~ Frugal Living

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Frugal Gifts for the Housekeeper

A frugal gift is measured first by it's usefulness. With that in mind, the frugal mind that is, the gift actually serves two practical purposes; it is useful and saves money. Most frugal women will Below I will explore a couple of ideas for thoughtful, practical-and yes, frugal-gifts.
Fill a sturdy laundry basket with one or two boxes each: Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax and a few bars of Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap. Mix up one batch of the following recipe and put in a tightly sealed container. You can make a decorative container yourself from a quart mason jar and some decorative fabric banded over the top or any kind of sealed glass container. Tie with pretty ribbon. And include the following recipe. Place with the laundry detergent ingredients.
Powdered Laundry Detergent
Mix Together:
1 Cup Grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
 Use one Tablespoon per load, or for heavily soiled clothes, use 2 tablespoons.

The frugal person most likely makes her own cleaning solutions and is always looking for cleaning and organizing tips. For a cleaning basket that will be truly appreciated, include a couple of spray bottles, steel wool, a pumice stone, cream of tartar, vinegar, baking soda, gloves, scrub brushes, utility towels or cleaning rags, dusters, cloth diapers (make great cleaning rags), household cleaning and organizing tips book or recycling tips. You might compile a book of homemade cleaning recipes to get her going. An added gift might be a "coupon" booklet offering your services for childcare, pet-sitting, or other amenities so the receiver can get away for a bit and enjoy some relaxation.
Gift baskets are only limited by your imagination. Look around at the things you use most often, thing about your recipient's lifestyle and take it from there.

Six Traits of the Frugal Shopper

A frugal shopper has skills that help him or her gain benefit of the money-saving opportunities in life. Below I have listed several traits found in frugal shoppers.  By incorporating these into your life, you too can become a frugal shopper.

1. A frugal shopper studies other people. There are probably people near you living a good life on half of what you make. Learn how others do things, so you'll know your options.

2. Frugality requires knowledge of values. It's hard to get a huge deal on a car if you don't recognize what a big deal is. Start enlightening yourself on prices, especially before you're ready to buy anything that costs a lot.

3. Frugal shoppers pay cash. Things are cheaper when paid for in cash instead of credit. Want that new patio set? The cost divided by the number of weeks you can wait to get it equals how much you need to set aside each week. You'll not only save on interest when you pay cash, but you'll often get a better price.

4. A frugal shopper looks for alternatives. Maybe you'd have just as much fun taking that discounted trip to the Bahamas as you would going to Jamaica. If you happen to enjoy pizza just as much - or more, skip the expensive restaurant and call Dominoes.

5. Frugal shoppers tell people what they need. Just mention it in conversation. Do you know how many people get free or cheap things, just because they talk?

6. Do the math. You didn't really save $400 on that car if it costs you $500 more in gas each year. Also, be aware that some stores are cashing in on shopper's assumptions that larger is cheaper. Yes, the gallon of pickles might actually cost more than four quart jars. Be ready to do the math if you want to be a frugal shopper.

Frugality Can Equal Happiness

Frugality and happiness aren't something society usually puts together. Frugality often brings up images of great sacrifice. We think of the miser who lived in poverty only for others to find millions saved after the miser passes away. What was the use?
Frugal living isn't necessarily what you may possibly consider it to be. Frugal people live very happy lives. They find happiness in meeting goals, reducing their financial burdens and living stress free.
How happy can you be when you are drowning in debt and struggling to make ends meet? You aren't living frugally, but you aren't happy either.
The frugal person often sees each step towards being debt-free or early retirement as a great success. They don't focus on that outfit they didn't buy or that new car they aren't driving. They focus on having spending money left over at the end of the month. They focus on the things that really matter.
Frugality is also a huge challenge. You get to be very creative with your money and the way you live. Many people love moving from one thing to another, looking at the way to cut costs for each category. For example, you've cut your utilities, now what about your groceries or gasoline consumption?
The goal is what keeps the frugal person going. The daily victories and challenges keep them interested. The penny saved keeps them adding it all up. And the debt free life keeps them stress free.
Imagine a life where you have no debts to pay. All you have are your living expenses. Think about having two thousand extra dollars a month. Dollars that aren't already spent before you make them. Think about retiring early to do something you enjoy instead of something you have to do. Think about following your dreams. Think about having money left over each month.
Frugality will get you there. Now wouldn't that make you happy?

