How to Live on a Frugal Budget

These days there are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, if not hand to mouth. With the economy the way it has been in recent years, many of us have had to find ways to live as inexpensively as possible. Everyone knows the basics – live on a budget, cut coupons, put plastic on the windows in the winter, and turn off the lights if you’re not using them. But sometimes, when the belt has to get just a little bit tighter, it doesn’t hurt to do a few things around the house to save money.

Tip #1 – Save your plastic bags

Just think about all the plastic bags you bring home when you go grocery shopping. On average, if you buy 150 -200 dollars worth of food for your family, you’re looking at 20+ bags that will just end up in the garbage. Instead of tossing them, you can save them and use them again for a variety of things, such as garbage bags for those trash cans too small for kitchen size bags (such as the bathroom trash can or that trash can by your computer desk). If you have a pet, you can use plastic bags as kind of a impromptu pooper-scooper glove when you need to pick up little accidents your pet left behind. Just put your hand in the bag and use it the same way you would a paper towel to pick up the waste. Then turn the bag inside out and tie it shut.

Plastic bags are also good for carrying things on trips or just to work. Use them when you want to pack away travel items for the little ones on road trips, or if you need to bring a dish to work for a pot luck or even just to pack away your lunch.

Tip #2 – Buy Potatoes!

Who would have thought that the potato could be so useful? Outside of making a great many fast and easy dishes that will fill up your whole family, you can use the potato for a lot more than you think. The water from boiled potatoes added to milk (and other ingredients) make a good white gravy. For a soup or stew that’s too salty, put a slice of potato in to soak up the salt (take it out before serving). You can also use potatoes to remove food stains from your fingers and to remove broken light bulbs from the socket (turn the power off before trying that one). It’s even good for medicinal purposes. If you have sinus congestion, boil a potato (skin and all) and breath in the steam instead of buying pricey decongestant medication.

Tip #3 – Take a tip from the south While a great many of southern cooking is full of fat and all that stuff that isn’t very good for you, it’s also a source of cooking a hearty meal with few resources. Collard and Mustard Greens mixed with onions, celery, and onion soup mix (instead of the traditional, and very fattening hamhock and/or neckbones) make for a very filling vegetarian meal. Make some cornbread on the side and voila! Black-eyed peas in dishes such as “Hopping John” can make for good eating with money is tight.

Tip #4 – Clean Creatively

Did you know you could use peanut butter or mayonnaise to remove glue or sticky residue from surfaces? Or old rings could be cleaned with toothpaste? You’d be surprised what you can use to clean around your house without buying expensive cleaning products. Grease on wallpaper can be removed with baby powder, tealeaves put in a stocking and placed in shoes will eliminate foot odor, and you can use washer fluid instead of Windex to clean your windows (with newspaper instead of paper towels).

Tip # 5 – Learn to shop smarter

There are a lot of ideas behind shopping without blowing your budget. Before you step out of the house make a list and STICK TO IT. If you’re use to shopping on the fly, then you’re probably used to bringing home a lot of things you don’t need. Such a practice can be harsh on the pocketbook and you’d be surprised how much difference a few dollars make when you don’t have much to go on.

Another important thing is to stay away from trips to the corner store. Most things tend to be more expensive at the Seven-Eleven than at Kroger. In general, you should keep your shopping limited to the grocery stores or, better yet, bulk stores to save money. And don’t turn your nose up at the value of a dollar store. You’d be surprised at how many useful household items you can find just at your local dollar store. Thrift stores can also be a gold mine for clothes shopping.

Tip # 6 — Save your change

Just for kicks, save every scrap of change you come across for thirty days. Put it in a piggy bank or a jar or some kind of container for that time period, and see how much builds up over time. You’d be shocked how much money you’ll have by the end of the month. We often take our pennies for granite and they end up under the couch or in old coats and purses. If you were to hold onto every single penny you found and save it, you may not be a rich person by the end of the month, but you’ll have more money than you thought possible.

Being frugal these days isn’t as difficult as it appears. Just a few things around the house will make a bigger difference than you think. Give it a try and see how much you can save.

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