Tightening the Belt just a bit tighter- what to do when money is really tight

Saturday, March 20, 2010

One of the biggest challenges for a frugal mom, is finding yet more ways to save money when money gets tight. It could be that you are trying to pay off debt or perhaps you want to save for something special, you are already frugal, and just don’t know what else you can do. All is not lost, as long as you are willing to try a few ideas, you didn’t think you would ever try, and to count your savings in nickels and dimes, you can do it.

First you have to realize, it all adds up, I might only save a quarter, but if I save that quarter 4 times, I have saved a dollar. Everyone of the those dollars adds up, and even a savings of 20 dollars a week, can make a big difference no matter what your goal is. And guess what 20$ a week becomes a $1000 plus in a year.

First thing to do is research what other things you can do to save money, I can help a bit there… lately my life has demanded a brand of Guerilla frugality, that required saving each dime, everywhere we could.Go around your house and make notes of ways you can save. Once you figure out what you can do, keep a record. It is really encouraging to see how quickly those nickels can add up, and how many you use in day, that you don’t even realize.

Start in your kitchen, do you wash baggies? I know, I know I hate doing it too…. So instead of using baggies, use Tupperware, each time you use a reusable plastic container, you are saving, if you would have used gallon sized bag, you would have saved a nickel, if a sandwich bag, only two cents. Wait, before you fluff off that two cents of savings, figure how many do you use in a month? If you use about 200 small baggies for making lunches, that is 4 dollars a month, if you use 50 gallon size bags that is another 4 or 5 dollars…. so there is $8.00 in one month, already just in baggies. Of course you could just wash baggies….. if you are like me, that does not happen, but you do have choices.

Sew little cloth bags for sack lunches. Easy and cheap to make, but reduces the use of paper sacks.

Use cloth napkins, and towels rather than paper.Any time you use something reusable, you will save money. Cloth napkins can be made of inexpensive material,or scraps even, and probably for cheaper that a package of paper napkins, if you don’t already have the fabric on hand.

If you do your own baking do you use the most economical recipes? Bread is a great example, many breads have milk, and egg in them, driving the cost up tremendously.

But there are really good recipes out there, without the eggs and milk. A basic loaf of bread should not cost more than .29 cents, if you do your research, and that includes electricity. Put thought into your menu’s and cooking, sometimes it is cheaper to do scratch and sometimes it is not.

Look for wholesale sources for food basics, things like rice, flour, beans.They can be purchase for much,much cheaper, in bulk,literally for a penny or less per serving. Places to look? Restaurant supply stores that are open to the public, mills, and outlet stores.

Don’t be afraid of outlet stores. Sure their brands are ones you have never seen, but chances are good, that those same brands are made by companies you have purchased from before. And dried goods such as beans, and rice, are pretty much all from the same sources. The savings are dramatic. Buy in a small amount and try, that way you can decide, which brands you can live with without spending a fortune.

Cook from scratch, don’t buy canned beans, buy dried beans and cook them in the crockpot, it does not draw much electricity, and does not over cook the beans. Rice can be cooked in quantity ahead of time, and froze, so that buying the cheaper, and healthier whole grain rice, is feasible, despite the longer cooking time.

Make menus from what you have on hand, keep a grocery list close by to write down the few odds and ends you might need to buy, to fill out your recipes and menu. Work with what you have on hand, and only buy what you need, to get by.

Use Coupons only if you buy the product anyway, or can use double or triple couponing, to get it for free or super cheap. Couponing is a great way to save money, but you are not saving money if you buy a product you would normally not buy, or a product you can make from scratch much cheaper.

Rather than buying convenience foods for busy nights, try a bit of “Once a Month Cooking” Cook extra at your regular meals and freeze the extra. Not only will it cover dinners on those busy nights, but it will also cover, snacks for those hungry teenagers, Chips are expensive, and not filling, so they go fast is a household full of people.

Make and freeze breakfasts. Cereals are plain expensive, so I make breakfast burritos, waffles, pancakes, French toast and egg biscuits, far more filling, and way cheaper than cereal.

Check your local farmers markets, and buy in season, try to tailor your menus to what you know is cheap. This perhaps will save you most of all, on your grocery bill.I usually have a figure in my head for each food item I buy, if I cannot find it for less than that figure, I wait till it goes on sale.

Use your freezer, if peppers are on sale for 5 for $1 then buy five and dice and freeze 4 of them. Then when they are .89 cents apiece, use the ones in the freezer and don’t buy them.

Go thru and declutter your house, have a yard sale or sell on Ebay, for extra cash, this can be a great income generator.

Go over your utility bills, especially your phone bill and cable bill, I bet you can trim at least 10$ off your bills a month.

Go thru your house, and find ways to save on your utility bills, a quilt on a drafty window, a bit of rubber inner tube on the bottom of your doors, or a towel tucked into the cracks. Wear warmer clothes and turn that thermostat down a couple degrees. Unplug appliances when not in use, many of them draw power even if they are turned off. If you have power strips, you can plug your appliances into those, and turn them off all at the same time when not in use. Make sure lights stay turned off if they are not being used.

Use florescents rather than regular light bulbs, many power companies, will offer you rebates to switching to these, when I switched I used power company coupons, and switched over for free, better yet, my power bill dropped 20$ a month.

Use crockpots,microwaves, etc, to cook meals when ever possible, they save a lot of electricity over using a regular oven, in the summer they save on your air conditioning bill too.

Shop for insurance policies, don’t assume you have the cheapest one, Savings on insurance can be huge, so make sure.

Track your spending; this is a great way to see the places where you can cut corners. Save every receipt, write everything down, At the end of the week take a highlighter, and highlight all the things you could have done withought.

Hang your clothes to dry outside; this is a savings of about 50cents per load!! If you can’t have a clothes line, you can hang a couple loads a week, in the garage, or the bathroom. Rig an indoor line, at 50 cents a load, it adds up fast. Make your own softener from vinegar,water, and baking soda, works great and a LOT cheaper.

See if you can’t barter for services you need, this is a great money saver.

If you have a talent not shared by many in your neighborhood (such as sewing or baking) offer these services, to your neighbors, for a reasonable price. You would be surprised how many people would take you up on them.

IF possible go down to one car, this saves on insurance, gas, and maintenance, not to mention the revenue made by selling the second car. Carpool, combine errands, or get a bicycle at a yard sale even.

Not all of these ideas will work for you, but this gives you someplace to start, now just let your imagination, go to work, and see what ways you can find to save money in your house.

Be sure to keep track of your savings, so you can see how fast it can add up. You will be surprised how much you can save, and that you really can tighten the belt a little bit tighter.

Patty Getz is Is a Sahmom with a mission to educate families, on the alternatives, to high debt, fast food, and fast living. She is the Owner of

and the author of several articles on Frugal living,cooking, and Simple Living.

For more information, or to see her other Articles, visit her sites, or email her



  1. Great tips! Any many are good for the environment too!

  2. Yes, our guest writer has good tips- and has a great couple of sites as well.

  3. time for me to read the tightwad again by amy d. (got a free copy of the complete one the other year) read it twice from library about 10-12 years ago. (hugs) things are tighter here.

  4. How many in your household MS Hen?
    We currently fee the 2 adults here plus a teen daughter, ( soon to move out this Fall). The other daughter drops in from time to time and grabs a snack or two.

  5. love your post! thanks for the positive ideas; i'm waltzing through the house right now looking for ways to save.


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