Now that the presents have been delivered, the cookies have been devoured, and the extended family has returned home, it is the perfect time to be frugal. Bust out those frozen leftovers, unlock that emergency locker full of canned beans, and rip the lid off that 5 gallon bucket of rice.
We have work to do.
So you think your pantry can’t possibly last another week, make it. Your gas tank isn’t full, get your walking shoes on. Or your toes aren’t warm enough — well, grab a blanket. They say money doesn’t grow on trees but I’m pretty sure I saw plenty of money wrapped in pretty plaid gift boxes with bows on top.
We’re not big Christmas gift people, but it’s come to be a part of our culture. Our nephew was uber excited when we splurged and handed him money straight out of The Beard’s wallet. No card, envelope, box, or wrapping paper was necessary.
But all those family gifts, holiday cards, containers full of baked goods, appetizers and side dishes for family gatherings — they all cost money. And not piggy bank money. I’m talking real money.
Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t break the bank or anything, but it isn’t a good feeling spending all that money — no matter if it’s $5 or $500.
And it’s time we start saving a little more. Tax season isn’t going away by itself. And personally, we LOVE the feeling of saving money. When the plastic cards start flying and your bank account seems to keep getting lower, it isn’t fun for anyone.
So, I thought I would write a list of post-holiday ways to start saving again. Because we all like saving and some of us rate our macho-ness on the thickness of our wallets. I am not judging. Ya we may puff our chests like some exotic bird when we see our accounts going up further into the green. Planet Fitness Zone.
Save on your groceries
After a mortgage, food is our biggest expense when it comes to monthly bills. So this is a big one. You need to squeeze our every penny, every corn kernel, and every morsel of broken cracker you can.
When you think you can’t possibly go another day without hitting up the closest supermarket, think again. I’m sure there are all those misfit toys lurking in the back of your pantry. You all know what I’m talking about. I can name a few — dates, fish sauce, corn muffin mix. We all have a few of those items we buy, only later to turn our nose up at, even when the going gets hungry.
But then again, never underestimate a hangry woman. She will tear through you like you have no soul. But really, it’s her hungry eyes who has no soul. Don’t judge her, just make her some pancakes and she will be fine.
The Beard knows by now, if I say I’m hungry when we are in the car, he is going to pull off at the next exit. Otherwise, it will end in a marital dispute about why everything is wrong in the world because I haven’t had my daily caloric intake. And an hour later, I will be apologizing at my selfishness of caloric deprivation, hanging my head low in embarrassment (only to do it again the next time my blood sugar dips lower than normal). It’s a viscious cycle my friends.
We all have to eat. But it’s okay sometimes if we don’t have our usual Mocha Frappe Latte (or whatever Starbucks is serving up) or a perfectly proportioned veggie-starch-meat plate at every meal. Over the years, The Beard and I have gotten quite creative in stretching our meals. Our lowest of lows came in the form of chickpeas and peas over rice. Gagging at how terrible the meal was, we finally succumbed to the grocery store and vowed never to eat that meal again.
At our best times, we have made BBQ mexican nachos (with beans of course) or raw veggie sandwiches with homemade hummus.
When it comes to making your groceries go further, it’s a mindset. If you think you can’t survive on moldy cheese and frozen brussel sprouts, think again.
Save on your utilities
I’ll start off with one way not to save on your utilities. Do NOT put a brick in the back of your toilet to save your water bill. This could actually end up in breaking your toilet. So while many suggest this is a good course of action, it’s not.
If you are in the game for a new toilet, I suggest an eco-friendly dual flushing one. Self explanatory.
There are really so many ways to save on your energy bill that you shouldn’t have to resort to piling bricks in the back of the porcelain thrown.
It is winter and the drafts are starting to come in in places you didn’t know existed. Hang comforters or quilts as curtains to cover up drafty windows.
Turn the heat down a few degrees and layer up. Wear thick sweaters and curl up on the couch with a couple blankets.
Slippers are your best friend when it comes to cold floors.