Frugal Rules

Frugal living is something that you undertake for the long haul.  It isn't something you can pick and choose to do one day and not the next-that is, not if you expect to see progress toward your goal. You do have a goal, don't you? If not, read the final tip here first.  Below are several things you need to keep in mind if you are considering a frugal lifestyle.
1. Not every frugal idea is workable for everyone.
There is a balance between frugality and time that is unique for each person. Some people have time to grind their own wheat into flour and make their own pasta from scratch. Some people only have the time to do simple things.  You don't have to use every idea you hear about.
2.  Start saving your savings.
When you save money, you need to go ahead and put the money in a jar until you have enough to put it in the bank. If you save $20 on a shirt you didn't buy, put that $20 in your jar. If you save $1.59 on groceries, put that money in the jar. Many grocery stores receipts will even tell you how much you save. That makes it easier for you. Spending money you save in one place on something else is still spent money.
5. Set your goals and stick with them.
You have to have a reason to be frugal. Whether you want to get out of debt or go on a cruise, you have to have a goal. Don't just leave it vague. Write down the specific steps you are going to take. Look at your goal every day. Keep it at the forefront of your money thinking. When you consider whether or not you will buy something, look at how it affects your goal.

Do Your Homework

There are lots of ways to save money, no matter how much of it you have - or don't have. All you need to know is where to look to find the savings.
The first thing you need to do is eliminate ALL of your unnecessary expenses such as eating out on the weekends, buying lunch at work every day subscribing to magazines and newspapers and cable television.
It's OK to reward yourself once in a while, but if you are really looking to live frugally, you owe it to yourself to save every single penny you can!
To find other ways to reduce your expenses, take a close look at your checkbook and credit card statements. You should also call your credit card companies to see if they will lower your interest rates.
You'll be amazed at how many ways you can save money, especially once you start looking carefully at how you spend your money every month.
For those expenses you can't eliminate, it's time to start shopping around for the best prices. Things like car insurance, groceries, clothing and gifts can be found at very reasonable prices if you take the time to seek out the bargains.
The same is true of many of your monthly expenses - like long distance telephone service, internet service, all types of insurance, mortgages, and in some places even your utility bills.
So, if you'd like to save yourself lots of money every month - and who doesn't - start shopping around and looking for ways to lower your monthly bills right away.  Add this to cutting out unnecessary expenses and you could find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each year. The initial investment of time to seek out the best values will be well worth it in the long run.

Frugal All-Purpose Baking Mix

Pre-packaged store-bought box mixes are expensive. Have you considered homemade alternatives? Made-from-scratch mixes are healthy, cost beneficial, store well, and taste great. Often times, you're paying for the packaging of commercial "convenience" foods and you don't have any control over the additives and preservatives they contain. When making your own mixes, you tailor the ingredients, so have control over the quality and quantity.
Making your own bulk mixes is a great way to stock your pantry. Creative containers make homemade mixes a terrific frugal gift idea too. There's something deeply satisfying when cooking from scratch. It takes some minimal preparation, but many of the ingredients are already a staple in your pantry. It's not as time consuming as you may think.
Plastic baggies
Glass containers with tight fitted lids
Prep area
Appropriate ingredients
Storage area
Basic kitchen tools
Plastic containers
Decorative items for gifts. (Ribbons, printable recipe cards, labels)
Master Baking Mix
9 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk solids
2 cups shortening (which does not require refrigeration)
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar and sugar three times. Add dry milk. Mix well. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like cornmeal. Store in covered container at room temperature.

Below is a Banana Bread recipe you can make quickly and easily with the above basic baking mix. 

