Think being frugal means being deprived and miserable? Are you conjuring up images of plain oatmeal and washing laundry by hand?
Think again! A large number of Web sites have great ideas for revitalizing your home, personal care, and any number of areas in your life at a lower cost. More money left over at the end of the month means you can do anything from investing it, becoming debt-free, or using it for the dream vacation you always wanted without racking up credit card debt. It’s not a fantasy! Take a trip down these sites and see for yourself.
I like to read articles as well as tips to motivate me to think creatively and have fun. The site http://www.stretcher.com/index.cfm has a wide range of articles on innovative ways to be frugal and treat yourself well. Articles for personal care include “Frugal Workouts,” “All Natural Masks,” and “Spa Vacation at Home.”
While checking out the main index, I saw categories such as Hobbies, Humor, Pets, and Romance. Okay, I’ll admit it—I looked in the romance category to see what was offered and found articles like “25 Free or Cheap Dates,” “Romantic Valentine’s Day Ideas,” and “True Romance for Couples with Kids.” Then I turned to Hobbies, where articles such as “Feeding the Birds” and “Soapmaking: Recipes and Directions” are located.
I discovered that other categories also contain fun activities. In the Holidays category I found “Gifts in a Jar,” “Halloween Costumes and Parties,” “Inexpensive Christmas and Hanukkah Gifts.” In the Home Decorating category, I found “Simple Room Makeovers,” among many others topics. The Recipes category abounds with suggestions to make eating delicious, fun, and entertaining, with recipes such as Chicken with Grapes, Spiced Apples, and The Chocolate Theory.
The site http://www.frugalfinesse.com/ is all about living simply in style. It offers articles such as “Trash to Treasure,” “Dimestore Decorating,” “Diary of a Packrat,” and “Cookin’ Cheap.” Under the category called Tightwad Tips you’ll find a hodgepodge of ways to use various items such as burned-out light bulbs, outgrown T-shirts, and even an old sock.
The Happy Tightwad at http://www.ridleypark.net/tightwad/columns.html has upbeat articles on saving money on items like music, books, ink for your inkjet printer, and even light bulbs. The site proclaims: “The Happy Tightwad tells you how to avoid overpaying and achieve true contentment on earth. Or at least—have some money left over after your purchases to devote to the pursuit of happiness.” Sounds good to me.
Frugal Living Today: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck, at http://www2.latech.edu/~sld/frugalstuff.html, offers many ideas on saving money on food and clothes, along with interesting ideas, such as a recipe for making playdough. There are also a lot of links to other frugal sites that are worth browsing through.
Frugal Times at http://www.frugaltimes.com/ offers ideas on making homemade cleaners, budget furniture fix-ups, and cooking with kids. Clicking to Frugal Tips, I found categories from gardening (I never knew that roses love crushed egg shells) to automobiles.
For all you gardeners out there, there is a wealth of material designed to allow you to enjoy your gardens without breaking your budget. A site describing itself as The World’s Greatest Garden Tightwad Tips at http://www.directoryofgreatdeals.com/home_and_garden1.htm may be what you need. Or drop by Gardening Frugally at http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/gardeningfrugally/, which offers articles on everything from container gardening to fertilizer to finding flowers for free.
Food shopping with a frugal eye can save literally hundreds of dollars off your grocery bill. A good site to start is Frugal Recipes at http://www.freelancebyu.com/recipes.htm, which combines recipes from readers and other sources. The site also provides links to other sites such as CopyKat Recipes, which says it can help you “create your favorite restaurant dishes at a fraction of the price.”
Cooking on a Shoestring, at http://www.mommysavers.com/cooking_on_a_shoestring.htm, has categories such as Meals in Minutes, Side Dishes, and Delicious Desserts. And Frugal Recipes for Good Food at http://frugalliving.about.com/cs/frugalrecipes1/ has many food ideas worth dipping into, such as making your own popsicles, and pretzels, starting your own sourdough starter, and making skillet meals and meatless meals. Frugal Recipes [http://www.frugalrecipes.com/html/index.php] offers recipes such as Kung Pao Chicken and Butternut Squash Gratin to whet the appetite and leave cash in your pocket.
