Instead of a brain, a cash register; instead of a heart, a bottom line

January 15, 2008

There has been some talk about money and the spending of it on the blogs I read as of late. Actually, more of the talk has been about how not to spend it. Chloe wrote about it here and here. And then Sherry wrote about it today.

Anyway, let me tell you about my newest recipe success. Just joking! I want to talk about money too!

I enjoy being frugal (or a total tight-wad, as I prefer to call myself). I find a huge amount of satisfaction in saving money and in being a low spender. My mom commented over Christmas break that I seem to have inherited my Grannie’s frugal genes (thank you, Grannie!).

Here are a few of the things that work for me:

– I will return anything. If it doesn’t fit, if it breaks, tears, or is otherwise damaged, it goes back. If I decide I don’t like, it goes back. I toss all my receipts in my dressing table drawer, so it’s there if I need to return anything. I just refuse to pay money for something that doesn’t perform. Even without a receipt, though, you can usually return things. Even if I lose a bit of money doing that, I ‘d rather sacrifice $2 and get the rest of my money back than have an item that will sit in a closet until I take it to Goodwill.

– I shop a lot, but I don’t feel like I have to buy something. I’ve heard that some people feel compelled to have something to show for their shopping hours, but I’m happy to just have some time to myself to admire things I like and get a sense for what is available. Shopping doesn’t have to mean spending. For this reason, I prefer to shop alone or with Bart (since he is happy when I don’t buy something).

– I read a book recently that mentioned in passing that one of the only places she spent money was on “everyday luxuries” like $8 toothpaste. As for me, I try and spend as little as possible on those things – I buy the store-brand of almost everything or wait for things to go on sale.

– When I do spend money, I look for ways to keep the bill as low as possible by using coupons or watching for sales. When I buy makeup, for instance, I almost never do so without a coupon since Ulta sends me one practically every other week. Also, Kmart often has coupons for cosmetics and other items. If I can get a gift card by switching my prescriptions to another pharmacy, I do it. When I buy a little bit more pricey things (like higher quality shampoo), I use gift cards I got by taking online polls. I always do the surveys they give me at Old Navy or Gap in exchange for a 10% off coupon. If I buy something at full price (which is rare), I’ll watch for it to go on sale and then go in and have them adjust my price. We try to only go to the movie theater (the dollar theater) on 50 cent night or during matinรฉe times.

– I take advantage of free things like the library. I do not buy books for myself. We don’t have bookshelf room for them anyway, and I read so many books that it would cost a fortune to buy them all. We also canceled Netflicks because our library has a good movie collection, you can get RedBox movies for free if you check for codes, and we have friends who lend us movies. We don’t even have TIME for Netflicks.

– I have a budget for groceries and I am absolutely rigid about not going over it – I will readjust my menu at the grocery store if it means I don’t have to buy a $6 jar of a spice that I’ll use once. This week, I chose to forgo the Spaghetti Squash dish I was going to make since the squash were $4 each. Wrong – I do not buy vegetables that cost more than meat. I try and make at least one vegetarian meal a week, so we don’t go through as much meat (and when we do eat meat, I try to stretch it more by having pasta, rice, or salad with it). I buy very little junk and snack foods because they are pricey too. And I try not to make return visits in between my once every eight days trip (this is the hardest part for me since Bart and I like to make desserts or snacks in the evenings or on weekends).

– And my guilty secret, the one that makes me ashamed of myself for being so ridiculous? I watch the checker ring up every item at the grocery store and I’ll make her change anything that is wrong. I know it’s only thirty or forty cents, but it does add up. I have a good memory for how much everything cost on the shelves, so I know when it’s wrong and some items are wrong every. single. time (ground turkey and cream cheese are a dime more when they ring up always).

– We budget quarterly or so, just to check on how we are doing and I try to track things pretty closely in Quicken, but we don’t use a monthly budget. We have very few bills (mortgage, electric, gas, water, internet, and phones) and then a $50 “fun” budget each, so our monthly spending doesn’t fluctuate very much. We try to use our heat/AC as little as possible and keep our showers short and the lights off. I prefer not to budget meticulously and be meticulous instead about keeping our standard bills as low as I can.

What do you do to keep your spending in control? Any great ideas? Share, share!

