Talk on Tuesday: Share Your Best Tightwad Tips

Heather says:

They said gas prices would drop. I’m not seeing it, are you? Without a drop in fuel prices, it won’t be long until the cost of goods are raised to cover production and transportation costs. With that in mind, I’d love to hear your best tips for saving money.

Some of our favorites:

Cut the cable. It’s been seven years since we’ve paid a cable bill, a monthly subscription to Netflix has more than filled in the gap. We don’t watch sports, but ESPN is stepping up to fill that gap and I’m sure there are other options out there, too.

Cook once eat twice. Some items like chicken, ham, and brisket are even better cold on sandwiches the next day.

Use powdered milk for cooking. When powdered milk is cheaper than fresh we use it for cooking and baking, anything where that slightly funky taste isn’t going to noticed. See How to Use Powdered Milk to Save Money for more ideas. I know some of you swear by it for drinking. I just can’t.

Buy beef in bulk. We save a lot of money by purchasing a side of beef and storing it in our deep freeze.

Buy produce in season. Local, seasonal produce lacks the markup to cover long distance transportation. By buying in season and preserving food by freezing, drying, or canning, we ensure we have a varied diet throughout the year without the shipping costs. CSAs are a great resource, but we also use farmers markets, produce stands, and some of our grocery stores also carry local produce.

Use the library. Libraries are there to use, visit yours and see everything they have to offer: movies, music, audio books, and e-books.  My favorite part about the mp3 audio books and ebooks is they expire automatically, there’s no chance of a late fee.

Look for bumped and bruised produce. Everything you eat doesn’t have to be showcase perfect.

Ok Home Eccers, it’s your turn. Share your favorite money saving tips.



  1. Alla on June 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Organic here is prohibitively expensive; in part because local soil is clay — there was once a BRICK factory here! Containers on the deck or porch work best, even for people like me with some usable farm land. Going vegetarian is the same trouble here, vegetables are horribly expensive here. Grow your own.

    Watch the weekly circulars; you’ll see a pattern to what your LOCAL stores stock and sell. Follow it, make menus, use your brain (your biggest money saver is yer common sense).

    Water flowers and houseplants with the rinse water from the dishes. (No, not the food plants. The for-pretty plants.)

    Ditch the “bundles”, but specifically ditch the TV and spend, for us, a TOTAL of $149.78 which included, Antenna, Pole, House brace bracket thing, Big giant bolts, Instant Concrete to set the pole in, and Funny little box thing With a signal Booster, from RadioShack. Yes, you spend $150 up front. Then you never have another Dish, Cable, or Direct bill again. Not ever. And I get more channels now. Go figure. And they do not spontaneously go off the air due to lost signal JUST when you need them most — like, to find out where that tornado touched down, and is it headed this way?

    Ditch the cell phone. For over 18,000 years, humans have not been in instant constant contact with one another. If you’re medical, military, or have family with a medical condition, okay, keep the BASIC plan. Ditch all the other crap.

    Line dry your clothes. No, they are not stiff, not if you use the correct amount of detergent (ONE HALF capfull of liquids) and if you use 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse. And no, it wont’ smell like pickles. Toss the towels in the dryer 10 minutes, no heat, to tumble them around.

    As stated above — Use your BRAIN and your common sense. That’s your best resource.

  2. myweeklygoals on May 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I rarely buy name brand items. Wal Mart's Great Value is just as good if not better than the name brands. I recently planted a vegetable garden to grow my own favorites, I sell no longer wanted items on Ebay, I buy clothes at Goodwill (mostly for the kids.. they outgrow things so fast!), and I'm giving up cable before my next bill!

  3. Frances on May 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    On the cooking theme — we eat local and mostly organic — sometimes local means cheaper but not always! I can knock almost $20/week off our food bill by making bread and yogurt using wonderful local ingredients. It's still more expensive than the cheapest of the cheap over at the discount supermarket, but it's real food. The challenge is fitting the time in to my work schedule.

    For work I wear a variations on a theme "uniform" of classic pieces and limit accessories to a few signature items. I do the same thing for my son: I stock up at the clearance racks at the end of each season at one store where I know the clothes fit and last well. He's not yet at an age where having this year's colour matters!
    My recent post painting elves rock

  4. Sus on May 20, 2011 at 9:51 am

    We bought a digital antenna for the attic and now watch basic cable for "free" – well, we paid $100 for the antenna, but we don't pay a monthly bill. We don't have true cable like the food network, but we have ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and a few other channels (the CW, This, etc) totally worth it! Other shows we want to watch and don't have the channel we watch online!
    My recent post Cheese- Glorious Cheese!

