Football game

I may not be posting for the next few days – I’m driving quite a ways to go to my alma mater’s bowl game on the 31st.  You may wonder how a trip like that fits into a frugal girl’s lifestyle.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…living a frugal life doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the things that make you really happy.  I personally live for college football, and it makes me really happy, so I make it a priority.  This year we unfortunately weren’t very good, so we won’t be playing in a very good bowl.  Because of this, bowl tickets were under $20 (when we play in the good bowls, they’re usually over $200).  I’ve never been to a bowl game, and I figured this was my chance to go.  I’ll be driving up which saves money.  I consider this to be a frugal decision – it’s allowing me to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m taking advantage of the extremely low prices.  I’m excited – now hopefully my team will win!

Making a tank of gas last

I’ve been doing a lot of driving for the past few days going back and forth to the beach.  I had forgotten how high gas prices have become!  It’s getting to the point where people are having to make important decisions about traveling around town and when it’s actually worth it.  Here are a few tips to stretch that costly tank of gas.  First, if you’re going on a trip, make sure you leave when there is the lightest traffic and stop for meals when the traffic is at its worst.  Constant stopping and starting wastes lots of gas.  Similarly, use your cruise control whenever you can – a steady, constant speed saves fuel.  Next, never let your car idle for more than one minute.  After that amount of time, you’re wasting more gas than you would if you just turned the car off and restarted when you were ready.  Finally, check your tire pressure.  If your tires are low, it can waste as much as 1mpg of gas.

Sunburn

I’ve been down at the beach off and on during the last week.  I have fair skin, so I usually expect to get a bit of a sunburn, even if I’m as careful as I can possibly be.  There are great lotions on the market to ease the pain of a sunburn, but they can be very costly.  Most people don’t burn regularly or frequently, so an expensive bottle of lotion that they’ll only use for a few days is not a great expenditure.  Here are a few ideas to try on your sunburn that won’t cost nearly as much.  Individually, you can apply strong, unsweetened iced tea, Witch Hazel, or a paste of baking soda and water.  You can also make your own lotion to sooth a sunburn by combining:  1 c. White Vinegar

5 T. Salt

5 T. Plain Yogurt

2 T. Aloe Gel

Combine until well blended, store in fridge. To use, shake well and then smooth over affected areas.

Just remember, if you ever feel sick, have a fever, or experience chills after a sunburn, consult a doctor as it may be something more serious.

Home heating costs

Brrr!  It’s been pretty cold for the last few days, and I know we’ve been running our heater pretty heavily.  Heating costs are becoming a problem for some families as the cost of home heating oil continues to rise.  Even without that, no one wants a huge utility bill when they’re only trying to stay warm.  Here are a few tips for reducing your heating costs at home.  First find the drafty spots in your home.  By holding a candle to the edge of a window or door, you will see that if it flickers or burns out, there’s probably a draft coming from that area.  You can buy window covering kits for those drafty windows.  Also, try lowering your thermostat at night.  Reducing it just 8 degrees each night can save around 10% of your utility costs.  Finally, don’t use that bathroom fan while you’re running the heat – it just takes the heat right out of the house.  If your mirror is foggy, just use a hairdryer on the mirror for a minute to get rid of the steam.

Going out of business sales

In my hometown, we’ve recently had quite a few businesses closing down.  When they do this, they often offer big blowout sales to get rid of everything.  My advice with these types of sales is to be careful!  Sometimes they actually do offer some really good sales.  We have a clothing department store going out of business right now, and everything is at least 70% off.  I picked up a skirt that was originally $140 for only $14…not bad!  The good thing about this store is that I can see the original price tag and actually see my savings.  I’ve been to closeout sales at furniture stores that have been very sneaky.  I knew for a fact that they had marked items up before “slashing the prices.”  The closeout sale prices ended up being the same or just slightly less than the original price because they marked them up immediately before the sale.  So just be careful at these sales.  Make sure you’ve done your research to know if you’re actually getting a good deal or not.  And don’t overshop – it’s easy to do when the savings are good!

