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Getting Started: Frugal Strategies to Stretch Your Budget

Article by: Kim Tilley
Dated: May 26, 2006

Here are some of my favorite strategies for saving money. Since everyone's situation and resources are different, you need to adapt these strategies to your own lifestyle. Remember, frugality is a tool that you can customize to the way you live. Use them as much or as little as you want, according to your need. You can enjoy living frugally!

Get it for Less - Find a cheaper source for things you already buy. There is always someone selling it cheaper. The challenge is to find new sources. Start by looking in your yellow pages, you may be surprised at the resources around you.

Make it last longer - Stretch the life span of the items you use. How? First and foremost by taking better care of them, maintaining them (such as tools), and then by doing it yourself. Learn to do your own home and car maintenance and repairs. Fix only what is broken, not the whole thing! You can make "work" shoes last longer by having them reheeled instead of buying a brand new pair. There are many, many ways to lengthen the life span of the things you own. In fact, there are whole books on the subject! Visit your local library for more ideas.

Use it less - Conserve your time, energy and resources. If you plan out your shopping trips and only go once a week, hitting everything you need to, then you are using less gas, and causing less wear and tear on your car. If your home is properly insulated, you are using less electricity or natural gas to heat/air condition it. You can get longer use out of light bulbs by remembering to turn lights off when not in use. The same goes for items that use batteries. Think conservation!

Use it up - Turn to what you already have first! Use up your leftovers in the kitchen, then use the food scraps in your garden, which will help you grow fresher foods. Use "clean" trash - paper, containers, cereal boxes, etc., to make crafts, games and organize things. Make new clothing from old! Be resourceful and turn a creative eye on things you already own.

Wear it out - Get the full use out of something before you toss it. Maintain it, repair it, repair it again, and recycle it! Here is an example: If you wear pantyhose to work, you can wash them in a solution that strengthens them and makes them last longer. Once you start to see runs, fix them with clear nail polish. When the runs on one leg become too much, cut off the leg of one pair and merge it with another pair of one-legged pantyhose, to make a complete pair. When those get worn out, recycle them in the craft room and garden.

Make it do - Substitute where you can; if you don't have what you need, find something to fill the void until you can find a cheaper or better alternative. Perhaps you need to fix something and don't have the right part. Will a substitute work? Sometimes the substitute is better!

Do without - Ask yourself if you really have to have it. Is it worth the money? Do you have to have it now? Or are you just acting on a whim? Avoid impulse buying! If a few months have passed and you find you still want or need it, then start looking for a good price. Sometime I wait a year or more to get something I want. By then, I know the best prices for it and often get it much cheaper than I would have if I had acted on impulse. I also appreciate it much more.

Make it yourself - If what you want is too expensive, brainstorm about how you can make it cheaper. Buy large clothing at yard sales in nice fabric and make clothes for yourself or your kids out of them. Don't like the prices of the fancy knick knacks in the stores? Learn how to make them! Check out our decorating and crafts sections, these areas are dedicated to do-it-yourself projects. Don't want to pay high prices for restaurant food? Clone your favorite recipes at home! I do this a lot and we really enjoy the cheap, delicious food. Check out my "Fried Chicken Salad," a recipe I cloned from Steak and Shake. It is better than the original! You can do this too!

Grow it yourself - Don't like the high prices of your favorite fruit or veggie? Perhaps you can grow it instead of buying it. I enjoy growing herbs, tomatoes, tomatillos, romaine, and garlic. Not everything I have grown has turned out so good, but it is a fun journey! You can really save big time on the herbs. I also have a cherry tree, and am looking forward to apples someday from the tree we planted when we moved in.

Trade it- Barter your goods and skills for something you need.

Put the word out - Tell others that you need or are looking for something in particular. One man's trash is another man's treasure! Sometimes you can find exactly what you need for cheap or even free!

About the Author

Kim Tilley, a tightwad at heart, is a wife, a mother of three active boys and the founding editor of Frugal by force and later by choice, Kim cut her income by 60% to stay at home with her children and discovered that anyone can live better for less. Her work has appeared in print publications such as The Tightwad Gazette. In her free time, she entertains herself by chasing kids and finding ways to create something from nothing!
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