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  • Reply Sheyenne January 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    You are my kind of woman. I do pretty much all those exact same things. I don’t have a set monthly budget, but I spend as little as possible on things, leave a cushion in the bank account for misc., and then put whatever’s left in savings. Great minds think alike. (for the most part- I feel ashamed for taking credit for being frugal after my blog post yesterday, but that was an exception, not the rule)

  • Reply Ralphie January 15, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Eat cereal. Lots, and lots of cereal.

  • Reply G January 16, 2008 at 12:52 am

    I echo Sheyenne. I do just about everything you said!

    I know you’re pretty good at this, but I would add do-it-yourself stuff. We maintain/repair our own cars, mow our own lawn, sew things ourselves, etc etc. We’re currently building our own bookshelf and I intend to tile my own bathroom. You learn and you save!

  • Reply Nic January 16, 2008 at 1:24 am

    This is an area where I need to grow and learn. I’m totally going to start doing some of these things. Thanks!

  • Reply David Grover January 16, 2008 at 3:12 am

    Wait, I get it–it’s, uh, Sleepless in Seattle, right? No–it’s Joe Versus the Volcano.

  • Reply Alison January 16, 2008 at 3:18 am

    You should check out It makes the most out of coupons. I have been saving bunches since i started. Put my e mail ( in as a reference. Also

  • Reply janet January 16, 2008 at 4:32 am

    a girl after my own heart! Except I am not nearly as militant as you, which makes me a little bit jealous.

    My tips are: just don’t go shopping. If you aren’t in a place that sells things, you can’t buy things now can you? (My downfall is online shopping!)

    Buy generic, buy on sale, and don’t buy a lot of meat. If I could convince husband to go vegetarian we’d be rich a lot sooner in life!

    I try to only buy things that are on a “list”. And when something is on the list, I can comparison shop for weeks! months even! before buying. This way I know I’m getting the best deal.

    I pack my lunch almost every day, which saves a ton of money when you think about it.

    Those are just off the top of my head! I should adopt some of yours though. Nice job.

  • Reply Noelle January 16, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I am impressed that Grover caught your total chick flick movie quote for a title. Kudos Grover. (Well, I assume that he caught it with his allusions, cuz he’s just smart like that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am the same way Janssen. I will totally watch all the gas stations in town and find the lowest one before I fuel up. Make a pot of soup once a week and freeze one serving in several little containers for lunches–works great in the winter!

  • Reply David Grover January 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Yeah, it’s totally from that one movie where the guy and the girl–you know they’re gonna get together –but like one has a fiance or maybe just a serious boy/girlfriend and the other won’t admit that s/he likes the other and comes off rude in the meantime, and just when they finally realize who they like and how little they care who thinks it, something HUGE gets in the way of their love and like they have to resolve it somehow. Oh, and I think there’s a music montage to that slow love song I really like, and a great kiss at the end.

  • Reply Jennifer Lee January 16, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    You are a genius. Thanks for all your tips. Sometimes I feel like the cheapest person ever when I hand a waiter a coupon or voucher, but then I think about that money I saved and suddenly “cheap” sounds an awful lot like “smart.”

  • Reply Noelle January 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Yeah Grover, I think you pretty much summed it up, without even using a single actor or character name.

    “You need quiet while a hot dog is singing?”

  • Reply Bethany January 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I don’t understand buying non-store brand items. I save so much money on medicine, food, shampoo, or whatever.

    Equate from walmart is the best.

    Unfortunately… then I have to shop at walmart.

    The price us cheapos pay.

  • Reply Mary January 16, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    I’m still working on the whole “save money and budget” thing. Now I think I’ll go watch “You’ve Got Mail” since that’s all I’ve been thinking about since seeing your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply She Likes Purple January 17, 2008 at 3:49 am

    My husband wishes you weren’t taken ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Really impressive. Be proud of you.

  • Reply She Likes Purple January 17, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Also, You’ve Got Mail is one of my top five favorite movies.

  • Reply Anonymous January 18, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Here are some more hints from a grandma who was once a young college student, then a bride, and then a mother with a very limited income. Also, as a child, I had the adage “waste not, want not” drilled into me.

