Veterans Day 2008
Of Cats and Men

The New Frugality

According to The New York Times today, sales of new automobiles dropped an astronomical 32 percent in one three-month period, from June through September. And,

“Consumer spending appears likely to fall next year for the first time since 1980 and perhaps by the largest amount since 1942…consumer spending would decline about 1 percent next year…Relative to the typical increases from recent years, it would represent $400 billion in lost consumer spending.”

Since consumer spending is about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, that’s bad news for a recovery any time soon, but it’s not primarily why the story caught my attention. Juxtaposed in my inbox was this from the Darwin Awards:

“(February 2008, France) A 71-year-old pensioner met a shocking end when his frugal attempt to illuminate his yard with power siphoned from the National Grid backfired spectacularly. “The gentleman in question illegally opened a major power junction box at the front of his house, intending to hard-wire a cable to his garden shed. Unfortunately, the poor chap attempted to do this rewiring during a major downpour. “The fatal result was all too predictable. He was immediately deep fried and declared deceased at the scene. Lessons:
  1. Don't hardwire your shed to a local power substation
  2. Don't hardwire your shed to a power line in the rain
  3. There IS such a thing as being too frugal.

Frugality, apparently, can go too far (although the biggest question in this story is how someone so phenomenally stupid managed to live to age 71.) Nevertheless, with an economy that will not improve any time soon, everyone is tightening their belts.

These two stories left me wondering how far people are willing and able to cut back. I suspect we elders, especially those of us who are retired, have already eliminated a lot of spending we took for granted when we were working and don’t have as much leeway as people who are still working. But prices have increased dramatically, especially groceries, and some savings must be found.

My cuts are many small things that I hope will add up. I’ve canceled Netflix – not much money, but the movies sometimes laid around for a month or more until I watched them. I’m allowing magazine subscriptions to lapse as they come due. I don’t buy as many books – there are plenty unread around the house and many I want to re-read.

I bought a small space heater for the laundry room which doesn’t need the huge baseboard heater that came installed with the condo and had added $100 per month to the electric bill during winter. I’ve weather-stripped all the doors, added insulated curtains to windows and programmed the thermostat to 60 degrees F at night, 67 during the day.

(By the way, can someone explain to me why a 60-degree day outside is perfectly comfortable, but is not warm enough indoors during winter.)

And there are all the little things I learned when I was a kid: run the dishwasher once a week or less (easy when you’re one person in a home); shower every other day; one meal a week of all the little leftovers which results in some interestingly odd combinations; turn out the lights; put on a sweater when I’m chilly instead of turning up the heat; etc.

And, I shop in bulk at the big box stores for bathroom tissue, Kleenex, paper towels, cleaning supplies, vitamins and personal care products. My biggest single expense is heating, second only to property tax, which I can’t change.

The problem for me is that I already live close to the bone. I don’t eat in restaurants unless I’m meeting a friend and we choose carefully. I have plenty of clothes. I’ve been on a heathily frugal diet since May (I’ve lost about 25 pounds) and have discovered that frozen vegetables and fruit are at least as healthy as fresh and usually less expensive.

It’s become a game I play now; where else can I cut down. Although we’ve discussed frugality before, I’m wondering what new savings you’ve discovered as the economic crisis has deepened – barring stupid and lethal, of course.

Comments

Libraries!

I am downright envious of people who can turn the thermostat down to 67F during the day. My hands get cold at that temperature, and they hurt when they're cold. Wearing gloves---even fingerless gloves---indoors is just a pain in the butt, I am constantly taking them off and on every time I need to wash my hands or anything else. Sigh... but the rest of it I can do.

And libraries are great, especially if you live in or near a big city!

Some of the same things you mentioned like keeping the thermostat lower for winter. I am wearing those tennis shoes even though they are scuffed and three years old. I get haircuts every three months instead of every six weeks. I buy paperbacks instead of hard backs and am now reading the newspaper online rather than having it delivered.
I have already spoken to my friends to cease Christmas gift exchanges..it was becoming burdensome anyway. This year, only the 3 children, their spouses and the 4 grandchildren will be receiving gifts from us.

Anne...

