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Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's your frugal specialty?

We all have our areas of great talent. Some of us are very clever with crafts. Others can sniff out a good deal at the stores. Still others seem to be able to repair or mend just about anything. And some can take a can of paint and transform a beat-up piece of furniture into a true heirloom.

Are you a fab garage saler/thrift shopper? Can you turn old sheets into comfy pjs? Do you know where to put your investments? Are you on top of every bill and receipt?

Many of us are clever cooks, creating memorable meals. Some of us are coupon queens, stacking coupons on sales with rebates, and walking away with free products regularly. And some of us do beautiful needlework, making lovely gifts, making over clothing, and adorning our homes.

So what is your frugal specialty?

You could probably guess that mine is keeping our grocery bill low. It's what I do best in the frugal realm. But it's not the only way to watch our pennies. There are so many more ways, just as valuable, but don't always get the recognition that they deserve.

Although groceries are my area of specialty, I have found it incredibly helpful to read and learn from everyone else. Sometimes I just never would have thought to try something, on my own. But upon hearing a new trick or idea from someone else, it sounds completely do-able. Or maybe I've wanted to try something, but really needed the confirmation from someone else's experience.

So, now I'm asking you, what do you do best to contribute to your careful use of resources? Can you offer up one solid tip that has boosted your abilities in your specialty, even higher? Crafty people speak up! Handy repair people, tell us about your biggest success! Shoppers who sniff out the best deals, tell us about your best score! Clever cooks, what have you cooked/baked that you once thought "had" to be bought? I am positive that I've missed many areas, so fill me in.


  1. This is a tricky one - I think my strengths are eating from the pantry and buying things in op shops (thrift stores).

    I guess my top tip would be not to shop for fun, even in op shops. I have a list in my head of things I need, and try to shop for them only.

    My second tip is to actually eat the food you have in your freezer. I know you're good at this Lili, but I tend to stock my freezer to bursting then forget to actually eat what's in there! By not shopping every week I force myself to dig into the stash!

    1. Hi Economies,
      That's really wise, to not shop for fun. Shopping has become a "hobby" for so many people. That can add up!
      That's really great that you've found a way to get yourself to use up what's in your freezer and cupboards!

  2. I don't think I have a specialty. That's what I come to you for. ;) I just try to do what I think are common sense things--shop at Aldi, etc. Well, maybe I do have a skill at sniffing out a bargain--I buy clothing in the off-season when it's super cheap, and I seem to have an intuitive sense of when to buy what. In our area at least, I can do as well or better with clothing purchases as if I went to a resale store. I have an advantage, though--I live within a couple of miles of a major shopping district, so I can "troll" the clearance racks. I've gotten pretty speedy at it. I've also learned (with kid's clothing) to have an ongoing list of what I have for them and what they will need to help me avoid over-buying (those little clearance shirts can be sooooooo tempting to buy! And I'm not really saving money if I'm purchasing more than they need.).

    1. Hi Kris,
      you definitely have the gift of finding a deal. You've mentioned finding clearance clothing for your kids before, as great prices, and you always seem to know when the 99cent lattes are on offer. You're really great at that. I don't usually find out about a deal on something like lattes until the day after! :-(
      Plus you can cook and bake from scratch, which I'm sure saves a lot on your groceries.
      And one other gift that you have, seeking out creative inspiration. I'm thinking about the mac and cheese Hallowe'en costume you made for one of your kids. I could just picture that in my mind. And I'm wishing my own kids were still young enough to need a costume for next Hallowe'en!

    2. I think we tend to do what's fun for us. I wish I liked to strip and stain/paint furniture but it The gardening and landscaping you do ... again ... But I get a sense of joy and victory when I snag a bargain. Coming up with creative Halloween costumes is fun for me. Since I learned to knit this past winter, I have rediscovered something I had forgotten--I can make quality items for gifts for much less. I used to make gifts all the time--I think with the advent of home computers and the internet, I forgot about crafting for several years, and it's been fun to re-discover that.

    3. I think you're right about that. Some things just seem like too much work because I lack interest. That is so great that knitting has been a fun rediscovery for you. I know what you mean about being able to go online and find inspiration for a crafty project. That can be fun, but addicting!

  3. I would say my specialty is finding a good balance in our home budget, to ensure we can eat well, keep the house cozy warm, get ongoing maintenance done, and go to entertainment events often. We have figured out the items in typical home budgets that we don't want and don't miss, so we can focus on what's important to us.

    1. Hi anexacting,
      yes, I've definitely seen that on your blog. You think everything through and weigh and measure what would be the greatest value for you. That's definitely a talent. So many people just blindly do what everyone else is doing, simply because everyone else is doing it, not giving any thought to whether or not they actually want that item or service.

  4. Gosh... well my specially most definitely is Not crafts! :)

    In truth, I think what really makes it work for me is my ability to question societal assumptions about what is and isn't necessary in order to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

    But on the more practical side, I'm pretty good at fixing things. Yesterday I set out to do some gardening, but the handle on the 20-year old pitchfork had cracked, so the fork kept coming off the end of the handle. So, I got out some wood epoxy and fixed it.

    Then I came inside to do some work in the kitchen and when I ran the garbage disposer it made a terrible noise and then just stopped. Turned out that a piece of broken glass had fallen down there and gotten wedged. So I cleaned out the glass and then un-wedged the thing with a broom handle.

