Friday, May 27, 2011

Frugal Friday Part 4

I scheduled this Frugal Friday list, along with the previous 3 weeks 26 days ago because at this moment, I'm in the midst of preparing to give away my daughter Rachael who will be married in about 25 hours.

My hope is that you found one, two or more ideas from this list from the Art of Manliness blog.

Win the War on Debt: 80 Ways to Be Frugal and Save Money

The manliness of frugality cannot be overstated. Frugality cultivates the manly qualities of independence, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, simplicity, and minimalism. It keeps a man free from the enslaving chains of debt and gives him an sense of manly pride and satisfaction. Frugality build a man’s immunity to the siren call of “stuff,” helps him learn to make do with less, and adds pleasure and happiness to his life by providing opportunities to practice delayed gratification. Frugality also fosters the DIY spirit and inspires a man to create, instead of consume.

We could wax long and poetic about the manliness of frugality but let’s get down to the brass tacks: how does a man become frugal? Some men, inspired to jump on the frugality wagon, set a drastic course for themselves and turn theirs live inside out. But inevitably, this man ends up chafing at the extreme constrictions he has set for himself, burns out on the program, and sets off on a shopping spree to compensate for the months of rigid restraint. No, the better course is simply to make little changes throughout the different areas of your life. You will be surprised to see how fast these small changes can add up and leave you with extra moola in your pockets and in the bank. And you also might be surprised to find out how fun being frugal is–really! It becomes like a game where you’re always trying to figure out ways to cut costs.

We’ve created this list of 80 practical–and often pretty painless–ways to save money. Whether you’re looking to trim your debt, live more simply, start an emergency fund, or just need to find ways to offset the hole in your budget created by rising gas prices, there are guaranteed to be a few things here you can start implementing in your life right away. I recommend giving these ideas a look-0ver, making a list of ten of more things you can give a go, and putting them into practice as a new month begins.

Victory over debt is at hand!


55. Regularly clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator. A clean coil uses less energy.

56. Keep your freezer full. An empty freezer requires more energy to keep cold. If you don’t have anything to put in your freezer, fill up milk jugs with water and pack them in your freezer to take up space.

57. Kill the electricity phantom. Whenever you leave a device plugged into a wall socket, it continues to constantly draw a small amount of energy. All those plugged in appliances can take a toll on your electric bill.

58. Seal energy leaks. Energy leaks in your house make your heater and A/C work harder to maintain the temperature of your home. And the harder your central heating and cooling systems have to work, the more money you have to spend. Spend a weekend finding and sealing any energy leaks.

59. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your land line.

60. Put on a sweater or open up a window. Heaters and air conditioners can use a lot of energy to keep your house warm or cool respectively. If you’re feeling chilly, put on a sweater before you turn up the thermostat. If you’re feeling warm, open up a window. Fresh air makes you feel a lot happier too.

61. Turn off the lights. It’s a not a big thing, but every little bit helps. Follow your mom’s advice. Turn the lights off when you leave a room.

62. Use compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. I include this suggestion rather begrudgingly. I’m not a fan of the light that CFLs or LEDs give off. It’s flat and reminds me of being in a hospital. Give me the warm glow of an incandescent bulb any day. But I can’t deny the energy savings of CFLs and LEDs. Although they cost a little more than regular bulbs, they last up to 10 times longer and use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs.

63. Plant shade trees. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 — 50 percent in energy used for heating.” If you can, plant some trees on the side of the house that gets the most sun.

64. Install aerating, low-flow faucets and shower heads to limit your water usage.

65. Lower the Water Heating Temperature. For each 10 degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%-5%. 120 degrees is probably hot enough for most homes.

66. Put an insulator around your water heater. If your water heater needs it, surround it with a water heater insulator. That move right there can save you around 4%-9% in water heating costs.

67. Winterize your home. Winterizing your home makes your place more energy efficient so you can keep your family warm and toasty in the cold weather months without breaking the bank on energy bills.

Gift Giving

68. Make your own gifts. Brew some beer, make a birdhouse, or create a secret book safe. Use your imagination and your craftsmanship.

69. Offer to give a service, like mowing someone’s lawn each week for the entire summer instead of buying stuff. You can also put together a coupon book for someone like your wife, with coupons redeemable for things like “one free back rub.”

The has many more cheap and free gift ideas for men, women, and children.

