This morning on NPR I heard that ultra-ritz Barney’s was going green for Christmas–their new mascot is Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer. I know it’s a joke but I think it’s great that “green” is going mainstream. Although both the reporter (her name escapes me) and the studio guest both agreed that it was impossible to “shop your way to saving the planet” I nonetheless think the little steps are crucial. The fact of the matter is that you can’t improve on something you don’t know about and if nothing else the heightening of awareness says to even the mega-spenders, “gee, maybe it’s not so hard”. And that’s good for everyone.
Grocery shopping is something that can come up a lot when talking about frugal living. We all have to eat, and we’d like to eat well – luckily we can have both as long as we avoid some common traps at the grocery store. First, packaged produce that’s already been cleaned and cut for you. Believe me, you can cut your pineapple yourself, and you’ll save a few bucks! Next, displays at the end of the aisle. They usually have things you don’t need…things that probably weren’t on your list. The displays look so nice, that you just have to pick up what they’re selling. Don’t! Just stick to what is on your list. Third, they place kid friendly items within their reach. Lots of parents can’t resist their little angel looking up at them, pleading for the item in their hands. So, put your kid in the cart or become better at resisting. They don’t need the items being marketed to them. Finally, deals like “5 for $5” when the usual price is $1.20 per item. You don’t have to buy all 5 to get the deal – if you just buy one, it will most likely ring up as $1. Look into this so you don’t buy more than you need. Studies show that when stores offer these types of deals, people buy 30% more of that item than they would have purchased originally. Again, stick to your list. So think of these little traps at the grocery store – awareness of them will save you some money! In other news, I got around to adding my frugal seafood recipes. Check them out!
There are thousands of college students and young professionals out there that will be away from their families this Thanksgiving. In the past, I’ve had very generous friends throw an entire Thanksgiving for everyone left in town. While much appreciated, this is expensive! So, consider the idea of a potluck Thanksgiving. You’ll want one person in charge to plan so that you don’t get 4 of the same things, so make a list and assign each person an item. Those who can’t cook can take care of the drinks, plates, etc. This is a great way to have a hearty Thanksgiving meal without spending way too much.
Traveling and becoming a cultured person can be an expensive endeavor. Luckily, many artistic, historical, and scientific establishments recognize this. You would be surprised how many free museums there are out there! Living in DC, I am lucky to have the Smithsonian system – every museum and the national zoo are always free. So even if you can scrape together enough for a trip to DC, it won’t cost you anything once you arrive. I realize every town does not have these free offerings, but many museums have free afternoons or free blocks of time. My hometown is a capital city and a college town, so it has numerous museums, only one of which is free. But, they all have special offerings – like 3-5pm is free or Sunday afternoons are free. So do a little research, and you’ll be able to experience these great educational experiences as well. I have also added some frugal potato recipes. Let me know what you think.
The holiday season is quickly approaching (as evidenced by the decorations and Christmas music creeping up in stores everywhere). If you’re on a budget, the holidays can be tough, especially when you have lots of loved ones! Leading up to Christmas, I’ll try to talk about different ideas for frugal gifts. One great place to start is with your imagination and creativity. Most of us haven’t thought about giving homemade gifts since we were young children, but it’s an idea that doesn’t have to go away with age. Homemade, personalized gifts are often more meaningful than anything you could buy. So think about your talents – everyone can create something great. Whether it’s a photo collage, a knit sweater, a handcrafted basket, your gifts will mean a lot to the people you love.
If you’re extremely busy like I am, it’s easy to get behind on your favorite TV shows. It’s hard to be home at the right time when you have so much going on. You also don’t want to put TV above your social life! My fix for this is watching TV online. I don’t mean itunes, I mean for free! If you catch up on your shows through itunes, you’ll pay around $2 per show. This can add up, and it’s not worth it when you would usually be watching for free on TV. Most channels now have online services allowing you to watch your favorite shows. I’m a big fan of many ABC shows, like Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives – usually around 24 hours after the show airs, I can catch them online. Most stations leave the shows up for at least a few months. So, no need to pay itunes for shows you can get for free…try it out!
I mentioned in an earlier post that my new apartment was a little barren. It’s not that I don’t have nice things, it’s just a surprisingly huge apartment! I worked for a few years before going back to school, so I had some time to acquire some furniture that made me happy, with the exception of one very important piece…a dining room table. One great way to have a cheap, fun night is game night – I haven’t been able to plan this without the requisite table. I finally decided that my roommates weren’t going to come through for me (even though I’ve provided EVERYTHING in this apartment), so I took it upon myself to find something nice. You know I’m on an extremely tight budget, so I had to be creative. Then, I found the world of online, local classifieds. There are several sites that do this, craigslist being my favorite. You can search by city and by type of item you’re looking for. I’d recommend opening any ad where the people say they are moving. This means they’re usually desperate. Desperation means low prices for you! And remember, you always have room to negotiate. The prices in online classifieds should never be the bottom line. So, lucky for me, I spent about 3 days looking on craigslist and found a great table and chair set listed for $100 total. I bargained them down to $80 with the seat cushions thrown in as an extra freebie. They advertised that they had to be out of their apartment by the weekend (it was Wednesday), so I hit them just at the right moment when they were desperate to sell. It’s a win-win – and now I can finally have my super frugal game night!