Living Richly In Retirement-Small Savings Add Up

There are obvioulsy lots of ways to be frugal and save money. If you’re like me, you are probably looking at more than one alternative.  Sometimes we have to make a large cut here or there, such as cable. Occasionally we will need to do some large, labor intensive frugal tasks to meet our goals.  I have been in both situations, as well as the situation of simply not spending on something I really wanted.

As I’ve moved through my week, I’ve realized that there is another important kind of “frugality”.  This encompasses the simple tasks and behaviors that are part of my day.  While no one thing is a huge money saver, added together the end result is frugality.  These little money savers can add up to big savings, and because they are pretty ingrained as habit, I don’t look at them in terms of “deprivations” they way I might one large slash to the budget. It really is true that it’s the little things that count.  As is often true with money saving habits, they tend to be good for the environment as well. Here’s how those small and large frugal habits have affected my week so far:

  • When I jumped in the car to hit the library, I also made sure that I was taking care of all my other errands-weekly groceries, hitting the post office, picking up prescriptions.  For me at least, this is as much a time saving issue as anything else. I also take my own beverage-often two beverages (water and my hot chocolate).  While I don’t pack a sandwich, I do throw some snack in the car if it will be a full day’s effort. I’m not someone who needs to leave the house daily, and have other social opportunities. I do understand how some people need to schedule errands to force themselves to leave the house.
  • Since I’ve changed my major, I am taking two art classes.  My drawing and printmaking classes both come with VERY long lists.  Before I hit the stores, I did a house search. While I’ve never taken an art class before, I do have some basics such as a gum eraser, rubber cement and one inch roll blue tape (from painting my trim). I also “put the word out” to friends and family and put a wanted ad on Craigslist.  In the end, I’ll surely have to buy art supplies.  But by looking at other alternatives before hitting the store, I saved a little cash.
  • It’s become such a habit to wash on cool or cold, that I have to remind myself on those rare occasions when the washing machine needs to be on hot (such as when I need to wash the church tablecloths-hot water and bleach are the only solutions).  I admit that my line drying is hit or miss-hit in the summer and miss at this time of year.
  • We ate from the pantry and freezer and fridge the week or so before Christmas because I knew I would be gone.  This meant getting groceries.It wasn’t until I left the store that I realized how ingrained my “loss leader” habit is. I got produce and milk and butter. It simply did not occur to me to buy meats that were not on sale (in this case chicken thighs, pork loin roast and beef stew). It’s just how I move through the store. Today my small pot is full of beef stew made with veggies, tomato sauce, seasonings and red wine. Dinner will include herbed popovers and the stew. Who needs to eat out when you have this!
  • Last evening I cooked a whole cut up chicken (I get these rarely any more), and had two breasts left over.  As I was cleaning up, it was simply second nature to me to shred the two breasts and bag the meat. Tomorrow nights dinner will be a quick homemade soup with veggies meat, broth and seasoning and egg noodle broken into little bits.
  • As part of my daily routine online (which includes coupon sites, blogs, emails, and so on), I spend a few minutes checking group buying sites and freebie sites. The end result is that I have $19 tickets to the Dallas symphony, a $15 voucher to Chili’s for which I paid five dollars, a $25 gift card to the Olive Garden and some free Kindle books. These will surely not be used this week, but put away for those special occasions when I just need someone to wait on me.
  • Once or maybe twice a week I visit Amazon.  I look at all the best sellers and those books to be released as well as those “recommendations” for me. I do the same with movies.  I put anything I might be interested in into my wish list.  Then I work from the wish list and go to my library website and reserve books and movies. Not only does this save me money, but allows me to be at the top of the list for new books. For example, I already have reserved a variety of books to come out between now and April to include books by John Sanford, James Patterson and the like. Note:  the downside of this is because books are often released in groups, my reading can be feast or famine. I’ve had no reserved books some weeks and ten on another.
  • When I need things, it generally doesn’t occur to me to buy them new, at least until I’ve checked out used opportunities. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my small gift requests (which I received) for Christmas in 2010 was a teapot kettle. Prior to that I was using water from my hot water tap on the sink or zapping water. My daughter decided her kitchen should be green with purpleThat said, if I ever find a single cup Keurig alternative at a thrift store or equally cheap, its mine, mine, mine!
  • Even before I look to the used market, I try and use what I have on hand. This week I need to send a card, and give a couple small “token” or host gifts. I was able to make a card in less than half an hour (not a particularly crafty endeavour in this case, I simply printed an outline on card stock, colored it in with colored pencils and so on).  For the host gifts I pulled a small bath and body item from my stash and a homemade jar of cranberry walnut conserve.
  • Trying to develop a new habit, I’ve begun not running the dishwasher daily. When you cook for one or two people and wash the pans by hand, it’s probably not necessary, although I did so for the longest time. We’ll have to see if this works in the summer. My dishwasher doesn’t require complete rinsing, just removing the food. When bug season comes, this is a habit I’ll need to reevaluate-comparing the cost of thoroughly rinsing, to hand washing, to dishwasher use.
  • I combine various gifts, deals and discounts to get the best deal for myself, and I do this out of habit.  My family and social circle may be unique, I’m not sure. At holiday time we generally purchase small to medium cost items that we know folks will appreciate and might not bother to buy themselves. To that end I received a couple gift cards, one to a fabric store and one to Cinemark movie theaters. Buy combining the movie card with two other deals (dirt cheap prices before dark and a coupon for a free drink with any size popcorn), I’ll be able to stretch my generous gift card into more than a few movie excursions.  Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy, here I come
  • Thanks to a tip from Linda, I’ve been investigating the Evergreen Club.  It seems to be a nice, frugal travel alternative and would probably work better for me than house swapping (as I have adult children who come and go at will from my house and watch the dog when I am not home). My only concern is me being a single person rather than a couple-not a huge safety issue but one I need to look at.  I’m planning a gulf coast driving tour in the late spring, and this may work for a couple of overnights.

These are not all the frugal habits ingrained in my psyche, and I’m always looking for more small frugal tips to incorporate-these are just the money saving things I’ve done this week as part of my normal, everyday routine.

My week has been and continues to be full. I’ve had a lovely evening with some friends, and gone to a book group.  Today or tomorrow, I’ll be going to the movies. Saturday night will be a football party (how about those Broncos!!!!!!!!!!!), and there may be a concert at church. At home, I’ve eaten well. My days include sewing, walking the dog, thrifting for items to sell, designing a landscaping plan for the yard. My evenings include reading, relaxing, knitting and the television-and preparing to begin school next week. I’ve done everything I wanted to, and nothing that I did not want to. Life has been good-and cheap.

Lest I sound to Pollyanna-ish this week, I have been known to drop off the frugal wagon on occasion-with a bang. Although it’s a subject for another post, our new beagle Trevor has health issues and has already had a tumor removed (we knew this when we adopted him-both the risks of cost and the risks of a short life). When in Denver, I was persuaded to go see Mission Impossible 4 at the IMAX for a cost of $34 for two people before refreshments (well worth the price, and I am not a Tom Cruise fan).  But we all have exceptions such as these-and it’s the regular frugality that allows for these, and other splurges.

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