Banana Bread
Beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/4 cups (about 3) mashed bananas. Stir in 2 1/2 cups Master Baking Mix. Pour into a greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 55 minutes or until brown

Frugal and Safer Air Fresheners

Most commercial air fresheners do not freshen the air at all. Instead, they mask one odor with another, coat your nasal passages with an undetectable oil film, or diminish your sense of smell with a nerve-deadening agent. For a safer alternative, you may wish to try one of the following; not only will your home smell as fresh and clean as it is, you will also find yourself feeling healthier.

*Distribute partially filled saucers of vinegar around the room or boil 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors.

*Boil cinnamon and cloves for a fragrant smell. For ease of cleaning, make a cheesecloth bag to contain these spices, and boil the cheesecloth bag. An excellent alternative when entertaining is to steep spiced tea or cider.

*Potpourri. Buy or make your own potpourri from your favorite herbs and spices. Place the potpourri in a small basket or jar or in small sachet bags. 

*Place pure vanilla on a cotton ball in a small saucer and place the saucer in the car or refrigerator to remove odors. It is reported to remove even skunk odors. Keep the cotton ball out of reach of children; vanilla has high alcohol content.

*Place a partially filled saucer of baking soda on the refrigerator shelf. Replace every two
months and when you do, pour the contents of the used box down the drain to remove odors and keep the drain clean.

*To avoid or remove onion odors from your hands, rub white vinegar on your hands
before and after slicing. Rubbing hands with the end of a celery stalk will also remove the odor.

*Cover a fresh orange with whole cloves and hang anywhere you want a fresh smell.  This also helps keep many insects and other unwanted houseguests away.

Frugal Cleaning Products

One of the best places to save money is on cleaning products.  Here are a few recipes that are extremely economical, yet work fantastically!

Note: Make sure to label all your homemade cleaning products, and keep them away from pets and children.

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
spray bottle

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

1 cup or more baking soda
a squirt or two of liquid detergent

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface it totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn't work for you it is probably because you didn't use enough baking soda and/or water.

1/2 tsp. washing soda
a dab of liquid soap
2 cups hot tap water
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag.

1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

Frugal Clothing and Transportation Hints

* For kids, don't go over the top with the brand names, especially since the kids will grow out of them quickly.
* For adults and older teens, don't buy really trendy clothes that will only last one season. Buy classical fashionable clothing that will last, and get trendy with accessories.
* Buy shirts and ties or blouses and just one suit -- accessorizing is cheaper.
* Buy a few pieces of quality clothing as opposed to lots of cheap clothing. They will last a lot longer.
* This goes without saying, but buy clothing in the off-season and on sale. You will save a tone of money.
* A gas saving tip I just learned: put your car in cruise control whenever you can. It has cut my gas bill in HALF.
* If you live in a metropolitan area, try walking around the city as opposed to taking a bus or a train. In New York, you can even get there faster sometimes! :-)
* Maintain your car -- tire pressure, oil changes, everything. Preventative maintenance is way cheaper than repairs.
* Never use cheap gas - use quality gas and the correct octane for your car. It may seem more expensive, but it's cheaper in car repairs in the long run.
* Don't be afraid to walk, even in the winter. It's great exercise and it saves a ton of money.
The Change Jar
I have a change jar. Every time I pay for something, I always use bills and get the change. I put the change in the jar. You wouldn't believe how much money you can save! This money could be entertainment money, allowance for the kids, put it in a savings account or saved for emergencies. This change jar has saved my butt many times over the years, and is a great way to have "found" money at the end of the month.

Frugal Floor Cleaners

You don't need fancy cleaners to keep your floor sparkling clean.  Try a few of the ideas below and see how proud you can be of your floors.

Vinegar. A few drops in the cleaning water will help
remove grease. Dull, greasy film on no-wax
linoleum can be washed away with 1/2 cup white vinegar
mixed into 1/2 gallon water.

For Wood Floors: Vegetable Oil and Vinegar. Mix a 1
to 1 ratio of oil and vinegar into a solution and apply a
thin coat. Rub in well.

