The Non-Consumer Advocate’s 12 Favorite Frugal Tips on 12/12/12

by Katy on December 12, 2012 · 32 comments

  1. Buy the very largest food items when it’s individually priced, but choose the smaller ones when they’re by the pound. Example? Head of lettuce? Buy the big one. Per pound watermelon? Get the small one.
  2. Don’t replace your stuff as soon as it’s broken. It might be fixable or still functional. Or . . . your mother/neighbor/friend might have an extra to give you for free.
  3. Put on a sweater/socks/hat. Don’t overheat your entire house, just overheat yourself.
  4. Say no. Say it to kids, to Avon peddling co-workers, say it to yourself. 
  5. Not every meal has to be a masterpiece. You are not Martha Stewart, and chances are that she sits down to many, many humble meals.
  6. Stop paying for hype and advertising. I’ve bought both the most expensive and also the cheapest shampoos. Yet my hair always looks the same. Cheapest wins!
  7. Stay out of shops that drain your bank account. If Target offers too much temptation, just stay out of there. Period.
  8. Batch your errands. Not only will you save on gasoline, but you’ll also save time.
  9. Drink less alcohol. It’s expensive and does not make you as witty as you think it does.
  10. Finish up the projects and associated supplies that you already started. Don’t buy yarn for new mittens, knit a pair that uses up all the half-skeins that you already own.
  11. Avoid late fees and pay your bills on time. If you need to automate your bills to make this happen, get on this today!
  12. Buy used whenever possible. You’ll save money and also make a statement against unsafe and unnecessary manufacturing.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather December 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

The power of no is huge!


Katy December 12, 2012 at 10:00 am

Yes. 😉



L.D. December 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

I’ve always had my bills paid electronically by my bank, most everyone offers electronic bill paying, it saves time and postage. This way they are paid on time. The only checks I write and mail are to license my vehicle and for charities, I’ve saved a bundle over the last 30 years using this method. Quite handy and thrifty, try it!


Deanna December 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I even make charitable donations electronically. I have a couple charities that I support by monthly automatic donations on a credit card. (I always pay off my credit cards every month, it’s just a convenient way to donate)


nerak December 13, 2012 at 7:24 am

It’s great that you donate to charities!! However, please keep in mind that by making charitable donations via credit card, the charity probably has to pay a fee on your donation. Much better to pay by check or cash and then 100% of what you give can be used by the charity! I also try to not use credit cards with local small businesses so 100% of the sale goes to the business and they don’t have to pay a fee on the sale to the credit card company.


L.D. December 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

That’s a good point about the credit card charge, but I’m a bit leery of letting anyone have my credit card # anyway, that’s why I use a check, it can only be used once.


Annie December 13, 2012 at 10:44 am

Yes, donate to charities. The form of payment doesn’t really matter since the charities have to pay bank fees to deposit cash or checks as well, and those rates are comparable to credit card fees. (I work in accounting at a not-for-profit.) What matters more is the overall percentage of funds that are used on administrative costs for the entire operation, obviously the lower that percentage is the better. There are several sites that will tell you these rates for many charities at once such as Charity Navigator or Charity Watch.

I do agree that using cash at local small businesses is a good idea. They often deal with vendors and their employees on a cash basis since their volume of transactions is smaller.


John Benton December 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

If you shop at Fred Meyer this month every Tuesday is senior Tuesday except for Christmas day. Save that extra ten percent on private label items. Also take advantage of buying their gasoline and save an extra ten cents a gallon. I live in Sandy Oregon and it appears that Fred Meyer and the new Arco are having a gas war. Arco is at $2.99 and FM is at 3.02, which was $2.92 for me with my discount. That is about thirty to forty cents a gallon lower than in Portland.


Karen December 12, 2012 at 11:51 am

Great that you have lower gas prices. However, I live in an oil and natural gas producing state and I am paying about $3.50 a gallon.

I will not go shopping in any type of store without a list. I am a visual and impulse shopper, and with the list I keep myself out of trouble.


A. Marie December 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I’m with you on everything except the last clause of #5. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart for many years, and I’d estimate the chances that she ever sits down to a humble meal at under 5%.


