Posts Tagged ‘frugal living’

Articles about Finances

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013


Here are some interesting articles about finances, with personal stories from my own life on how we lived frugally for over a decade while living under a crushing load of debt. To hear my full finances story on audio, click here.

Saving Money
Top Ten Ways to Get Out of Debt
Saving Money on Groceries
Are Coupons Worth the Hassle?
Do Warehouse Clubs Save You Money?
Saving Money on Children’s Clothes
Don’t Fight Over Finances
Cutting My Family’s Hair
Selling my Hair
Pointless Coveting

Yard Sales
Tips for Shopping at Garage Sales
Throwing a Fabulous Yard Sale

Cheap Entertainment
Dollar Movies
Exploring Local Parks
8 Ways to Relax with Your Kids
Climbing Trees
Playing with Cheetos
Camping in the Backyard
Splashing in Puddles
Growing Indoor Grass
Mime Act for Kids
Making Sun Prints
Painting from a Water Bucket
Sidewalk Chalk
Vegetable Creatures
Boredom Busters for Kids

Cheap Food
Making Your Own Flavored Popcorn
Snowflake Funnel Cake
Ice Cream Floats

Giving to Others
Hoarding Money
Exposing the Harm of Ultra-Frugality

What other ideas do you have for cheap entertainment, either for date nights with your spouse or for fun as a family?

Tips for Throwing a Fabulous Yard Sale

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012


Here are the top 10 tips for throwing a fabulous yard sale:

  1. The first step in throwing a fabulous yard sale is to de-clutter your entire house. Get rid of everything you can, including any pieces of furniture, putting them into your garage. If people drive by your yard sale and don’t see much, they won’t bother to stop. So if you don’t have enough stuff, ask relatives and friends if they would like to get rid of some stuff. My mother contributed to my yard sale, for example.
  2. The signs need to be clear, written with the thickest marker that exists. Find light-colored construction paper, and use your thick black marker to write “Yard Sale” with an arrow underneath. Do this on 12 large pieces of construction paper, all the same color. When someone is looking for your yard sale and they see the same color on the signs, they know that they are on the right track. Tape the construction paper to the side of a box. You will need 6 boxes, which you can get at Costco or any store that stacks boxes to the side. I forgot to say that your arrows should be 6 to the right, and 6 to the left. When taping the papers to both sides of the box, make sure the arrow points to the same location (opposite arrows).
  3. You will put a brick inside each box to make sure your boxes don’t fly away when you put them on the corners of major streets, leading the cars to your house. You might need more signs depending on how far you are from a big road.
  4. Borrow lots of card tables from neighbors and friends. Label the tables on the bottom to make sure you get them back to the right people. The more tables, the better. No one likes having to crouch down to the ground to see your stuff. You will sell more if the items are on tables.
  5. A free-standing iron bar for hanging clothes is ideal, but I didn’t have one, so I improvised. I hung shirts from a long bush along the side of my driveway. Throw away any clothing with stains, because stained clothing causes people to see your clothes as pieces of garbage, and they won’t buy the good ones either. If everything you display looks nice, people will walk up to it and buy some. I sold lots of clothing for $1 each. Most yard sales can’t sell their clothing because they are heaped up on a table, and who wants to weed through a mound of garbage? Not me. If each garment is hanging individually, people will go up and grab them. Put kids’ clothes together, women’s clothes together, and men’s clothes together.
  6. Several days before the yard sale, put up the card tables in your garage. Divide the stuff into sections. Put toys on one (or two) tables, housewares on another table, sheets and blankets on another table. I was selling a lot of sports equipment this time, so one table had sports stuff. (Unfortunately my driveway is a steep incline, so when people picked up the baseball mitts, an avalanche of balls fell down the driveway, and my customers were alarmed. Then they started laughing and running across the street to see who could grab the most balls before they slammed into the front door of the neighbor’s house across the street.)
  7. Now that you’ve sectioned off the categories on different tables, label the tables with the prices. Paperback books should be 50 cents, hard cover $1. If you charge too much for books, nobody will buy them. DVD’s should be $1; CD’s 50 cents. For my sports table, I put “Balls $1, mitts $4 each.” Toys should be marked individually. I hate those sticker labels that ruin stuff and won’t come off the items. I prefer to write the price with a normal Sharpie marker on white strips of paper, taping them to the item with clear Scotch tape. They always come off without ruining the object.
  8. If you have kids, consider having a bake sale, too. When I’m out yard saling with my mother, I always find it charming to buy a cookie or brownie for 50 cents from a kid. My kids baked the previous day, and we sold out of brownies quickly. My kids felt successful. Banana bread can be sold as a loaf for a higher price, $4.
  9. I don’t pay for newspaper advertising, because I don’t want to be forced to have a yard sale if it’s raining, or if I have no energy that day, or if the kids are barfing or sneezing with snot. Nope. Just put up signs the day you feel like doing it. I made over $200 last Saturday at our yard sale and had a steady stream of people. I only had one piece of furniture. I don’t think I would have had more traffic if I had advertised, and feeling trapped by the date is not a feeling I enjoy.
  10. Only have the sale one day. You make the bulk of the money on the morning of the first day. During the afternoon, you are lucky if you make $20. The whole next day, you are lucky if you make $20. For this reason, I always throw my yard sales from 8am to 1pm on a Saturday. This maximizes your time investment. Take the leftovers to Goodwill immediately after the yard sale. Then sit back and count your money in an air-conditioned house, whooping for joy with your children, who realize that they can now go on a short family vacation.