The operative phrase in your comment about libraries is "big city." There's not much choice where I live in a town of 65,000.

We live in a town of 39,000 and have a fabulous library which is associated with our county library. You can borrow interlibrary.

We split the cost of garbage pickup with my MIL as we each make up about one large bag a week. We take our bag over to her house each weekend.

For salads, we buy a one-pound bag of salad mix and then add the more expensive ingrediants from the supermarkets salad bar instead of buying all of it at the higher price.

Wild bird seed? The messy eaters (blue jays) get the wild life feed at $6.99/50 lbs. which also keeps the squirrels away from the expensive seed.

Membership at our YMCA allows for long hot showers and they always have a pot of coffee brewing.

Oops, have to go now. Have a few hours of work assisting the groomer at a local kennel ($).

Would 60 degrees outside still feel comfortable if you were sitting still out there for an hour or more (out of the sun), using your laptop? I suspect not. Specially if there was a breeze.

Frozen vegetables are healthier(I like fresh better). Because they flash freeze them soon after harvest, they retain the goodies we want wearas the fresh lose them on the way to market.

Frugality became a game for me 10 years ago and I've been doing most of the things you're doing for years. The only things I can cut back on are my symphony tickets and I decided that was I'm not giving those up -- yet. Fortunately, I had saved for those.

Books can be found cheap at Goodwill and other thrift stores for nearly nothing. Clothing, too.

My friends are no longer chuckling at how I cut corners -- they're calling for advice.

As a depression child from a poor family, I have always been frugal & it still amazes me how younger folks have no sense of spending this way. (Kay do not give up those symphony tickets......they're cheap therapy..LOL)That said, I have cut out the expensive haircuts for both me & my spouse, while going to a walkin shop for $6.99. Also, we just plain eat less, yet better to my way of thinking. Mostly, we're doing what the rest of you find as second nature. Dee

Because I was a child during the Depression I was raised to be frugal and have remained so all my life. Some clothes in my closet are over 20 years old, but I have never bought trendy clothes so they are still fashionable. I did let all my subscriptions expire and now get all my information on the Net. My one indulgence is NetFlix as that is my only entertainment. I eat frugally and never let food spoil. There is no place for further cuts. (Unless I want to freeze and I am not willing to do that.)

Many of the steps you have taken are familiar. Our thermostat is set at 68 all the time. If we get chilly we put on a sweater or shawl, or we drag out our lap blankets. Mom hand washes the dishes mainly because the dishwasher does a lousy job. We use cold water when we wash clothes. I don't buy as many book. the few I do buy are written by favorite authors and are in paper back. Frozen vegetables are good but we won't touch the fruit. We tried that earlier this year and found them tasteless and hard. Instead we went to the farmers' market and got peaches and apples in season. We happily anticipate next season. We are thinking about our patio containers and what we will put in them: tomatoes and peppers, definitely. What else? I do various needlework and have made some changes there. Over many years I have accumulated a large stash and now I concentrate on using that rather than accumulating new additions. I cut the few plastic bags we still get occasionally into strips for crocheting. The scraps remaining from quilting that are too small to sew go into a container to be used for stuffing small things like sachets and pin cushions. We also get some interesting combinations when we clean out the leftovers. We are always questioning what we spend our money on and whether the satisfaction is worth the price.

Your 'life' sounds a lot like ours. And since we have to go to a neighboring town (larger) for necessities like doctors and dentists, we try and do our grocery shopping at the same time, hitting every store for the bargains on our way in and way out.

We live in a small town (9,000) but the library here is wonderful. (Sad; not all libraries are equal.) And with an active Friends of the Library group, we are constantly getting new books.

Another help was our programmable thermostat. (68 during the day) The fact that it turns off the heat at a certain time eliminated forgetfulness as a cause for higher fuel bills. We saved close to $50 a winter month with a $25 thermostat.

Our thermostat is set at 68 and since the house is new it keeps us quite comfortable. These fall days when I felt chilly I started a fire in the fireplace and we were toasty in no time. I have quit dying my hair and will see if I can live with that savings. I also am canceling Netflix. I am sewing some of my own window coverings for this new house and have been freezing much stuff from our summer garden. But these are not really changes to my lifestyle...I would probably be doing this anyway.