  5. Cara on May 20, 2011 at 8:34 am

    (1) Use a clothesline or drying racks. Even for items you want softer, dry them on the line and then fluff them in the dryer for just a few minutes.

    (2) Buy your clothes from the clearance rack of a good store, but only buy the ones you truly like. They will look better, fit better and last longer – so if you're patient and buy only what you like, you actually end up buying less. You'll may have to buy out of season, though here in Florida the stores always seem to be changing seasons long before we're out of the season.

  6. Nancy on May 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Couponing may seem like a headache, and if you've seen any episodes of TLC's Extreme Couponing you'll see those couponers make it a full time job. I've done coupons for at least 15 years, sometimes more intensely and sometimes less. Over the four years my teenagers were in high school I subscribed to couponing website, The Grocery Game. I think it cost about $10 every three months. Every Sunday I got an updated list of what was on special at my local grocery store and what coupons had come out that I could apply to those specials.

    Many people say that coupons are all for prepared and unhealthy food. I never used a coupon for a product I wouldn't normally purchase. I also only clipped coupons from the two Sunday newspapers I got each week. I found the biggest savings were for nonfood items, paper products, toiletries, medicines, cleaning products, laundry detergent. I calculated one year that I saved $3000 by using coupons. You don't have to be a fanatic to use coupons wisely and well.
    My recent post The Many Shades of White

  7. Angie on May 19, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I've always used the phrase "the best way to save money is to not go shopping". I can't tell you the last time we stepped foot in a mall. We do the grocery shopping once a week with a menu planned and list in hand (it's a minimum $30 difference for me when i forget the list). We also use excel to track our budget each month. receipts get set on the computer keyboard when you walk in the door so they have to be entered before you can surf the net that evening:) being aware of a budget and how it's looking really help us save money. One tiny kitchen tip is to have a freezer bag of the leftover veggie sides from dinners, you know the ones that aren't really big enough to save for another serving. eventually the bag fills up and we make veggie soup. somtimes it turns out good and sometimes not, but i figure we come out ahead on it most of the time:)

  8. casey on May 19, 2011 at 8:42 am

    My electric company just started offering a service where they email you your electric usage weekly. It made me discover how much electricity I was wasting during the day by leaving lights on all day (it's dark when I leave and dark when I come home and I don't like walking into a dark house). I bought 3 programable timers (they can be set as much as 48 times a day – or every 30 minutes) and I have on on a kitchen light, one on the LR light, and one on a bedroom light. They come on 10 minutes before I leave for work and turn off 20 minutes after (on a normal day). They then come on again when it gets dark (around 8 PM) and stay on until 10 PM when I go to bed unless I turn them off earlier. I"m curious to see what kind of difference that makes on my bill, especially since it has been in the 90s here for several weeks now so the AC is getting a workout.

  9. Shelley on May 19, 2011 at 6:20 am

    I listed most of my ideas back when I wrote this – more great ideas in these comments. Even if not all applicable, very motivating and encouraging and I think one's attitude is more than half the frugal battle.

  10. Dermot on May 18, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    My Three tips:
    1) Plan your meals – it makes shopping so much easier and like EV says when you plan your shopping, you end up with less opportunity to impulse buy.
    2) Homebrew, if done properly it can taste better than run of the mill domestic beer. It's dollar cheap even if it takes more time. And as a hobby, it's cheaper than a lot of other hobbies.
    3) Skip the soda, use the water fountain. If you do grab fast food, Cans/Bottles of drink generally add 25% to the price of a meal. Do you really need all that sugar?

  11. Mrs. J on May 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I really agree with a lot of these comments. I think one of the biggest things that someone needs to do is reevaluate their wants and needs. Ask yourself "Do I need this? Will buying this object really impact my happiness and quality of life?" If you get in the habit of asking yourself these questions with EVERY purchase, you'll begin to realize how silly some purchases are.

    We avoid processed foods. Turn to meals that use bulk foods–beans, rice, grains, lentils, oatmeal, etc. These are very cheap, and as a bonus, very healthy!!
    My recent post Why did we get chickens

  12. Joyce on May 18, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    If you have a freezer, marked down meat is great when you can find it. It's usually marked down on the last day it can be sold but it's still good a day or two in the refrigerator and for weeks if you take it home and toss it in the refrigerator. Keep your eyes open as you walk by your supermarket's meat cases.

