Save with Sarah — 5 Easy Tips for Frugal Living

At least once a week, I plan to share some of my favorite money-saving tips that help us stretch our dollars.  Freedom from debt and financial stress is one of the biggest things you can do to increase your liberty, so we try to attack this one often and HARD.

  1. — So everyone knows about coupons, right, but did you know that you don’t have to spend dozens of hours each week to get the coupons you want for items you’ll actually USE? It works like this.  You go to Lori’s site, pick the coupons you’d like have (most offers are 20 coupons for $1 with a minimum order of $2), check out with PayPal, and you’re done! Using this site, I’ve managed to get things like free Chi-Chi’s salsa, Lawry’s marinades for $.69/ea, and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for $.49/ea.  I just don’t have enough nice things to say about this site.
  2. Make your own laundry detergent concentrate — For about $2 (not including the bucket), I make five gallons of laundry detergent concentrate that lasts our family of five for five to six months! My daughter based a science fair project on our homemade detergent, and although I wasn’t surprised that my detergent cleaned as well or better than the store-bought stuff, it was nice to know the cheap stuff came out on top.  You can find my recipe here.
  3. Use cold water in your washer whenever possible — Because I’m low-vision, I learned to do laundry by washing everything in cold except towels/sheets and underwear/socks/etc.  By doing this, I never ran the risk of ruining a load of laundry because warm/hot water caused dye to run on something I didn’t see.  Now some might argue that you need expensive cold-water-only detergents, but my homemade detergent works beautifully in cold water.  In fact, my daughter’s science fair project test the detergent on red drink mix, mustard, and motor oil, and her samples were washed in cold water.  Cold water is easier on clothing fibers (so the clothes last longer), and using less hot water saves a LOT in monthly energy costs.
  4. Use ceiling fans strategically — Since most of us in the Midwest are dealing with record heat, I wanted to take a moment to remind folks use ceiling fans instead of your thermostat to get relief from the heat.  Different sources will share different numbers, but in my experience, I can set my thermostat up to 3 degrees higher than I would otherwise so long as I use ceiling fans.  The important thing to remember though is that in the summer, fans don’t actually decrease the temperature of a room; they provide a “wind chill” of sorts, so it’s important to turn the fan off when you leave a room to see even more savings on your energy bill.
  5. Use a Big Berkey instead of bottled water or filters with a high maintenance cost — Before I say anything about the Big Berkey, I have to be fair.  In an attempt to save money, we spent $190 for a reverse-osmosis system back in 2005.  While it was definitely cheaper and better than bottled water or filter pitchers, it has its drawbacks too, but we didn’t know about the Berkey products at the time.  Having learned about them over the past two years though, we’ve decided that acquiring one is pretty high on the priority list, and here’s why.  These systems purify water better than almost anything on the market while leaving minerals that are important for our health.  (My RO system takes out a lot of stuff INCLUDING the minerals which is good for my teapot but not necessarily good for my body.) One set of filter elements can purify up to 6,000 gallons of water.  The best part, though, is that this system can purify either treated OR untreated water to the same standards without the need for water pressure from a utility.  I certainly can’t do that with my RO system.  Boy, I sure wish I’d known about these things back in ’05, and once we get one, I’ll demo it, but suffice it to say that even with the $263 initial cost, it could pay for itself that first year if you have a large family or consume a lot of water for drinking and cooking.

If you enjoyed today’s first installment of this series, stick with me.  You won’t be disappointed.  There are dozens more tips and tricks where these came from!

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