November 26, 2018

Your Best Frugal Ideas

Frankly, by now I shouldn't be surprised that the topic of frugality is always so popular. The recent blog post, Retirement and Frugality generated lots of views and some very interesting comments. I think we determined that frugality isn't being cheap, it is being a wise steward of our resources.

A few readers suggested I have a post with nothing but ideas, tips, and ways of being both retired and frugal. Sure, why not. I know there is a real interest in how retirees spend our free time, what part volunteerism plays in our lives, and the frugal lifestyle choices we make. So, this could be quite instructive.

I am turning the rest over to you. Think about anything and everything you do to stay within budget and make the most of whatever you choose to spend. Is your focus in the area of budgeting to control income and outgo?

How about food purchase and preparation? How to you make sure money you spend at the grocery store doesn't end up in the garbage? Do you grow some of your own food? Are your menu choices made with frugality in mind?

How about clothing and home furnishings, entertainment choices, and transportation? One car or two, or none? Streaming services, library DVDs, over the air TV...or no TV? Do you listen to music often? What's your source: the radio, streaming music services (the free version!), old school records?

Books from the library or garage sales? Passed from friend to friend so only one copy must be purchased? Newspapers delivered or only read on-line?
Health and exercise: How do you keep medical expenses under control? Gym membership or a walk and bike regime instead? Drugs from Canada or a pill splitter? Using free clinics?

How about hobbies? Doing what you enjoy, find enriching, and making your free time a joy are a very important part of retirement. But, lots of pastimes can be expensive. How do you deal with this frugality?

You get the idea. I thought wrapping gifts in newspapers was kind of over-the-edge, but I was promptly corrected. So, I am no judge whatsoever.

Educate me!


  1. Here are my top three:

    1. Cook at home. Premeditate leftovers before shopping so that food doesn't get wasted - the most expensive food you buy is the stuff that's thrown away.

    2. Save all the change you receive. At the end of each day, throw all your change into a jar - it's surprising how fast it adds up. For the past couple of years we saved both change and $1 bills, and put it toward our travel. We saved around $800 each year and covered a few of our Airbnb stays.

    3. Designate one day a week as a "no drive" day and leave your car parked in the garage. That's 52 days a year the car isn't being used, or over seven weeks, which saves on gas and other wear and tear.

    1. I always judge a day to be a success when I do not leave the house in a car. Walking or a bike ride doesn't count!

      We will usually cook 3 fresh meals a week and have 3 leftovers (plus one night at daughter's house) left over from the fresh meals the week before. It works well to keep the budget under control.

  2. Really looking forward to seeing everyone's replies since it is such an important topic. Here are some of my favorite savings/frugality tips:

    1. Dropped the expensive satellite TV service this year and moved to streaming TV, specifically DirecTV Now. Besides saving money you can watch the stream on any device (TV, PC, tablet, phone, etc). And instead of premium service like HBO I signed up for the old Netflix DVD mailings (yep, a few million people still use the old tried and true DVDs, the only way you can get some movies), and supplement that with our Amazon Prime video membership.

    2. We buy vehicles new, pay cash unless someone gives us a zero or near zero interest loan, that have a specific purpose at that time, and hold onto them as long as possible. Currently have a 2012 F-150 Supercrew with 90K miles and a 2007 H3 with 86K miles. Both are running fine and we have no plans to change them out since they are a truck and a modified truck respectively, which means they will last longer than cars. Living in the South helps with the rust, and we wouldn't think of driving to the North or upper Midwest during the winter.

    3. While we tend to eat out a lot, we very seldom do so unless we have some sort of discount, special, or anything that will bring down the price. And in some cases we have found that fast or faster food establishments can meet or exceed the taste of full service restaurants at a much lower cost. For example, Hardee's has in my estimation great burgers and Captain D's tilapia is at least as good as places like Cracker Barrel. And even better is that many of the fast food places are getting healthier fare, like grilled fish instead of just battered.

    4. By having a larger house we are able to take advantage of tremendous sales. That includes both food items (large pantry and second freezer helps) and things like liquid detergent, although I believe we have about ten years worth of detergent right now. Anything that starts to get out of hand gets donated to local charities who very much appreciate the items.

    5. Have always loved libraries and even though our local one is small they surprisingly have a number of the books I want. Whenever I get mailings from Amazon and others for particular books they know I like, I'll check the catalog first at the library and get it for free if available.

    6. Do all the outside work myself and as much of the repairs and possible. That means all the mowing, collecting 3-4 acres of leaves in the Fall, pruning all the bushes and the like, taking down trees myself unless they are really big or really difficult, and as much in the way of home repairs as my knowledge will let me.

    I won't hog your blog topic, Bob, but will wait to hear others tips. Hopefully we can all learn something new.

    1. I like all of your ideas, but three resonate most strongly with me. I see notification of a new book that looks interesting. The first stop is the library's web page. Usually, the book is available, albeit after a wait for others who have put it on hold. But, that is fine since I always have 8 or 9 books in my hold queue.

      We dumped cable 5 years ago and DirecTV 2 years ago. Now, only streaming and free live local channels for us.

