Mar 31, 2008

Creative strategies for coping with rising costs - Part Four: Unusual Ideas For Saving Money Without Reducing Your Standard Of Living

In this series, Creative Strategies for Coping with Rising Costs, I will discuss ideas for saving money and cutting costs in order to maintain your lifestyle as prices increase. You can read Part One: Back to Basics here, Part Two: The Drugstore Game here, and Part Three: Finding Time For Cost-Cutting Measures here.

The fourth part of this series is a collection of ideas that can all be distilled to one essential idea: Step outside your comfort zone and try new things. I've listed some of the ideas I've come up with, and I invite you to share your own ideas. I'll compile the best reader ideas for a future post.

Maximize your money with these ideas:
  • Start a supper exchange with friends. Organize a group of friends and have everyone make multiple batches of a dinner that can go in the freezer. Meet up, exchange dinners, take them home and freeze them. It'll save you time and money, and add a little variety to your meals.
  • Practice feng shui. A few months ago, The Frugal Duchess posted some tips on how to increase your wealth via the ancient practice of feng shui. She also linked to a magazine article (pdf) on the topic, which taught me that my kitchen is my house's money center - I've been working (albeit slowly) on overhauling my kitchen ever since.
  • Try a new recipe once or twice a week. There are many ways you can go about this. If you plan your menus ahead of time, look online for recipes made from inexpensive ingredients. One great place to look is Miserly Moms. If you don't menu plan, you can collect recipes, and then find something you can make with ingredients you already have on hand. (Using up your pantry is a good frugal practice anyway.) Making things you normally would avoid is also a good way to keep things interesting. Don't be afraid of failure - even the best cooks make a bad meal sometimes.
  • Shop at new stores. This is especially true if you don't normally shop at outlets, thrift stores or consignment stores. You may go in and confirm your worst suspicions. Or you might discover a surprisingly great bargain. For example, I just happened upon a bread outlet a couple of towns away, so I popped in, figuring I had nothing to lose. I bought two packages of Thomas English muffins, one dozen French rolls, and a loaf of Oroweat bread for less than $7. They all had a "best by" date that was two days away, but I knew I had room in my two freezers. When I went to pay, I received a free loaf of Oroweat potato bread because my purchase was over $6. (The potato bread expired that day, and I decided it would be a good opportunity to use the Clever Dude peanut butter and jelly sandwich method.) I now plan on making a monthly stop at the bread outlet; I won't be buying sandwich bread or English muffins at my usual grocery stops anymore!
  • Try new activities. Start a money-saving or money-making hobby. Get your family interested in activities that are free or inexpensive. If you've always been hesitant to use Craigslist or Freecycle, sign up! I've always been wary, but I'll be joining Freepeats LA while it's free (sign up before May 1).
  • Ask and talk with your friends (and other people) - A LOT. You probably already know this, but friends will be your best source for the best ideas and deals. They don't have to be your best friends, the kind that you can spend five hours over coffee with and still have plenty to talk about. I'm talking about friends beyond those friends, the ones who fall somewhere in between "best friend" and "acquaintance." The more people in your network, the better your odds of finding the best store for the best sales, the best schools, great recipes and more. Talk to people whenever you can - to the other kids' parents at school, to the person in front of or behind you at the grocery store, etc. You never know when you'll learn something new that you are really glad to know.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the key for coming up with unusual ideas is to think outside of the box - and specifically, outside of your box. Do that and I can almost guarantee you'll find ways to maximize your money without compromising your lifestyle.

Now it's your turn: What are your unusual ideas for saving money?


MetaMommy said...

Great tips! My mind's on food, so here's what I've got.

At the farmers' market, go for what's in season. And avoid the biggest/busiest stalls. For example, the nicest strawberries aren't at the big stall everyone goes to, but at a little stall that people tend to ignore, and they're much cheaper.

When you plan your menus, don't think you have to use meat for every meal. It's significantly more expensive these days, less eco-friendly, and less healthy. Opt for a meal based around lentils, black beans, quinoa, tofu, or halloumi. It's good for a change, and a great way to broaden your culinary repertoire.

Chief Family Officer said...

Great advice, MetaMommy! I've never heard of halloumi - now I'm going to have to try some!

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of your advice to try a new recipe each week - try a new frugal idea each week. I bet all of us reading this read many good ideas online and elsewhere all the time. Picking one, at least, to try each week is the next and necessary step.

Great series! Thanks for all the ideas and encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Also - my favorite book on feng shui, which is a really quick and easy read, is Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui. It's a big help for clearing clutter but also has a lot of good ideas in general. It makes you really think about the negative impact clutter can have on your life.

Anyway, thought you might enjoy it!