Monday, February 13, 2012

101 (or so) Ways to Keep a Thrifty Home


1. Dry your clothes outside on a clothesline and use the dryer only to "fluff" the stiff ones.[Soft Break]2. Wash laundry in cold water and you'll save roughly 36 cents a load.[Soft Break]3. Lower your thermostat at night and stay warm with flannel sheets and down comforters. For each degree you lower it, you'll reduce heating costs 3 percent to 5 percent.[Soft Break]4. Lower the temperature on the water heater; 120 degrees is hot enough.[Soft Break]5. Unplug electronics that aren't being used.[Soft Break]6. Switch your old electric meter for a time-of-use meter. It gives you a better rate for running appliances/heat/AC after 9 p.m. and on weekends.[Soft Break]7. Wear long underwear.[Soft Break]8. Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescents; over its lifetime, a single CFL provides around $30 in savings.[Soft Break]9. Turn off lights when you're not in a room; 5 percent to 10 percent of your monthly energy bill goes toward lighting.[Soft Break]10. Seal ducts and add insulation.[Soft Break]11. Replace old windows and exterior doors. If you can't afford to do the whole house at once, start in the rooms you use the most.[Soft Break]12. Turn the dishwasher off when it gets to the drying cycle and open the door to add heat to the room. It also puts moist air into your home during winter when heating systems can dry the air.[Soft Break]13. Likewise, when you finish baking, open the oven door.[Soft Break]14. If you have ceiling fans, reverse their rotation to push warm air down. 
15. Pay biweekly instead of monthly on your mortgage. You'll make an extra payment annually and save thousands on interest over the life of the loan.[Soft Break]16. Check with your phone, cable or insurance companies at least once a year to see whether you're getting the best rate. Ask about discounts and specials.[Soft Break]17. Go to a site such as to find the best plans for your phone habits.[Soft Break]18. Drop long-distance service and get a prepaid card. You will have to dial a 1-800 number, punch in your PIN, then dial the number you want. The savings may be worth it.[Soft Break]19. Drop your landline and use your cell phone.[Soft Break]20. Pay your bills on time to avoid any late fees.[Soft Break]21. Pay your bills online to save on stamps. Automate it and you won't forget to pay.[Soft Break]22. Look at your insurance policies - home and auto - and consider upping the deductible for a lower premium. Raising homeowners' deductible to $500 can cut a premium by up to 15 percent, reports the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group. 
23. Consolidate trips to save gas.[Soft Break]24. Carpool.[Soft Break]25. Buy a fuel-efficient, reliable car. Pay cash if at all possible or put a good chunk down. Keep it once you have paid it off and you will save on car payments and insurance.[Soft Break]26. Save money on gas: Get rid of the roof rack - even bike and ski racks.[Soft Break]27. You don't need premium gas unless the owner's manual says "premium required."[Soft Break]28. Keep tires properly inflated.[Soft Break]29. Keep car tuned and the oil changed.[Soft Break]30. Bike or walk.[Soft Break]31. Learn from the pros. UPS maps out its trips in advance to avoid left turns, which cuts down on engine idling. 