  13. Keter Magick on May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am

    My biggest expense after the mortgage is heating and cooling, because my house has three 25 year old heat pumps, each the size of a small car, on the roof. They work, but they are energy hogs. My house is also solid concrete, so it is a thermal mass, not a thermal barrier. About a year and a half ago, when I went out on my own as a freelancer, the first thing I did was cut the power to those heat pumps. We survived a summer with no A/C and a winter with only wood stove heat, and it wasn't that bad, but I'm not exaggerating when I say it saved nearly $5000. I bought one fancy, forced air wood stove used for $400, and another was given to me, and we scavenge year round for scrap and giveaway wood, I roll starter "logs" out of junk mail, packaging cardboard, and newspapers, so the heat is essentially free. I need one more wood stove, but it will come to me in time.

    To keep cool, we keep a large fan in each room, and a pump up sprayer filled with water. Turning the fan on high and releasing a fine mist of water in front of it will really cool a room down quickly. Because I have a concrete house, it will take a lot of humidity without damage – be careful with this approach if you have carpet or heavy fabrics that might absorb moisture and mildew. In addition to window tint, I made solar screens out of landscaping shade fabric and bubble wrap for the ancient single-pane west-facing windows, and will replace these with low-e when I can afford it.

    I also stopped using my big oven. It isn't needed for cooking for two, is a big energy hog, and heated the house too much in the summer. I now only use it if I need to cook a turkey or a big ham for company. I bought a nice countertop oven with four ceramic elements and a convection fan on sale for $70 and use it for all of my baking and broiling that isn't done on the grill. I was given a second gas grill with a nice side burner, and I have tasked my husband to create a real outdoor kitchen for me this summer. I set up misters around my deck which keeps it cooler out there, so it's actually pretty pleasant to cook outside. Bonus: insects won't fly through mist curtains. Turn the mist on ahead of time and it will be cool and mostly bug-free.

    This brought down my energy bills from an average of $300 in the summer and (no kidding) $600 in the winter to about $200 in the winter and $75 in the summer.

  14. @Texachusetts on May 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Eat less meat. We are not vegetarians but we try to limit our meat (I'm talking all kinds of meat here) consumption to 1-2x/week (including breakfast and lunch). We eat a lot of beans and in addition to being healthy, we cook them in large batches in the slow cooker so they are cheaper as well.

  15. Nikita on May 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Take advantage of price matching at grocery stores. I mark all my sales papers and my shopping list so that I can get every sale and not spend time fiddling through the sales papers at checkout.
    My recent post The Heart of the Matter Starts Here

  16. Carri with a C on May 18, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Share with a friend or neighbor. We own the lawn mower, the neighbor owns the snowblower, we buy our own gas. This works well for us, he has a key to our garage and we have the code to his. Whenever we want to blow the snow, we just fill up the tank and go. Same goes with the mower. We also share a freestanding firepit and a trampoline with another family. We also share other things like hostas when we split them or extra produce from our small garden.

    We also unplug everything. The only items in the house that stay plugged in is the alarm clock and the fridge. We have saved a ton of money by pulling the plugs and shutting off lights. It’s part of the nightly ritual of locking up and unplugging that lets us sleep soundly at night.

    We pack lunches and buy in bulk. We shop at the thrift stores and don’t buy what we don’t truly need. We rarely eat out and never without a coupon or discount of some sort. We use coupons for items that we buy often and stock up with favorites when they are on sale.

    Lots of little things add up to big savings…

    • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 7:58 am

      Carri, excellent tips, thank you. It's fantastic that you have such a great relationship with your neighbors.

      I only recently confirmed that one of my next door neighbors had a baby… in October. I had thought she was pregnant, but did not want to accidentally insult her by asking.

  17. Toy Lady on May 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

    On the "cook once eat twice" theme – bits of leftover meat make a great start for another meal – we barbecued ribs last week, the guys had their fill of leftovers for lunching/snacking (I've learned the hard way that it's not good to bring ribs for lunches to my office job!), and we trimmed the meat from the remainder and stirred it into a pot of red beans – which made another (almost-but-not-quite meatless) meal this week.

    I definitely keep a running list on the fridge – grocery store is once a week, and we go out of our way for Sam's Club only when the size of the list makes it worth the trip.
    My recent post The more things change

    • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 7:56 am

      Great tip.

      This reminds me, one of my favorite meals lately has been beans and rice, topped with a fried egg. It can be Cajun or Tex-Mex, I'm not the least bit picky as long as there is salsa or hot sauce handy.