      Betty and I are fans of Happy Hours at local restaurants. Appetizers are usually plenty for dinner, especially when half price! Most restaurants serve ridiculously large portions for entrees, though that can become another meal at home.

  3. Favorite frugal living ideas of ours:

    1. REally getting organized with grocereies saves a ton of money! Make a menu plan every week,grocery shop once, cook it, eat it! Have a file of maybe 10 recipes you love, and just rotate through them. We also plan for a lunch out every week as our treat. Also, I spend a little MORE on groceries sometimes for special meals, so we can avoid that "needing to go out to a restaurant for a good meal" feeling. For instance,I will splurge on the rack of lamb at Trader Joe, pop it into oven for a special dinner at home.Waaay less than ordering rack of lamb in a restaurant plus tip. For health,we mostly eat vegetarian, with meat or fish maybe once a week.That's also frugal. Beans and lentils = pretty inexpensive and tasty.

    2. Use all our city services:Parks,libraries,free art fairs, concerts,etc. Check out your city services!!!!!

    3. Amazon prime: yes,it costs money but Ken fixes EVERYTHING around our house, pool,garden, and is often ordering special parts. Free shipping,free books for kindle every month, amazon prime videos and movies keep us entertained without cable.I think the $ per year is worth it.

    4. : to find free activities with like minded people.Found a great hobby group that meets right here in Gilbert weekly, have made a bunch of new friends who loves arts and crafts like I do!

    5. Consignmnent stores:I still like to shop for clothes now and then, but never ever buy retail anymore.Found TURNSTYLE, a better-quality resale store with yummy items on the cheap.I also recycle clothes I am done with so often get "credit" to spend!

    6. Rethink travel. We took a couple of more expensive trips in early retirement that i don't really think were worth the money. Research and look at what you really want to experience.I am finding I enjoyed the U.S.A. trips and same old beaches like Puerto Vallarta,more than the exotic /more expensive excursions. Rediscovered camping too. Airbnb keeps hotel costs at bay..we never use hotels anymore. ALso discovered we do NOT ike beign gone form hyome very long. A 3 day trip refreshes, a week long trip is REALLY exciting, 2 weeks?? --not very often! More USA trips on our agenda!

    1. Especially at this time of year, our area (as Madeline well knows) has so many activities to choice from, being bored is your own fault. Parks and walking paths along the canals are perfect when it is 70 degrees on a November afternoon.

      Amazon Prime is worth every penny, not only for the convenience and saving on gas and car use, but Prime Video has become quite good. It isn't quite up to Netflix standards yet, but getting there.

      What we spent on the European river cruise last May would have funded two months in Hawaii or 10 long weekend trips. I think we got that type of expense out of our system.

  4. 1-An envelope for almost everything. When the money sits for two months it is swept into savings.....We pay our property, insurance and car taxes outright, saving us several hundred a year.
    2- The library is great about ordering books suggested. My husband used to spend several hundred on books each year. Now he has the library order them. Our library has a policy that if you ask and they order, you will be the first to read that book!
    3- TP/dish soap/ laundry detergent bought in bulk on sale (we don't do the inexpensive stuff to save).
    4- We cook four meals a week. Only the steak does not have left overs. Otherwise what we have on Monday, we have again on Wednesday, Tuesday/ Thursday, Friday/Sunday. It works for us at this stage in life. Our eating out money now goes to family gatherings.
    5- get a good home thermostat and control the heat/cool during peak hours.
    6- Cash back card. We make more money off that then the interest on our savings in the bank :)
    Otherwise we are in the non frugal part of our retirement. Lots of US trips, our first major trip overseas in 20 years, family presents. It will settle down---but this is what we saved for!

    1. #2..really? I didn't know that. I will try, though my library system is quite good at having the newer stuff right away.

      A grilled cheese sandwich and cup of soup or small salad is a solid dinner for us, once a week or so. Cooking and cleanup are simple.

  5. I echo most everything that has been said. Our biggest frugal move this year has been to divest ourselves of the old second car. I rarely drove it; sometimes, I would back it out of the garage and park in the driveway just to move it. It's gone and so is the insurance, tag, and gas associated with it. We've been using one car essentially for a couple of years, and it's worked out great. If we absolutely need another vehicle, we'll get one, but I don't think we will.
    I was a big fan of Amy Dacyczyn in the 90s. I have every single copy of her newsletter The Tightwad Gazette. Most of the tips are outdated now, but the principles she espoused are just as pertinent today as then.

    My wife and I read Joshua Becker and his website and follow as much as we can his great advice. Although he isn't strictly "frugal," the philosophies he espouses are. I recommend his website and his books. BTW, he is in the Phoenix area.
    We have a cash back credit card that we pay off every month, share meals at restaurants, and often don't drive for a day. My wife is much more content with staying home for days at a time, while I get antsy and have to get out. I do much of the shopping to satisfy that, and I go to our libraries a lot.
    There are many ways to save money as retired folks!

    1. We have been without two cars for about 18 months but think we are going to have to go back to a second car early next year. We both have enough commitments that one car has proven to be a problem. Our current vehicle is 8 years old so when it dies we should be OK with just one.

      I have read Joshua's material over the years, but had no idea he was local.

