Lamby's living like a sir.
I've been doing some thinking about my financial situation especially since I am unemployed and I have overhauled our household budget. I was always pretty damned cheap to begin with but now I watch each and every penny that flows through. So, I wanted to share with you some of the ways we've adapted, improvised and will eventually overcome. Some tips may not be of use to you depending on your comfort level or location but I hope you might find some things that will work. Ready?
As Seen on TV!
I've been an active bicycle commuter for over six years and I gave up my driver license years ago. I just simply don't need to drive. We are fortunate that our city is very bike friendly and our weather, though quite wet and chilly, doesn't hinder riding throughout the year. Matt's job is also less than five miles from our home, so now he rides his bike to work. This saves on an average $20 per week. It costs $60 to fill the tank of our truck and we get maybe a week and a half of driving before it's time to fill up again. So this is good.
Matt only uses the truck for his league golf night because he doesn't yet have a bike trailer for his clubs. He will eventually!
Anyway, cutting down on your driving saves gas and money. If you can't bike, consider taking public transportation at least twice a week. It's also a very green option!
I had to reduce our utility bill. No way around it. What I do is keep anything nonessential unplugged. After I use the coffeemaker, it gets unplugged. Microwave too. I also unplug my phone chargers when not in use.
My entertainment center is plugged into a power strip that gets switched off after use. This reduces "phantom power" and saves money and energy.
When you wash, make sure you use cold water. Less energy and better for your clothes!
I married an HVAC guy. Naturally, he's very concerned about how efficient our heating and cooling is. Sadly, it's not at all. We purchased a house built in 1962 that has ceiling heat. Ceiling heat blows. We don't have A/C either.
The thermostats were also out of date. What to do? Replace them with digital ones. Keep them set at 68 degrees in the summer and 72 degrees in the winter. You can also have an assessment done on your home to find energy leaks but...we haven't. We just make sure to keep all bedroom doors closed in the winter and put on sweaters when we're chilly. We also have a nice stash of afghans and quilts.
We have a "portable" A/C unit for the summer. We only use it in the bedroom and just enough to cool it down before going to bed. Sadly for us, it doesn't get terribly hot in Oregon too often so A/C is really unnecessary. (I know some of you envy that, sorry.)
As for cleaning products and the like, I buy everything at Dollar Tree. I also recycle my aluminum foil, cling wrap and sandwich bags.
I baked these. They were rad.
I like to eat. A lot. I also like to cook. Knowing how to cook helps me to save money.
First of all, learn to cook. Seriously. It's cheaper and so much better for you.
Most of my adult life, money has been really tight. Whether I was trying to live off of $30 a week or saving money for a down payment on my house, I just have never had a lot of money. But I refuse to go hungry.
I've learned a few tricks over the years and I can make a mean meal with very little. We also pack our own lunches and very rarely buy coffee drinks a la Starbucks.
Meat/Fish: It's expensive. Scour ads for sales, look for coupons. When I lived in California, I used to go to a Hispanic grocery store because they sold meat packs. For $99 I got a whole chicken, pork chops, ground beef and carne asdada. It would last me a month. Ethnic grocers are a great resource.
For fish, I struck a deal with my girlfriend. She and her husband go fishing and crabbing so in exchange for fishy goodness, I load her up with tomatoes and fresh herbs.
Otherwise, consider eating more vegetarian meals.
Veggies: We plant a garden every year. We grow tomatoes, onions and peppers as well as herbs. This year we are also growing beans. But don't be a fresh only snob, okay? Sometimes fresh is pricey. Frozen veg still has lots of nutrients and it can be purchased pretty damn cheaply.
I freaking love beans and legumes. They are cheap and they have lots of protein. I buy dry beans and canned beans and I always have them on hand. I cook my dry beans in the crock pot and the canned beans are for when I have little time. I just make sure to rinse my canned beans to reduce some of the sodium.
I always have can tomatoes on hand too because I like to make my own pasta sauce.
I buy lots of frozen broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and edamame because they're very versatile and Matt likes them a lot. I also buy lots of potatoes. They are yummy.
I am willing to spend a bit more for V-8. I buy the low sodium version mind you. However, it is a full serving of vegetables and we drink it throughout the day.
Bread and Pasta/Grains: Pasta is cheap. I don't care about low carb or anything. Pasta will keep you feeling full. Plus it's not hard to find good whole wheat pasta. If you're worried about carbs, here's a little something for you: Eat them after a workout. Your body needs them then. Matt does South Beach and that's the only time he eats a lot of carbs.