For Painted Wooden Floors: Washing Soda*. Mix 1
teaspoon washing soda into 1 gallon hot water and wash
the floor with a mop, sponge, or soft bristled brush.
This solution can also be used to remove mildew. 

For Brick and Stone Floors: Vinegar. Mix 1 cup white
vinegar into 1 gallon water. Scrub the floor with a brush
and the vinegar solution. Rinse with clean water.

For Ceramic Tile: Vinegar. Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar
(more if very dirty) into 1 gallon water. This solution
removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a
film. Washing ceramic tiles with soap does not work very
well in hard water areas as it leaves an insoluble film.

Club Soda. Polishing your floor with Club Soda will
make it sparkle. 

For Vinyl and Asbestos Tiles: Club Soda. Remove wax
buildup by pouring a small amount of club soda on a
section. Scrub this in well. Let it soak in a few minutes
and wipe clean.

For Linoleum Flooring: Isopropyl Alcohol*. To remove
old wax by mopping, mix a solution of 3 pans water to 1
pan rubbing alcohol. Scrub this in well and rinse

To remove black heel marks: Baking Soda. Rub the heel
mark with a paste of baking soda and water. Don't use too
much water or the baking soda will lose its abrasive

Frugal Gift Baskets

Holidays and birthdays come around whether you are living a frugally or not.  You don't have to break your budget in order to give a gift that will not only be loved by its recipient, but also used often. 
Gift boxes or baskets make wonderful, thoughtful gifts for everyone and are only limited by your imagination.  Once you start making these up, you'll wonder why you didn't think of it sooner.  They are fun to make and give, can be worked into nearly every budget and can be tailored for the pickiest on your list.  Below are a few ideas to get you started.
 Frugal Food Basket: Mix up some master baking mix, pancake mix, cookie mix, or muffin mix. Pick and choose or give them all in tightly sealed containers or jars and attach recipes for using and the mix recipe. Specialty rice and rice mixes, bean mixes, bean and rice mixes, oatmeal, and couscous. All these can be put in mason jars and decorated appealing.  Don't forget instructions on how to use the mixes. A pack of herb seeds or starter plants for indoor herb gardening.
Treat Gift Basket: Now this one is great to give the frugal person food items that his or her budget, or frugal mind, just won't allow. Everyone has favorite gourmet items that they love but rarely treat themselves to. If you don't know exactly what the person likes most, it won't take much investigating to find out.
Coffee or Tea Gift Basket: Pack this basket with several different brands of gourmet or specialty coffee or a lot of the one brand you know she loves. Include a permanent coffee filter to fit the brand of coffeemaker she uses to show you haven't forgotten her practical side! You can easily adapt the contents to fit the tea lover instead. Top it off with a nice coffee cup. 

Frugal Gift in a Jar Ideas

One of the most thoughtful gifts a person can give is a gift that is useful and is made with the recipient in mind.  Gifts in a Jar come in an endless variety.  You start with a wide-mouthed quart jar and layer the ingredients for a recipe.  The ingredients can be cakes, cookies, soups, pasta, or one of any number of things.  I have included two recipes to get you started.
Dream Cookies
1/2 cup orange-flavored drink mix (Tang)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla baking chips
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Combine the flour with baking soda and baking powder. Starting with the Tang, then sugar, chips and flour mix, layer the ingredients in a glass jar.
Attach Instructions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F Empty contents into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix well. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
Colorful Soup Mix in a Jar
1 cube beef bouillon
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup dried split peas
1/2 cup uncooked twist macaroni
1/4 cup barley
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup uncooked tri-color spiral pasta
Use a funnel. Layer ingredients in the following order: bouillon, onion flakes, split peas, small shape pasta, barley, lentils, rice, and enough tricolor spiral pasta to fill jar.
Attach Instructions: Brown 1 pound ground beef or stew beef in a little olive oil. Remove tricolor pasta from top of jar and reserve. Add the rest of the jar contents to the pan and add 12 cups water. Boil and simmer 45 minutes. Add tricolor pasta and simmer 15 minutes more.