    2. Have you considered using Lyft or Uber instead if your car sharing conflicts are infrequent? We also use public transportation or ask someone else headed to the same event for a ride. So far so good with one car 19 months in.

    3. We ALMOST went to one car. Left the second older car alone, not using it for 2 whole months, then Ken caved. He is the one who wants the flexibility.I still think we can do with one!! Maybe another try in 2019!!!

    4. Betty has volunteered for something at church that will involve a lot of back and forth trips starting in january through May, more than Uber can make up for. It is very important to her, so we will get the second car. I know it will sit unused 90% of the time.

  6. 1. Look around your home and evaluate what can be re used and repurposed for other things, and I don't just mean cutting clothing into rags. Hint: Here's where the comic book wrapping comes in. While I recut things like old cotton shirts into matching cloth napkins it doesnt take craftiness or skill to use yarn in stead of ribbon, comics for wrapping paper, use red colored glasses and accessories for christmas decorations, save your leaves so you don't have to buy mulch, and so on.

    2. Take advantage of grocery sales and competition and basic food organization to cut down on food prices but eat well. Learn to eat, repurpose or freeze leftovers so no food is thrown out.

    3. Know what the "best price" on things, especially food and home supplies are, and buy a bunch when they are at the lowest price. Even singles and couples can save a ton of money by buying boneless chicken breasts when they are $150 (or whatever your lowest price is) and buying enough so you dont have to buy until they go on sale again, or enough TP or dog food to keep you till another sale since most big sales are quarterly.

    4. Spend the time to find those really cheap and free things in your community beyond the library and free park type styff. Every commnity (including the really rural ones I expect) have things that are mainly free or dirt cheap, be the festivals, outdoor concerts, craft fairs, christmas marets or the like. And other things will be extremely cheap or the cost of a hot dog/pretzel and a drink.

    5. While a deal isn't a deal if you won't use it or want it, Groupon and the like have their purposes. Especially for things you want to try first, and special one time events like a spa gift for a family member or a wine and chocolate tasting.

    6. Recognize that most of us probably have a lots of time. decide when you are willing to use that time to save money-be it cooking from scraatch, volunteering at an event so you can attend for free or something similar.

    7. Save the money spending for the times it REALLY makes a difference in your personal perspective which will be different for all. for me, fast food, pizza delivery, Panera type restarants and even Olive garden are not necessarily worth the difference between eating at home unless a friend really wants to go. On the other hand, I am happy to not do all that so I can eat a few times a year in a really good TV chef gourmet type restaurant. Nice hotels DO Matter. Around the house clothes...Eh.

    8. Use meetup or put the word out on your Next Door site, local Facebook site, church or whatever to find people to do things with. It will be cheaper, if it's a hobby or interest you'll probably find people willing to share expertise for free, and trade and swap supplies and parts.

    9. Depending on your budget and income, decide when spending oney will save money or do other quality things in the long run. Because I have both prime and netflix I don't drive to shop hardly ever, do a lot of self entertaining especially in the cold weather and have access to other services I would not have-just as an example.

    1. A whole list of excellent though starters. Yarn instead of ribbon - I never would have thought of that.

      Yours is the second reference to I will have to take a fresh look. Last time I checked I was just too busy to add something else, but that isn't the case now. It is amazing how many different interests are represented.

      I have receieved some really good Groupon deals, but you are right, it is easy to grab a great deal on something you really don't need or want.

    2. I so agree with your #7 "Save the money spending for the times it REALLY makes a difference in your personal perspective ...". I would only add to also SAVE the money for those unexpected and unavoidable expenses that always appear.

  7. Interesting ideas here. We use Amazon Prime for sooo many things. It is worth it!

    I love to cook so I do the grocery shopping. We have a wholesale meat market here that saves us a ton of $$. Not just meats but, also some frozen foods that we like. I can stock up for over a week and spend maybe $50. In the summer we have great little roadside markets for fresh produce.

    The movie theater here has 'Tightwad Tuesdays' and that's when we usually go. Then we stop and get a pizza on the way home.

    I just got a 'new to me' car that was a great deal. It's an '18 Hyundai Elantra with less than 10k miles on it, and it was a steal. I used to sell them when I was in internet sales. We've been using one car since we moved to Cape May but, sometimes it's good to have 2. So, Dave's going to clean up the EOS and sell it, then he'll get a little MG or Triumph to run around in. The gas mileage on the Elantra is so helpful!

    Most of our travel is to visit friends in Florida during the winter. We were planning a river cruise, which I would still like to do but, Dave's knee surgery made that shift to maybe next year. I really want to visit Monet's Garden and Dave wants to see Normandy.

    As for books...I think buying them is a great idea. It keeps my shelves full and, now that my own is coming out, I want the sales. ;) Thanks for your great review, Bob!

    1. RE: your are welcome, and best of luck.

      One of our movie theater chains has a before noon deal that is hard to beat. The other large chain shows classic movies (meaning 20-40 years old) on Tuesday nights for $5. Even though most are on Netflix or Prime, sometimes it is good to get out of the house and see something on a big screen.