Lisa December 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I imagine her humble leftovers are grander than what we eat every day. 😎


Diane C December 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Are you remembering to include all those prison meals in your calculations?


A. Marie December 13, 2012 at 3:30 am

OK, Diane, you’re right about the year Martha was a guest of the Feds. But she’s been making up for it ever since. Check out an article in the Nov. 9 NY Times online titled “At Martha Stewart Living, Martha May Be the Problem.”


Renee CA December 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Ooooohhh….just got back from Target. So hard not to buy for grandchildren. The head knows what I should do, but like a drug addict, my body sometimes moves independently of my brain. I turn into someone else in December.


Amanda S December 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Oh, do I ever know about that Avon thing! When I worked in a doctor’s office we had a patient who sold Avon, and I swear every woman in that office (and almost everyone working there was female) bought from her, and I got sucked in. I ended up buying way too much over a period of time (although I don’t regret the sparkly eyeliner and the mesh produce bags), so I gave away some of the eyeshadow palettes I had bought to a coworker and quit looking at the catalogues that they kept trying to throw at me. Also got sucked into the Target thing for awhile too. Now I just shop there for necessities that are cheaper than the grocery store and prescriptions. Just say NO!


Diane December 12, 2012 at 2:22 pm

# 10 You read my mind today as I go through my craft closet workshop and organize…so many unfinished projects that I will complete before starting new ones in 2013. Thanks for the reminder!


Lois December 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I’ve heard the average person uses the same 7 or so meals and rotates them around. Sounds about right to me, and none of my choices are fancy or elaborate.


Liz December 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Really? how interesting… and here I am trying to make new stuff all the time, maybe I should just relax 🙂


Molly December 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Like. I don’t think I’ve turned the heat on yet here in Chicago – just enjoying the neighbors’ residual heat, the snuggly kitties, and blankets!


Jo H. December 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm

An excellent dozen! The major ones that have helped me are saying no, humble meals, and staying out of stores. Something else that has helped me pay less and have less waste is to buy groceries every 4 days or so, and to undershop – if I need 4 meals I buy for three. There’s always enough to make 4 meals (one is leftovers), or I make something from what’s always on hand, like eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches. Might not work if you are a good menu planner and buy precise amounts, but I’m not, and I always ended up with far too much food and eventually some of it would go to waste.


Jen December 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

Me, too. I grocery shop for a week at a time but often find that because of leftovers and extra bits and sometimes meetings or social events I can stretch it to 10 days. Means one less shopping trip a month, which adds up in savings.


Elaine in Ark December 14, 2012 at 9:27 am

I hear you! I’ve got some celery and salad going out this weekend. I don’t even know why or when I bought the celery…


Lilypad December 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Good point on the booze thing. A bottle of Riesling from Trader Joe’s lasts me about a month, because I don’t need the extra calories in my daily life and seriously, I intend for it to be a treat, not an everyday thing. (However, I always say that when I’m old and it doesn’t matter any more, then I’m gonna drink a glass of wine with dinner every night. Woot! 😉 My husband, however, has a taste for fine Scotch and locally-distilled gin. I try and keep my mouth shut on this topic, since he’s the one earning a paycheck around here, but good golly Miss Molly—the fancy stuff in those categories is so pricey! Thankfully, he also looks at it as a treat and paces himself accordingly. If I even look at a receipt from the liquor store, I need to have a drink! 🙂


Penelope Samuel December 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for a great list! I am going to print it out and keep it in my crafting space/office/dining room as a constant reminder 🙂


AMarieW December 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Wine at Trader Joe’s is as cheap as $2.99 a bottle– my weight, coupled with a low-tolerance for alcohol, averages about 3 plus mild-intoxications per indulgence; meaning that I could “indulge” for less than 99 cents. Life is way too short. If I apply my own pleasure versus deprivation equation, plus add the benfits of red wine, I am probably paying about 20 cents for an extra 20 minutes of life by adding that bottle of wine. Frugality can be logical, but it can also border on just being plain silly and extreme…


Ann December 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Don’t read, flip thru, scan, skim or otherwise look thru Christmas or other “mail order” catalogs. Toss ’em! All they do is create unreasonable “wants”.


