Easy Daily Frugality
By Sandy McCall
It seems that most of us are very careful when we make big purchases like cars, houses, electronics and the like, but we many times don’t pay attention to the cumulative pennies that we spend each day or week on smaller items. Remember that saying … “a penny saved is a penny earned”? The definition from Meaning.org is “it is as useful to save money that you already have as it is to earn more.”
Many of us respond to this with the feeling that we just don’t have enough time to pay attention to every penny that goes out. With some thought about your own individual lifestyle, you might fi nd that those pennies add up to a considerable amount of money that can be easily saved if you choose to.
The good news is we are trainable!!!
And I’ll readily admit that I find shopping for bargains fun and a game with benefits. When I feel like I am winning at the game, all the better.
Perhaps we can make small changes or additions to our daily and weekly habits that will help us to at least know where our hard-earned pennies are going and perhaps alter the way we do things a bit.
TIP: Don’t drive miles out of your way for a good price on something small—plan your stops around other trips to the same areas.
Does penny-pinching make us cheap or make us a miser? I don’t think so … being frugal is different than being cheap.
Wikipedia says: “Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the use of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.”
And being cheap or a miser is defined as: “A cheapskate, snipesnout, penny pincher, piker, scrooge, skinflint, money grubber, tightarse or tightwad, a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts and some necessities.”
Because I am frugal, I CAN be more generous with others and with myself. When I save a few dollars, I might more easily have coffee and dessert with a friend, or make a donation to my favorite charity. A Win-Win!
So let’s talk some about how we might go about being more frugal in the midst of our busy lives. It requires paying attention to what works well for you and not being lured into purchases that the practices of big business (particularly) continue to suggest to us.
I like shopping for useful and needed items at a good price. I don’t like walking through malls and stores looking at all of the many choices and being tempted to buy things that I don’t want or need. It may be the American way, but it is not my way and it is a place where my anti-establishment habits are helpful!
So let’s look at the things that we do regularly or repeatedly, like getting a haircut, changing the oil in the car or buying gas, buying groceries, paying for auto and homeowners insurance, eating in restaurants. Add to that our cell, cable or satellite services.
I have used the same hairdresser for about 15 years. Why? She does a great job, she is knowledgeable, she knows me well and she charges much, much less than other many salons. She’s a keeper!
Buying groceries is a place that I consistently spend my money. Because I enjoy cooking and I like to try new foods and ingredients, I search out the best places to do that.
And some of us remember Pete Seeger’s 1962 song “Turn, Turn, Turn … to everything there is a season”? Recently I bought one small, out of season, zucchini and paid $2.50 because it was out of season!
Asheville Slow Food Movement says that Asheville is in the fast lane for “slow food,” also known as the local food or farm-to-table movement.
Asheville has also been named the first Foodtopian Society.
My mother always described herself as frugal and not cheap. When I was young, we lived in a large city in Southern California. My mother collected the Sunday paper grocery store flyers from all of the stores around our home. She often spent an entire day and went to each of those stores and purchased only the items that were on sale. So we only ate what was on sale and she rarely deviated from her plan … money was the driving force!
My Dad used to laugh and say to my mom in a jovial way: “Let’s see, each week you purchase items at a good price even if we don’t need them! Now I’ll have to build a shed out back to store them! Are we really saving money?” He was right! The cost doesn’t always outweigh the savings! I remember our family of three having a ten years supply of toothpaste at any given time! Lesson learned, as I prefer to spend my money on useful items that support enjoyment, quality of life and charity.
I continually enter the items I need in the near future in my Grocery IQ phone app so when it is time to shop, I am ready to go except for the 15 minutes I spend collecting coupons and looking for specials. I have searched out the websites that give me both manufacturers coupons and store coupons and link the store specials to the coupons themselves.
Try Southern Savers where you can see the sale items at your favorite stores matched with manufacturer coupons and in-store sales. Brilliant idea! I also like Common Kindness, where the company lets you donate to your favorite charities when printing your coupons. YouGetWeGive.com (Asheville) is a great way to get discounts on many different types of things and 10% of what you spend goes to a local charity! Also a great idea.
TIP: If you purchase the same items every week, go to the websites for those individual companies and see if they offer coupons.