  8. I bought a very cheap ($25,000), small, 1950 well built house in a very low cost of living area. I did put a new metal roof on it for $2,000. My taxes are under $400 a yr. I drive a basic Toyota Yaris. I think if you can control your housing and transportation expenses it goes a long way. I use the $5 off $25 at Dollar General for cat and dog food, canned goods, hair and makeup products. I also use Walmart and thrift stores. I do not have a tv. I read free books from the free lil library at the local laundrymat. I seldom eat out and it usually is at Captain D's when I do.I walk and swim at local state and national forests/parks.I usually "vacation" every few yrs visiting my daughter, who lives 2,000 miles away. Since she is pregnant, I foresee this expense tripling. lol.If I am going to take the time and expense to take a trip, it is going to be to see her.

    1. You take cutting unnecessary expenses seriously....good for you. There are two Dollar Stores within 10 minutes of us but I never think about them for simple stuff like aluminum foil or hair shampoo, trash bags, or certain canned goods. This post has brought them back within my focus.

  9. We use streaming TV and piggyback off our daughter's Amazon so we don't pay for that one. We use our electric car for around town and "fill up" at our local library for free. We occasionally buy books, but mostly use the library. Our phones are pretty inexpensive ($44 a month for two), we turn our thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer. We use rewards cards (never carry a balance) and use the cash back for gifts. We shop grocery sales. I usually by my clothes at thrift stores.


    1. Thanks, Sheila. Our local library has a few charging stations, too. Unfortunately, I rarely see them being used.

  10. For us, everything else is small potatoes compared to downsizing from 3000 sf to 2000 sf in a nearby but lower-tax state. Approx. savings: $8,000/yr in real-estate tax; $2,000/yr. in state income tax; $1,000/yr in state sales tax; $1,000/yr heating bills. And we also drive a car that gets at least 30 mpg ... which saves us, maybe $200/yr. but also makes us feel a little better about our carbon footprint.

    1. That was quite a rewarding move, Tom. $12,000 is quite impressive.

      Our next car is likely to be a Hyundai Accent. We rented one while in Portland this summer and really enjoyed it. The 35 miles per gallon didn't hurt, either. All we will use it for are errands and appointments around town, so the size is perfect.

      We have considered a Prius, but the $2,500- $3,000 for a replacement battery pack stopped us cold.

    2. Bob, Prius batteries are now warranteed for a minimum of 8 years/100,000 miles. Our 2017 Prius is actually warranteed for 10 years/150,000 miles.

    3. Oh, that's good to know. A Prius was our first choice.

  11. We do a lot of the things listed above and many others.

    I have to put in a plug for really learning what your local library can do for you. If they don't have a book most participate in inter-library loan and for a dollar or 2 you can get the book from another library. My library has free movie streaming and music downloads as well as access to many databases such as magazines, genealogy and foreign language learning programs. Free live musical performances, Maker Mondays for crafters and more. If you want to entertain grandchildren there are usually a plethora of programs for children and teens.

    Try thrift shops or Friends of the Library book sales for great buys on books, CDs, DVDs and much more. I just picked up 8 CDs for $1 each. Or go to the website for little free libraries ( to find the ones near where you live or where you are traveling. Take a book you have finished to trade for a new to you one.

    1. Look for less expensive, equal quality substitutions. For example a DIL was complaining about the cost of greeting cards and I jumped in the the Trader Joe's has them for $1 to which my 90 year old aunt said "99 cents to be exact". I just bought a variety of types of cards for 10 cents each at my Friends of the Library book store as a stocking stuffer for that DIL.
    2. Spend you money where your priorities are. We contribute to our granddaughter's college fund and shop sales for things that aren't a priority.
    3. Ask for discounts. Even my pharmacy has come up with money off coupons for expensive prescriptions.
    4. If you have any sort of college or university nearby you probably have access to lots of free or low cost entertainment, sporting events and/or interesting talks. High school performances and sporting events can also be fun.
    5. Before you go shopping for a household item, clothing or other things ask yourself why you are going shopping. Are you bored, just saw and ad and it triggered a desire, etc. Can you use something you already have? Could you get what you need at a thrift or consignment store or Habitat ReStore?

    So many ways to spend less and still have a great lifestyle.

    1. I want to add, if you need something expensive be willing to consider putting the word out that you will take it off someone else's hands. It is hard to get rid of furniture, heavy tools, etc. We just cleared my FIL's apartment and had to pay to have the sofa and some other items hauled away. However a like new mattress went to a son & DIL, an adjustable bed frame to a friend of theirs, a beautiful cabinet and a new TV to us, lamps and end tables to a cousin, etc. We just wanted someone to make use of the items.

    2. Since I am now a member of the Board of Directors of our local Friends of the Library I appreciate your shoutout to the public libraries in our communities. Today, they are so much more than books. Our goal is to really become a community gathering place for job training, coffee shop, music and lectures, computer access and training and book sales.

      Some great ideas, Juhli.

    3. Along those lines, for those who do face book I'll put in a plus for buy nothing groups-completely different from freecycle or craigslist cause they are neigborhood specific and you can put out a wish or a gift. Just got a toaster oven that way.