I installed a dryer vent that blows all that hot air into a tub of water. I'm going to hate it in the summer, but for now, it's helping heat the house as well as allowing the dryer to run more efficiently. I have cut down on the amount of detergent and eliminated the second rinse.

I cut back the cable to the cheapest package I could get that still includes Turner Classic Movies. I think I may cancel my Netflix soon, though I do use it for work.

I have closed off vents in rooms I don't use much (I live in a milder climate than many). I rarely eat out, and live a lot on salads, sandwiches and soup. I downsized my coffeepot.

The cats got switched to house brand cat food. Eventually they will stop complaining and eat it.

I buy most of my clothes at the thrift shops (how else did you think I could afford all that Liz Claiborne?), and anything bought new has to match or go with something I already own.

It's getting more difficult.

I include items here that I've done, and ones that are on my list in case I need to cut back further; I'd rather not, but I can. Some of these have already been said either by you or others, I'm just trying to get them out of my brain before they run away (I am not at my most alert at this hour!).

Libraries. This works better if you're in a large town or a county library system, but even a small-town library may be good for magazines (even if the book collection changes too slowly to remain interesting over time).

Used book stores, if you have one near you, are a great place to sell off what you've read and won't reread - then use the store credit to pick up new books to read (though inevitably you end up with fewer).

Book swaps. Might there be others in town trying to save money who would want to read some of what you have, and have something you haven't read? (Book swaps, however, tend to do better with fiction, I understand.)

If you have storage space for it, and can afford the initial hit, buy foods you use a lot of in bulk. (Easier if you have a local "warehouse" type store but even with a regular grocery store the larger containers of things usually represent a savings. Check the prices first, occasionally they don't, usually because of a sale on the smaller size.)

Fewer/shorter trips in the car. Combine any errands you can.

Watch what you do/don't need. New clothes, for example, largely become a luxury if your wardrobe isn't threadbare. (Alas, that's not true for me: I'm pregnant, and I had to buy a fair number of things because I did need stuff that fit.) If you need it and can buy it second-hand, do. (That, fortunately, helped a lot with that wardrobe shift!)

Review your hobbies. Find the ones that are comparatively cheap and focus on them. If you love three things and two of them require buying new supplies, then unless you can sell the results and recoup most or all of the money, you're better off spending more of your hobby time on the one that costs less. Of course, that assumes you don't already have a stockpile of supplies for the other two, and that you like them all roughly equally.

Heating. In addition to turning the thermostat down, as noted, check whether you are heating areas that don't need to be heated to comfortable levels. For example, the nursery does not need to be heated to human-occupancy levels at our house, because the baby isn't here yet. It can be left (and luckily, the heating zones are such that we can do this without freezing ourselves) cooler. At least until next month when it temporarily steps in as my home office, when I'll need to change that somewhat.

Cooking. If you can avoid the oven and use cheaper appliances, this is a good thing. (I've heard that crock pots are more affordable answers; I need to research that. I use mine because it lets me cook all day when I'm not able to cook all day, but if it's saving me money, that's a bonus!) If you have to use the oven, try for multiple dishes that can cook at the same temperature (and the same time). And if you do use it, when you're done and it's off, assuming no pets/children likely to be harmed, leave the top open a few inches - might as well heat the kitchen.

Sales. Especially if it's something that can keep, grocery store sales are a lovely thing. But know what you'll use, what it normally costs, and how much you're saving - just because it's on sale dosen't make it a good deal, as I'm sure most of the readers here know already. (Coupons are another one - there are sites on the web that help you find deals, though this is more useful if you're near chain stores, which tend to be the focus of those sites.)

Sadly, holidays. I don't think I'll be seeing as many ostentatious light displays this year as I normally do...or even minor light displays. Those things cost too much. (We won't even have a tree up this year, but that's not because of saving money, that's because of a kitten who will be 10 months old at Christmas and whose ability to recognize boundaries is still being worked on.)

Laundry. Full loads, cold water all the way. Anything you can do to lessen dryer loads is good, though obviously the "line drying" trick works better in summer. (However, our dryer can dry clothes faster with smaller loads - and we can drip-dry some items by hanging them on the curtain rod over the bathtub. A small difference, but it doesn't cost us anything, so I'll take it. Best done with clothes that don't wrinkle, or it doesn't matter if they do, though.)