Miscellaneous Advice

70. Buy quality. Sometimes we get a little guff for promoting top-dollar products like Saddleback bags. Isn’t buying such expensive things incompatible with frugality? No, actually. Frugality isn’t about being cheap. It’s about getting the best value, and sometimes that means paying more to save more. It’s important to think about things in terms of cost-per-use as opposed to total cost. Let’s say you buy a pair of cheap boots for $50, and they’re neither comfortable nor particularly good looking, and so you only wear them when you have to which is once a week before they wear out in three years. The cost-per-wear on the “cheap” boots is thus 32 cents. Now, let’s say you spend $350 on a pair of top-quality, truly well-made boots. They’re really handsome, and you wear them every chance you get, which is four times a week. And they last you 50 years (with maybe a re-soling here and there). The cost per wear on the “expensive” boots is 3 cents. 3 cents! So which is the more frugal choice? This is a truth your grandpa knew well and why he actually had stuff to pass down to you.

71. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. It’s a creed your grandpa and grandma lived by to get through the Great Depression, and it’s just as applicable today. I get a lot of satisfaction from trying to make my stuff last as long as possible. Particularly with clothes. Pants come open up at the seam? Sew them back up. T-shirts too ratty to wear in public? Turn them into dust rags.

72. Foster a DIY mentality. Before spending money on hiring somebody to do a job for you, see if you can figure out how to do it yourself. When money’s tight, you can always use your other stash of equity: your time. Not only will doing things yourself save you money, but there’s a satisfaction and pride you get from being self-reliant. Of course, be careful with this advice. If it looks like it’s a job you can’t do or if screwing it up would cost you more money to fix, hire somebody to do it.

73. Be your own man. A big reason people spend money is social pressure. Don’t let others dictate how you’re going to live your life or spend your money.

74. Read up on personal finance. Knowledge is power. I subscribe to several personal finance blogs. Many of them post tips on thrift and frugality. My two favorites? Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar. And I recommend checking these books out from the library: Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

75. Have a 30 day waiting period for big purchases. If you see something that you think you just have to have, before you hand over your credit card to buy it, put it on a “I’ll buy this in one month” list. If after one month you still think buying the item would be worth it, then get it. In my experience, after waiting a month you often realize you really don’t need it, so you save the money you would have spent. Score! And if you do end up getting it a month later, the power of delayed gratification makes the purchase more enjoyable than it would have been had you just bought it immediately. Score!

76. Use cash. In my experience, I tend to spend less when I use cash for most of my purchases. There’s just something about the tangibility of cash as opposed to debit cards that makes it hurt more to part with your money. When Kate and I were in hardcore debt repayment mode, we used the envelope budget system.

77. Learn to haggle. We’ve got a great post on this important skill coming next month.

78. Buy staples in bulk. Buying in bulk cuts down on the cost per usage. If there are items in your house that you use regularly, buy them in huge quantities. Diapers, baby wipes, trash bags, paper towels, soap, etc.

79. Don’t enroll in your bank’s overdraft protection program. At first blush, it might seem like a good idea; overdraft protection means that if you go to make a purchase with your debit card, and you don’t have enough money in your account to complete the transaction, the bank will “loan” you the money…and charge you a $25-$35 fee for their generosity. But that’s a big price to pay to avoid the embarrassment or inconvenience of having your card declined. And these fees can add up fast, because here’s what many consumers don’t know: most banks will purposefully process your largest transactions first, and then your smaller transactions after that. So let’s say you have $285 in your checking account and you buy a coffee for $3.50 in the morning, a sandwich for $5 at noon, and then some college textbooks in the afternoon for $300. The banks will process the $300 transaction first, thus depleting your account, and then charge you another $35 fee for the coffee and for the sandwich, and bill you for $105 in overdraft fees. Banks used to automatically enroll their customers in overdraft protection programs, but a court ruling last year made that illegal. But it was a big money maker for banks, so they still aggressively try to get you to sign up. Every time I check my bank account online, I get a pop up that asks if I’m sure I don’t want to enroll in their overdraft protection program. You just have to say no and keep saying no.

80. Avoid other fees. Businesses these days seems to be nickel and diming consumers any way they can with extra fees. Banks, airlines, and credit card companies are the big culprits. Be a responsible and savvy consumer and you can avoid most of these fees. Use ATMs in your bank’s network to avoid ATM fees and pay your bills on time, always. And fly Southwest! No extortionist baggage fees, friendly service, and one of the best safety records in the biz (recent holes in the plane notwithstanding).

What are some more ways to save money and be frugal?

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