Frugality is so much more than saving money. There is an element of creativity and resourcefulness that goes far beyond being cheap. As someone who is always up for a challenge, I enjoy finding out-of-the-box ways to make our money stretch.
Last week I had a couple of frugal wins that I want to tell you about.
Now, before I tell you what they were, I want to warn you that you might think the deals in and of themselves are silly. I admit that in and of themselves, these two examples won’ t make or break our big financial goals, but if you look past the specifics here and embrace the widely applicable underlying principle, even you can probably learn something.
Frugal Win #1
I was at a store this week where all the remaining Christmas things were priced at twenty-five cents. Everything from fake evergreen boughs to snowman Peeps to large boxes of Christmas cards. Looking at what was left, I saw plenty of things I could easily pass up even at a quarter.
Then I saw them–a shelf of $3 bags of “snow cover.” You know, the white fluffy faux snow that people use to decorate mantles and Christmas villages.
Now I have absolutely no reason to buy “snow cover;” I’m just not going to be putting together any winter settings in our home that need a snowy surface. But, when I looked past its use as a holiday decoration, I saw bags of quilt batting, or filling for stuffed animals or pillows (which is essentially what it is). So, I spent $2.75 on the remaining 11 bags.
While that’s a nice savings of over $30, it’s only any good because it’s something I’ll actually use. (My crafty side has been around much longer than my finance bloggy side). In fact, the boys and I used some on Saturday to make a special pillow for the baby while the girls were on a date with daddy.
Since we have limited space in our basement abode, it’s important to note that the batting compresses nicely and is easy to store.
Frugal Win #2
The next day when I was at my favorite discount food store, I saw packs of 4 individual half-cups of peanut butter in the baking aisle. It was slated as a convenience baking item. I guess someone was annoyed with the messy task of measuring peanut butter, so they wanted to simplify the process with pre-measured peanut butter. Side note: I always avoid dirtying a measuring cup by just eyeballing the peanut butter.
Normally I would walk right past this kind of product without a second thought. I know that you pay through the nose for that sort of convenience. However, when I looked closer, I saw that the convenience pack was really just 18 ounces of peanut butter that happened to be in four small containers, at a total cost of $.99. The normal inexpensive peanut butter I usually buy comes in small jars of only 16 ounces that cost at least $2. The larger jars are usually very nearly the same price per ounce as the smaller ones.
Since we were at the discount food store where they often have items that are coming up on their “best by” date, I made sure to check the date. While many items are good well past their date, you definitely don’t want to over stock food that is going to go bad (and I take the dates more seriously for anything with nuts that might go rancid).
The date was more than two months away, so I grabbed 10 packages (then wished I had gotten more). Making 8-10 PBJs a day, we go through peanut butter like there’s no tomorrow so we will definitely be able to use it all!
Thinking Outside the Box
So what do both of these stories have in common (besides that you might think both are ridiculous)? They are both examples of frugal thinking outside of the box.
If I had only considered decorating my mantle with the faux snow, I would have passed it up, but because I could see its other uses, I got a 92% discount on an item I have paid full price for in the past, and will continue to need.
If I had dismissed the peanut butter as a ridiculous convenience item without discovering it was a much better price than peanut butter in standard packaging and could be used just as easily for sandwiches (and would come in very handy for road trips or emergency kits), I wouldn’t have been able to get over a month’s worth of peanut butter for half price .
When you’re in the habit of thinking creatively, you’ll find lots of ways that you can meet your family’s needs (and wants) for less. Challenge yourself to think outside the box next time you need something or you’re out shopping. But beware…
While there is a lot to gain by thinking outside the box, there is also a real danger in getting carried away.
My mom is one of the most creative people I know. Her talent and ingenuity is clear, and everyone who has seen at her work is amazed at how she regularly creates beautiful things from unremarkable materials. She can think of something fabulous to do with just about anything she finds in the clearance aisle, so she buys a lot from there, knowing that it could be the makings of a fantastic new project.
The danger is that her endless stream of ideas has to answer to her limited time, limited means, and limited space. She doesn’t have the time, money, or space to make all of her ideas realities. That is frustrating to her. It also means she ends up with the materials for many more great projects than she’ll ever be able to actually complete. Even so, it’s hard for her to not add to the already overflowing supply of craft materials because she knows that she really could make something awesome out of this current clearance item.
Being creative and resourceful is a great way to save money, BUT you have to know the difference between a good price and a good deal.
When you are trying to meet your family’s needs on a limited budget, thinking creatively can help you get more for your money. In fact, creativity is really the next step of frugality, beyond just looking for deals. Just be careful to keep yourself in check so you aren’t stocking what you won’t use, don’t have room for, or don’t have money for.
How about you?
- What frugal wins have you had by thinking outside the box?