an eye out for a while till we found a used one for sale by owner. Buying used, and not buying from a dealer are ways to keep initial expenses down. Geoff changes the oil and does basic repairs.

-books: We are bibliophiles. Besides our general enjoyment of books and reading, Geoff has needed many books for school the past several years, and we order lots of books and materials for school at home. Besides Sonlight, where we order the backbone of our curriculum (and which is admittedly pricey but will be used three times over and can either be resold for close to initial price, if not kept), Amazon (used or new, depending on which is less), and Rainbow Resource (a home school company that sells a huge variety of books and items at prices comparable to Amazon, sometimes less). And we bring bags full home from the library every few weeks.

-general: We rarely buy anything that isn't on sale. I get super excited about finding a great deal on anything. I have recently been thinking of what a blessing it is, especially in these current times, to receive hand-me-downs. I think garage sales and thrift/second hand stores are great, but at this life stage, don't have the time or ability to spend making repeated trips to hunt things down like that, and haven't found the prices to be that much greater than catching the sales at the department stores. When you take into consideration how used the items (especially clothing) might be, the time and gas spent making multiple trips to find what you are looking for in the right size, and the frustration of not finding it, it may just be more expensive to go that route.

I got excited about eBay for a while and scored a few great deals ($80 math curriculum for $10 for example), but have had some really frustrating experiences that have kept me away for a while. I think "deals" became rarer on there over the months that I was keeping an eye on things. Much home school curriculum sells for nearly retail price, and then shipping is added on top. At that point, I might as well buy it new and resell it myself when we're done with it - less hassle to just order it from a company than to try and win the auction. And speaking of auctions, there is SUCH a game to winning those which led to great exasperation (i.e. carnality) on my part. It was also consuming quite a bit of time to look for items, keep an eye on them, bid on them, etc. And lastly, I misunderstood/misinterpreted what was being offered on one occasion and ended up with something different than what I wanted that couldn't be returned.

This list isn't all-inclusive by any means. I will try to mention other things when they come to mind along the way. But here is a start. Please feel free to leave a comment with other ways you have found to reign in expenses!!! (Oh, and if you don't have a google account, you should be able to leave a comment "anonymously" though if you don't mind doing so, please include your name in your comment!)

1 comment:

  1. We do a lot of those things too. I love the library! You can tell I cut the hair in our family too! I don't cut my own and don't think I'll do the baby's when she is older. We also tear dryer sheets in half and paper towels. Smaller pieces still do the job. Randy changes the oil on the car but the van drives him crazy because the filter is hard to find. You don't have that problem with the Odyssey? He is in fact getting the oil changes right now!