Frugal Gifts for the Cook

Everybody has to cook.  Some love it and others just cook out of necessity.  It is very likely someone on your gift list belongs to the first category.   Below are two ideas for perfect gift baskets for the cooks on your list.  Don't allow yourself to be limited by just these suggestions, use your creativity and throw in whatever seems suitable.
Cook's Basket: Fill a large stock pot or basket with a variety of cooking utensils or supplies, special seasonings, cooking spices (Italian seasoning, cumin, onion powder, garlic, oregano, thyme, etc. Toss in a cookbook if your budget allows and/or toss in some homemade recipes for taco seasoning, chicken bake coating, stuffing, whatever you can find to replace higher priced store bought mixes. A good idea might be to actually make the mixes and give them already mixed in a tightly sealed container or jar along with the recipe.
Baker's Basket: Fill a large mixing bowl or basket [she'll probably get more use out of the bowl ;-)] with baking tools and/or supplies as much as will suit your budget. i.e. - Wire whisks of various sizes, wooden spoons, measuring spoons and cups, a sifter, cookie cutters, rubber spatulas, a bag of bulk yeast, can of baking powder, various spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, etc.), vanilla extract, or anything else you know your frugal cook will use or needs.
Top both off with a personalized apron. Make or buy an apron and write the person's name or a personal message, poem, or saying on it, using a fabric paint pen or paints. Other contents might include a cookbook, some of your own favorite recipes printed neatly on a recipe card or made into a mini cookbook, a recipe file, cookbook stand, etc. Again, allow your imagination free reign and see what else you can add.

Frugal Indoor Kid's Activities

Keep your kids busy indoors on cold or rainy days with the following inexpensive activities:
* Mister Grass Head
Materials Needed: nylon knee stocking, Grass Seeds, Potting Soil, Baby Food Jar, Wiggle Eyes or glass paint/markers
Using hosiery, place some grass seeds in the toe.  The hosiery is the head and the excess will be placed in the baby food jar to soak up water. The toe of the hose is the head and the grass will look like hair as it grows. The baby food jar is the body. Add some potting soil in the end of the hosiery on top of the seeds. Make sure the hosiery of seeds and soil is bigger than the opening of the baby food jar. Tie a knot in the hosiery to keep the seeds and soil in. Completely soak the soil/seed ball. Place the hosiery in a baby food jar filled with water making sure the head is above the mouth of the jar. Decorate the jar to look like Mister Grass Head's clothes and add a face onto the head.
*Shadow Drawing
Take brown grocery bags and tape together until you have enough paper to be the same size as your child. Have your child lie down on the paper bags and trace your child's outline. Your child can then color her "shadow" drawing to look anyway she wants.
*Homemade Toys
Decorate a paper towel tube. Paper punch a hole about an inch from the end. Now tie a mason jar ring to a piece of string about one foot long. Attach and tie the loose end of the string through the hole in the cardboard tube. Hold the tube and flip the ring up and try to catch it onto the tube..
*Indoor Snowball Fight
Wad up newspaper balls and have a snowball war inside.

Being Paid to Shop

Always use items that are reusable rather than throw away. You'll find that doing these little things like using real cups and plates instead of paper or plastic throw away, and recycling containers for storage or even to use in craft projects, you can save a lot of money. Each by itself may seem minor, but when put together they can amount to tremendous savings over time.
Don't buy it if you won't use it. Things like small kitchen appliances, repair tools, and gardening tools are good examples. We know they'd make our life easier if we just had the opportunity to use them. Simplify your life and narrow it down to a couple you just can't live without like a can opener and coffee maker.
The above are examples of things you can do to save money on your quest to live to live the frugal lifestyle.  I want to tell you about another frugal activity that can result in hundreds of dollars a year-rebates and coupons.  I list both together, because using both, along with your weekly sales ad, is the best way.
Gather all your coupons-you have been clipping them, haven't you?-now check your weekly sales ads and see what items are on sale that you have coupons for.  This done, check and see if the store offers double coupons.  These are the stores you want to check first.  Now go online and put in a search for rebates plus your product.  Many will be printable.
This done, do your shopping and mail out your rebate forms, then sit back and relax.  Oftentimes. You will find you actually come out ahead in this deal, as the rebate will be the price of the item before the use of the coupon.  Now, that is the best example of frugal shopping I've found.