EAT HEALTHY, PAY LESS[Soft Break][Soft Break]32. Plant vegetables and freeze or can enough for the winter. No green thumb? Buy[Soft Break]in quantity at farmers markets or at pick-your-own sites.[Soft Break]33. Subscribe to a CSA (community supported agriculture). Pay the farmer money in the winter, and in spring and summer get a weekly box of fresh, local produce. For one in your area, check[Soft Break]34. Cook more meals at home and turn last night's dinners into today's lunch.[Soft Break]35. Plan a week's worth of meals to cut out spontaneous grocery trips and impulse buys.[Soft Break]36. Stop paying for bottled water. Get a refillable container and use tap water.[Soft Break]37. Stockpile when you find good deals; combine coupons with sales.[Soft Break]38. If you have a freezer, buy meat when it has been marked down. Label with description and date frozen. You'll want to use most meat within three to four months, but a whole uncooked chicken can last a year without affecting quality. For a chart and freezing guidelines go to and click on "Fact sheets" then "Freezing and food safety."[Soft Break]39. Eliminate waste. Make a weekly inventory of your refrigerator and pantry to see what needs to be used immediately and what can wait. Fresh fruit in danger of spoiling becomes fruit salad. Grapes can be cooked in their own juice and added to just about everything. Drooping vegetables become soup, with leftover meat added, when available. Stale breads become french toast.[Soft Break]40. Can't afford all organic? Some items most likely to have had pesticides used on them: peaches, apples, celery, peppers, nectarines, strawberries, lettuce and imported grapes.[Soft Break]41. Learn to cut up a chicken; buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying parts.[Soft Break]42. Purchase potatoes, oranges and the like in bags. They're typically cheaper than when purchased individually.[Soft Break]43. Don't buy nongrocery items such as toothpaste and shampoos at grocery stores; they are generally cheaper at mass-market retailers and warehouse stores.[Soft Break]44. Look at an item's cost per unit (it's on the sticker on the shelf). Shop with a calculator.[Soft Break]45. Don't throw out stale muffins - zap 'em. Ten seconds or so in most microwave ovens will freshen stale muffins and bread items. Use the microwave to get more juice from a lemon you're about to squeeze.[Soft Break]46. Add oatmeal to hamburger to make it go further.[Soft Break]47. Make your own bread crumbs (the heels are good for this) and salad dressings. 
48. Shop consignment stores and Goodwill for clothes for yard work or growing children.[Soft Break]49. Get haircuts or dye jobs at salon schools. 
50. Sign up for online polls; you can earn gift cards.[Soft Break]51. Drink soda? Sign up at and earn points for gift certificates and music download. Buy the Cokes on sale, of course.[Soft Break]52. Need toys, clothes or musical instruments? Try, newspaper classifieds or[Soft Break]53. Buy flea/tick and heartworm medicines online.[Soft Break]54. Need WiFi? Find out which eateries offer free access and dine (or drink) accordingly.[Soft Break]55. Get info on freebies - like "a friend you can eat" T-shirt, a promotion for Swedish fish candy - at Click on forums and then freebies. 
BE A SMARTER SHOPPER[Soft Break]56. Look for senior citizen, student, alumni and military discounts.[Soft Break]57. Shop yard sales.[Soft Break]58. Organize a group yard sale. You share the marketing and logistical costs but keep your share of the proceeds.[Soft Break]59. Give yourself a cooling-off period before purchasing anything that isn't a basic need. Can you do without it? Can you make it?[Soft Break]60. Don't shop as entertainment, or when you're hungry or depressed.[Soft Break]61. Bought something only to see it on sale the next week? Many stores will let you bring the item back for the discount. Worried you might not see the sale? Try Find the item you bought on the store's Web page, past its url into the box at the priceprotectr site and enter your e-mail address. If the price drops within the store's policy guarantees, you'll be notified by e-mail.[Soft Break]62. Check receipts for savings. Stores such as J.C. Penney send you to online surveys from their receipts. In return, you get coupons for money off. CVS prints coupons on the receipt for members of its loyalty program.[Soft Break]63. Shop seasonally for sales. Sure, swimsuits are cheaper in September, but did you know cookware usually goes on sale in May (just in time for weddings and graduations)?[Soft Break]64. Belong to AAA? Check to see what discounts it has available. For instance, you can save $3 on movie tickets. Go to for details.[Soft Break]65. See if your employer gets discount tickets for local theaters, amusement parks and the like.[Soft Break]66. If you're shopping for a computer, see if the store offers discounts to employees of local businesses. The Apple store does. If your company is a division of another, check under the parent name as well.[Soft Break]67. Don't be tempted. Go to to have all catalogs stopped. 
IDEAS TO USE OVER AND OVER[Soft Break]68. Use washable cloths instead of paper towels.[Soft Break]69. Make your own household cleaners. With baking soda or white vinegar you can clean many things. For a no-streak glass cleaner: mix ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 quart warm water. Apply with a sponge or pour into spray bottle and spray on. Wipe dry with crumpled newspaper, buff to a shine. Use crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results. 
70. Get a credit card with rebates you can use. Discover Card gives 5 percent cash back on various charges - restaurants, groceries, movie rentals - that rotate throughout the year.(Upromise)[Soft Break]71. Earn reward points with your debit or credit card? Remember to use them before they expire. If you don't have enough points for something big, get gift cards. They make great presents, or use them yourself. Order soon to get them in time for the holidays. 
