Making It Yourself

1 11 2010

Let necessity be the mother of your inventions. When you have a need or want but would rather not spend, see what alternative you could make yourself. Examples:

  • Recently, I was bored with my selection of pants, so I dug out the pair I had been unhappy with and figured out (with not much formal sewing knowledge) that I could make a little alteration. Voila – favorite new pants!
  • Since all the billboards began popping up in September, I’ve been craving a pumpkin spice latte. Today I realized that there are usually internet instructions for store-bought favorites. Sure enough, I give you: DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte. It is cheaper than Starbucks, if you have the ingredients on hand and use the rest of the pumpkin for something else.
  • Finally, something I can’t wait to try, courtesy of Martha Stewart: accessories made with old jewelry and ribbons.

One caveat: these do-it-yourself projects can become addicting. That being said, do you have any good and crafty links to share?

Making Do

25 10 2010
Vintage Tupperware and Fire King

There’s a Depression-era concept if ever I heard one: making do. How often, nowadays, does someone flatly proclaim that they will “make do”? It may be an attitude ripe for revival in our culture. Take me, for instance: I tend to whine about my current financial situation, but the truth of the matter is that there are blessings in making do, such as:

  • Discovery. One of the first things one can do when faced with a money shortage is really using what one already has: reading the books on the shelves, wearing the clothes seldom worn, playing the games rarely played. It’s like shopping – in your house!
  • Creativity. The other day, inspired by French tartine sandwiches on an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, I made mock versions with ingredients I had on hand. It made me feel chic – and cheap, in a good way!
  • Contentment. While I certainly struggle with wanting things outside my reach, there are times of realization and satisfaction that I have all I really need, that I am blessed beyond a majority of the human population.
  • Good, old-fashioned smugness. Let’s admit it: sometimes there’s a guilty pleasure in knowing you cheated the system and saved some dough, or simply that you can be just as happy with a lower cost of living than other people.

Can you think of other blessings to be found in making do with what you have?

Going “Moneyless”

21 09 2010

Spending a year without spending a dollar

As I am newly unemployed, the idea of purposeful unemployment intrigues me.

In 2008, businessman Mark Boyle went on a one-year hiatus from making money and lived in a trailer on an organic farm, trading labor for rent and foraging for all of his food. Now, the “Moneyless Man” has published a book about his experiences, which he describes as overwhelmingly positive. The book offers tips for reducing your expenses, as well as your carbon footprint.

I wonder if Boyle was motivated more by his economics training, a desire for sustainability, or an escape from the rat race? Many ethical issues arise here, from foraging for food in supermarket dumpsters to the fact that Boyle was still technically earning a living, only in exchange for accommodation instead of cash. I am definitely interested to know more about what he sought to demonstrate or learn through his experiment, and I love his idea for a  “freeconomy community,” in which members teach each other skills at free events.

Are you interested in Boyle’s story, or do you think he went too far to prove a point?

Save Some Dough This December

17 11 2008

. . . And have more money for baking. Glamour magazine’s December issue states that of those readers polled, 55% spend $500 or more on gifts. If you’re looking for ways to cut back on holiday spending (and who isn’t?), try these ideas:

  • Give selectively. I am not the first to lament that Christmas has become an escalating consumer-fest, but have you really considered what that means for you ? I bet you can remember, right now, a recent time you gave a gift to someone and wondered why you needed to. The answer is: you don’t need to! Start your own campaign to give meaningful gifts and to give them meaningfully, which requires a) only giving gifts to those you wish to give to, and b) giving gifts for their significance and not their price or status. Those who love you will understand any reduction in quantity, and those who don’t? They don’t deserve a present, anyway.
  • Give homemade. Simple homemade gifts, elegantly presented, are great for giving to those you know less intimately. It’s a way of being thoughtful without spending too much, and it’s not hard to find ideas that don’t require special cooking or crafting expertise. Consider trying these ideas: Cinnamon and Applesauce Ornaments; Holiday Gift Ideas (scroll down); and Gifts in a Jar.
  • Send an e-card. I know, I know; they’re not made of beautiful paper with glitter, gilt, and ribbons, and they’re definitely harder to display in your home, but e-cards are often free, and the environmental benefit is great. Even if your family won’t stand for such things, send e-cards to your extended friend and co-worker network. It’ll save you money on stamps, cards, and gas to drive to the card store and post office. The Nature Conservancy has some pretty e-cards to get your started. You could even make your own; all you need to know is how to paste a picture into an email!
  • Don’t buy into fancy trimmings. You don’t need the blow-up snowglobes (they reek of planet-wrecking anyway), the timed light display, or even the designer wrapping paper. Try focusing on the spiritual purpose of Christmas, and when tempted, remember that people care more about what is in the package than what it’s wrapped in.
  • Cut down on the little things. Make a few sacrifices in your own life to meet more needs this holiday, especially if current conditions have you strapped for cash. Don’t buy unnecessary luxury goods like liquid hand soap (use a bar); special candy for your home (you’ll likely eat your fill elsewhere); and coffee from coffee shops (buy ground coffee in bulk and brew at home). Think ahead to save even more: can you push your haircut to right before peak holiday party time? Can you do all your shopping online or in one big day instead of making many trips?