Is Being Frugal Worth It?

Frugality is simply the practice of looking for the less expensive alternatives. Frugality doesn't have to mean being a scrooge or living without comfort.  Is it really worth the time and effort you put into things like homemade cleaners and clipping coupons? 

Search the Sunday paper for coupons and clip them out. Make a list of things on sale that you can stock up on in order to get your average cost down. Plan and run a route of four stores in order to get everything where it is the cheapest. Total extra time spent: three hours. Now, save sixty dollars.  This translates into twenty dollars an hour-a pretty good deal, don't you think?

Sometimes the small stuff is the big stuff, especially when it is repeated over and over. This is why it makes sense to save money on groceries. They are something you buy every week. Saving sixty dollars every week or two adds up over time. How you do it makes a difference though.

For example, suppose you don't want to clip coupons or spend time looking at sales flyers. Why not invest just an hour or two to figure out which store is cheapest for the things you buy? Then shop only there, and buy more of the things you use and like when they are on sale. You might still save $20 per week, with no additional investment of time. That's a $1,000 per year!

You need to sit down and decide how much time you have to spend on your efforts.  If you do this and then figure out what your yearly savings can be, you will have a much clearer idea of how you want to proceed.  It will also give you encouragement on those days when it feels you are missing out on something.

Have Fun Frugally

You don't need to cut out entertainment completely in order to live a frugal life.  Below, I have listed some very inexpensive ways to save money and still have fun.

* If you live in a city, just try walking around. In New York, I have found impromptu concerts by street musicians or just sat in the park and people watched. You'd be amazed how much fun you can have!
* Instead of eating out or going to bars with friends, host a potluck at home or just have friends over for drinks. It's much cheaper to buy liquor than to buy drinks at the bar.
* For movies, go to matinees or the two dollar movie (a number of communities have them). Yes, those movies are second-run, but hey, it's worth financial freedom to me. You can also always rent movies.
* Cable. When times are tough, the cable needs to get going. It can get so expensive! If you do need it for the reception, get basic and then rent movies. Buying a great DVD player and renting movies is cheaper than cable in the long run. If you rent rooms in your home like I do, keep the cable -- it's a perk for your tenants that are worth paying for.
* Take your kids to the bookstore and hang out.
* Find free community shows, like Shakespeare in the park or fireworks.
* Take the kids on the subway trip -- as far as you can and go explore. In New York, take the train to Coney Island.
* In the summer, there is always a local food festival or street fair, usually several Check the local section of your newspaper.
* Get your kids involved in a community group, like a theatre. They develop skills, make friends and have fun.

Have you ever ran around at the last minute, looking for gifts, only to end up buying something you really don't want at a price that is far more than you intended to spend? Holidays don't have to be expensive.  You can make gifts, of course, but if you want to buy them, here are a few suggestions for saving money.
1. Make a list.
It's always convenient to make a list of all the people that you will be giving a gift to. Make sure you know what their interests are so you get a gift that they will appreciate. It will make it special for them and for you. 
3. Buy in advance.
Don't wait until the last minute to go Christmas shopping because you'll end up paying high prices for stuff you don't even like. This happens especially with the popular toys each year. If you decide to go a local mall, make sure you do it during the first two weeks of November. You'll avoid the majority of Christmas shoppers and you are guaranteed to find what you're looking for at lower prices.
4. Take advantage of online pre-Christmas Sales.
Most stores offer deep online discounts (up to 70%) on toys, clothing, accessories, gifts, candles, and more before Christmas during the months of October and November. They even offer Free Shipping with your order.
5. Buy from the comfort of your home.
Every year, more people buy online to save time and money. By buying online, you'll be able to see every item on every gift category you're interested in without the hassle of searching a whole store or waiting in long lines, only to find out that what you're looking for is not available or is overpriced. You'll also receive the items you purchased early, giving you time to wrap them in advance.