72. Use Hotwire or other online sites to book hotel rooms. Don't be afraid to negotiate with hotels for a lower rate.[Soft Break]73. When traveling, stay at hotels that offer free breakfast. If there's a microwave or fridge in the room, look for a nearby grocery store. Even if you dine out for most meals, pick up a few snacks and you'll save vending machine costs, not to mention calories.[Soft Break]74. Staying somewhere several days? See about renting a cabin or vacation home and you can save money by cooking your own meals rather than eating out. 
STAY FIT, LET SAVINGS FATTEN[Soft Break]75. Lose the gym membership and take a walk or a run.[Soft Break]76. Try a virtual gym like where streaming video lets you work out. Cost is 99 cents a day or $15 a month; free trials available. 
77. Use a rain barrel. It saves water and money.[Soft Break]78. Plant perennials and native flowers, which require less water.[Soft Break]79. Take advantage of local garden club sales and the know-how of club members.[Soft Break]80. Plant from seeds. Rather than pay for expensive "starter" pots, use the cardboard carrying containers given out free at coffee shops when you have to tote multiple drinks.[Soft Break]81. Use an electric lawn mower.[Soft Break]82. Add your shredded white paper to the compost pile for free mulch. 
83. When eating out, order from the small plates or appetizers section.[Soft Break]84. If you do go out to partake of food and wine, check for specials (is Friday margarita night?) and order accordingly.[Soft Break]85. Fast food chains make money on soda - the markup is about 80 percent. When dining out, order water. Need more? Ask for two slices of lemon, squeeze, add Splenda and you've got lemonade. 
86. Shop for Christmas and other gift-giving times throughout the year to take advantage of sales. Organize a gift closet in a designated place in the house. Then go one further and take a digital photo of the item, download it onto your computer and add notes about who it's for, when you bought. Save receipts.[Soft Break]87. Frequent after-holiday sales. After Christmas, when items go 75 percent to 90 percent off, buy red and green wrapped candy. Separate the red for Valentine's Day; the green will work for St. Patrick's Day. After Valentine's Day, think 4th of July. After Halloween, think Thanksgiving. Giftwrap, cards, toys, etc. can all be saved for next year. Plain giftwrap can be used throughout the year. It's a good time to stock up on cards as well.[Soft Break]88. Need teacher presents? Buy packs of items like cocoa, chocolate bars and the like and then divide them up. Package them in pretty mugs (found at yard sales or on sale) and tie with a ribbon and a handwritten note from the student.[Soft Break]89. For wrapping paper, look at your kids' artwork or coloring books, especially holiday-themed ones.USE NEWSPAPER[Soft Break]90. Inexpensive wooden frames - available for a few bucks in most craft shops - can be decoupaged with wrapping paper or decorated with sea shells (hot glue guns work best).[Soft Break]91. Turn last year's holiday cards into this year's holiday postcards. Works best with stiffer cards. Save on buying cards and postage as postcard stamps are usually cheaper. Make sure the cards fit post office size restrictions.[Soft Break]92 Don't bypass dollar stores - they're great places to stock up on greeting cards - or discount stores such as Big Lots to score overstocks from brand stores such as Pier One. 
93. Cut your cable or satellite TV. Keep your Internet connection and watch new and classic shows on Web sites such as YouTube, Hulu and For less than $20 a month, you also can join DVD subscription services such as Netflix or, and get full seasons of your favorite shows shipped to you.[Soft Break]94. Take advantage of free concerts by area community concert bands.[Soft Break]95. Look for reciprocal agreements. Many museums, zoos and botanical gardens have deals with similar attractions in other cities to allow members to get in at those sites for free or at reduced prices. Not sure? Show your membership card and ask.[Soft Break]96. Don't forget sneak peeks at the local cinemas and free gaming nights at area game stores.[Soft Break]97. Rent new DVD releases for $1 per night at RedBoxEvery Monday, it offers a code for a free 
98. Entertain at home with board games and card games. Get everyone to bring a dish.[Soft Break]99. Get free books online. Visit[Soft Break]100. Try date night at the public library: free lectures, discussions and movie nights.[Soft Break]101. Get a library card. You'll find free books, newspapers, magazines, music and more. 

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