Great clothes on a budget

It’s probably no secret that I love to shop for clothes, shoes, bags, etc.  I like to look nice, and I’m often drawn to some of the more expensive brands for good quality and fit.  Luckily, I can still do this on a budget.  You just have to learn how to shop smart.  I love stores like TJ Maxx and Ross – most towns have something similar.  These stores are just a collection of countless different name brands, but the prices are significantly less than the original full retail price.  Often they’re just selling overflow from stores around the nation.  This can be a great place to get quality items at great prices.  You can also pick up unexpected items like formal dresses and great suits for work.  Also, be patient – shop often but rarely buy.  This way you’ll learn what is actually a good deal and what’s not.  It will also allow you to keep an eye on a favorite item – you can buy it when the price hits rock bottom.  Also, think about the time of year.  I suggest doing the bulk of your shopping in September and January.  At the end of September, a season is ended and back to school shopping has just wrapped up.  Similarly in January, winter clothes are on sale to make room for spring lines, and stores have had lots of returns after the holidays.  You’ll find great deals this time of year.  Hopefully you’re learning that living on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style.  Just become a smarter shopper, and you’ll look great!

Baby savings

My sister had a baby 6 months ago, so I’ve learned a lot about the many needs that come along with such a great responsibility.  I’ve seen articles that say that the average family spends up to $10,000 by the time their new baby is 2 years old.  That’s a lot of money!  Here are a few tips to reduce that high cost.  The most obvious is breastfeeding – it’s free!  Some women don’t have a choice because of health reasons, but for those that do, breastfeeding has been shown to be healthier for your child, and it won’t cost you a dime.  Also, check out second hand stores for baby supplies.  I actually worked at one of these in high school, and it was a great idea.  Babies grow so quickly that there’s no point in spending lots of money on outfits that they may only wear once.  Sell your baby’s items at one of these stores for some extra cash, and try to buy most of their clothes and toys there as well.  You’ll save a bundle!  If you have lots of friends with children, you can trade items as well (including maternity clothes).  My sister and her friends hand things down to each other, and it’s a great way to save money and support each other at the same time.  Finally, use generic diapers (or cloth ones).  Generic brands are often exactly the same, and they’ll cost around 30% less.  And I promise that your baby will never know the difference!

Building a wardrobe on a budget

I’m currently in law school looking for summer jobs.  I obviously can’t wear jeans to work like I do to school, so I’m having to slowly build a professional wardrobe that will work wherever I end up working this summer and beyond.  This isn’t easy to do on a student’s budget.  One thing I’ve tried to do is go back to the basics.  This is a good idea for any wardrobe – professional or every day.  I found a few great solid colored suits (and one with very subtle pinstripes).  These suits can go with anything, which is key to building a wardrobe.  Also, I found some that were three pieces – jacket, pants, and skirt.  These are a great idea, as they give you more versatility over time.  I found a few button downs and a few shells – I’ll be able to mix and match without feeling like I’m repeating too frequently.  With an everyday wardrobe, one key piece is a great pair of jeans that can be worn with anything.  From there, try to get some nice solid pieces that are basic cuts and high quality.  These will last you forever – as trends change, you can mix in cheaper pieces of jewelry and clothing to update the look without having to change your key pieces.  Good luck!

Freebies

Find me someone who doesn’t like getting something for free.  You’d be surprised how many great freebies there are out there, just waiting to be found.  Now that the internet is so common, a quick google search will bring up so many choices of free items.  I’ve seen magazines giving out free subscriptions, stores giving out free gifts, and companies giving out free samples of new products.  Take advantage of these.  It can be a good chance to try a new cereal or product without wasting any money.  Just be careful – some sites ask you to sign up for something or buy something else to receive the free gift.  Unless you were going to sign up or purchase that item anyway, don’t go down that road.  There are enough freebies that are yours for doing absolutely nothing!