Saving Money on Groceries

Friday, October 29th, 2010


Saving money on groceries is something that everyone is trying to do in our economy. First off, I would stock up on “loss leaders.” Those are the promotions that the grocery store loses money on (or barely breaks even) to get you into the store to buy all your other groceries. What I did when money was really tight was this: I would spread out all the front pages of the grocery fliers (the ones you get for free that are delivered to your house). The front page of each flier had the best deals, and I would circle anything that we liked to eat. Then I would go to each store and buy only loss leaders, and maybe one or two simple things like eggs that I needed. I came home with $200 worth of groceries for less than $100. I did this regularly for years until the gas prices went up and two of my kids were lactose intolerant.


Then I had to change my plan. Driving all over town cost more than what I was saving on some of the groceries. Lactaid milk cost a dollar less per half gallon at Walmart than at any other store. It saved me $30 a month. I also noticed that generic Saltines were 99 cents regularly at Walmart, and normal grocery stores charged almost $4. We ate Saltines with soup all the time at our house; maybe 4 or 5 boxes a month, besides the home-made cheese and crackers and peanut butter and crackers that I made whenever my husband wanted to go out with the family any time around meal time. If I brought a cracker snack with us (and recycled bottles of water), we could make it home without fainting and without buying fast food, which we couldn’t afford back then.

This is not an ad for Walmart. They are not the cheapest for everything (especially meat), but if you combine coupons with Walmart’s low prices and buy meat at other stores during big sales, you can pretty much buy your food for much less. I ended up going to Walmart once every two weeks, which was my normal schedule for buying food. We would have fresh fruits and vegetables the first week, then canned or frozen the second week. If you go to the store fewer times, you save money. It’s a fact. Milk now lasts at least two weeks, so there is no reason to go to the store between times. Staples like eggs and bread, you should know how much your family normally eats. It was only once or twice a year that I had to send my husband to get one thing at the store. Otherwise I already had everything.


Another way I’ve saved money is by finding hunters. The hunters’ wives usually have extra freezers full of deer meat, and they are so sick of it, they often want to throw away perfectly good meat. I’ve often gotten 50 pounds of free meat this way. It was a life saver back when we had no money whatsoever. If you can’t stand the taste of deer meat, mix it with regular meat, and it’s not so bad. And recipes like chili are so strong that it wouldn’t matter what kind of ground beef was in it.


Make recipes with what you already have. So many months we had no money in the bank or in our wallets, and we had to make it two more weeks before paycheck. I would write down everything in the freezer, cupboard, and fridge. Then I would ration out the meat, fruit, and vegetables. I always made sure to give my children protein, milk products (for calcium), fruits, and vegetables each day. Then I filled up the rest of their belly with cheap carbohydrates like potatoes, rice, bread, or whatever. The children were always full, even though I was rationing the foods that were more expensive. Junk food was absolutely out of the question, since we barely had enough money for the core foods. I would sometimes get the coin jar, grab all the quarters, and go to the store for fruits and vegetables, because we ran out of these the fastest. My children were healthy.