One last tip: check for coupon codes before making online purchases. Have a relaxing and simple holiday season!

Lower bills and energy use

13 11 2008 has some novel tips for reducing energy loss in your home, as well as lowering other bills:

10 Ways to Cut Monthly Bills

Penny-pinching Tips

12 11 2008

Found: frugal article to jumpstart your thriftiness. Location: Be sure to check out the two links in the article. The takeaway lesson: secondhand is a good thing.

6 Ways to Buy Things for Less

Simplify the Holidays

11 11 2008

Once again, saving money often saves resources. Surprisingly, a commercial website, Right@Home, has a great list of (albeit brand name-dropping) tips for simpler, cheaper holiday celebrations and gift-giving.

How are you going to reduce waste in your life and the world this season?

A few ideas that readily come to my mind are: sending homemade, recycled-paper, or e-cards; making homemade wrapping paper and gifts; asking friends or family if they would be willing to forgo present-giving for a meaningful get-together; requesting or giving charitable donations in place of presents. Too many web resources exist on these ideas; do a search and check ’em out!

Green Deeds That Save You Money

10 11 2008

In the current economy, it’s harder to be consciously green. Some of us (myself included) might feel guilty when we can’t afford the organic this or the non-polluting that. There are, however, eco-friendly actions that can make a difference while saving us cash, and that’s something to be proud about. Below, five frugal ways to care:

  • Stop the bottled water habit. Invest in a Brita-style water filtration system to cut down on needless resource and money waste.
  • Buy fewer convenience foods. Look up recipes online for your favorite frozen or canned prepared meals and learn to cook them yourself for a lighter grocery bill and landfill load. Be careful, though; the ingredients you buy for some foods, like pizza, may add up to more than the prepared version’s price, so shop carefully.
  • Unplug sleeping appliances. Summer’s fans and the T.V. in the guest bedroom aren’t doing your electric bill any favors, so unplug appliances not in use to save between 6 and 26% on your monthly payments.
  • Keep your tires inflated. It might be a small difference, but improving your gas mileage is always good news for you and the planet, and it’s doesn’t cost much if you’re already at the gas station.
  • Make it last. In our consumer society, folks are often more inclined to throw something away when the going gets tough than to attempt a repair. Next time your favorite clothes get ripped, stained, or too small, consider learning some basic sewing skills and care techniques to extend their life. Also, it may be cheaper to repair an appliance with a simple problem than to send it packing, but according to Nick Harder of the Orange County Register, “If the cost of repairing the appliance is more than 50 percent of its replacement cost, buy a new appliance.” Consult an expert when diagnosing the problem, but if it’s really time for it to go, don’t throw it away–recycle!

Chemical-minimal personal care products

5 11 2008, a group blog for the frugal, has a great summary of some healthier toiletry options that are still mainstream brands and therefore easier to find in the stores and in the coupon books. Stocking stuffer and sale season is upon us!

Small Ways People Waste BIG Money and Resources

22 08 2008

We’ve all heard that small things can add up fast. Here, in my completely subjective list, are the biggest money-and-resource wasters of our modern lives, in no particular order:

1. A daily coffee shop habit. Every time you pay $2.50 for a double skim latte (or whatever), you could be making that puppy at home. For a lot less money. And if you don’t bring along a reusable mug or cup, you’re wasting more than money. Try saving the coffee shop trips for special days and time with friends and family.

2. A weekly take-out habit. Obviously, a similar principle applies here as above: choose the DIY version more often, and you’ll be surprised how little you miss spending the extra cash. Still don’t want to cook? That’s okay–store-bought convenience foods, if chosen wisely, can still be fast, yet cheaper and with less packaging.

3. Idling a vehicle. My husband and I never cease to be amazed at the ways people waste gas and hard-earned money by idling cars: in the drive-through lane; at notoriously long traffic lights; while waiting for their spouse to deposit checks/buy the milk–you get the idea. It doesn’t hurt your car to turn it off, and it pays in the long run. Try it; you just might like it.

4. Throwing things away unnecessarily. When I was in elementary school, someone told me that you need to get new things for school each year, regardless of how well the old things are holding up.
I see this attitude in the trash piles of neighbors–perfectly good items cast off for the new. In college, my friends and I watched as other students placed year-old appliances and furniture into dumpsters to make moving easier. Clearly, the scrimp and save mentality is no longer in vogue, but it’s not dead if we don’t want it to be.

5. Buying what you won’t want later. Avoid guilt and waste with a little forethought. Will that slushy maker pay for itself? Do you need the 10-oz steak? Will one doughnut suffice? You can also try the time-honored trick: If you go away from the item and still pine for it a month later, it might be a good investment. Of course, it’s still a good idea to think about any impact on the earth before you buy.

6. Fearing public opinion. And by public, I mean your parents, your best friend, those neighbors your don’t even like . . . most of the time we overestimate in our minds how much people will actually notice about our lives and choices, anyway. But even if people take notice when you start bringing your own coffee or buying less stuff, the important thing remains: how you feel about these choices.

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