Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seeking the Minimum Level

Last year when I was hotly pursuing the frugal life I read The Tightwd Gazette (found in my sidebar). I read this book cover to cover. This summer, I decided it was time to re-read it and refresh my memory.

One of the articles titled "Seek the Minimum Level" encourages you to seek to use the minimum amount of whatever it is you're using - shampoo, toothpaste, sugar, other ingredients, etc.

Using less is one of the basic frugal habits. It can save time, energy and money in so many different ways. So, it got me to thinking...

1) Where have we already cut down on how much we use?
  • make-up: If I'm just going to be at home all day, I don't need to wear make-up. If I'm just going to the grocery store, I don't need much, just a bit.
  • dishwasher detergent: I re-read the directions on my washer and discovered I don't need to use as much as I thought I did.
  • shampoo: I haven't used used shampoo for a few years, but hubby realized he didn't need to use shampoo every day, so if he hasn't been particularly sweaty, he skips a day or two between shampooing. You know what? I can't tell when he's shampooed and when he hasn't and his scalp is in better condition. All that shampoo was drying out his scalp! I haven't had to buy shampoo for him in over a year (partly thanks to stockpiling). For the most part a nickel size blob of shampoo will wash the kids' hair. I used to use a quarter-size blob.
  • toothpaste: I don't need to fill every bristle with toothpaste to get the job done. The brushing is really the more important part. So, now I try to only fill about 1/3 of my toothbrush with toothpaste. This makes the tube last longer. Thus I spend less money on toothpaste!
  • laundry detergent: This is definitely an area where I've learned to adjust the amount I use depending upon the size of my load. I have a very large washer and it can wash a whole queen size comforter. However, most loads are not that large and don't need all that detergent. A small amount is usually enough to do the job.
  • coffee: A year ago I drank two cups of coffee every day and I always added milk and chocolate syrup to it. That's cheaper than Starbucks, but still not the cheapest. Then over the winter I started making my own hot chocolate mix and adding that to my coffee. That was cheaper, but still not the cheapest. About a month ago I went out of town and I didn't take my hot chocolate mix with me. I stopped adding chocolate all together. I still add milk and a very small amount of Splenda, but it's cheaper. I also stopped drinking two cups. Now I drink one cup. Someday I'll give up coffee altogether, but I'm not quite ready to do that yet. Occasionally I indulge in my mocha latte, but not often. Now it's a treat, not a need.
  • Lower-cost Brands: There are some brands of products I bought because, that's what my mother bought. I was used to them. But as the year has progressed I've discovered that there are other good toilet papers other than Charmin. And, the store brand baking powder does the same job as the pricier brands. I've made the switch to store brand on many products, unless I can get the brand name on sale (matched with a coupon) cheaper than I can get the the store brand. There's more to do in this area though. I haven't successfully made the switch on paper towels yet.
  • Haircuts: One of the things I've learned to do this summer is cut my son's hair. While we were visiting my brother's family I asked my sister-in-law to teach me how to trim my son's hair. She's been doing it for years with the 4 males in her household. So, I asked for a training session. I need some practice. But, that will come. My son loves his buzz cut and it's been time frugal as well - no more combing hair in the mornings.
2) What new areas can we try cutting down how much we use?
  • water: I do think we use too much water at our house, especially for bathing. I plan on taking a tip I saw somewhere before and mark a line on the tub as to how full the kids can fill the tub. When it reaches the line, they have to turn it off. That way it doesn't keep running and running ... and running and running.
  • spending less of budgeted items: I'll confess this is an area I could improve upon. We do very well at spending less than we make overall. We don't carry a balance on the few credit cards we have. Overspending isn't a problem for us. But here's the thing... if I have $100 in my weekly food budget, I tend to spend $100. Why? I don't always need to spend that much, but I often do. What if I tried to spend $5 less for a month? and I put that extra money into savings instead of into Cheetos? Hmm. And then if I succeed for a few weeks, could I drop it another $5. I wonder how long I could keep that up? And what about gifts? If you find the gift on sale for $10.00 instead of $15.00, is it necessary to buy a second gift to supplement? Definitely an area for exploration.
  • beverages: this is an area where I know we could spend less. We do not drink alcohol. And, I rarely drink soda. Hubby does better at this than I do. He usually drinks water, except one cup of coffee in the morning. I tend to drink milk and the kids prefer milk or juice (though they're usually limited to just 1 cup of juice per day). But, what if we drank water instead? This would be cheaper still. And then, maybe I could more easily drop my grocery budget by $5.
Most people have some area where they could adjust and use a little less and thereby spend a little less. So, what areas of your life are you using less? In what areas are you seeking the minimum level?

If you're looking for a copy of The Tightwad Gazette, you can find it in my sidebar.
For more frugal ideas visit LifeAsMom.


Christian Frugal Mama said...

A good reminder to stop and check ourselves continually. It's easy to get off track or we could find new ways to save, like you did!

Amy Platon said...

Great post, very detailed! Thanks for that.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

We have one car, and we put about 10,000 miles a year on it. We make as few trips as possible, using less gas.

We drink water for all meals. We keep in the fridge (no dispenser). We don't have to wait for the water to get cold this way, either (which it never does in the summer). About twice a month we'll have a special treat and have juice or lemonade.

We've also done several things to lower our electric bill. If we turn off all of the kitchen light except the ones over the table at dinner, it saves us $20 a month. We use celing fans throughout the house. Turning then off in unused rooms during the day (the children's rooms when they're in the kitchen, for example) saves quite a bit.

Here are some of the other things we do:

Tracey said...

I'm with you on watching water use - I am trying to be much more conscious of when we're wasting water as well as electricity.

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Thanks for sharing! While my family does do most of these things, we could really afford to monitor our use of water and electricity. Seems that every summer we get frivolous with both. Time to get back on track for sure!


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