  12. Great suggestions, everyone!

    This is hyper-specific but on my mind because I just switched (and we all have cell phones): Time-Warner Cable, now rebranded as Spectrum, just introduced their own mobile service, which runs on the top-tier Verizon network. Their differentiator? Like everyone else, you get unlimited calls and texts, but unlike everyone else, you can buy the service per gigabyte of data (streaming music, videos, etc.), at $14 a gigabyte/month. I rarely go over a single gigabyte, so my new monthly mobile bill is $14 -- try to beat that! I got Spectrum's high-speed Internet service at the same time, at half the previous AT&T service charge. This is a really competitive area, so it pays to check your alternatives occasionally.

    1. Unfortunately, Phoenix is not very competitive in terms of Internet: one OK but badly over-priced company, and one not all that dependable for about half as much.

      That is a great phone deal.

    2. If you have Comcast/Xfinity it's the same thing. My phone bill, even with paying for a Samsung 9plus was 45 bucks last month-and since Xfinity has their own network I can often get free wifi out among the people wherever i am.

    3. We nabbed a good discount on internet by switching to Century Link from Cox. Went form almost 70 a month (so many rate hikes!!) with Cox JUST for internet, to $45 a moth for life with CL. We don't buy cable TV, so the "bundles" of services and that pricing do not help us.We just want internet. SO far, it's over a year and we have had no complaints with Century Link.

    4. I have read mixed reviews about Century Link's Internet, but maybe it is worth the try. After all, if I leave Cox and then want to come back I will get a new customer rate!

  13. I compost kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds, paper towels not used with cleaning agents and scraps of non-waxed cardboard. I use a simple plastic storage bin outside (bought on sale), drilled with holes and elevated on two bricks for aeration and with one brick on top to deter raccoons and such. I mix the compost in if I pot or repot a plant. (It is a small operation and doesn't produce great quantities although other people I know do huge bins.)

    My local grocery store places a shopping cart bargain bin at the front of the store. I always check it for highly discounted items. In Walmart I always check the discounted bread rack, where I often get Naan (Indian bread) or bake at home bread for half price. I store extras in the freezer in ziplocks. Kroger has a similar discounted bread rack. Both stores often have a separate location in the store for discounted items, which if I spot it, I'll check as well.

    As many have said, I maximize use of our public library. I'm fortunate because our's joined a several counties wide Golden Triange consortium for sharing books, and two universities are members, so I can usually get almost any book I want, or on any topic I get interested in. Although the consortium doesn't share DVDs, I frequently get DVDs in the local branches, most often of TV series which have been on premium channels.

    I don't have Medicare Part D, as I only take one Rx routinely, and it is very low cost. On occasion if I do have an Rx prescribed, I'll have the doctor give me a handwritten prescription. I'll then go to GoodRX and search for local price comparisons. Often discount manufacturer or store coupons will be there as well for a particular medication.

    I can't use up a half gallon and certainly not a gallon of milk before it begins to spoil, but they frequently go on sale. I'll buy them, but pour up 2 cup portions in recycled drink bottles or 1 qt portions in two jugs, then freeze them.

    Every once in a while I'll pretend I have no money or no ability to make it to the grocery store. I'll target getting through at least 2-3 weeks, or possibly a bit more without making a food shopping trip or pit stop for something I'm out of. This forces me into the recesses of my food cabinets and the bottom of the freezer for creative meals.

    1. I do use the discounted bakery bin in Walmart, unfortunately, too often for the dozen glazed donuts.

      Betty has mentioned starting a small compost bin. Yours seems super easy. I wonder how it would do in the super-heated Phoenix summers in terms of smell.

      Forcing yourself to depend on what is in the pantry and frig/freezer for a period of time is a good idea. Canned goods should be rotated out on a regular basis so that is an easy way to do so.

      I knew you'd have a list of great idea. Thank, B.E.

  14. I've learned some new frugal things from all the people who have commented. Here's mine.
    I drive a 14 year old car by choice.
    I cook for myself and bring homemade lunches to work.
    I stockpile items when they’re on sale.
    I go to estate sales in my area and look for pantry items such as aluminum foil, trash bags, etc. I recently bought a brand new bag of charcoal briquets, and new unopened decorative paper plates and napkins that I donated to my community for potlucks.
    I keep on top of loading my Safeway digital coupons and I always make sure I get that free weekly item. This week it’s a 10 oz. package of fresh asparagus, last week it was ice cream.
    I swing by the discount bin at Safeway and see if there’s anything worthwhile. I recently bought dried beans for soup, and tostada shells marked way down but plenty of shelf life left.
    I recently adopted the habit of using products sparingly rather than just out of control consumption.

    1. All good ideas. We had a 13 year old car until 18 month ago. When it finally started to have expensive issues we donated it to Goodwill. They receieved $500 for it at the auto auction....that was a good end to its long life.

      One nice perk of retirement: almost all lunches are at home. A sandwich, container of yogurt and glass of water is so much better than the $10 lunch at a restaurant.

  15. I also have to applaud our local library, as have several others. A new feature was recently introduced that will allow me to read many of my favorite magazines online, saving quite a bit on subscription costs.

