Remember, I haven’t been frugal all my life. There have been many things bought that I just had to have. Over the years, I’ve learned to curb back, with the occasional splurge. Now, the things I do on this list are just a way of life for me.
1. I don’t buy lottery tickets. Even when the Mega Millions jackpot hit $656 million, I refused. For those who buy only $2 worth of tickets every week, that’s still $104 per year. Take your pick: for me, that’s a month of gasoline, groceries, or money in my savings account. When I told this to one of my friends, she said, “You know someone is frugal when they don’t buy special occasion lottery tickets.” I’ll take that as a compliment.
2. I cut off the ends of a tube of hand lotion so I can get the last bits out of the other end when it’s too difficult to squeeze. This way, I get use out of the tube for 3 days if it’s small, up to a week if it’s larger.
3. I still do my laundry at my mom’s, thus saving lots of laundromat quarters. I admit it, and I use the Asian card to get away with this. An Asian child never really moves out of their parent’s house. But believe me, I do the laundry myself! The added bonus is that I get to visit my retired mother once a week and usually help her with other household things.
4. I opened a separate Chase Freedom checking account so I could get their $200 bonus. I already have a checking account at my credit union with which I am perfectly happy, but I couldn’t pass this up. Chase had a limited-time offer for this back in April, so now it’s back down to $100. So what if I have to declare it as interest income on my taxes? That’s free money. Some may consider this to fall into the “Time is money” scenario, but I pretty much got $200 for the 20 minutes it took me to set up an account and direct deposit ($500 direct deposit minimum for no service charges).
5. I pay $14 per month for broadcast cable. It’s broadcast cable, not basic. My provider is Time Warner, which means I get channels 1-33. This cuts me off at CSPAN; I don’t get Bravo, CNN, A&E or Food Network. But with my broadcast cable service comes free OnDemand, which includes all the basic channels. This is how I legally watch Mad Men, Justified, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead for FREE, as long as I watch them within the window of time they’re available (anywhere from 2 weeks to months). They will normally post 24 hours after airing for AMC shows, and 1 week after for F/X. I have a full enough schedule that I don’t need to watch more TV than I’m already doing.
6. Instead of throwing away that last bit of a bar of soap, I toss it in the handsoap dispenser on my bathroom sink. It dissolves eventually. No one ever looks in there, except to refill the thing. And that person that refills would be me anyway.
7. I get my hair cut twice per year. It’s a standing joke with my hairstylist, whom I adore. But considering I’ve referred about half a dozen people to him who are now also his regular customers, I don’t feel too badly. Also, he only costs $30 and I give him a $10 tip. For the length of my hair and this city, $40 for a women’s haircut and style is unheard of unless you go to Supercuts.
8. I don’t have a smart phone. I currently use the Everything Messaging Plan on Sprint, which is $49.99 per month, less 22% because of my employer group discount plan. Now that Sprint is carrying the iPhone, I may eventually cave and get their $79.99 Everything Data Plan, but for now I’m perfectly satisfied just using my phone for texting and actual phone calls.
9. I will eat food somewhat past its expiration date. Obviously I can use my sense of smell to judge as well. As long as the yolk of an egg is intact when cracked, I’ll eat it. If there is no visible mold on an expired block of cheese, I’ll eat it, or cut out the moldy part if it’s a hard block. I’ll keep stuff indefinitely in the freezer. If I cook something and it tastes freezer burned, I’ll throw it out, but I haven’t poisoned myself yet.
10. I refuse to pay for parking. Los Angeles is the capital of valet parking. I’d rather walk 2 blocks (and get some exercise!) than essentially throw away money. There have been quite a few times when my friends say they don’t want to walk because they’re wearing heels. To that, I say, if you know you’re going to be walking, wear the appropriate footwear. (Yes, I do own and wear heels if the situation fits.) I also say that if I ever come into a large sum of money to invest, I’m buying parking lots in this town.
11. I drive a 1995 Honda Accord. It has 205,000 miles on it and my goal is to drive it until 2015. As long as the thing moves without pushing it, I’m going to drive it. It gets an oil change every 3,000 miles, a new air filter quarterly (this is key to decent gas mileage in Los Angeles), and keep the tires properly inflated, as well as all requisite tune-ups. It also helps that I only drive about 8,000 miles a year. Of course, if I ever need roadside assistance, I’m a member of the Auto Club of Southern California (AAA), which will give me a free 7-mile tow, a jump or drive a new battery out to me.
What are the frugal things that you do to keep dollars in your pocket or stretch them further?