I often hear reports of people who use extreme couponing to find the best deals both locally and online and sometimes even get money back from the stores after acquiring hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for free. You don’t have to choose extreme couponing in order to get good deals and save money.
I like some of the information and tips that you can find when you Google “extreme couponing.” Here’s an example.
TIP: Google “sale flyers Asheville NC” or your own location, and you’ll find many stores in the area.
Shopping at local discount grocery stores, farm stores and health food stores can be very productive. You have to watch the expiration dates on many items in the discount stores and the prices in the health food stores. Sometimes the discount stores will negotiate the prices on items you might use quickly and that they need to sell quickly! Just remember where you are, big discounts may mean stale dates. Still can be a Win-Win, though.
Stores that carry bulk items are great, as many times I only need a quarter pound of something that the grocery store only carries in a larger package. Buying herbs and spices at a bulk store makes sense to me, and I like being able to buy as little as a tablespoon of something for a recipe I am trying for the first time.
TIP: Stores will many times double or triple the manufacturers coupons on certain days of the week!
Remember that planning and common sense are key! Planning and then following your plan keeps you from wasting time and money. And using your common sense about what fits into your lifestyle is essential. I may have three stores to visit this week, but the most reasonable way may be to do that on three different days when I am in that general area. This is being frugal.
I have been disgusted lately by how many of the larger stores have rearranged their isles in ways that are not user friendly. At first I thought it was just a matter of getting used to a new floor plan and arrangement of items—or is there a method to their madness? I questioned my local grocery store by saying, why would you put the organic flours in a completely different place and away from the regular fl ours. The response was that they didn’t have enough space in the baking isle for everything they carried! NOT! Instead, I believe they want me to walk around (wasting my time) looking for the items I need, and then I “may” pick up some other items that I see along the way that I may or may not need! So, follow your list and don’t be distracted. I believe that we all want good prices, ease in shopping and good customer service. I liked it better when customer service was the driving force for most companies.
While planning my shopping trips, I search for websites that will give me discounts on things like oil changes, restaurants and other items I want to buy. Groupon.com is one of my favorites as I find the great bargains there. You purchase the deal up front, so watch the expiration dates.
Again, my smart phone has an app, so I don’t have to print coupons or promotions, just show it to the vendor! Another is Restaurants.com where you can buy discounted meals at your favorite local restaurant. So far, no expiration dates on the use of these coupons and you can use a phone app, so no printing is necessary. I like RetailMeNot.com for sales and coupons from many different online companies.
TIP: Google “smart phone apps” and you’ll find different applications that might suit your shopping needs. Try Grocery IQ and Red Laser.
Then, one of my local favorites is Earthfare. Each week they send out an email coupon that is actually a good deal if the products are things you use. And now they have the Tomato Bank that provides cumulative savings on your purchases.
Tip: What’s a BOGO? It’s a “Buy one, get one free” sale, and it is regarded as one of the most effective forms of special offers for goods.
An aside to shopping is donating or trading the items you no longer use: If you are concerned about the amount of stuff you are buying and collecting, consider donating those items to a charity. Google “donate Asheville NC” or something similar and you will find many places where you can donate items you no longer want to worthy charities. Or you might try donating for a credit on future purchases at Downtown Books and News. In addition, a fun place is Battery Park Book Exchange where you can trade your books for credit for future purchases including food, wine, and dessert.
What did we do before the Internet? Use your time wisely and search the Internet for the best options for what you plan to buy. Remember to Google just what you are looking for, and if you prefer to buy locally, include the name of the nearest city.
I find that CNET.com is a great place to find free or paid software and also to research and compare cell services offered by national and regional carriers, computers, cell phones, cameras and the like. The Red Laser app will let you find and compare local and online prices for everything from food, to appliances and beyond!
The important thing is to see this as fun and a useful challenge. If it seems overwhelming, you won’t enjoy it and ultimately it won’t work! Happy Shopping!
Sandy McCall’s day job is working as the Broker/Owner of Southern Life Realty. When she’s not cooking, she enjoys writing for WNC Woman and volunteering for Madison Habitat for Humanities and Manna Food Bank.
You can contact her at Sandy@SouthernLifeRealty.com and 828.273.9755. SouthernLifeRealty.com: Your Dream, Our Expertise … Matching People With Property!