25 Time Investments That Yield Frugal Returns
Written by Kate Miller
That old cliche “Time is Money” really proves true when you are trying to live as frugally as possible. There are many ways that we can spend time in order to save money. Usually all it takes is commitment, motivation, and a little hard work.
Here are 25 wise ways to invest your time in order to save some money:
- Learn to bake your own bread. If you do not already cook from scratch, learning how to bake your own bread is the easiest first step to get you on your way. Also, the fact that the results are so satisfying doesn’t hurt either. Once you feel the confidence boost from baking your own loaf of bread it becomes easier to attempt the next thing on your cooking-from-scratch-to-save-money list.
- Research all purchases. Spending money is sometimes an inevitability, but spending and frugality are not necessarily counter-intuitive. It is possible to spend frugally by researching all purchases to guarantee that you are getting both the best product possible and the best price possible.
- Use the internet to search for coupons and coupon codes. Going along with tip #2, do not buy anything online without doing an internet search for a coupon code first. Simply type the name of the product you are purchasing, or the company you are purchasing from, and the words “coupon code” into your favorite search engine. You might be pleasantly surprised. Similarly, there are countless blogs out there that compile all of the grocery coupons available to print online. They are definitely a worthwhile stop before heading out to the grocery store.
- Make your own clothes. This is a tough one, and it may only be for the die-hard frugal lifers, but there’s no question that it is a skill that will save you money.
- Menu plan and use a master grocery list. Menu planning and creating and using a master grocery list takes time, especially if it is a new idea to you. However, if keeping your grocery budget low is important to you, it may just be the best 20 minutes of time you can spend. A menu plan helps you focus on what you truly need to purchase versus what you already have on hand and it allows you to take advantage of the weekly sales. A master grocery list keeps you focused at the store. If you use a list that is set up according to your store’s layout, you can avoid unnecessary aisles and temptations.
- Create a price book. A price book works hand-in-hand with a master grocery list. By listing the regular prices of products you usually buy at the stores you usually shop at, you can tell at a glance where you should shop based on your needs for the week. If you do not feel like spending hours walking up and down the aisles, there is an easier way to create a price book. Save all your receipts for groceries at your regular stores for a few weeks. Then, using your receipts, mark down the regular prices on a price sheet. There are many blank price book forms that you can find online.
- Freezer cook. Freezer cooking doesn’t have to mean doing a large once-a-month cooking marathon. It can be as simple as making doubles of some of your favorite meals – one to eat right away and one to go in the freezer. Having meals on hand in the freezer reduces the need for take-out.
- Make your own laundry detergent. The process may seem tedious at first. However, once you realize that you’re spending only pennies to wash your clothes every week, the tedium will not matter.
- Learn to re-create convenience foods. Convenience foods are often the costliest items at the grocery store. Most of them can be recreated from scratch though. Bisquick, canned soups, and macaroni and cheese are just a few of the items that are easily duplicated for a fraction of the original cost.
- Mend your clothes. If you mend a small hole before it becomes a large one, the time investment is minimal. Yet for that minimal investment, you prolong the usability and life of the item. Darning holes in socks is another quick fix if done in a timely manner.
- Use proper stain management techniques. A stain that is caught quickly and treated properly usually will wash out. Don’t let your clothes end up as rags just because you hoped a stain would wash out on its own.
- Change all of your light bulbs. Swap out regular incandescent light bulbs for CFL light bulbs. They last longer and require just a fraction of the energy to light your home.
- Sort through all hand-me-downs, thrift stores, and garage sales. Many treasures lie hidden in the piles of clothes from these three sources. It may take perseverance, but the result is usually well worth the extra effort.
- Plant a garden. Gardening is a great way to beat the rising costs of produce. It also allows you to eat seasonally and to practice whichever gardening techniques you prefer. An organic tomato from your own garden costs virtually nothing.
- Can your excess. Whether you grow a garden or not, take advantage of excess produce throughout the growing and harvesting months. By learning to can, you can stock your pantry with chemical-free, fresh-tasting goodness to last until the next year. You also reduce the need to throw away any produce that is verging on spoilage.
- Visit used book stores and library book sales. There are usually many gems hidden among the shelves if you are willing to take the time and look. These places are also a great way to begin exploring the large, but profitable, world of reselling books on Amazon, half-price books, or many of the other websites out there.
- Track all expenses and purchases. Commit to a certain number of days and then record every single bit of money spent during that time. This is a great way to get a clear picture of where your money is really going and see where you can cut back.
- Research frugality. Many people write on frugality. There are shelves of books at the library dedicated to the subject and scores of similar websites and blogs. If you want to live more frugally, do some homework and turn to the trusted-advice of those that already live that way.
- Learn a free or low-cost hobby to replace a more expensive one. Hobbies are fantastic things, and often can be frugal when you turn creations into gifts or decorations. However, some hobbies are just plain expensive. If you are really trying to cut back, see if you can find an equally filling, but less costly, substitute.
- Check for drafts throughout your house. Feel around window sills and door frames to see if you notice cold air blowing in at all. If you do, use caulk to fill in the small spaces or rolls of cloth (as simple as a rolled-up towel works) to cover larger spaces, such as the bottom of a door frame. If you have to purchase the caulk, it is an investment that will pay for itself almost immediately when your heating bill goes down.
- Clear out the clutter. If you are constantly having to buy new things because you “lost” something, stop losing things! The easiest way to do that is to get rid of unnecessary clutter and organize what remains.
- Maintain your car properly. Taking good care of your car helps prolong its life, ensures maximum gas mileage, and helps to avoid costly repairs in the future. Most simple car maintenance tasks can even be done on your own if you’re willing to learn how and take the time to put that knowledge to work.
- Walk instead of drive. Even when gas prices are not outrageously high, walking is a very frugal option. If the weather is friendly and the destination is close enough, leave the car at home. The savings add up quickly.
- Examine all luxuries. Many of the everyday things in our lives are truly not necessities. Examine all of the little luxuries in your life and cut back wherever possible. Some things to consider: internet, cable tv, home phone or cell phone (in many cases, you really don’t need both), gym memberships, movie rentals, dining out, etcetera.
- Set up a good filing system. A filing system that is set up properly ensures four things: 1) you’ll never lose your warranties on appliances, 2) you’ll never lose owners manuals that could have saved you money on repairs, 3) you’ll never pay a bill late because you forgot about it or lost it, and 4) you’ll never miss a tax-deduction.
Spend a little bit of time now to save money in the future. It’s the frugal thing to do!