For some reason songs from “The Sound of Music” were running through my mom’s head recently. Because her mind makes odd leaps, one of the lyrics from “My Favorite Things” morphed into “…these are a few of my favorite frugal things.”
From there she listed things like gardening, cooking at home, having a thrift-store wardrobe (but never stinting on well-made shoes) and flying standby.
Because she told me about the song, and the list, that doggoned line is stuck in my head. To make the best of a really irritating situation, I turned the earworm into a list of some of my own favorite budget-boosters.
Discount phone services
A company called Ooma gives me a landline with unlimited long distance minutes for less than $5 a month. That is not a typo: It really does cost less than five U.S. dollars a month, and it comes with services like call waiting and caller ID. Another company, Ting, is a pay-for-what-you-use cell service that currently costs us $30 a month. (I plan to cut it back down in the near future.) Major carriers generally cost $100 or so per month. I like our price better.
Ditching the cable (but not TV)
When you’re home as much as we are, television becomes your window on the world. Hulu and Netflix give us just about everything we want –way more than we could ever watch! – for about $25 a month. Fun fact: We used to spend $100 per month for cable for ourselves and the in-laws. We’ve saved thousands over the last five years, all of which went into our saved savings account.
Workout routines on YouTube
At least a few times a week I’m in front of the TV, sweating and swearing and swinging hand weights around. Sooo much cheaper than a gym – and no need to drive anywhere or to spend a ton on fancy workout gear. Old shorts and a tank top work just fine. (But no, Leslie, the workout really doesn’t feel good. What feels good is having finished it. And cursing at you.)
Anyone who reads this site knows how I feel about Swagbucks, a rewards program that lets you earn points (called “SB”) for watching videos, joining team challenges, finding Swag Codes and other easy, fun activities. Quite a few rewards options – including PayPal, i.e., actual cash – but I usually opt for Amazon gift cards so I can do fun stuff like stock up on toilet paper. And speaking of gift cards…
Discounted gift cards
Use these like cash! For example, all you pet owners might get PetCo cards for 17% off – and then combine them with coupons you find online or that get mailed to you by the retailer. Just saw that AMC gift cards were on sale for 35% off, so it might be time to stash some for this fall and winter’s movies. There are benefits and drawbacks to discounted GCs, but the benefits usually vastly outweigh their counterparts.
Pro tip: Some gift card resellers, like Cardpool and GiftCards.com, can be accessed through those cash-back shopping sites. And sometimes you can cash back shop with gift cards!
We found our trivia homies this way, and they’re fun to hang out with them even when we’re not actively competing. (Most of them came to my birthday party recently.) I’ve just joined a couple of women’s Meetup groups and look forward to doing fun (and frugal) things with them, too.
Shopping for the best deals (and getting cash back)
Generally I don’t buy things on a whim. And whenever possible I prefer to shop online. Part of this is fatigue, part laziness, part I-live-in-Arizona-and-it’s-approximately-a-zillion-degrees-outside. But it’s also because I know I can find all sorts of stores online selling what I need, often at better prices than physical stores. I can also do research on items by reading articles or even customer reviews. Plus I can find digital coupons and even get cash back through sites like Mr Rebates.
When I’m paying just a few dollars for a shirt, I’m a happy (and stylin’!) camper. I’ve bought other things at thrift stores, too, such as small pieces of furniture, decorative items, kitchenware and books. However, I do caution readers about two things:
Thrift stores and FOMO: You won’t always find what you’re looking for, which is to be expected. But if you feel compelled to go from thrift store to thrift store because you’re afraid the perfect item is out there, waiting for you, then it’s time for a reality check.
Low prices leading to overbuying: If it’s “only” a couple of dollars, it can feel silly not to get it. But if you don’t need it, then it’s no bargain.
What are some of your favorite frugal things?