Cheap, Clean, & Content
10 Little Tips for Living a Happy and Frugal Life
The word "poorgeoisie" was in circulation a few years ago to describe the current generations’ penchant for low-income frugality with middle-class materialism. I’ve only dumpster dived a few times in my life, but when I did, we had Starbucks muffins for days, with only the faintest hint of old coffee-grounds and used napkins!
In my journeys as a pretty-broke-ass person for most of my adult life, I have learned a few things about saving money and being able to buy alcohol. And then paying the rent. As a new mom who definitely can’t afford to not be working, but can’t afford child-care even more, I’ve learned some ways to help my family make ends meet by avoiding buying things and just doing stuff at home.
Just like your dad has always said, turn off the lights when you leave a room! My step-dad used to follow me around the house reminding me that "My Ghost Friend" was still in my room with the lights on, watching TV, and wasn’t that nice that she offered to pay the electricity bill?
Also, shutting down and unplugging devices when not in use DOES help reduce your energy bill, even by a little. According to the Three Actions Project, a community action program that educates about and encourages sustainability, when we don’t unplug devices: “This is known as 'standby power' and refers to the energy used by some products when they are turned off but still plugged into an outlet. While this standby power sometimes provides useful functions such as remote control, clock displays, and timers, in other cases it is simply wasted power as a result of leaving an electronic device or power adapter plugged in.”
Additionally, keeping yourself away from your devices for a few hours everyday and doing other things will get you to look up every once in a while and be aware of the people and things in your environment.
2) Do not use your credit card (if you even have one) to buy things you don’t need.
Credit cards, to my understanding, have always been just like the Papa Roach Song; a "Last Resort," where your anxiety over finances is, "suffocating," you’re worried and "not breathing" and perhaps you don’t give a F*** until you cut your arm bleeding, but that’s just being silly—blood donations, even in mass quantities, don’t equal cash value. Unless you know a wealthy, humanitarian vampire.
For things like car payments, mortgages, gas money, etc, it’s okay to use a credit card, as long as you can meet the minimum payments. Personally I’ve always told people, “If I don’t have the money to buy it outright, I don’t need it.” For miscellaneous things like clothes, going out to eat, or "fun stuff," sometimes you just can’t afford to have it—and that’s okay! Don’t dig yourself into a debt ditch because you want to have a good time! Read some other lists and get some inexpensive (or even free) ideas for fun with friends!
3) Pool your resources. Use friends and family to help with projects, rather than paying someone else to do it.
If it’s building a fence, fixing the plumbing, re-roofing or whatever household project it may be, chances are there is someone in your assumedly-blue-collar (if you’re reading this) group of friends who have basic enough knowledge to get the job done safely and correctly.
4) Don’t be afraid of canned goods. They CAN be GOOD.
My husband and I argue about this relatively often. We have a horde of canned beans, tomatoes, tuna, etc. in the pantry for what he calls “Emergency Food.” I consider it, “Food to Make When We Don’t Need to Waste Money at the Store Buying More Things Because We Have Food Here.”
Canned beans are AMAZING for making a large variety of delicious and easy low-cost recipes. They have a long shelf life for storage (if you’re like my husband); they are already cooked so you just need to heat and eat (very handy if your power is out and you have a gas-range stovetop and BGE always gets to your neighborhood last because it’s kind of crappy and neglected); you can add vegetables and rice to them to make wholesome, hearty, typically-Hispanic-cuisine-inspired meals!
I use this web page aaaaaaaall the time when we don’t have a whole lot in the house, but I need to make something to eat because everyone is getting hangry and nit-picky. You can just click the box next to food items that you already have in your pantry and fridge or freezer, and the browser gives you a list of recipes that don’t require any additional ingredients! (I never tell my husband that this is where a lot of my ideas come from, because he would insist it means that we are destitute and have absolutely nothing to eay anywhere in the house.)
5) Walk places instead of driving.