My local grocery store has a nice bulk food area that has quinoa, brown rice, barley and more for fairly decent prices. These are really good grains with lots of fiber.
Rice can be pretty cheap too. I buy wild, long grain, brown and I'm about to buy me a rice cooker. However, you can buy instant brown rice. I splurge now and again on couscous too. It's yummy.
For bread, I bake my own. I can control what goes in it, up the fiber content and even add extra protein. I imagine you're reading that and thinking WTF? It's easy. Buy a bread machine. It does all the hard work. Plus, you can buy nifty gadgets like that and rice cookers at Goodwill. But we'll get to that later.
Finally, I make my own tortillas. Masa is super cheap and goes a long way. You don't really need a tortilla press but I like mine. Also, Quaker makes a good flour tortilla mix that's cheap and versatile. Again, go to your ethnic grocer!!
I forgot to mention, I also buy bags of corn meal. I make polenta with it as well as corn bread.
Fruits: I buy them frozen mainly. However, when something is in season and cheap, I hop all over it. Where I live, we have a great Farmer's Market that has some really good deals.
Dairy/Eggs: I don't drink cow's milk but I buy powdered milk. I use it for bread baking mainly but it has a lot of other good uses. Otherwise, I buy coconut milk and I get it inexpensively.
We opt for store brand cheese. We always have cream cheese, cheddar and light string cheese snacks on hand. We also love yogurt. We buy the cheapest Greek version and eat it for breakfast, make smoothies, use it in place of sour cream, you name it.
Eggs haven't been too expensive and we buy a lot at once. Matt makes hard-boiled eggs for his lunch and we eat omelets on the weekend. Cheap protein.
Where we spend a bit more is egg whites. We buy the container of them from the dairy case. It's a preference of Matt's and goes with his South Beach diet.
I buy tons of chicken and vegetable stock. I hit up my Asian grocer for miso paste, bonito flakes, dried shrimp and noodles. I make a lot of soups and stews year round. They're cheap, easy to make and freeze beautifully.
Lastly, I buy all of my dried herbs and seasonings at Dollar Tree.
Where to shop for food:
I have a great local grocery that offers some of the best deals in town and has a comprehensive bulk and ethnic foods section. However, I make trips to my local Grocery Outlet. They can have some amazing deals on wine, coffee and olive oil. All are staples in my house. I'm really impressed with Grocery Outlet's Independence From Hunger campaign this month. Food inequality and hunger are hot button issues with me.
They are really illustrating the problem of hunger with their $4-A-Day challenge. Check out their blog to read some of their staffer's experience as well as for some great tips on saving money. It's helped me tremendously.
I recommend shopping your Farmer's Market because it can be cheaper but also because many farms offer CSAs. A CSA is similar to BirchBox, Julep Maven and other beauty subscription services except for food.
You can get a lot of fresh and local food, support your local farms and actually spend less.
LocalHarvest is a great resource to find what's going on in your area.
Golf keeps my husband sane.
We got rid of cable. Netflix, Hulu and iTunes offer so much more entertainment for a lot less. Plus, we only watch a handful of shows. The only thing that's difficult is sports. We used to have a subscription to MLB.tv for baseball but we had to let it go. (I'm not sure what we're gonna do for Duck games besides invade my sister's house).
I am a voracious reader. I last purchased a book, myself, five years ago. I go to the library. It's free.
(Though I do pay an annual fee to use the library in the next town over. Considering how many books, DVDs and CDs I can consume, it easily eclipses the initial fee.)
As for music, I use Pandora and iheart radio. Free, free, free. I also listen to a lot of NPR. I *heart* NPR.
Matt and I took up disc golf this year. We bought our equipment used at Play It Again Sports and we ride our bikes to one of the courses in the city. We paid very little for the equipment and use of the course is free.
We do have a splurge and it's for Matt. He joined a golf league and his green fees are $22 a week. We can swing it since we slashed the budget and Matt doesn't have to play every week. It's worth it because he's happy and can still pursue his hobby.
I have to update my status and send some tweets, Lady!When we got rid of cable, we got rid of their internet too. We went with DSL from the phone company because they charge way less than that unnamed cable giant. With this and my Netflix account, I cut my bill by 75 - 80%.
We both have smartphones. They can be pricey with data fees and the like. But we have a good deal with Sprint because we've been with them since they first offered mobile service eons ago. (They also offer unlimited data. Just sayin'.) However, pre-paid can be a good way to go if all you do is call and text. Lots of pre-paid services offer snazzy Android phones and affordable data packages if you're so inclined.
I did save SOME money on this. I got it for 50% off at the outlet.
