25 ideas for keeping more money in your pocket

I noticed today that one of my favorite bloggers, Patrice Lewis has challenged readers to come up with 25 frugal tips for everyday living.  We all know that you don’t join the military to get rich, and if you are now living on disability because of your service, you are probably catching on that you will never be monetarily rich.  We all know why the commissary is empty the day before payday-everyone is out of cash.  So here are my favorite ways to make those dollars stretch:

  1. Make it at home.  Bread, Laundry Soap, greeting cards, birthday/Christmas gifts and much more can all be made at home with a minimal amount of time and effort.  If you don’t know how to bake or cook, now is a great time to pull up youtube and start learning new skills!
  2. Repair it!  Many things can be fixed at home, by you without much expertise.  The lamp with bad wiring?  You can buy a complete wiring set at the local hardware store, and you don’t have to be an electrician to install it.  Button popped off?  Check out youtube and learn how to sew on a button (and now is a good time to pilfer through your husband’s sewing kit that he hasn’t used since bootcamp!)
  3. Plan ahead: it is much cheaper to carry and sandwich bag of dry cereal in your purse than it is to fork over a dollar (or more!) for candy bar out of a vending machine.  It is also healthier for you and sets a much better example for your kids.
  4. Store a case of bottled water in the car for those dying-of-thirst moments where you are tempted to stop for a beverage.  Healthier than soda, and much cheaper!  I pay less than $3.00 for a case (24 bottles) of water, instead of spending $1 per water at a convenience store or fast-food place.
  5. Buy it used!  January is a great time for shopping for like-new appliances, barely worn dress clothes and more.  Some many Christmas gifts end up at the local donation center after the recipient realizes that the rice-cooker from Aunt Edna will only be used twice a year, and those matching sweaters for the Christmas picture were only flattering for Cousin Phil!
  6. Leave your debit card at home.  Seriously.  It is much less tempting to buy that cute little sweater that catches your eye, if you know that you only have enough cash with you to buy the things you need.
  7. Search online for free movie rental-codes.   Redbox and Blockbuster rental kiosks regularly have codes for free rentals if you sign up for their newsletters.
  8. Check out your local library!  While many bases have libraries, don’t forget your civilian options too.  Libraries are not just about books anymore: many offer DVD’s, CD’s books on CD, and Kindle Lending services.  While you are there ask if they have children’s story time or any other events.
  9. Skip the pets.  Yes, this might be a little radical for some, but if you are thinking about adding a furry relative to the family, remember that it isn’t just food (and litter) but also routine vaccines, vet trips, annual licenses, emergencies and any damage they may cause.
  10. Drive less.  That doesn’t mean you have to become a homebody, but plan all your outings for one trip, or try carpooling.  If you only need one thing at the store, try asking a neighbor if she will pick it up for you when she goes.
  11. Volunteer more!  Keeping yourself busy means you will have less time to think of ways you can spend money.  Volunteering doesn’t mean leaving your house, many non-profits can use blog writers, envelope stuffers, web designers, etc.  Bonus: helping your community while saving money!
  12. Use it up.  I know you have done it: you are almost out of shampoo/dish soap/laundry detergent so you pick up more while you are out, and when you get home you toss the old bottle because it only had one more serving in it and you needed a place for the new one.  Assuming you use a bottle every 2 weeks, that is 25+ uses  a year that are thrown away.
  13. Ditch the paper towels.  Invest in a bundle of your favorite color washcloths (Target is a great place to check for these) and use them for napkins, cleaning up spills, etc.  For really gross things, like potty accidents, keep old t-shirts, town towels, or other rags on hand that you can throw away without guilt.
  14. Price compare for healthy foods.  Many places like VitaCost (Vitacost is also offering $10/off your first order right now!) and Green Polkadot Box offer good prices on healthy foods delivered to your door.  This is especially good if you have special dietary requirements, like gluten or dairy free foods.
  15. Buy your special kids clothes at consignment or thrift stores.  Most consignment stores have very high standards and only accept “like-new” items.  ThredUp is an online consignment store, and from my experience their products are the highest of quality.  Look in the phone book for consignment stores in your area, or check out ThredUp for a $10 credit to new customers.
  16. Investigate your coupon options.  Many websites offer couponing tutorials, and a pretty good idea what kind of products you can get free or cheap with a few minutes of clipping each day.  Charlene over at MyFrugalAdventures has a great couponing tutorial.  Beware of the excitement of coupons, and don’t be tempted to buy things that you won’t use, just because there is a coupon.
  17. Buy in bulk.  Warehouse stores, like Costco and Sams can be useful if your savings are greater than your membership fees.  You can ask to visit a store and look around before committing to a membership, just tell the person at the door.  Many regular grocery stores also offer bulk food bins where you can purchase just enough pasta, spices or cereal for a single recipe, and eliminate waste.
  18. Trade goods/services with your neighbors.  Especially if you live on base it can be easy to find other families to exchange childcare, carpool duties and more.  Don’t be afraid to offer lawn mowing, housecleaning, pet sitting, or other services in exchange for what you need.
  19. Group buying sites, like Groupon and Living social offer everything from discounted race entry for runners, to half off home goods.  Keep a list of items/events that you are interested in and watch the deal sites.  Remember only to buy the deal if it was something you were going to get anyway, don’t be tempted by a deep discount on Polka lessons if you hate dancing!
  20. Become a staycationer!  Check out the local museums, amusement parks, and natural wonders in your area.  Pack a lunch and stay local, save yourself the cost of hotels and dinner out, and if you are blessed to live in an area with public transportation, use it.
  21. Barrow what you can.  This doesn’t mean being the pesty neighbor who constantly asks to use things, it means not buying what you don’t have to!  If you are only going to use a punch bowl once in your life, see if you can barrow it from a friend or neighbor.  If you are only going to use an edging tool once per season, see if you can rent it from the home improvement store.
  22. Sell the things you don’t need.  Craig’s List, base classified ads, yard sales and online auctions are all viable options for getting rid of seldom used furniture and outgrown snow-suits!  (And if you can’t sell it, don’t forget donations to Goodwill are tax deductible!)
  23. Clear out your clutter!  If you have to buy a new potato masher because you can’t find your old one, you aren’t saving any money!  Save yourself even more money by keeping your refrigerator clean, and you will have less waste.
  24. Investigate Season passes to local attractions.  If you live buy a zoo that your family likes to frequent, it can be much cheaper to purchase a season pass, and if you have a season pass, you will be less tempted to spend money on random activities when your kids ask “What are we going to do today?”
  25. Ask about a military/Veterans/AARP/AAA/Whatever discount everywhere you shop!  Many places offer unadvertised discounts to military, fire, law enforcement, seniors or club members.

Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan what you need to get done.  This is a good time to think about errands (can you combine them into one or two trip?) Plan a menu around what you have in the freezer, and make any needed arrangements for childcare or transportation.  You can save yourself the last minute costs of eating out or calling a cab by planning ahead.   Little things can add up very quickly and make the days before payday a lot less desperate!

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