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Ways to be Frugal

From discussions with friends and co-workers


General Rules:
  • set aside 10% of your income for your future (retirement) - treat it like a debt owed to the God Father. Find a way to make it happen (some of the suggestions below may be of use) and never miss a payment
  • shop around then buy quality - the item may cost more but it will last longer
  • prefer owning to renting except for one-time-use things (e.g. expensive specialized tools, movies, books, etc.) and get them gently used if you can. Try trading books, CDs and DVDs for example.
  • pay off your debt
  • don't count on grace periods - particularly for checks
  • take advantage of volume discounts on items that you use a lot
  • bargain harder - every dollar saved is one you can use for something else :)
Investing:
  • don't be late on your debt payments - elimiates late fees and growth in the debt
  • pay bills online if it costs less than equivalent postage - prevents late fees and saves postage
  • take advantage of investment accounts where the funds come out of pre-tax dollars (e.g. IRA)
  • escrow your own propery taxes
  • pay current and previous year's taxes in the same calendar year every other year if this gives you a tax advantage
  • use credit cards that rebate a percentage of your purchases (find them at creditcardassist.com, yourcreditadvisor.com, creditcardguide.com and financeglobe.com )
  • get a mortgage or bank loan to pay off your credit cards, then cancel all but one card - note: when you call to cancel your card you may be offered special incentives to keep using the card. don't cancel until you've heard the incentives from all your card carriers - then pick the one with the best deal.
  • make extra principal payments on your mortgage (and/or other debt if possible)
  • take advantage of 0% interest and no payments purchasing options but strive to pay it off before the end of the period if you can
  • move your savings account to an FDIC insured internet bank - they generally pay higher interest rates than banks that must support a physical building
  • make sure to "homestead" your house. This can save you quite a bit on property taxes
  • raise your insurance deductables as high as they can go, and bank the premium difference to pay the deductable if you ever need it.
  • Make sure you aren't over insuring. For example, only insure your house for replacement value, not purchase value. The land underneath the house is likely 30% or more of the home price and will still be there after a fire. This can save roughly 20% on your annual premiums.
  • always bank the entire amount of a raise... forever (or just increase your 401k to take that much more out of your check before you see it). If you were living without it before, you can certainly continue to do so and you won't ever notice the difference.
  • if you can itemize on your tax return you can get good deductions for items donated to charities - you determine what the items are worth and don't have to spend half a day monitoring your yard sale hoping to sell the stuff. One caveat: if you have a lot to donate, don't give all to the same organization. Tax reporting gets complicated if totals get over a certain amount to one organization.
  • there is NO grace period for money withdrawn using said credit card.. so you want to avoid withdrawing money/cash from your credit card.
  • shop online for car, life, home etc. insurance to get the best rates
  • exceed your checking/brokerage/mutual fund minimums - avoids fees
  • contribute to employer sponsored saving accounts (e.g. 401k, 403b)
  • take advantage of health savings accounts (aka "cafeteria plan" or FLEX) and HSAs
Around the House:
  • get a programmable thermostat to vary the temperature throughout the day
  • install faucet aerators - reduce water flow by half
  • borrow books and magazines from the library - why buy if you are only going to read it once (or once every couple of years)?
  • put a 1 liter bottle of water in your toilet tank (or bend the float arm) to reduce the amount of water wasted when you flush
  • snack on fruit, nuts and cereal (e.g. apples, walnuts, and Cheerios) - they are healthy and less expensive than standard snacks
  • use long distance (e.g. Motorola) walkie-talkies instead of cell phones to talk to your in-town family - saves service fees
  • get rid of the television - saves cable fees and gives you more quality time with your frends and family; if you must watch sports get together with friends at their house to watch :)
  • use a digital camera instead of film - take lots of pictures and only print the outstanding ones
  • bring leftovers to work/school for lunch instead of eating out - this can save $3K or more a year
  • cut your evening eat-outs to once a week or less
  • when you eat out, split an entree with your spouse
  • see movies during matinee times or at secondary theaters to reduce ticket prices, or better yet subscribed to a movie-by-mail service like NetFlix or BlockBuster - you'll pay for the service by skipping just one movie in the theater.
