Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saving Money Around the House

Anne emailed me and said she likes it when I share specific ways of saving money, so Anne, here you go. :)

I make my own maple syrup. You can find recipes online, but I usually use far less sugar. A tiny bottle of maple flavoring lasts forever at our house--you only add a couple drops when you make syrup.

Rather than use Rubbermaid-type plastic containers for leftovers, I use glass bowls. If they don't have their own lid, I just set a glass plate on top rather than using plastic wrap or foil ($$). Plastic breaks down after time and leaches into foods, so glass bowls are safer anyway.

About the only 'meat' I buy anymore is chicken, tuna and canned salmon. You can do a ton of things with just those, and besides, I'm learning to make lots of vegetarian dishes. If Tom or I want a different kind of meat, we order it during our once-a-week outings.

I make my own household cleaners using water and baking soda and vinegar (etc.). But (I confess) I also buy windshield washer fluid by the gallon (cheap), fill a regular window-washing bottle, then use it to clean countertops, stove tops, floors, and of course, windows. (At least this stuff doesn't smell as toxic as lots of other cleaners.)

I generally tear paper towels in half rather than use a full-size sheet. (Yes, I realize they make paper towels with perforated centers, but I only buy those if they're a great deal on sale. They usually cost a lot more, at least here in NY.)

And here are some hints taken from a post of mine years ago:

I often cook from scratch and make my own mixes. Yet, some things are cheaper to buy ready-made--I love to research that sort of thing and take notes (calculate energy costs of using an oven, etc.) and then decide for myself which way is cheaper and healthier. I love to make my own spaghetti sauce from my own tomatoes--cheap and so good!

I make homemade lunches for Tom to take to work.

We do not own a clothes dryer (by choice). I hang our clothes to dry on wooden racks or outside on a line.

We keep the thermostat at 62 or 63 during the day, 52 at night. I try to use major appliances during off-peak hours.

For exercise I walk around our neighborhoods and also work-out at home (way cheaper and more convenient than a public gym).

I paint our rooms myself and do all my own decorating. This is another thing which has required much research and self-education over the years. I always check "oops paint" first--often I've found the exact color I needed and for only 3 or 4 dollars a gallon(!)

We have cheapo (broadcast) tv cable through Time Warner. Just $8.95 per month for nearly 30 stations, though the rates are going up $1, which actually, I think is pretty fair, all things considered.

Only occasionally do we drive to the theater to watch movies--and the tickets are only $3.50 anytime day or night because it's a 'second-run' theater (I love that place--so 1940's old-fashioned). Our splurge, though, is that, for $14 each month we are signed up with Netflix. No late fees, no postage fees and the movies come right to our mailbox so no gas is involved, either.

Tom loves receiving the newspaper at home (I don't) but I try to make the most of the sales flyers (for groceries) and the coupons on weekends to help 'pay for' the paper subscription.

I try really hard to pay our bills on time (and then try not to kick myself when I occasionally pay one late). I use my own personal credit card only for online purchases and nearly always pay it off each month.

We keep a list of things we'd like to buy and then when summer comes around, we shop at yard sales for those things. We also use our income tax return for some things on that list and for major home repairs and improvements.

I grow a garden each year (container gardens are easy and require little space). We do all our own yard work, shovel our own snow (unless the neighbors help for free) and make our own coffee (well, 98% of the time. We do often buy coffee when we eat out once a week).

We've tithed for 30 years (highly controversial when you admit to that on the Internet, I know!). But hey, I truly believe in 'give and it shall be given unto you' and I've watched that concept work for us these many years. It's made a huge difference in our finances.

And a big one--we've always bought only houses we could afford.

The main thing? I try to view saving money as a fun, beat-the-system challenge, rather than a 'poor me' chore. What a difference attitude makes!


Tracy said...

Great tips! I always love to read about how others save money. Thanks for sharing, Debra. :)

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Lots of good ideas........I do most of them already, but am thinking about making my own cleaning products - Down To Earth has a lot of ideas, and of course I have a lot of old books with ideas, too....But then, I'm old enough to have had depression era parents and grown up before credit cards. A blessing.

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

You wrote; "I try to view saving money as a fun, beat-the-system challenge, rather than a 'poor me' chore. What a difference attitude makes!"

Oh yes! Oh yes! I think this is a topic of a whole entry for you, Debra. Especially in hard economic times, which we are now living through.

It's one thing to try to be frugal and try for simplicity, in good times. {I have and lots of us have.} And it's a whole other "ballgame," to do it, in hard times. In hard times, we need to fight off a "poor me" feeling.

Like..."We worked hard all our lives, to have a comfortable retirement, and look what happened to our hard earned nest egg!" Can't you hear the "It's not fair!" just lingering in the background of that statement???

Of course it's not fair! Who ever promised that life _would_ be fair?

Well, one could mope around and feel put-upon. Or one could be clear-headed and adopt the same feeling of.. "I'll save all I can, and it will continue to be a game."

Sorry for being so long-winded, but you I'm that way, by nature! -giggles-

Aunt Amelia
"Good champagne can certainly
be aged and will improve for ten years or longer. The bubbles become tinier and more plentiful, the aroma fruitier."
~~Frédérique Bavert

Elizabeth said...

Hi Debra, Thanks for visiting my blog. I so enjoyed reading yours.
Elizabeth (SimplePleasures)

... Paige said...

great post

Anonymous said...

I love it!
I'm so much like you.
I too make a list and look at garage/estate sales.
I too make my own all purpose cleaner with baking soda and white vinegar.
I truly believe in give and you will receive.
We too Netflix and rarely go to the movies.
My only question.
Will you please please please post your recipe for Maple Syrup?

Anonymous said...

Living simply makes me feel closer to God too.

Annie said...


Hey thanks for this post. If you ever run out of things to say (which I doubt) you could post up some of your vegetarian recipes.

Your windshield washer fluid tip was wonderful and timely. I was out of cleaning stuff and had a whole gallon of the washer fluid in my car. Passed it on to my sister and she loved it, too.

I love when you do posts like this.


Anne from the View from 256