    Alan and I have always worked hard to maintain an “exceptional” credit rating by managing our available credit well and never making a late payment. Our efforts paid off when we took out a loan to purchase a commercial rental property some years ago (immediate approval, no hassle or jumping through hoops, low loan rate) and when we needed to buy a new pickup truck in 2017 in an emergency situation while traveling (low loan rate of 2.24%). It was easier to finance the new truck on the spot and pay the loan off later. I still drive my 2007 Tahoe - it’s well maintained and I hope it will last several more years.

    In order to avoid major medical expenses and prescription drug costs, I eat well, get plenty of sleep and exercise on a regular basis. I know medical emergencies can occur (and have), but if good habits can help eliminate any (outrageously expensive) medical expenses, all the better.

    While buying expensive items such as bikes and kayaks isn’t exactly frugal, these activities bring enjoyment to our days and, hopefully, reduce our medical expenses by helping to keep us healthy.

    As outdoor enthusiasts, we often purchase annual passes for National and State Parks. With the passes, the cost per visit declines rapidly, allowing us to get outdoors and explore at a very reasonable cost on a regular basis.

    Alan is very mechanically inclined and can repair most household and garage items. When he’s not familiar with something, he’ll research it online and often figures out how to fix whatever has failed. (YouTube has been a boon for do-it-yourselfers!) This has saved us a huge amount of money in both repair and replacement costs over the years.

    We maintain three credit cards, pay them off in full every month and manage our purchases to maximize the cash rewards on each. We double up on savings, too . . . I’ll use my Discover card rewards to “buy” restaurant gift cards from Discover at a discount and pay any remaining balance due on the restaurant bill with my AARP VISA which earns a higher percentage of cash back at restaurants than my Discover card. When a retailer offers a sale on something I need, I’ll “buy” gift certificates for that retailer at a discount from Discover with my rewards, then go through Ebates to place my order, usually earning an additional 1% to 10% on the purchase. And I’ll use my AARP VISA (3% at restaurants) to buy gift cards at places we frequent when they’re having a special or bonus offer (buy $50 in gift cards and get a $10 bonus card).

    We do have an oil furnace for heat and hot water, but we also installed a woodstove in the basement when we built our house which has resulted in huge savings over the years. Wood warms you twice – once when you cut it and once when you burn it!

    When a pump bottle of moisturizer, for example, no longer pumps, I’ll slice off the top with a utility knife. You’d be amazed at how much product is left in this type of container!

    Our local dollar store (Dollar Tree) provides an exceptional value on certain items such as their very inexpensive Holiday wrapping paper - typically only between 2 and 3 cents per square foot. Note to Juhli: If you have a Dollar Tree near you, you may want to check there for greeting cards. Ours offers a lovely line from Hallmark at just 50 cents each.

    Finally, I use highway maps to wrap any non-Christmas gifts, and tie them with colorful curling ribbon that matches the map colors. The travel guides I request from various states often come with a state map. Since we use a road or truckers’ atlas when traveling, I recycle the maps into gift wrap and find rolls of curling ribbon (which last a long time) at department or party supply stores at a very reasonable price.

    Bob, I apologize for such a lengthy comment, but frugality is a subject that’s close to my heart - thanks to all for sharing!

    1. Don't apologize...give us more! Your ideas are right on the money (pun intended). Betty and I can do a much better job of using our credit cards to take advantage of the some of the "double-dipping" that you do with gift cards.

      Our FICO score is well over 800, so when we buy a new car next year I will probably be able to get cash back and a very low finance rate, then pay it all off a month or two later.

      I love the idea of road maps as wrapping paper. Gift paper is so ridiculously expensive for something that is instantly torn off and thrown away, old maps and comic pages from the paper make tremendous sense.

  16. So many good tips that I do as well - recycle, repurpose, shop at home, menu planning, buy in bulk with sales, no drive days, turn down the thermostat at night, supplement natural gas heat with wood stove, grow some vegetables and accept others' garden excess When I'm shopping, I often ask myself - Is this a want or a need? Another question that often curtails purchases - Is this just one more thing for my son to dispose of when I'm gone?

    1. Betty is spending full time these last few days getting ready for a big garage sale in a few weeks. She is really cleaning out closets and storage areas of stuff that we don't use, but maybe someone else will. Example? Dozens of fancy wine and cordial glassware we inherited from our parents and never use.

      Responses like yours really motivate me to reassess what we are doing and finding obvious ways to waste less, consume less, and hurt the environment less.

  17. I don't understand how I could use a road map for wrapping paper. The ones I've seen aren't flexible enough to use.

    1. I believe the type of map she was referring to are the very thin ones that come inside certain guide books. You are right: regular road maps are quite stiff, though they could work for a package that is of a certain size to not require lots of folding and bending.