Close off unused rooms and their vents.
Cook your meals more often. Instead of paying for overpriced take out, start cooking your meals. And utilize that oven like never before. It’s not just for baking. Start roasting vegetables and using that dutch oven your in-laws got you 5 Christmases ago.
If your refrigerator always seems to be half empty, consider downsizing to a smaller one. An empty fridge, means more power is needed to keep that thing cold.
Switch out your light bulbs to energy efficient ones. Or dance in the candlelight. Garage sales are my favorite place to find new or partially used candles. I have even found a barely used Yankee candle for 25 cents! Long stick candles burn longer and brighter than tea lights.
Save on gas
The Beard and I are guilty of this. We are always driving to get supplies for making tables and what not. But we rarely ever remember everything we need. And once again, we are back in the truck getting that one item we missed because that order is due tomorrow and we better get a move on!
Everyone has errands to run. Try grouping them so you get them all done in one trip and you aren’t driving circles around town. It’s saving you gas and time.
Try walking, running, biking, or taking the bus.
When The Beard and I used to live in town, I would walk to just about anywhere. The bank, the grocery store, the gym, even my workouts consisted mostly of running outdoors so I wasn’t driving to the gym every day.
Being in ‘the country’ or a couple miles out of town, it has become a lot harder for alternate modes of transportation. A fear of unaware motorists cruising down our 50 mph highway doesn’t make me want to walk, run, or bike. And buses are still 3 miles away.
But anywhere you can cut gas expenses, do it. Not just for your wallet but for the earth too!
Save anywhere + everywhere
So I’ve hit what I call The Big 3. But there are so many other ways to save money too.
Cancel that gym membership, especially if you aren’t going anyway. Holding onto that monthly payment isn’t going to make you start going either. Try running or walking outside. Unless it’s -16 degrees. Then by all means, stay inside and eat sticks of butter to keep you warm.
Is cable, Hulu, Amazon Fire, or whatever else really that necessary? The Beard and I realized when we had cable for 3 months, it was costing us more than just the monthly premium. We were wasting away valuable time that could be spent on better things like making more money or playing with the dogs.
Start making your own cleaners. Chemical packed bottles are not good for your health or the environment and eco-friendly options are sure to dwindle your weekly allowance. Opt for vinegar and baking soda (even add in some essential oils or lemon juice).
Off brand the shit out of your groceries. Unless you’re that mom that turns your nose up at Aldi ‘Oreos.’ But then I would probably just turn my nose up at you. We’re living a frugal life here. We aren’t The Joneses and we don’t want to be them either.
Hustle your internet provider. We aren’t lucky enough to have more than one internet provider because we live out of the city. However, if you do have more than one provider. Pin them against each other. Someone is bound to give you a discount. They want customers!
Hang dry your clothing. I know it’s the dead of winter here in Iowa but we have a makeshift clothesline downstairs and it’s working out just fine minus the musty smell of our towels.
Thrift store like it’s your bitch. We work hard and work our clothing harder. Work clothing doesn’t seem to last very long around here. Almost all of my clothing comes from thrift stores (shout out to Salvation Army). Except undergarments. Leave those to purchasing brand new.
Stay out of the stores and off shopping sites. Out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. If you don’t go into the stores, you won’t buy things you don’t need.
When you do go shopping, don’t get a grocery cart. More than likely you will overflow that thing, when in reality you only had 2 items on your shopping list.
Being frugal isn’t about deprivation. It’s about a mindset. A goal for the future. Frugal living isn’t for the short term goal setter. It’s about aligning our lifestyles with our future plans.
If you’re like us and you see a homestead in the near future or a another big money saving goal, you would try and save every penny you could to get what you wanted. It’s not about the short term high of a disposable item.
People have survived off far less than designer clothing, Starbucks coffee, and weekly pedicures.
And if you need specific ways to save while homesteading, check out my two part series of Homesteading for Cheapskates Part I and Part II. And if that’s not enough, here’s one more — Penny Pinching for the Homestead.
How do you save after the holidays?