Shorter showers, less often. If you want to take it further, showers can be dealt with only when hair needs washing, and a sink bath used for more frequent bathing. In some households with more people, it may be worth switching to a bath and reusing, but I know that bothers some people, and in some cases might present a health risk (individual families will know better). (When I was growing up, we had a well that simply did not have enough water throughput, and so we'd fill the bathtub and take turns. Order depended in part on who was grimiest, they got to go last.)

Consignment shops, if you have clothes/books/whatever you aren't using and want to sell off. You won't get back what they're worth, let alone what they cost, but you'll get something, and that's better than having unwanted things cluttering up your house and giving you nothing.

Unwanted things, if they're nice but not to your taste (or nice, you like them, but you just have nowhere to put one more thing) also make nice gifts. As long as they don't go back to the person who gave them to you, unless it's an in-joke to do that.

Home maintenance. Now's not the time to do anything unnecessary, but insulation, weather stripping, etc., can return more than they cost in some cases. (Especially if you have the materials already and have been forgetting to do it.) Turn down your water heater to 120 if you haven't already. See if your local utility offers free energy efficiency inspections (some do, some don't). Recommendations to replace things are probably bad to follow, but sometimes cheap suggestions also come out of that.

If you aren't using it, turn it off. If you don't have to leave it plugged in when it's off, consider whether you should unplug it. (A number of our electronics still draw some power when off to show they are plugged in, track time, etc. If I don't need the feature they draw power for, they don't need to be plugged in. It's not much per item per hour, but it's still something.)

Are there free local options for entertainment, such as at community centers? Worth looking into. (Especially if they turn out to be near the grocery store, and you can get the shopping in afterward.)

I'm sure there are more but these are the ones that came to mind....

Cut my own hair (have never colored it), buy clothes at thrift shops, eat leftovers several times each week, cut down on days that I go in to do volunteer work (27 mile round trip), keep car's tire inflation on target, let five magazine and two newspaper subscriptions lapse, borrow books from library (town of 20,000--if they don't have a book, they can get it through Inter Library Loan), never had netflix or high speed internet, wash clothes in cold water, catch water that I run to get hot water for dishwasher (it goes on indoor plants and in bird baths), air dry dishes, use coupons, ride bicycle to buy a few grocery items, assiduously do paperwork to get rebates, control sunlight entry through positioning of vertical blinds (angle vanes to keep sun out in summer, let it in in winter, open blinds on cool summer night to allow radiation outward, close blinds and vanes to keep warmth in on winter night), feed cats dry cat food (plus a bit of our own dinner fish), alter and repair own clothing, knit some clothing, do own yard work, raise a small garden (tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, strawberries, cherries, peaches), can own salsa and pickled beets, cook dried beans (of all sorts), do most of my own small wiring/mechanical repairs, avoid buying fancy cleaning products, buy some things in bulk, use much fluorescent lighting, turn unused lights off, re-use plastic bags (kitty litter in newspaper bags, grocer gives 5 cents off for each re-used plastic bag)....

I'm curious. I pay about $70 a month total for a landline home phone ($30), a cell phone (pay-as-you-go; max $10/month), broadcast cable ($10), and DSL ($20). Anybody else care to share $$ amount for the combined cost of those services? I'm wondering if there's a better deal.

I have lived with most of these economies all my life -- my depression era/WWII rational coupon hoarding parents got this across to me. Or rather, their lifestyle impressed me as simply normal.

My partner is five years younger and has found some of my penny pinching habits peculiar. For example, when I travel for work as I still do, I tend to pick up meals in grocery stores, spending radically less than those who eat out. I feel no deprivation in this -- no virtue, just dumb luck from my family.

Yesterday I heard that yet another of my retired friends has lost half of his income which came from a real estate investment trust he unwisely had counted on. His mistake certainly, but really, most of us aren't qualified to evaluate investments. We may have other wisdom, but not financial wisdom. I blame the peddlers of these dubious "securities" for taking advantage of the trust of millions.