  18. 1. Library-- I love to read and check out both "real" books and electronic books.
    2. Free exercise/activities, especially walks/runs with friends throughout the City and in our many parks with excellent trails.
    3. Shop at one grocery store 1 x/week, make list and stick to it, shop weekly sales and use electronic coupons, stockpile items when at lowest price. Check discount bakery rack, discount produce rack and look for yellow stickered "WooHoo" discounted items. Shop perimeter of store. Go to Costco 1 x every 4-6 weeks with list. Grocery Outlet for uber bargains every once in awhile.
    4. Try and limit self to 1 tank gas per two weeks; buy annual bus pass (50% subsidized through work) and take bus to/from work 2, 3 or 4 days/week (when I drive parking = $12/day but some days I need to go somewhere before or after work).
    5. Drive well-maintained 14 year old car.
    6. Buy many of my clothes at thrift stores. Never pay full price for clothes bought new.
    7. Turn heat down at night.
    8. Limit meals out, take lunch to work, limit coffees out to immediately after runs with friends (tradition).
    9. When we do eat out we prefer independent small restaurants, often Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mexican. Drink tea or water with meals out. We don't drink and that REALLY helps keep costs down.
    10. Use grocery store points to buy gas discounted by 30-40-50 cents per gallon.
    11. Think about cost when menu planning for entertaining. A whole pork loin bought on sale is very reasonable and can feed a big crowd any number of ways (roast, carnitas tacos, pulled pork to name 3)
    12. Buy flowers at farmers market. Local, gorgeous and so much less than florist. Buy vases at Goodwill and take as lovely hostess gift for $15 or less total!
    13. Travel: choose destinations at least in part based on cost. Stay in AirBnbs and eat some meals in. Carry on only and save money on checked bags. Mix things that cost money (museums, tours etc.) with things that are free (lots and lots of walking/wandering, parks, beaches, street fairs, monuments etc.). Check out whether City you are visiting has a tourist card or pass that will save you money. Eat at delicious local restaurants (diners, ethnic spots, small local spots). Find out where the good local markets are and buy a picnic lunch. Check out the free walking tours (but do tip the guide). If its up your alley, find flea markets and thrift stores to check out-- great way to find inexpensive, unique souveneirs. Use public transit (including to/from airport where available).

    1. Some really great ideas, Tess. I hadn't thought of flowers at a farmer's market, but I am sure they are much cheaper than the ones at the grocery store. We turn the heat down to 67 at night and back up to 72 just before we wake up.

      We food shop once a week and make do if we run low. Like you, water is our beverage of choice at restaurants. Even soft drinks cost as much as a 6 pack at the store!

  19. One thing I do like to spend a bit of money on is golf. However, I counter that by buying my golf shirts at Goodwill. I have 5 or 6 brand-name, like new shirts and paid $4 each. In a golf store or pro shop they would have been $60.

    We also like to eat out about once a week. This post has inspired me to make a list of restaurant discounts that are available to us through our CAA membership and the organization of municipal retirees that I belong to. We will keep that in the car and consult it when we are out and trying to decide on a place to go to eat.

    1. I always forget to pull out my AAA card for discounts at many restuarants. The card is in my wallet so it is just remembering.

    2. We have been increasingly impressed with how upscale fast casual dining has become. For no more than $20 usually, we can enjoy some pretty fantastic food simply by being willing to order our own food before finding our seat. Not the franchises (sorry Chipotle!), but more along the lines of food trucks that became so popular they opened their own brick and mortar locations. Fun stuff!

  20. So many great ideas here, Bob! After reading all of them, I'm sure we could be more frugal. We do keep chipping away where we can. We cut the cable and bought an antenna a couple years ago. Not only did we save money, we no longer get sucked into the latest drama and talking heads when we could be reading or walking or watching a good movie. As well, I just combined our cell phones to one account with shared data. I'm sure others have done that long ago, but I find if I'm not checking the cell phone plans with Verizon regularly, they drop pricing and never notify us. (I'd love to compare providers, but only Verizon has a strong signal in our semi-rural area.)

    Like others, we use our local library a lot. I love to read and have always loved to buy books, but when we both retired, it seemed like an easy place to cut back. They also have an app to read pretty much any magazine you can imagine. I admit to still buying a few books each year with gift certs or when it's something I really want to read and the wait list is long.

    We cook at home a lot, generally something that can provide two meals - healthier and cheaper. We also save quite a bit with our Costco membership, but have learned there are certain perishable products we don't use fast enough to make Costco volumes viable for two. That said, you can't beat their bulk paper products, OTC meds, batteries, and quite a few meat and produce items.

    Amazon Prime saves us a bundle, not only in shipping but in not running around looking for things in town. Also in entertainment costs. Some of their original content is as good as anything lately IMO. That and Netflix, plus our local channels, and we don't miss cable at all.

    We're a solid ten minutes into the countryside from any stores, etc., so I'm not sure when we'll get to one car. We discussed it, but at this point, our activities aren't often in the same direction or at the same time. :-)

    1. Not too long ago I realized we were buying too much data each month from Verizon, particularly with their rollover policy. So, I cut the data plan in half, making an easy $20 a month reduction.

      I agree that Amazon makes things quite easy. Probably three times in the last few weeks I have gone to a local store to buy something. They were out of what I needed or had stopped stocking it completely for the season. I went home, clicked on Amazon, and each was here in 2 days. Frankly, I would rather support local merchants and outlets, but there is no way they can compete on price and convenience.

      The only place I draw the line with Amazon is with most books books. If the library doesn't have what I want I pay more than Amazon but buy at the local independent bookstore. It is important to me that it not go out of business.

