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Frugal Living & Freebies

A Little Frugality Now Equals a Whole Lotta Fun both Now and Later
by Kim Green-Spangler
It's right after the holidays and things are beginning to return to normal, right? At least until the first holiday credit cards bills arrive, or until you realize that bills are due and you spent a little more cash at holiday time than you originally allotted. Well if your wallet/purse is a tad light, then this week is just for you. National Creative Frugality Week - January 22-28 is the creation of founder, Nancy Twiggs, who decided to spotlight an entire week in the month following the holidays specifically dedicated to showing that you can choose a lifestyle full of fun without living beyond your means. Imagine, a whole week when being mindful of one's money is actually a cool thing!

Do you have some ideas for streamlining your outlay of cash without sacrificing your fun? Here are a few ideas to get you started in the main categories of work, home, children and fun:

Ways to Save Money for and at Work

Do you have a job that requires you to dress professionally? The best deals for clothing can be found at the end of a season. With 50-70% off sales, shopping at the end of a season for clothes can more than double your spending dollars. Don't just do it for yourself, do it for as many of your family members as possible for all-around savings.

Do you grab coffee, muffins or snacks while at work? Those cost of those items can really add up to a hefty sum when calculated over a weekly, monthly and annual basis. If you're really hooked on cappuccinos and lattes - perhaps it would be cheaper to invest in a home beverage machine and make your favorite drinks before you leave for work. What about snacks? If you're not domestically inclined and would prefer not to do your own baking, shop the baked good aisle at Costco, B.J.'s Wholesale Club, or Sam's Club and buy your muffins, bagels, croissants, and other snacks, etc. If the large quantities scare you, consider freezing what you can, or split the cost with a friend and both of you can save money while eating healthier too.

Hang on to your Dollars at Home

With rising fuel prices this is a great time to get creative. Can you dial back your thermostat a couple of degrees or so? Better yet, if you do not already have one, programmable thermostats save consumers a great deal over the course of a year. Once programmed, they can dial back temperatures when a house is unoccupied or during overnight hours, and bring the house back up to the desired temperature for waking/occupied hours.

Do you plan your errands and outings with your vehicle for maximum efficiency? It's much more economical to make five stops on your way to your final destination than to make five individual round trips. While you may not feel like doing everything on your way home from work - if you're a morning person why not do them then? With 24 hour stores, so much can be done at almost any hour of the day. If you live in a colder climate, who says you have to grocery shop in the evening on your way home? Why not do it before work/school or during your lunch hour and leave your groceries in the trunk? You'll avoid the before dinner rush and be able to go straight home, or can tend to something else.

When at all possible buy in bulk, but beware. It's not always cheaper, so be ready to do a comparative analysis and check your supermarket sales ads. If there are two or more different supermarkets in your area they will often try to beat their competition. Prices wars are a great way to get more for your money.

Inexpensive Fun with Kids

Kids just wanna have fun, right? But they can have inexpensive fun too! I'll bet if you looked in your local paper or regional parenting publication you would find a ton of FREE events throughout the year. Most zoos, aquariums and galleries have a couple of days a year where they offer free or seriously reduced entrance fees for free, or almost free fun. Also, don't forget the library. Various libraries offer story time, puppet shows, etc. as well as the obvious - free books, videos and DVD's.

Most children love craft projects. JoAnn's stores offer many prepackaged craft projects for as little as a $1. Craft projects are a wonderful way to get a few of his/her friends together to spend some time being creative, or even do several different projects throughout the year for inexpensive gift ideas.

Games are another great way to save money. Games offer hours of entertainment for one initial cost. Since some can be played alone too, it can be a wonderful way to provide both individual and group/family entertainment.

Fun on a Budget

Going to the movies may be fun, but $10+ per ticket it's got quite pricey. At the speed at which movies are making it to rental stores and out on DVD for sale, it's actually cheaper to wait and either rent or buy your own. Besides, you get your choice of snack and can even hit the pause button for bathroom breaks.

Take advantage of those two-for-one deals. If you're vigilant you can find a two for one deal for most activities. Look for them during habitual slow seasons for whatever activity it is. They've been known to crop up at bowling alleys, ice skating and roller skating rinks and even amusement parks, to name a few. Also, if your area offers one, an Entertainment Book can be a wonderful creative frugality purchase, offering savings on everything from car washes to vacations.

Creative Frugality week is from the 22nd through the 28th, but there's nothing stopping you from making it a permanent lifestyle change. At the end of the week total up how much money you've saved and multiply that by 52 weeks. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to apply those funds to next year's holiday budget? Or to invest it, bank it or apply it to an outstanding debt? Creative Frugality does not mean deprivation, but is a way to make your money work better and smarter for you while not sacrificing fun and enjoyment.

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