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Extreme measures I take to save $

January 30th, 2010 at 11:33 am

I'm stumped. I've been really focused on cutting back on expenses. So why, oh why, did my electric bill come to $87 this past month, more than it's been seen March 2007?? I know the days are short, but still....

And why was my January grocery bill equally high, at $266?? I've been trying to keep it under $200.

I'm hoping my "Use-the-Flashlight-at Night" mantra, for moving from room to room, will help with the electric bill. While I'm home most days now, I don't use lights during the day, just the computer and TV.

As for food, I see that in January I shopped at the following grocery outlets:

Costco: twice ($79)
Shop Rite: once ($44)
Stop & Shop: twice ($63)
Xpect Discounts: once ($43)
Trader Joe's: once ($13)
Unknown: once ($23)

That's 8 trips in the month! Seems like a lot, but often if I'm in the area of a supermarket for another reason, I'll stop at the supermarket for a "few things" while I'm there, to save gas.

Ono top of that, I rarely buy red meat (beef, pork or lamb) and only once in a great while I buy chicken. The pricier items I do buy include things like maple syrup, dried fruits, nuts and good cheeses. I try to aim for cheap protein sources, like chicken livers, which I actually like, or canned tuna or chicken, eggs, beans or Lean Cuisines on sale at $2.50.

I'm really going to have to rein in the groceries. I honestly don't know how I could have spent so much. I do try to use up what I have, don't waste much and I do still have plenty of frozen tilapia on hand. I don't buy fresh produce out of season and in fact only shop for what's on sale that week.

The good news is, since I did my January expense statement a few days early, that I earned $99 more than I spent. Which is pretty good, considering I'm living on unemployment benefits and a very small amount of freelance income ($225 for this month) and $148 I got in other ways, including $100 from my dad as late Xmas present (thanks, Dad!) and $48 from doing a focus group ($25) and a few surveys.

Here's just a sampling of the crazy things I do to save money:

I continue to enter and leave my house, not through the front door, but down the basement stairs into the garage, so as not to let a blast of cold air into the main part of the living area each time.

As mentioned above, I will now always use my flashlight when traipsing from room to room for brief periods of time if it's still dark in the a.m. when i get up and at dusk, before settling in at computer or TV. I find myself constantly turning lights on and off after just a few minutes in a room, which wears out CFL bulbs more quickly. So unless I'm in the kitchen for a while, making dinner, for example, or reading a book, I'll use the flashlight.

For a long time I used to follow the rather gross habit of "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown...." but my toilet got disgusting stains that were hard to remove, so those days are over. I found that if I had unexpected guests who wanted to use the bathroom, that damn dirty toilet was the first thing i thought of and I'd have to race to clean it first.

Of course, I'm still consolidating driving trips as I have for some time.

The heat remains on at a higher daytime temp (64) than any other year since I've lived here, but it was my bad luck to lose my job as cold weather approached, and since I don't want to be tempted to spend much, I usually stay home. I can only layer on so much clothing before it becomes bulky and uncomfortable, so i usually pad around here in sweatpants, a turtleneck and a sweatshirt. Also, one of my newer cats has short hair and gets chilled as he's less active than the 1-year-old.

I rarely use my big oven and have successfully used my smaller toaster-oven style appliance for everything from roasting vegetables and fish to baking a quick bread. Once in a while I pull the slow cooker out, too.

Because of continued concerns about the health hazards of eating foods contained in bisphenol-lined cans, I'm avoiding as many canned food items as I can. So like last night, I had a recipe calling for 2 cans of chickpeas. I bought the dried variety, saving myself some money, but then they had to simmer on the stove top for over an hour, causing me to use more energy. (Always a trade-off.)

I also have been wearing the same clothes, day in and day out, when I know I'm not going out anywhere, or only running an errand. Unless they smell or get some kind of food stain, I could wear the same clothes for 5 days in a row, no biggie.

Same goes for showering. My hair actually looks better if i don't wash it daily becus washing strips all the natural oils away, so I also skip showers for 3 days or so. Sorry if i gross you out, but it's saving me on my water bill and toiletries.

(I realize many of you don't share my unemployed situation and so must go out into the world daily and look "presentable.")

I don't often launder towels, since when you step out of the shower to dry yourself, you're already clean! Exception would be in the summer when they start smelling mildewy. Same for bedsheets. It's only me, living alone, so I don't think I'm offending anyone.