    Use cloth rags and cloth napkins. Don’t buy them new if you don’t have them already. Look at yard and rummage sales for sheets, towels, fabric, old pj’s, etc. For that matter, shop at yard sales, rummage sales, thrift shops. And, teach the men and children not to use your good towels for rags! Okay, you can use paper napkins and paper towels for really messy things!

    Make your own cake, cookie, and pudding mixes. (Let me know if you need help.) If you bake quite a bit, buy flour and sugar in 25 or 50 pound bags. Keep powdered milk and powdered buttermilk on hand.

    Spend the money on really good airtight containers. I’ve had some of mine for at least 35 years! They pay for themselves in keeping moisture and bugs out

    Make your own salad dressings.

    Buy a few glass refrigerator dishes with tight lids. (Kmart and Walmart often have them on sale.) They go from freezer/frig to microwave to table and back to frig.

    Usually, you can use half the amount of laundry and dishwasher detergent that is recommended.

    Turn off the heat coil or sanitizer in your dishwasher (unless someone is sick).

    Hang up woven fabric shirts and slacks to dry or partial dry in dryer and then hang them up. Use the delicate setting on the dryer.

    Go together with friends to buy bulk. Share, trade, or divide up spices and herbs, cereal, macaroni, butter, cheese, laundry detergent…

    Try growing cilantro, chives, parsley, garlic, onions, etc. Dry the extras and give as gifts. Grow your own tomatoes in big pots if you don’t have a garden spot.

    If you have freezer room make your own pie crusts, noodle dough or noodles, spaghetti sauce, beef, ham, and chicken broth, soups, burritos, white sauce, and cheese sauce, etc. Don’t freeze cooked hamburger by itself. Nasty!!! If you buy a deep freezer, get an upright instead of a chest.

    Store nuts in the frig in airtight containers. Butter can be frozen. Cheese (cheddar, Swiss, Montery, mozarella, and cottage cheese can be frozen and used in cooking. Overripe bananas can be frozen and used later for bread or cake.

    Cook your own dried beans and lentils. (Sort, rinse with cold water, put in a pot with lots of broth or water. Bring to a full boil; turn down and simmer until tender. Add onions and tomatoes at the end.) Use these for refried beans, chili, soup, baked beans, etc. They freeze well, also.

    If you can use a sewing machine, watch for fantastic fabric sales and make your own gift bags. Just ask your friends and family to reuse them. Please note, tho, that little kids (and the big “kids” in my family feel quite cheated if they don’t get their presents wrapped in real wrapping paper.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Call your local grocery store and ask about case discounts for canned goods, TP, paper towels, diapers and sanitary products. Sometimes you can save more than buying on sale at a “discount” store! Just remember that you have to have a place to store all that bulk!

    One last item – Janssen, I cannot imagine how a book lover like you could not have bookcases filled and overflowing with books.


  • Reply Kristi January 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I go to long boring HOA meetings in hopes that I will be one of the lucky eight who get a free months worth of dues….I didn’t. Dang.

    Also, this is weird, but I bought something at JC Penney online and they sent me this thing for, they would give me ten dollars to try this program out for a month (the month was free). I signed up and it was pretty cool — the main thing we got were $25 gas cards for $20. You were limited to nine of them per quarter, but since I had a free month that is $45 of free gas! Plus the $10, plus they have other gift cards for that same bargain….like Barnes and Noble, itunes, etc. Then they are attached to the happenings book so you can print off coupons (melting pot was on there!) for restaurants, etc. Oh yes, and they sell discount movie tickets. Anyway, it was definitely worth it for the free month… not sure if we are keeping it yet or not (it is $10a month, but in theory we would save that plus $5 just in the gas cards every month). Anyway, that was random.

    And where does one buy powdered buttermilk, I looked all over HEB the other day to no avail.

  • Reply Anonymous January 19, 2008 at 3:08 am

    I usually find powered buttermilk wth the baking stuff or where the evaporated and regular powered milk are. The brand I use is SACO. King Arthur’s Flour sells it also, but it is more expensive than the grocery store.

    If the powered buttermilk is kept dry and cool, it will keep for two to three years. (Don’t tell the manufacturers!)

  • Reply Alicia January 26, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Ooh, ooh, I know that quote! e cheers for Meg Ryan!

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