I’ve never been able to grow my own food without a monetary loss. The soil and seeds cost more than the real food when it’s on sale. (This is purely from a monetary point of view. Of course, the food tastes way better from your own garden, if you can actually get the stuff to grow.) Sometimes people from church would give us excess garden produce. There was no way I wanted to waste any of it. One time we had an enormous amount of broccoli. This was back when broccoli wasn’t a favorite with my kids. I waited to serve lunch an hour late, so that the kids would be ravenously hungry. I made a heaping plate of steamed broccoli, and I put it in the center of a small table. I squeezed lemon juice on it, and I told them that the rest of their food for lunch would not come until the plate was empty. Then I distracted them as they ate by teaching them something, since I normally homeschool during lunch. They mindlessly ate it all. Now broccoli is one of their favorite vegetables. (I washed, chopped, and froze the rest of it so they wouldn’t totally get sick of it.)

In general, if you combine coupons with an item that is already on sale, you can get the food almost for free. But the number one thing I always did was to pray for the groceries I needed. God always supplied, and He is faithful.

Saving Money on Children’s Clothes

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

saving-money-on-children's-clothesSaving money on children’s clothes has been important to me, since the children outgrow their clothing so fast. I came home a few days ago with fresh clothing for each of my children for the fall. I usually go to a children’s resale shop. Many of these shops will give you cash or in-store credit for clothing that is outgrown, or toys that your children no longer play with. I can’t remember how many times God has provided exactly what my children needed through these resale shops. I take boxes of things I no longer need. I pray that God will provide the very things that I need for my children. When the exchange is done, only a few coins are spent. I get a huge bag of almost new, name-brand clothing for my children for (basically) free!

Yard sales are another place I go to get clothing, and I find wonderful things sometimes. But the resale shops have clothing in all the sizes of my children, and it’s all in one spot, so it’s a better use of my time. Plus, a garage sale won’t swap my old stuff for me to buy their stuff. They are in the mood to make money and don’t want any more stuff. Plus, I’ve noticed that at most yard sales, clothing isn’t even worth looking at, unless you are in a rich neighborhood. I don’t understand why people put out stained, stretched-out clothing, as if anyone would buy such garbage. This is what gives garage sales a bad name – mostly the pathetic clothing!

That said, this time I actually did spend money. That’s because I had nothing to exchange. And normally I show some sort of wisdom as I switch over the children’s clothing from summer to fall. I write down what each child lacks. If one of my children doesn’t have swim trunks (because he’s grown out of his smaller ones), I write that down. If someone’s winter jacket has a broken zipper and a missing hood, I write that down. You see, it’s like grocery shopping. I come armed with a list. And I mostly stick to the list, unless I see something wonderful that we always need, like more long-sleeved shirts for the boys, especially for my oldest boy, since he hands them down to his two younger brothers.

So I didn’t have a list for the first time, and I had nothing to swap, and I was in the mood to go shopping. I knew the kids needed fall clothing. My husband blessed my shopping spree and gave me cash. He said, “Have fun.” I felt oddly disoriented with cash in my pocket and without my list, but I cried out to God as I drove the car, that would He please provide what I needed, even though I didn’t know what it was!

God was so good. I looked through the racks, starting with size 10 for my oldest son. (I always shop for my sons first, since shopping for girl’s clothing is so much more fun!) The only thing I could find was three long-sleeved shirts. Come to find out the next day when I switched over the boys’ clothes, that’s the very thing he needed. He only had five shirts, and one or two of them looked like they might be too small. So three more shirts rounded out his only need for clothing. (I’m choked up, because only God could have known that.)

For my second son, several months ago, I asked him what he would get if he had a million dollars. His eyes got wide, and he looked like he had never thought of what he wanted before. He finally said, “A new pair of pajamas.” I laughed. I said, “What’s wrong with your pajamas?” “I’m just sick of looking at them every day,” he replied. You’ll never guess what I found at the resale shop: a new-looking, very soft and comfy pair of pajamas. He loved the color, and he was so happy.

I also found two name-brand sweaters for him, and later on I found out that he was my only son with virtually no sweaters. (Snow is on the ground up to five months here in Washington.) I also found a long-sleeved shirt he loved.

For my third son, I only found two things, but it ended up that he didn’t really need much. I found a beautiful coat for my daughter, and this was odd because her other jacket was fine except for the stains. God was so sweet, He upgraded her jacket just to make me feel rich and lavished upon. You know how God is. And I found some long-sleeved shirts, which she badly needed, having only two or three in her closet, and having to wear them every day for fall, winter, and spring.

I guess the biggest way to save money while shopping for children’s clothes is to commit your way to the Lord, and just see what He will do.

Frugal Homeschool Friday