Don't buy new. Except for socks and undergarments. Seriously. I buy our clothes at Goodwill, Value Village, St. Vincent DePaul and sometimes Buffalo Exchange. I have found some pretty snazzy deals. Like the Juicy Couture hoodie, Se7en jeans, Joe's Jeans and an Armani overcoat for Matt. Just be willing to invest some time in looking and be critical. If it's designer but stained badly, stretched out or ripped anywhere but the seams, DON'T buy it. Not worth it. I usually stick to Gap Inc. brands when I thrift shop because I know how it will fit and it's some of my favorites. Having worked at Goodwill, I cannot stress to you just how often people would donate items they'd worn once or twice. That's to your benefit. However, be sure to wash those items before wear. I also say that when you buy something in the mall too. I've worked too long in retail and I know what shit goes down, yo.
I have bought second hand shoes but I'm super picky. I buy higher end brands like Clarks, BOC, etc. Has to be real leather and in terrific condition. Then I wipe them down inside with a bleach solution or Lysol.
I typically buy us Nike sneakers and I get good deals at Fred Meyer. ( I buy Nikes only because they last longer for Matt and have the support he needs.) Then again, I scour sales and look for coupons.
How cute. This was my stash in late 2009.
This is the conundrum for a beauty blogger, no? Since I started this blog, I've been cheap. I look for sales and coupons. I shop at drugstores, Dollar Tree and Goodwill for my polish. I also ask my friends if I can borrow their polish to swatch. I shop my stash and I do nail art.
With makeup, I actually wear very little. Tinted moisturizer and black eyeliner is my uniform. I love Wet n' Wild and Essence for makeup and those are the brands I go to for eye shadow and lipstick. I love a price point of $2.99 or less.
I don't do swaps only because I honestly cannot afford the postage. I'd love to but I can't.
Please don't drink this. It makes kittens sad.
I'm talking booze, tobacco and gambling. I'm not a fan of gambling, I don't get the excitement and allure.
However, be reasonable if you do and set a limit. If you have a problem, seek help.
Oh booze. I love wine. And beer. And rum. However, I keep those purchases to a minimum and I don't go to bars anymore. I look for deals on wine and beer. I recently scored a deal at the liquor store with vodka. I got two bottles of vodka for $20. And this was some fancy artisan vodka too. Sometimes liquor stores have some good promotions. I'm fortunate to live in a place with a lot of great breweries so I follow them on Facebook so I know about events which usually entails discounted beer. Yay!
It's worth mentioning that since our financial situation changed, we consume far less alcohol. But these are the ways we can every now and again and not pay big bucks.
If you smoke, you should quit. Lots of states have helplines that can help and get you cessation items for free. I know what I'm talking about here. I've been a smoker for longer than I want to admit. My issue with quitting has been the physical act of smoking. I purchased a Blu Cigs kit recently. I paid what I would for a carton and I still have the act of smoking (and the nicotine delivery) minus the smoke. The refill cartridges are equivalent to a carton and more than half of what I would pay for a carton. They last a really long time too. Much longer than a carton ever did. That said, I am attempting to change my habits and associations so I won't need the e-cigarette either. It doesn't hurt that they offer cartridges in declining nicotine amount, either.
Other Tips and Ways to Save:
Look guys, I'm a fan of thrift stores. It's a green way to shop and typically supports your local community.
Goodwill helps those who have barriers to employment, typically adults with developmental disabilities. They give them job training and help them find employment.
St, Vinnie's helps the homeless/housing insecure with affordable housing, job training and other services. Their retail stores are a large part of what funds their services. Shopping with them keeps waste out of the landfill and provides services to those who need them most.
I purchased the majority of my furniture from both. I buy many of home appliances from them. From lamps to kitchen appliances. (Like the crock pot, bread machine and rice cooker I mentioned.) It's saved me a ton of money over the years.
I have to give shout outs to Craigslist and Freecycle. Matt got his super fancy golf bag for super cheap on Craigslist.
You would be surprised what people are willing to just give away on Freecycle. Bartering is alive and well on there too.
I also go to BRING Recycling for my home improvement needs. My dad actually built both of the sheds in his backyard with materials from BRING. That's more specific to my area but it's worth looking to see if something like that exists in yours.
Finally, prioritize. Decide what purchases are really necessary. Budget for the splurges like eating out or going to the movies. Just try to live within your means.
Many of these changes has really helped while I look for a job. Though I worry about finding one soon, I don't have to panic. Thanks to these changes we will be able to make it comfortably through the end of the year. You may not have to be as severe as we have but I hope some of these help.
Thanks for indulging me and as always, I am grateful to you coming by. Be well!