  18. EV on May 18, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Plan your trips – even the little ones. I grew up a half-hour from the nearest town and this was ingrained into me. You leave the house once and have thought through what you need and from whence. You plan your route to provide you with the best possible route to achieve the needs.

    Note: You do need a cooler in the car for grocery runs.
    There is no running to the store for x. You do without until the next run.

    We made five stops in two hours yesterday circling the better part of downtown and West Ashley – Lowes, Target, an herbalist, the DMV, and the "fish store." All except the herbalist, were items that had been on the to get/todo list for more than a week.

    My recent post And the Good Die Young – Wanna Be Anyway

    • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 7:55 am

      The cooler is a great tip, thank you.
      If I go to Costco, I try to remember to bring the cooler so I can go ahead and hit Earth Fare while I'm on that side of town.
      Car pooling shopping trips can also make the job more enjoyable. I usually grab my friend Bran. This gives us two sets of hands for 3 kids (better odds) and reduces the onus of stopping at multiple stores with my kids in tow. I don't want to be the woman who snaps on I-26. . .

  19. Jenn @FrugalUpstate on May 18, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Hmmm. You already gave some good ones.

    Buy used! Check thrift stores, yard sales etc before you run out to buy something. Let someone else suck up that initial depreciation

    Put it back! Most of us waste money on impulse buys. Trying putting back that thing you just HAVE to have for about a week. If you still want it, then consider buying it.

    Stop reading magazines. I swear, I am much happier with my wardrobe, my home and my life in general when I DON'T read fashion magazines. They just make me want stuff I don't have. Of course this does not pertain to reading blogs-keep doing that.
    My recent post Walmart Price Match Clarification

    • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 7:39 am

      Oh yes, that's another benefit of no cable. The number of commercials I see has been drastically reduced. If I don't know I "need" it. I can't want it.

  20. asyhre on May 18, 2011 at 8:01 am

    We usually start walking or riding our bikes more places. Our town is not very friendly to that, but it can save a good chunk of money when you drive a bigger SUV (due to the size of our family).

    We also buy the almost see better days produce, if we are going to use it that day or the next.
    My recent post this moment

  21. Guest on May 18, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Curb eating out. If you do, use their curbside service and bring it home. This saves on drink purchases and gratuity. Make a list of errands and make a list of items needed and stick to the list. Plan your trip accordingly to save gas. Become a coupon user.

    • Courtney on May 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      I work at an Outback Steakhouse, and our curbside takeaway servers make $2.13 an hour, same as servers. Yes, two dollars an hour. This may not apply everywhere, but our takeaway people rely on tips for their livelihood, same as regular servers. If you're really not sure, ask them what they make per hour before tips. They will appreciate your concern. Shame on you for not tipping takeaway servers. I pray that you already know that tipping 15-18% of the total bill is standard for acceptable service.

      • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 7:38 am

        I know how frustrating that is, Courtney. I did food and bev for 10 years at that rate, I may have earned a bit more in MN, but I can't remember right now -no coffee yet. I always worked FOH to supplement my BOH jobs and it has turned me into an over-tipper. It takes a lot for me to leave a reduced tip, because I know.
        That said, I think the Guest may have been ignorant of that fact. In my experience, most people assume that those working take out are paid minimum wage, like any fast food employee. We know it's not the case, but all we can do is educate people.
        I hated when I knew from the moment I greeted a table that I would not be tipped. It used to make me furious to know that I would be paying 3% of their bill to serve them. -It was a corporate gig that automatically tipped out bussers and bartenders- It's just an unfortunate hazard of the job. Hang in there. There are plenty of us out there who will make up for it over time. (That doesn't help on the nights where we didn't show up, but we're out there, too)

        • Courtney on May 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm

          Thanks, Heather. At Outback, we automatically pay 3% to hosts, bussers and bartenders as well. I've had to pay to wait on a table many times. Here in TN, there are a lot of people who really think that $5 is the universal good tip. Luckily, I'm on my way out of the restaurant business, never to return! I'm graduating soon! *happy dance*
          Since we're talking about money here, it is impossible to budget on a server's income. Some nights, I won't even make $20, and some nights, I'll make $50. It's kind of rough when my friends go out to eat and stuff, and I hang back because I'm not sure if I'll make enough to cover the bills for that month. However! Once the bills are paid, I try to reward myself with a margarita 😀

          • HeatherSolos on May 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

            Dave Ramsey has some pretty good tools for budgeting on an irregular income. You might find them helpful, even if you're on your way to a better paying job.
            Congratulations on graduating!

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