  • eat before you go to the movies so you aren't tempted to purchase refreshments at high prices
  • rent movies instead of seeing them in the theater
  • put solar screens or solar film on your windows - insulation and windows are the largest energy sinks in your home
  • car pool or take advantage of a car club (shared cars) or other convenient public transportation if available in your area
  • avoid toll roads
  • get your news online or through National Public Radio - more educational and less repetitious and "bad news" oriented than television news channels
  • buy the Sunday paper - you more than make your money back on the grocery coupons. Don't let the fact that there is a coupon for something suck you into purchasing it if you otherwise would not (e.g. luxury items such as candy and pre-pprepared meals)!
  • wait for yearly promotions to buy big ticket items (e.g. washers, cars, etc)
  • buy a trimmer and scissors and cut your hair at home - more family bonding and saves hundreds of dollars a year
  • use paper grocery bags for kitchen trash and plastic grocery bags for bathroom trash and diaper bags
  • use an electric lawn mower and trimmer - eliminates gas can, oil can, garage smells, and most other care and feeding overhead
  • addicted to something (nicotine, caffeine e.g. chocolate, alcohol, sugar, etc.)? At least try to reduce your intake and find a way to buy in bulk - you are wasting hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year. Better yet, get unaddicted - chew gum and drink water or lightly flavored water - you'll feel better too.
  • get out of the habit of buying things from vending machines - plan ahead and buy in bulk
  • use community yard tools - you only mow your yard about once a week at the most. The rest of the time the mower just sits there. Find a way to share with your neighbors
  • consider Wal-mart for oil changes. They don't try to push any other "absolutely necessary" items on you - and you can combine service with shopping
  • replace light bulbs with cooler, energy efficient compact fluorescent or LED lights
  • install low-flow shower heads - reduces water usage and water heating costs
  • check out FatWallet.com - some of the savings there may be useful to you
  • Never buy a new car. It looses substantial value the second you sign the paperwork. - check out certified pre-owned instead.
  • Check out DVDs from your local library - eliminates rental fees AND cable premium channel costs
  • Don't throw those sandwich bags away! - they are easy to wash and resuse
  • reduce or eliminate add-on phone services such as caller ID, call notes, etc - if the call is important they will leave a message and you can call them back when you get home
  • lower the temperature setting on your water heater - keeping water hot is one of the highest expenses in your home
  • put a dry towel in the dryer with your wet clothes - absorbs moisture and reduces drying time and associated costs
Shopping:
  • set a food budget (for groceries, dining out, lunch at work, etc). Try to stick to it, then try to reduce it - food is probably your highest monthly expense after housing
  • create a grocery shopping list and stick to it, give some leeway for sale items that you can stock up on - prevents impulse buying
  • if money is more important to you than time you may be able to save more on your groceries by visiting different merchants - they usually have different prices and sale items
  • combine errands - saves gas
  • shop at thrift stores (Goodwill, Savers, etc) at least for children's items if not for yourself
  • shop online where appropriate but keep in mind the problem of returning a defective item if you do so
  • try store brand products (diapers, milk, juice, etc) - they usually cost less and are of similar quality to name brands
  • buy frozen juice instead of bottled juice - same quality, much less expensive per gallon
  • if you go out to eat with a group of friends/co-workers, offer to pick up the check (and get repaid later) if you have a rebate credit card :)
  • ask if there is a discount for paying cash - many small buinesses would love to avoid credit card surcharges and/or insurance claim payment delays.
  • always ask if there is a discount.
  • Don't carry cash (and leave your ATM card at home)...better yet, don't carry a credit card either - cuts down on impulse buys significantly.
  • when grocery shopping, check the price per ounce/pound/piece etc - the bigger box isn't necessarilly the better deal