Budget 101 (sounds boring, doesn’t it?) at http://www.budget101.com/ is actually an interesting place to visit because of articles like “inexpensive Gag Gifts” (reindeer poop, anyone?) and more than 750 different mixes/jar gift ideas.
Do you buy makeup? That can take a large chunk out of your wallet. The Frugal Diva at http://www.frugaldiva.com/default.asp believes you can be divine on a budget. The site includes reviews of different cosmetics available at very reasonable prices (all under $15). However, there is no mention of which cosmetics companies are cruelty-free.
Likewise, The Frugal Face at http://www.thefrugalface.com/ has some wake up calls for women who buy expensive makeup. Along with some fun and creative makeup tips, the site talks seriously about looking good while saving money—and possibly considering early retirement with the money saved and invested! The site mentions brands by name, but again, there’s no way of knowing which brands are cruelty-free. The owner says her site isn’t being updated so prices may have changed.
A host of beauty tips can be found at http://beauty.about.com/cs/frugalbeauty/, which includes articles such as “Five Frugal Cosmetic Tips” and “Make Your Own Cleansing Cloths.”
Getting married? Worried that the cost will sink you like quicksand? Fear not: There are a number of Web sites eager to show you how to have a wonderful wedding while saving for that new house. At The Frugal Bride at http://www.thefrugalbride.cjb.net/, you’ll find articles like “A Wedding for $1,400!?,” “Invitations for Less,” and “Reception Ideas.”
Two approaches to tightwad weddings can be found at http://www.frugalfun.com/weddings.html, where the costs ranged from $300-$3,000. In an era where that would barely cover the cost of the flowers, that’s no mean feat.
For more traditional ideas, USA Bride, at http://www.usabride.com/frugal/, broke down the wedding category into Wedding Fashion, Flowers and Décor, and Catering. Clicking on the link for Flowers and Décor led me to links such as Decorating the Reception and Bouquets and Corsages.
Did you think that being thrifty meant staying close to home? At The Travel Tightwad [http://www.elliott.org/tightwad/], you’ll find articles for saving money while on the road. For instance, you might want to read “Fly or Drive?” and “Good Deals are ‘Inn’ Season,” which talks about how staying at a B&B could save you money.
At TravelLady Magazine, two articles offer very interesting perspectives for travel and also helpful links to back them up. To read them, go to http://www.travellady.com/Issues/Issue65/65-tightwad.htm and http://www.travellady.com/Issues/Issue82/frugal.htm.
Four Tips for Frugal Travel (which is actually a misnomer because there were more than four helpful links and tips) is a helpful site located at http://budgettravel.about.com/library/weekly/aa052002d.htm. For those who like to camp, a visit to http://members.aol.com/frugally4u/campingtips.html can provide you with handy tips.
At All Things Frugal [http://www.allthingsfrugal.com/], click on the link for Decorating Help for an impressive list of articles, which include “Decorating with Pattern,” “Disguising a Ruined Tabletop,” and “Feng Shui.” This is quite an eclectic mix. Also on the site are some fun ideas for kids, such as “Rainy Day Project” and “Fun with Invisible Ink.”
Pennywise Newsletter at http://www.smart-penny.com/Watchthepennies.htm has a crafts section that gives instructions on making cool crayons and a chalkboard table, among other projects. There’s also some interesting personal information about the woman who maintains the site (she practices what she preaches).
Do you have kids? Or just feel like being silly? Making Halloween costumes instead of buying them can be fun and thrifty. Go to http://www.20ishparents.com/holiday/halloween/frugalcostumes.shtml. Family activities can be found at http://members.aol.com/dsimple/familyfun.html. One article is titled “200+ Ideas for Family Fun.”
Ever want to make a musical rain stick? Or soap? How about some wonderful chocolate concoctions? GreenSense at http://www.greensense.com/GR_LIV.HTM shows you how. This site offers many articles and links that cover a lot of different topics, such as How To Make Window Quilts, Build a Worm Bin, and Build an Inexpensive Playhouse, among other offerings. The site is a bit offbeat but fun to read.
So turn to the Web for myriad ideas on how to think creatively, save money, and get exactly what you want. Enjoy!
Judith M. Levinton is a freelance writer who’s currently studying to become a hospital chaplain. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.