Hi,
Here are some of the things I have learned over the years of "living on the edge" (of poverty, that is):
*BookCrossing.com -- free books, donated from around the world. Just pay postage.
*Volunteer at the symphony or theatre to be an usher/ticket-taker/etc. I've seen a lot of lovely shows and heard a lot of music that way.
*Freeze farmers' market tomatoes
*Quit cigarettes and meat 20 years ago - weigh what I did in college (happy and healthy)
*Make an itinerary before I even start the car
*Make my own laundry soap (SoapGoneBy.com for ingredients). My clothes haven't been this clean and sweet in years.
*Never, ever used large oven - even unplugged it to save electricity running the clock on it. Always use toaster oven. I'm single, so don't have large meals.
Loads of other things, too -- many of which have already covered.
This is the only time I've been glad to be poor ... no IRAs, no 401Ks, no savings and NOTHING TO LOSE ON THE STOCK MARKET.
Life is great ...
Miki

a few words of advice from an old battleaxe who grew up in ND and lived in a log house there for 10 years: every day, put on long underwear (tops and bottoms), two pairs of socks (silk and wool), jeans and flannel shirt, as many sweaters as you like....those gloves i got in paris, the ones with the fingertips open, are handy, too. 60 degrees inside in the daytime is workable and even enjoyable if you take up baking. and at night, take your shoes off and go to bed in the same whole outfit. ha. the german in me advises hot baths every morning and at bedtime, too. when the weather begins to warm up, you'll LOVE how warm it feels outside at 30 degrees!! lastly, you won't need ALL of that if you chop your own wood! "she who chops wood is twice warmed." honest.

We shut off cable TV and get news from online, eliminated the dishwasher and my son and I wash our own dishes after a meal, and we keep the temp at 65. Buy my books at Goodwill or Trader Village along with all my clothes. We also have fabulous libraries, so I don't have to buy books often even from Goodwill. I can make one chicken feed us for several days -- soup from the stock, casseroles or chicken salad from the meat. Now if I could just find a way to get my medications from a Thrift shop I'd be in pretty good shape.

Ronni,

It is a challenge to cut expenses in Portland during the winter. I agree that baseboard heating is way too expensive. A space heater sounds like a good alternative.

We set the heat to 70 when we wake up and when it gets too warm -in about 30 minutes - lower it to 67. If it's a sunny day, the house stays warm thruout the day with minimal use of oil. At night, we lower it to just under 65.

With the oil price dropping, this winter looks at least affordable.

Oooops - wrong link to Soaps Gone Buy for ingredients for home-made laundry soap -- as well as cleaners, etc ... It's really www.soapsgonebuy.com
Sorry about that ... it really was very early in the morning when I sent this sighhh.
Miki

We, my husband and I, are in a good position right now. We owe nothing on our house, car, or truck. The car is used mainly for long trips (which we have cut down on) and the truck when my husband goes bird hunting. Even though we have two vehicles we walk or ride our bikes when doing errands around town.

We keep the heat set at 69 during the day and at 66 at night.

Most of my reading material comes from the local library.

We turn off the bathroom sink faucet when brushing our teeth or washing our faces. We use less toothpaste, dishsoap, and laundry soap than the instructions on the containers say to use and still manage to keep clean.

I realized a long time ago that the amount of product the company says you should use is directly related to the amount of money the company wants to make- the faster you use up the product, the more money they get. I call this "the Alka-Seltzer Effect."

When Alka-Seltzer first came out you were instructed to put one tablet in a glass of water. In the early 60's Alka-Seltzer asked an advertising agency to come up with a campaign to increase Alka-Seltzer sales. The agency said they had an idea that would double sales- instead of one tablet tell customers to take two!

I understand that these are all little things but as we all know, little things add up.

I guess the practicality my great saving depends on how fit and agile you are.

Approaching 70, I've got back on a bike as transport for the first time since riding to school 55 years ago.

I'm saving lots and having a wonderful effect on my health as the car sits sits idle in the drive.

Our area is hilly and virtually no one uses bikes for transport so it was not an obvious choice. I've solved that with a fantastic electric bike

While the initial outlay was high (around $2000. You have to get the best. Cheap ones soon break) I've already saved $300 in 2 months.