Barb December 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Allmof your ideas are spot on but #6 really resonated with me. I recently received a generous sample of a really high end “anti-aging” (like that exists) face cream and I was excited thinking that if I loved it I’d buy some … I AM worth it you know. ;). But…I was disappointed and relieved to realize it isn’t any better than the Oil of Olay that I usually use. Plus, I didn’t like the fragrance at all.

Other hyped products that I’ve found to not be worth the money:
– shampoo (like you listed) but also other salon products…the waxes, glazes, gels, etc. I’ve used them all and no one ever gasped in admiration at my newly fabulous hair.
– expensive hair cuts! I’ve tried the $50-$60 dollar cuts (for my short hair) and the $14 cut is usually just as good. Someday I may figure out how to cut it myself.
– fancy restaurants. I am much happier with a more modest local place.
– expensive purses. This is truly my Achilles heel as I love very good purses but a couple of years ago I switched over to primarily the cloth purses sold by Vera Bradley. I buy them only deeply discounted and they are great for 90% of my activities. I have a couple of good leather purses for dressier or professional occasions. The fabric bags are so lightweight that they are a joy to carry.

Thanks for the thought provoking post!


Happy Mum December 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm

It’s funny — I am quite frugal and sensible in many areas — don’t buy fancy lotions, or fashions — BUT — I spend fairly big (and often) on… my haircut. I have somewhat difficult hair — I wear it very short, and don’t colour the natural grey — it always looks great, if I do say so myself — and I tell myself the excellent haircut is “an investment” — or something like that. Heh — maybe I’m just kidding myself… 😉


namastemama December 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

By being frugal and sensible I can afford the salon. I have been going since I was 16 and had my first job. Broke college student- salon. Newly Married -salon. Forget finding a new doc or dentist when we move, I hate leaving my stylist.
You know Dave Ramsey’s four walls? Shelter,transportation, food, utilities. My #5 is the salon. Just for my hair. I love the hour or two I escape my kids, the scalp massage, the trashy mags, chatting it up with my stylist. They money I pay her is soooo worth it. One stylist I had did my hair for free because she got so many referrals from me. My sis comes down from Chicago so my stylist can cut her hair. Plus it’s cheaper down here.
I have grown my hair and even quit coloring it for a while last winter. This stretches my appointments out.
When I am old and have more time and money, I will be one of those old ladies with a standing appointment at the salon. Can’t wait!
In the meantime, I will settle under the blankets in my 60 degree house saving my pennies for my next visit!


Madeline December 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

Even in the midst of a frugal life I believe a few small splurges go a long way, so HappyMum, your haircut is an investment in your self esteem,I say go for it.

Otherwise,I find NOT SHOPPING saves me a bundle. For 2013 I need to plan meals better–I purchase too much at once. I often have mystery food in the freezer..goal is to use it all up in January.

I’d also like to STOP buying ANY craft supplies.I believe I have enough supplies to last me through many crafty projects all through 2013.I have to IGNORE the Michael’s coupon in the sunday paper!!

Happy Holidays to everyone and thanks for blogging for us,Katy!!!!


Koliti December 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

The latest thing I’ve said “No” to is my newspaper subscription. I used to get only the Sunday paper delivered. Several weeks ago I thought, “Why am I getting the Sunday paper? I feel obligated to read it because I paid for it, I put half of it in the recycle bin before I even look at it because I don’t read those sections (sports and certain store ads), and I don’t want or need anything so I don’t even want to look at the ads I thought I liked to look at, plus I’ve called way too many times complaining of where is my paper or why is the paper in my one and only planter of flowers”? So I picked up the phone and cancelled my subscription – and right away I felt LIBERATED!
Now for FREE, I can go on-line to check their ads for rummage/yard sales (this is where I find inspiration). I haven’t missed the Sunday paper at all – unfortunatley there is no shortage of “news” on the radio or t.v.


tna December 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Read “Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity”
Lester R. Brown
Found it at the library and it will be shaping my food and living habits in the future. Lots of really good information.


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