No. 1 way to save money: Don’t spend it!

31 12 2008

It may sound like I am stating the obvious, but the quickest way I have learned to save our hard-earned money is to not spend it. Think about that for a minute.  There are many ways to save money – use coupons, comparison shop and price match, buy store brands, shop clearance sales. Those are all great ways to be frugal and they are all methods that I regularly employ. But all of these methods of saving also involve spending.  But my greatest secret weapon for saving money has been to learn to simply not spend money. It is not always easy, especially in these days and weeks following Christmas when those clearance signs beckon.

I was put to the test today as I roamed the cluttered aisles of Target, digging through the Christmas clearance that went 75 percent off bright and early this morning. The deals were better than excellent in many cases: boxes of Christmas cards for $1, rolls of giftwrap for 75 cents, stocking stuffers for 50 cents to $1. All of these items could be carefully stored and used next year, saving me lots of money. BUT, do I really need any of this stuff? I have purchased so much in previous years — often at the coveted 90 percent off — that I really don’t. I reminded myself of this and took several items out of my basket, saving several dollars and simplifying our life — not to mention our closets.

In the end, here is what I purchased:

1 reusable shopping bag that folds neatly to wallet size that I will keep in my purse to use when I forget to bring my string bags in to the store with me. (32 cents)

1 roll of red ribbon trimmed in fluffy white to dress up the packages I will wrap with newsprint next year ($1.25)

1 package of 10 tiny jewelry-size gift bags for my daughter to use next year for her friends’ gifts, which I purchased two days ago at Walgreen’s at 75 percent off. ($1.25)

Lucky for me, I had a winetag coupon for $2 off any giftwrap purchase, so my total spent out of pocket was 99 cents.

In a separate Target transaction, I purchased 10 packages of Pillsbury cookie dough and 4 packages of Nestle’s Tollhouse cookie dough. Since these had holiday themes, they rang up at 62 cents each. After coupons, I paid 12 cents each. These will be frozen and used throughout the year whenever we need a quick sweet treat. Who cares if the white chocolate chips have green stripes on them?

Here are a few of my ideas for helping keep your wallet shut tight:

1)      I no longer step foot inside the mall unless I have a specific item to purchase. In less frugal times, I remember going to the mall for entertainment. Pushing my daughter in her stroller, we would stop in numerous stores and more often than not we would buy something that I had not planned on purchasing. Now it was usually on sale, and I may even have used a coupon, BUT did I really NEED it? Probably not. Had I not purchased the item, I would have saved significantly more money.

2)      I think twice (or even three times) before making a purchase. In other words, I have instituted a cooling off period before buying an item. During that time, I ask myself if I really need the item or do I simply want the item. Right now, I need dark colored socks. I want the book, Big Russ and Me, by the late Tim Russert, but I know I can borrow it from the library for free. I most definitely do not need more Christmas giftwrap!

3)      Which brings me to No. 3. I ask myself if I can do without it, make it myself, substitute something else or borrow it. Obviously, I can borrow Russert’s book at the library. Another example: Shopping for ingredients for my Christmas dinner, I picked up a two-pound container of Ricotta cheese for my seafood lasagna. The shelf tag said it was on sale for $3.00. One shelf down, the cottage cheese – an easy substitute — was half the price. It was an easy decision.

How do you curb the urge to part with your hard-earned cash?


Welcome to Free to be Frugal!

23 12 2008

As a former newspaper journalist  turned full-time stay-at-home parent, I have learned to raise a family on one paycheck. I joke about being my family’s cheapskate-in-chief, but I prefer to call myself frugal. I love to save money and am proud of it. I have a hard time understanding why anyone –regardless of how much money they make – would want to pay full price for something that they can purchase for a fraction of the cost by clipping a coupon or plugging in an online discount code. I don’t mind spending money, I just want to make sure I get my money’s worth.

While I have always considered myself frugal, my thriftiness has definitely been a work in progress. While some folks will cite a job loss, starting a family or a bad economy as the inspiration (or impetus) for adopting more thrifty ways, my journey has been more gradual.  And contrary to what you might think, the higher our household income has climbed, the more frugal we have become.  That may seem odd, but along with a higher income has come three children, a bigger house and thus more expenses.

I plan to blog about many money-saving topics, including couponing, menu planning, conserving energy, paying down debt, saving for college. By deciding to go public on my frugal adventure, I hope to inspire others to join me and, selfishly, to glean ideas from all of you.  I also hope to keep myself honest. Truth be told, I sometimes have great ideas for saving money, but life gets in the way and they stay ideas. It is my hope that this blog will give me that extra push to put those ideas into practice, saving me – and you – even more money.  So go ahead and bookmark my site, and check in regularly for your daily dose of debt-free inspiration.