The E Bike gives me lots of exercise, you still have to pedal, but more easily.

I guess its like having 20 year old legs again.

Best of all since there is much less strain, you opt for the European style sit up straight on a comfortable saddle type of bike.

This means you are much safer. You can look around, both for enjoyment and safety, far more easily.

I have my eye flicking constantly to my rear view mirror to see if any threats are coming up from behind.

In my saddlebags I can carry three plastic bags full of groceries.

I came to the bike via trying to convert my car to electric. That plan I gave up when I found that a very efficient electric car is due out next year.

The bike was bought out of frustration, actually.

I can't recommend the bike more highly both for fun, for health, and for economy.

I'm thinking of doing a documentary about bikes. If you have any bike stories you want to share, please write, Thanks Mike.

rubbo@aapt.net.au

We have been cutting back drastically in the wake of an hours cut in my wife's job. But we agreed that we wouldn't do it willy-nilly, so that we were cutting the quality of our lives, but in a trading system.

For example, we have discontinued NetFlix. But the local library has a good selection of DVD's and VHS's that can substitute. We also have started trading DVD's with friends so that we all enjoy a saving. Don't get to see the latest, but there's so much that we haven't seen!

We have cut magazines and periodicals drastically, but read many of the same articles online or at the library.

We have long wanted to unclutter the house, and this gives us an opportunity to make some extra dollars with eBay and CraigsList!

The point is that there is economizing and there is self-privation. Being frugal does not have to mean living like a monk.

I just spent a good half hour going through the coupons I cut out from the Sunday newspaper.

The money I save by using some of those coupons pays for part of what the newspaper costs.

After I cut the coupons out I went through the ads of the local supermarket and the drug store.

I'll be using those coupons for the items I found that are on sale, that way I get two bangs for my buck.

The supermarket and drug store are near each other so I'll be using very little gas.

As far as clothes goes, first thing I do is shop in my closet, it's a lot easier than going to a store but if I have to, I'll shop at TJX or Marshalls.

I've been buying a lot of store brand groceries and find most of them pretty good.

When I leave a room and the light is on, I shut it off. How many of you leave the lights on even if you are not in the room?

From what I have observed young people leave the lights on and the older crowd shut them off. I think that's part of growing up when times were bad.

Swim free at my work place and use the nice hot showers twice weekly.
Use libraries regularly...Never buy books any longer.
Keep heat at 68 during the day. Off at night. Close off vents in rooms not used.
Eat plenty of leftovers. Don’t eat meat fish or poultry. Eat out less and less.
Eliminate as many gifts as possible.
Look to buy as much as possible on sale.
Cut down on detergent and cut out dryer sheets. Hang clothes out in summer.
Cut down on cat treats (no big deal; Cassie is overweight and we tend to overfeed our animals).
Found cheaper place to have my hair cut. Color my own hair.
Mother and I lived on Social Security until I turned 16 and was able to quit school to go to work. I learned very well how to stretch a dollar.

I think the biggest savings I have had is switching to the long-lasting light bulbs. I haven't had to change bulbs in two years. Of course, I have cut back on buying books, which used to be a big expense, and now use the local library. I, too, live close to the bone, and there's not any place else I can cut, other than newspapers and Netflix.

God knows I am no wonder chef, but my crockery cooker has recently become my best friend.

Just look on the net and find all sorts of cheap and easy soups and one pot meals. Works for us, as we freeze 5 containers (2 servings each)from one crockpot meal.

I've been buying 80% or more of my clothes second hand for years, even when I could afford to buy new. Our house is mortgage free, no other debts, 2 paid cars, and enough savings for emergencies.

I have a small part time job.

I also shop off season for winter coats, boots, and my next car will be tiny and cheap on gas.

I have refinished many excellent solid wood pieces for our home. Cheap!

I love the idea of an e bike, but can not put my 87 year old mom on the back seat!

We eat lots of fruit, veggies and good honey, from markets.

I frequent the library 2x a week for all my mags, and put in time at Chapters, where anyone can sit in an armchair and read all day for free.

I take yoga at $50 per term- cheap! Walking is also free. I walk 6k's 4 times a week.

