Redecorating

If you’re like me, you get bored easily with your surroundings.  I want to be proud of my home and feel like it’s a space that makes me happy.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to constantly redecorate.  Luckily, there are a few things anyone can do to change a space without spending a fortune.  First, changing paint colors can really help.  Indoor paint isn’t very expensive, and it’s something you can easily do on your own without much experience.  If you’ve very low on cash, think about just painting one wall as an accent.  Next, think about rearranging your furniture.  A new lay out can drastically change the look of a room…you’d be surprised!  Little things like changing the fabric of your tablecloth or adding a slip cover to your couch can also make a big difference.  Good luck!

Cold Weather gear

As I’ve mentioned before, I just moved to DC from a small town in the south.  I’ve been in snow plenty of times, but I’ve never had to live in it without a car.  I’m quickly learning what I need to stay warm and dry.  Luckily, I have an amazingly warm jacket for the snow.  It basically looks like a sleeping bag with sleeves, and it’s supposed to keep me warm in negative 20 degree weather.  Jackets like this can be very pricey, but I got an amazing deal on mine.  Last year (knowing I was moving somewhere cold), I shopped the end of the season sales.  So in April, I was able to purchase this amazingly warm jacket for very little money.  I recently purchased rain boots which I’m told can also be worn in the snow – apparently rubber soles are the key to not slipping and sliding.  Target and Payless have some great rainboots for $20 – you don’t have to spend $60-$100 to get a nice, cute, functional pair.  Now I’m on the look out for snow boots.  Again – most are $100+, but they have some really good choices at Target and similar stores.  Just remember, to be toasty warm walking to work/school in the snow, you don’t have to spend a bundle!

BYOM

I think just about everyone out there has heard of BYOB (bring your own beer/booze).  This is always a good idea if having a party – buying alcohol for a crowd can get expensive, and people understand that.  A few weeks ago, I decided to expand the idea of BYOB and BYOM – bring your own meat.  I love to cook, especially for other people, but I often have to serve dishes that are inexpensive to make.  I simply cannot afford to have 8 people over for steak.  So, one night I made my famous roasted potatoes (very inexpensive) and some asparagus, and everyone brought their own steaks.  I wrapped the steaks in bacon, cooked them, and served them with the sides I had prepared.  It was a great idea – everyone ate a delicious and fancy meal (who wouldn’t love bacon-wrapped filet mignon), and I was able to afford to host all of those people.  Try it out with your friends!

Holiday gifts

This Christmas, I don’t have much money to spend on my family and friends.  I love giving gifts, so I definitely want to be able to get everyone something while still being able to cover my rent payment.  One great idea is food…everyone loves a good meal or a yummy dessert.  I was watching the food network the other day, and the chef was making a few different types of chocolate candy for her friends.  One was a chocolate truffle rolled in hazelnuts.  I tried making some over the weekend, and they were awesome!  I packed some up in little bags and tied them with pretty ribbon.  For very little, I had a great and thoughtful gift for my friends at school.  For neighbors, it’s sometimes nice to cook dinner and leave it at their front door.  I hope these ideas work as well for you as they’ve worked for me!

Lunch

When I had a job and was actually making money,  I frequently went out to lunch with friends and coworkers.  Even when I wasn’t going out, I’d order food.  I got into a habit of doing this, and now that I’m a student again, I’ve had to break it.  I love going out to eat and enjoying good food, so this has been hard for me!  It’s actually amazing how much money I save by brining lunch almost every day.  Spending about 5-10 dollars a day on lunch can really add up!  Instead, I now bring my lunch most days and go out with friends once a week.  This way, I’m not completely cutting out what I enjoy, I’m just making smarter choices and saving money.  So, start packing a lunch – it really saves!

Movies

The movie industry is huge, and it’s getting rather expensive to go to the theater.  I personally am not happy spending $10/ticket to see a 2 hour movie, not to mention another $10 for a small snack and drink.  I can think of many other ways I’d rather spend that $20.  Even renting a movie is around $4.  I recently joined netflix, and I couldn’t be happier!  I pay $8.99/month for unlimited rentals (receiving one at a time).  You can go as low as $4/month for a limit of two per month.  It’s great – unlimited rentals for less than one ticket to see a movie at the theater.  And the selection is great – I’ve caught up on many TV shows and seen some very interesting documentaries.  And, I can have movie night with my friends, and it costs next to nothing.  So, if you enjoy movies or watching TV on DVD, you should seriously consider a monthly rental club.

Mismatched furniture

If you’re young and starting out on your own, chances are you have a mismatched apartment/house full of furniture.  I’ve had numerous (and very generous) friends and family members donate lots of items to me over the years.  I’ve also founds some good deals at local thrift stores.  I know some people aren’t bothered one bit by mismatched things, but I definitely am!  Instead of turning down all of the free pieces of furniture, I decided to refinish each piece so that they would work together.  Not everything in your life should be matchy-matchy, but you can make things work together.  I just took a trip down to my local hardware store and picked up some needed supplies (while shopping frugally by the way).  I dragged all of my furniture out to the garage, used an old shower curtain liner as a tarp, and got to work.  I had a mix of wood and laminate furniture, so I chose to paint everything (since I wasn’t able to stain each piece).  If you have all real wood, you could definitely try staining.  Do whatever works best for you – you’ll never have to turn down a free piece of furniture because it doesn’t match!

Things to buy to save money

Living a frugal life doesn’t mean spending no money at all.  And sometimes, you need to spend a little to save a lot.  Here are three examples.  First, LED light bulbs.  These cost a little more up front, but they use much less energy.  This means a savings on your monthly electric bill and a longer lasting light, not to mention a little help for the environment.  Next, rechargeable batteries.  Again, these cost a little more on the front end, but you’ll save tons, especially when you use battery-draining items like a digital camera.  Lastly, invest in a nice water filter.  This will save you from buying bottled water, which is definitely a waste of money.  It’s definitely okay to spend a little when it will save you a lot!