Go Fly a Kite!!

Frugal family fun is easy to find.  Enjoying an outing doesn't need to cost a lot of money.  Below I list several ideas for frugal outing for the family. Pick one, or even all of them, and enjoy.
*Be patient and wait to see new movies on video. Some communities even offer free video rentals at local libraries and will order new movies if library patrons request a certain title.
*Check to see if there are any discount movie theaters in your area. Most of these places show movies just before they're released to video. A family of four can go out for an evening at the movies and spend less than five dollars for a fun family outing. Keep a list of movies you want to see, and then check the discount theater listings each week. These theaters often keep the movies for just one or two weeks, so stay alert to what's playing.
*Go to the first show of the day at first-run theaters for the best prices (and shortest lines!).
*Check your area for free days at museums, zoos, etc.
*Check for free concerts, plays, and other live family entertainment in local parks.
*Call and find out if your local college stage production group, ballet or orchestra will let you watch them rehearse for free.
*If you want to eat at an expensive restaurant, go for lunch rather than dinner. The menu is usually the same, but the prices are often half.
*When dining out, drink water only. Ask for a lemon or lime wedge if you want to make your drink seem special. This trick can easily cut $10 off your family's total dining bill, which could mean the difference between going out for a fun meal or staying home eating frozen egg rolls again.

Go fly a kite. Literally!
Just a Few Changes

With a little adjusting, you can save a ton of money on everyday necessities such as food, personal items and electricity.  It may take a bit more adjusting in the food area, as we all tend to have our favorite brands of food.  You don't have to forgo all your favorites, but the more you change, the bigger the savings.
Food & Toiletries
* By far, making lunch at home is one of your biggest opportunities for saving! I made lunch and snacks and brought them to work.
* Instead of buying shower gel, go back to soap bars. They last longer and are much cheaper.
* Don't wash your hair every day, and when you do wash your hair, only wash it once. That saves lots of shampoo.
* Make your own coffee at home -- or cut it out altogether and put that money aside in your financial freedom jar. One guru calls that the "latte factor."
* As a nation, we eat out a whole lot more and buy convenience foods to just heat in the microwave -- but these can be expensive. Cooking may take time, but it does save you lots of money.
* Buy generic! Seriously? They don't taste different from the name brand. Try it. Ok, some things may be non-negotiable, but you'd be surprised what is. Your grocery bill will go way down.
* Take the effort to cut coupons, take advantage of sales, and go to discount warehouses, like Sam's Club or Costco.
Heat & Electricity
* If you don't already have one, get an electric thermostat with a timer, so you can change the temperature automatically during specific times of the day. Lower the temperature when the family is out of the house.
* Use space heaters and lower the heat in the rooms you use. Use an electric blanket at night.
* There is plastic covering you can get at the hardware store and cover your windows. That keeps the heat in the house.

Frugal Home school Tips

Home schooling can be a gratifying experience for the whole family. However, it can also be tough on your wallet. Frugal home schooling is becoming a popular term among the majority of families living on limited income or for those wanting to cut back on expenses. Below are several ways you can save money and still offer your child a wonderful education.
The Internet is a valuable source that most families can't live without. From researching essay papers to curriculum, anything you need to search for is available online for free and right in the convenience of your own home. Online auctions are a great way to purchase used curriculum programs and books. A trip to your local library will probably fit most of your needs. Not only do you get to borrow books for free but also it makes a fun family outing. Before heading off, make a list of the books and topics you need to borrow so you don't forget what's needed.
If you are a member of a home school group, suggest starting a swap meet or book sale of used curriculum and other teaching aids. This is a great way to buy good material for reasonable prices as well as selling some material you no longer use. Do you know someone that has a book or program you would like to use? If they're not using it, then ask them if they wouldn't mind you borrowing it. If you have a book or program that they could use, consider either trading or just borrowing from each other for a short time.
Look in your local paper for garage sales and yard sales that have books and craft supplies. Be creative while looking around, something you may not normally think about using could be perfect for a certain craft or science project.

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