I always line-dry my clothes in summer, but I'm also now going to start drying my clothes indoors in winter, since even with the relatively cooler indoor temp of 64, it's enough dry heat to do the job over the course of a day. Plus, the damp clothes help humidify my home, which, with its forced hot air system, is exceptionally dry in the winter. I can always tell how dry it is by looking at the cats' dry, staticy, lackluster fur.

I still have a huge inventory of old stationery I nabbed from my office 2 jobs ago when the office was closing. It would have been thrown out otherwise, so I'm sure I have several years worth of paper for my printer as well as envelopes.

I also have enough shampoos, body washes, deodorant and hand lotions to cover a naked mastodon. All those freebies and Walgreen's free-after-rebates were really worth the effort.

When I start feeling "deprived," I make a point to attend an MS conference and physician lecture sponsored by the pharmaceutical company. It's a free dinner and free tote bag, pens and chap sticks, too. The Masonicare in my town also periodically offers free lectures with free dinner and I did one of those, too, with a friend.

I have dropped all subscriptions, and actually enjoy reading my local weekly paper at the library now in their nice reading room. It's too cold to walk there now, but it's just a mile from my house.

When I fill up my tea cup to heat in the microwave, I used to be in the habit of letting the water run cold first before filling the cup becus I'd read that the cold water makes it unlikely any old iron in the pipes would leach into the water. Instead of wasting that water now, I keep a pitcher on the counter to capture it, and i use that water to water my houseplants. I do the same with the previously wasted water from the shower when I waited for the water to heat up. I have a bucket in the shower that captures, some, though not all of it.

Just a few of the many little habits I've adopted, and I doubt I'd stop doing many of them even if I hit the lottery tomorrow. What are some of your secret frugal habits?

8 Responses to “Extreme measures I take to save $”

  1. tightwad kitty Says:

    Try using your Microwave more this will save you power on that small toaster-oven style appliance. Cook your beans in the microwave instead of the stove top. If you havent got a microwave cookbook check out the library for one. I lived for 8 years without oven only using a microwave & two hot plates. Use that slow cooker a bit more too! As its winter in your area so keep yourself warm at all times.

    I hope you find work soon!

  2. Ima saver Says:

    I keep the electric hot water heater turned off until right before we take a shower or run the dishwasher.

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Finally an idea I haven't heard a hundred times! ---go out the basement door to keep the cold out of the main living area.

  4. patientsaver Says:

    Ima, i have my electric hot water heater on a timer and it's only on 3 hours a day. I've never noticed any lack of hot water.

    Thanks, Joan! I feel the same way sometimes: the same ideas recycled on and on.

    Kitty, why didn't i think of cooking dried beans in the microwave? I will have to research that. Thanks!

  5. whitestripe Says:

    some good tips there! DF and I use one towel a week too. I would like to say it's frugality but really we are just lazy and can't be bothered washing them all the time. But it is true what you say, when you step out of the shower, you are already clean! also when our clothes are unwearable we cut them up to use as rags - for towels, I cut them in half and use them as floor towels - and THEN after that I use them for dog-drying towels. Big Grin
    when our kitchen cloths and sponges start getting discoloured and smelly, I bleach them and then wash them in boiling water. I can then get a second use out of them (sometimes a third), and then I bleach them again and use them to clean the bathroom/toilet.

    often handwashing uses less water than a washing machine - and less power. if i have a small delicate load i will usually handwash it instead of using the machine. we don't have a dryer so, like you we only use the line to dry clothes, even in winter.

    do you grow any of your own veges? herbs are easy to grow, as well as tomatoes, and you can go from there. i am growing tomatoes from seed (seed packet: 90c) and have my first tomato on the plant right now! it's very exciting Big Grin

  6. patientsaver Says:

    Yup, I grow my own veggies too, everything but tomato and pepper plants from seed. this spring, i'll plant tomatoes, bell peppers, string beans, wax beans, potatoes,acorn squash, spaghetti squash, cucumber and basil, lots of basil for my homemade pesto sauce. I can't wait!

  7. girltherapy Says:

    How about cooking the beans in the crockpot, and freezing them in serving size bags. I do this with kidney and pinto beans all the time. Works great if you have freezer space.

  8. Jerry Says:

    We freeze food ahead, as well, and this leads to time savings as well as energy savings. Alas, we have a tiny fridge, so we don't have the insurance of maxing this out as a plan. Bummer... but it is the landlord's appliance.
    Jerry

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