We are going to Florida for a month in January, and have saved up for that. I also supplement my pension by gardening for seniors from May to November. Hard work but keeps me fit!

I love finding something at a flea market or 2nd hand store, and turning it into something else. Example: a headboard becomes a fence for climbing roses.

A roasting pan becomes a planter for cactus.

Old jeans become yoga bags.

Beach shells decorate my gardens.

Rocks I pick up circle gardens instead of generic cement ones.

Be creative in these times and you will rule!

My husband and I are newly retired. This is the first year we are both on pension and SS. Our investments have tanked. We are cutting back.

A major savings for us will be the almost drastic reduction in gift giving to our family members. This is to be a permanent cut.

We also pursue methods to ease the financial drain of the travel we do to see our family members. We have switched air carriers, and use membership in a motel chain "club" to gain points enough to get a free room from time to time. This has worked pretty well. Sometimes we are able to stay with family. We always rent cheap cars.

We have earned points from using a credit card during this past year. These points, either directly or indirectly, will be used to pay for part of our next trip. (We pay all of our balance every month!)

On the use of libraries: I am a retired librarian, and I believe that using this tax supported institution is a good thing! Many times libraries sponsor activities, such as book signings, book groups, classes. These are free or almost free. Also, I have found that our community college discounts tuition costs to seniors. You might take a class for fun; or you might take a class to learn a new frugal skill.

paperbackswap.com -- exchange lotsa books for just postage. ;^)

They do CDs and DVDs now, too. ;^)

I actually get a kick out of being frugal. It's a sort of woman vs. the world thing, I guess. Growing up a poor preacher's kid, we always had gardens, lots of barter, anything and everything to cut expenses. I have an '06 car with only 11K miles on it. It will be paid for by the time I retire, with 5 years left on the warranty. It should last me until internal combustion engines become obsolete.

I highly recommend Get Rich Slowly, an excellent blog with suggestions as to how to live simply and comfortably on less. J.D.'s blog was recently named "most inspiring money blog" by Money magazine. The latest post features DIY holiday gifts, some quite clever and thoughtful. http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/11/13/a-do-it-yourself-christmas-34-great-gifts-you-can-make-yourself/

Ah yes, I preplan meals very carefully now. I shop with a list. I changed to a local grocery store instead of the big chain....tho I still shop for things like TP at Costco. We buy some things at estate sales, and our wardrobes at Ross and thrift stores instead of Macy's. We bought a car that gets 41 mpg, and I drive only two days a week now. Our biggest expense is the old radient heating.......so we use space heaters....which we rarely use. I have a sleeping bag thing here in my computer chair, loads of fleece blankets and quilts spread around the house, and fleece gloves with the fingers cut off to type with at my keyboard.

What a juicy topic. Thank you.......I'll borrow it if you don't mind.

Oh yes, the library. A gift of the gods. Our city is shutting seven of them because of budget constraints. It's awful.

Growing up and for many years later, frugality has just been an automatic way of living. Waste not is and has been applied to everything, including leftovers that I generally enjoy eating.

I reuse items for other things than what they were intended such as grocery bags, plastic or paper, for trash instead of buying them. Making something out of nothing was a skill which my mother practiced and I acquired. Use it 'til it wears out, breaks, then buy something new. Repair if cost effective.

I haven't paid as much attention to coupons as I did for so many years, but am resuming. Usually buy in large size or quantity if cost effective. Really have to check prices 'cause sometimes it's less expensive to buy a smaller size. Manufacturers and stores think we won't compare.

Groceries have leader items which change from week to week and vary from store to store. I found one market had the best meat prices (when I ate more red meat) and another other products, so just varied where I shopped each week to coincide with what they were having on sale. Works well if stores are in close proximity to where I live. Store labels are not always better or even just as good, depends on the item and you have to learn by comparing through use.

Electric items have always only been turned on in my home when they're in actual use. Light bulbs are being replaced with new long-lasting energy-saving ones as the old fashioned bulbs burn out. Was able to buy a supply of the new bulbs when our local utility offered them at a reduced rate at a local super market.

I've had to replace several appliances so have purchased high energy saving and water saving units. Also have more water saving now with a new commode I had to purchase. Hope this all means savings over time.