    2. Agree on books, Bob. We have a great indie bookstore and they also buy and sell used books now (probably part of survival). As well, they have a lovely cafe and gift area, so we often make an evening of it, eat inexpensive but great food, and wander through the used books. I'll never live long enough to read all the books in my 'to read' pile. :-)

      And I forgot to mention, I do buy a prescription from Canada. DH has several inexpensive or free scripts, but I have one that is expensive even in the generic and insurance is little help. So I am able to buy the branded version for half what I'd pay fro generic in the US. I was a little nervous at first, but it's easy and saves me about $40/month.

    3. I bought drugs from Canada for several years and never had a problem. The fear tactics of the FDA just didn't hold water and the price differences were significant.

  21. I am a cinephile & also like British & Scandinavian TV series but I couldn't see paying $5/day to a cable co for the "privilege" of watching tv. Dumped cable but kept internet & bought a (refurb) Roku for apps & an indoor antenna for local stations.

    Apps: already had Amazon Prime so use their tv app included in membership; Netflix; Hoopla & Kanopy are commercial-free movie/PBS apps gotten free through my, or family, library memberships; Youtube has movies but also a surprising amount of watchable material - you'll be surprised if you aren't too familiar with it.

    Free decent movie apps with ads: Tubi TV, Pluto TV, FOTV, Vudu (has a free section); Roku channel app, Asian Crush (has subtitles)
    One time charge for a Roku & antenna was less than $60 on sale. ( Last month Amazon had a sale on their Fire TV for only $20; I like Roku better but Fire has TCM app - if you have family with cable you might "borrow" their info to get it - plus Fire TV is small enough to pack & designed to be able to use hotels strange wifi I understand, if traveling.)

    So.... $50/mo for internet, $10/mo Netflix, already a Prime member so nothing extra there, total: $60/mo, about $100/mo savings

    1. Kanopy has a fascinating range of movies and documentaries, mostly available nowhere else. For a while Betty and I enjoyed Britbox. But, after we had seen the more contemporary offerings, the older stuff from the 70s' and 80's didn't interest us so we dropped the $10/month charge.

  22. I highly recommend Freecycle, a non-profit organization whose mission is to keep landfills free of useable stuff. Post things on their website (no cost) that you want to get rid of and that may be just what someone else is looking for. There’s no intermediary; the giver and taker arrange (by email) pickup of the item at a time & place of their choosing, usually on the porch, driveway, wherever. Just enter your zip to find a local group. I am a member of three groups within a few miles of my home. Over the years I have found a number of useable items and given away even more. A win all around, especially for the environment. Check it out:

    1. I have used Freecycle a few times and agree: it is an excellent way to let someone else have what you don't want. The Phoenix chapter is quite large and active.

  23. We do many of the things others have already mentioned. We supplement our home heating with a wood stove. I drive a small economical car. Rob drives a pickup truck, but we use my car for around town, and his truck for long trips, and camping (truck and camper). We often camp in free sites (e.g., provincial rec sites). We don’t smoke or do drugs, and drink moderately. I don’t buy makeup or purchase personal services like hair perms or manicures. We mostly cook at home from scratch, although we go out to a restaurant once a week, usually a moderately priced ethnic restaurant. (We did splurge on restaurants on our recent trip to Europe, however). I pay off my credit cards in full each month, shop in the local lower cost grocery store rather than the more expensive upscale grocery store except when I need some special items. We do our own housecleaning and yard work. I find that one of the best ways to not spend money is to not go shopping.


    1. Since stores are scientifically designed to spur your instant gratification urge, not going to them is the best choice!

      Even though we do spend several hundred dollars a month on house cleaning and yard work, the time freed and the danger to my health of cutting a lawn in 100+ degree weather makes those expenses worth it to us. We'd rather trim somewhere else to make that happen.

  24. This is my favorite time of year to do my favorite frugal reward:: Layering- meaning using multiple savings or discounts to get better bargains.
    The first layer was transferring $100,000 IRA money ( right now gives a $375 bonus) to Merrill Edge to become a Bank Of America Platinum Honors member see the Bank of America website for all the benefits. Their 123 credit card then gets 75% more in rewards 1.75% every thing// 3.5% groceries/ 5.25% gas . Their travel rewards card you apply online and get 20,000 bonus points ($200 after spending a certain amount) which I qualify mainly from paying my insurances, and get 2.65% off for any travel charge on all purchase and redeems on camping fees too. Neither have annual fees.
    Using the 123 card to buy $100 in gift cards at Stop and Shop to get $20 store coupon off $20 on groceries and 39 cent pound frozen Stop nShop turkey. Could do up to ten offers if you wanted to. So $120 merchandise cost me $96.50. Use four $20 coupon with manufacturers coupons, digital coupons, sales on basics, baking needs, meet, produce, and Thanksgiving fixings to get over $360 full retail price for $86 final cash outlay for groceries. Use the gift cards for deals on Black Friday Amazon sales and Macy’s and for cards requested from my family wish list and for spring needs at Home Depot.. The stacking of discounts really add up. And I just found out Comcast takes credit cards to pay their charges either by phone or online. Sincerely, Lara

    1. Wow, you are a serious saver. You have learned to play the system. Good for you.

      I have never really thought about gift cards that give discounts or coupons for their purchase, but I should.