    Sort of all in a day's work for me-but if I'd had to replace the pitchfork and pay someone to deal with the garbage disposal I'm sure it would have been a much more expensive day!

    1. Hi Cat,
      your abilities to tackle fixing things demonstrates a real independent spirit. You are definitely NOT waiting for someone to come rescue you! You been able to have the life you want, on your terms.

      I have a tool that needs fixing. The brush that I use to scrub the deck and patio keeps coming off the handle. So frustrating. Last time I nailed it in place. I'll have to see what kind of wood glue or goop we have in the garage.

  5. Like many of the others said, I don't have a specialty. However, I think the best tip is to stay out of the stores. It's so easy to impulse buy something especially if it is a good price. Otherwise, I also think it is important to enjoy the money you save. Sometimes, I think we forget that we are saving money for a reason--to improve the quality of our life. (Of course, that all comes after the main bills are paid and the emergency fund is in place.)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I have to say, I think you do have a couple of specialties. For one thing, you have a very balanced, thought-out approach to finances. But also, you have the ability to find entertainment in frugal areas, like the church rummage sale, chili cook-off, and your walks on the property. Many people think that entertainment "has" to come with a price tag. That's a gift to find enjoyment in simple things.

  6. Your question really made me think about what my home strengths are. I really like EcoCatLady's comment about the garden tool coming apart. I, too, have experienced garden tool failure just when I didn't need it. But there is always something else to do...somewhere, somehow. I think my strength is just making ends meet whatever our budget is.

    1. Hi Judy,
      it sounds like you have a talent for discernment. You can look at your budget, big or small, and see what can be cut back and what needs to remain the same. A lot of folks look at the numbers in their budgets and think that everything is "fixed". They do great when their income is large. But obviously, for them, the lean times make it impossible to stay afloat. Being able to work with any set of number is a real talent. To me that means you're flexible and determined.

  7. I have thought about this question all day.

    I'm not sure what my strength is. I guess in my mind the best thing I've done is figure out the balance that works for our family. I love cooking, shopping,crafting and all those things, but I'm not frugal always in those areas...just to the degree that works for us.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Finding balance is really important. Like live and learn said, we aren't careful with our resources for no real purpose, but to enhance our lives. And it sounds like you've found that balance.
      I'd also say that you are quite organized. You have developed various systems to keep yourself on top of the details, like I'm thinking about your basket of bits that you keep on the counter, as a reminder to use everything up.

  8. I'm not sure I have a frugal specialty. I'm more of a jack-of-all-frugal trades, master of none. I do try to focus more on home-cooked foods, though, rather than eating out or using convenience foods. I still spend too much at the grocery store, though. I really admire people like you who can really keep the grocery bill low!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Don't sell Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, short You have probably saved your family quite a bundle, by being able to do many things well-enough. And often times, well-enough is all that is needed. (And besides, we've all known those folks who are true masters at one thing, but they can hardly function in any other area -- wouldn't want to be like that!)

      And all your home-cooking not only saves a lot on your groceries, but is better for your health, which gives you quality of life, in addition to saving money.

      An example -- On my birthday last week, I got my free Starbucks treat, and I chose a breakfast sandwich. When I got home I looked up the nutrition facts, and it had 900 milligrams of sodium! That's equal to the sodium in 3/8 teaspoon table salt, or about 1/3 of all the sodium I should have for the day -- in this one little sandwich! If I had home-cooked this treat, I know I would have used far less salt, probably 1/4 the amount they used. Home-cooking taste better, saves money, and is better for us.

  9. Lili,
    Guess some of mine would be in growing many of my plants from seeds, painting my furniture or refinishing it, instead of purchasing new. Taking my lunch to work and eating out only once a week!
    My grocery bill is way too high-but that is our splurge-I love preparing really wonderful meals and experimenting with new recipes. Groceries have just gone up so much.

    1. Hi Jemma,
      I'd also say that you are very clever with decorating, DIY, using (and appreciating) pieces that belonged to your grandmother, use of color, and general arrangement of items.
      We all have our splurges, and I am guessing that you are a fabulous cook!

      Grocery prices have risen quite a bit in the last 10 years. I was having "price nostalgia" the other day. Thinking to myself, "remember when sales were 10/ $1, instead of 10/$10, or I could get a gallon of milk or a pound of bacon for 99 cents?" Even the bare basics like rice and flour have risen dramatically in price.

  10. I am neither crafty nor handy but am excellent at finding quality used clothing at the thrift store. I now buy all of my clothing there with exception of undergarments only new. If you keep an eye out for out of season you can find anything there! My latest find was a Bianca Nygaard (think high end Canadian clothing designer) jacket that will go perfectly with a dress I already own for a fall wedding I have to attend. It was $5 and normally would have been $100! It is in perfect condition and in one of my favorite colors. I do okay on the grocery category but am finding it harder and harder.

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      And your ability to spot bargains in the second hand market is turning into a revenue stream! Yes, I'd definitely say your savvy second-hand shopping is a talent!

      But I also think you do very well on groceries. You're right, great grocery deals are getting harder to find. I look at the ads each week and think there's just nothing near my set price points, and I'm wondering if it's time to adjust those price points up. I just keep trying new things. As I run out of something in my pantry, I ask myself, "could I make this item myself, cheaper?" So, out comes my mathy side, and I run the numbers on making all sorts of things.

      Keep up your good work!


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