Oven not working for a couple of years so have used microwave, stove top, toaster oven quite successfully, but then I haven't been cooking much for others. Finally, getting a new oven but I may not use it a lot.

Dishwasher and clothes washer used mostly when half or full loads as always.

My luxury is buying fresh fruit and veggies when in season, but only if price is reasonable. Have to be careful I don't buy too much it looks so good. Since January I have started eating out more than I used to do, but usually choose inexpensive foods. Am gradually cutting back on that.

Am dropping my few magazine subscriptions as they come due despite receiving a special reduced rate as I rarely get around to reading them anyway. Also, will drop one newspaper, possibly two from home delivery. I get a lot of current right up to the minute news on two all news radio stations. Can always come to the computer, but like sitting or lying down and reading a newspaper better. I do find much of it any more is all news I've already heard though.

Still don't have cable as I'm fortunate to live in Los Angeles area and receive excellent reception from all stations with just roof antenna. My experience with cable in two other states where they had to have it or they would have no reception was that most of the extra stations they received were worthless, except for a very few. The other good ones all cost extra. My young adult family members were unhappy with their cable for the same reasons.

Mary, I do have DSL for which my ISP charges 39.95.
I maintain a land line phone with basic charges 27.92 plus a local non-basic pkg rate with long distance for a grand total of 51.93.
I have a cell phone through a family member's work family plan which costs me 10/mo. The cell phone is with the same phone company as my land line.
I don't have cable and don't really want it.
The phone company has offered a pkg deal that would include fiber optic DSL, phone line and cable for 99.
Am sure I could save some here if I was willing to give up my phone land line and sought a different DSL provider. One problem is a good friend's cell phone doesn't work well inside her home so we have to use land lines which incurs additional long distance charges.

Have patronized used book stores for years. Also, I can visit new book store and often read books and magazines there. Probably will not buy as many books and stop my propensity to occasionally, just for fun, give away a select book to others as a friend has done with me. Local library may see more of me.

May not mail holiday gifts, saving on postage and instead send a few select gift cards. I don't have that many for whom to buy anyway.

Thermostat is year 'round set for 68 at night; days 70 to 72 depending on whether or not I'm just sitting or working in the house. May turn up for cold rainy outdoor weather days that penetrate indoors. I manually adjust temps to cooler sometimes. When I'm not home for hours any given day I turn the heat temp to cooler 'til I return home. Biggest concern is A/C in the summer for electric expense.

I've generally always made auto trips count making other stops when I'm out, or saving a trip until next time I go out, but will take greater care with that.

I haven't needed any new clothes or shoes, but might if I lost weight and none of the smaller sizes in my closet could be worn.

Congrats on your weight loss. I'm jealous!

I know I've been lax with some of my spending, maybe making too many exceptions, so will have to consciously pay attention to my habits.

If your supermarket has a table for marked down produce that is getting overripe, or a bit bruised, you can find perfectly edible stuff there.
I also belong to paperbackswap.com.
Crockpots and a pressure cooker are both useful for making economical meals.
I find that good quality French-milled soap-bought on sale at places like Pier 1- is more of a bargain than a cheap soap like Ivory, which melts away in no time.
Good ideas for DIY gifts: homemade baked goods; mix CD's made from music already in your collection; put together a booklet of family recipes; divide and repot your own houseplants or garden plants as gifts.

I was reminded of this post when I read a section in this Sunday's L.A. Times on bartering. Seems like another viable way to save.

Before that I had thought of something else, but now I can't remember what it was. Does anyone else know what it might have been???

Surprised I didn't see this in some of the other comments - the reason 60 degrees in winter feels so different than in summer is because of the humidity. My grandpa taught me that trick, increasing the humidity makes _all the difference in the world_ in terms of how comfortable it feels temperature-wise. I increase humidity without a humidifier by a) showering with the bathroom door open b) cooking more soups and whole wheat pasta c) setting pie pans of water near heat vents (kitties use as additional water dishes) and d) line drying all my clothes in the house with a rigged up clothesline in the living room and dining room. Even though it looks kind of trashy, I live alone and can get away with it, the kitties don't mind. :)

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