If you live near a library, a playground, a 7-11, a Subway, the gas station where you buy your cigarettes and soda, anything that you usually drive to get access to—just walk. It will amount to a decent amount of money saved on gas over time, you’ll get to enjoy fresh air, familiarize yourself with your neighborhood, perhaps meet new people, and get some exercise! You may also meet your local neighborhood crazy-characters and get great ideas for stories!
6) Be a money squirrel.
One of my favorite things to do since I was a child is to roll change. My dad had a giant water cooler full of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, buffalo nickels, half-dollars, and gold-dollars that he found or had in his pockets. Every day, he deposited his change into the water cooler, and when we visited him on the weekends, my siblings and I raced to be the one to tip it over, spilling change all over the floor. It was the highlight of a Friday evening to sort through the change, counting it, rolling it, and even getting to keep a dollar or two for our efforts.
I would take that roll of change and hide it somewhere in my room, surprising myself several months later with an amazing $5, and would meet up with my friends to walk to The Candy Box for Wax Bottles and Ribbon Candy.
By being that person who picks pennies off of the street, you will be the person who always has a store of cash for gas money, food, that very-necessary $5 bottle of wine that sits on the lowest shelf in the liquor store… you never know when hidden cash stashes can come in handy.
7) Barter with Goods and Services.
There are so many websites nowadays that specifically cater to this type of free market exchange. I, for example, use Freecycle, NextDoor and, of course, Craigslist to find free furniture in my neighborhood to replace the stuff that I break. Glasses, bookshelves, vacuums… the usual things. You can also do the old-fashioned version, which is talking to friends and family and neighbors and offering to do something (shovel that creepy old guy’s driveway in the winter), to make it easier to ask for help when YOU need a favor. Not the most altruistic of tactics, but hey… you scratch my back, I scratch yours, everyone saves a few bucks.
8) Learn to do things the old-fashioned way.
How many times have you heard older folks reminisce about "the good ol’ days"? Well, those days can be the good NEW ways that you do things at home!
Instead of using your dryer, set up a clothesline with a strand of twine, rope, or some other strong string-type-object. Hang your clothes up and use the New and Improved SOLAR POWERED ENERGY to let Nature to the work!
You can do other cool things that people used to do, like make your own beers and wines in pretty simple steps! Instead of spending $9 for a craft-beer-small-batch-mirco-brew-limited-edition, make your own, and get to drink on the job.
Once upon a time, our forefathers reveled in beer and wine aplenty without an extraneous surcharge at breweries. Let us be patriots and make beer and be merry and pursue our right to health, wealth, and happiness!
Here is a link to some great ways to save money and be ‘old-school cool’:
9) Repurpose, refurbish, recycle.
The DIY craze is real. Almost all of the things in our household are repurposed, refurbished, or reused once they have served their original purpose. For example, my son is 3-months-old, and can’t do much more than giggle, poop, sleep, and cuddle. Sometimes he bats at dangly things. At the preschool I used to work at, there were these really cool fuzzy owl mats in the infant care room, where babies could explore various textures and have toys, books, and mirrors around them. As I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I noticed how EXACTLY LIKE the owl mats my own bath mats were! So I grabbed a clean white one from the closet, laid it on the floor, and my son is reveling in its’ furry softness, surrounded by little books. Hands-free-momming and repurposing, done! Pinterest, of course, has many excellent ideas to offer.
10) Use baking soda and white vinegar for everything.
Baking soda and vinegar are the bread and butter of all household needs for the needy. Baking soda can be used for facewash, shampoo, dish soap, stain remover… vinegar can be used for an excellent cleaner on hardwood and plastic or metal surfaces, and as a conditioner. Even better, these beauties are available at Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc. stores, for…. You guessed it. A DOLLAR. How can you not be in love!?
Here is a link to some excellent ideas for using these fabulous things: https://www.rd.com/home/cleaning-organizing/5-best-baking-soda-and-vinegar-cleaning-solutions/
Hopefully some of these tips helped you and yours make the most out of every penny you picked up off of the street—tails up for luck!