Utility bills—they’re something we all have to pay, and I bet you probably just click “online payments” on your computer screen and off goes your digital payment into cyberspace. Certainly that’s what I do when the bill comes in the mail!
How many times have you really looked at your bill, though, and wondered if you are paying more than the average for your area? Utility usage definitely depends on the size of your family and home—two people in a one bedroom apartment are not going to pay as much as a 7-person family in a large suburban house—but if you’re looking to save a little money, try a few things to lower your utility bill. Even if you’re only saving a few dollars a month, those bucks will add up over time!
Turn off your electronics: Many electronics have an extremely low-energy “sleep” mode where the appliance doesn’t fully turn off, but remains in a standby state until you turn it back on. But you know what saves even more power? Just turning your electronics off! Flip off the surge protector too, when you go to sleep—that draws power as well, even if everything plugged into it is turned off.
Replace lightbulbs with CFL bulbs: Most cities have sent out public notices about or even subsidized replacing standard bulbs with the weirdly spiral-shaped CFL bulbs. But if you haven’t replaced yours yet, please do! They really do save quite a bit of energy—and money. Ask your public utilities manager if they give out any for free or at a discount.
Let dishes air dry instead of running the “heated dry” cycle on the dishwasher: Many people line dry their clothes to save energy by not using a dryer. But most dishwashers also have a “dry” cycle that use heat to dry dishes. And of course, using heat is using energy which is spending money, so crack open that dishwasher once the dishes are washed and let them air dry. Or, if you’ve got time, wipe them down with a dishtowel.
What other ways do you save energy around your home?
In many ways toilet paper has you covered in various parts of your daily life.
The Intended Way
Let’s not go into a great detail about this way. We all know how to use it properly, I’m sure.
One of the great things about toilet paper is it’s flushable. It is made to break down in your plumbing and not cause clogs, unless you’re really trying. The same can not be said of tissue. It’s made to hold up against that epic sneeze but doesn’t break down quite as well as toilet paper. So why not just use toilet paper as tissue instead. You already have it on hand plus, with all the tweaks to softness and strength, it won’t be murder on your already agitated nose.
In a pinch toilet paper can make a great make shift napkin. I’m not saying pull it out at a fine dinner party and stick napkin rings on it. For an at home dinner, however, it can be a frugal finger cleaner and chin wiper.
When making those cute winter snow flakes with your kids, consider using toilet paper. First of all it’s already divided into equal sided squares. Second, it’s much less expensive than origami paper. Third, it will give your snow flakes a fluffier and softer look.
Yes, high school students everywhere have been using toilet paper to “decorate” their fellow classmates yards and homes. Outside it can be gross, especially if it rains. Inside it can make really nice streamers for a potty training graduation party.
That Other Kind Of Napkin
Let’s say your monthly female proclamation has come and you’re out and about and not prepared. Folded toilet paper inside the lining of your undies should be able to get you home before any massive leakage takes place. You will, however, be looking at an hour deadline.
There are a lot of items around the house that can have dual purposes and save us money. This was never more true than when it comes to the hobbies we enjoy. Taking advantage of every frugal avenue of our art or crafting doesn’t just save us money. It stretches our creativity further, allowing us to come up with ideas we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Old Make Up
Old make up is fabulous to have around if you are an artist. It doesn’t just paint your face. It can also be used to paint a canvas. Use old liquid foundation to create skin tones for painting. Use old eye shadow and blush for shadowing or for a hazy look to your art work. Lipstick and liquid eye shadows/eyeliners can be used for outlining or drawing attention to a focal point in your work, the same way it is used on your face.
Rather than getting a set of piping bags for baking, consider using plastic sandwich bags instead. Just fill the bag with you frosting, cut a hole in the corner of the bag in relation to the size you want your piping to b,e and decorate your baked goods. This does mean that the piping will be simple, but it will save you a few dollars and your frosting needs will be met.
Baby Food Jars
Baby food jars are great for crafting. They can hold paint, glitter, or water to clean paintbrushes in. They can be used to make little Christmas or Easter snow globes. First remove the label and label glue completely from the jar. Then super glue a little sculpture or toy to the lid and let it dry. Fill the jar with water and glitter the glue the lid in place. Super glue or hot glue will work best to seal your snow globe.
What everyday items do you use in your crafts?
Families like to be able to get out of the house to do things together. Unfortunately many aquariums, zoos, and local attractions can be very pricey regardless of if you are paying for a membership or just one day. Here are a few things you can do together as a family without destroying your savings account.
National Parks and Monuments
National parks are a beautiful and affordable way to get back to nature. Some are free, other have fees, but are generally much more affordable than your typical tourist attractions. Many have activities that can be fun. There are tours, mountain climbing, canoeing, or rafting to partake in, depending where you are visiting. The are also natural formations or historical monuments. There is wild life that you can try to catch a glimpse of. Just be sure to obey the rules and warning signs of the park or historical site.
Local Historical Museums
Many towns have their own history and historical buildings. Some offer tours for donations or a very low fee. You can learn many interesting things about the indigenous people of the area you live in. You can also learn about the who founded your town and what interesting things they did. Who knows? You may even learn that famous people from history are connected to your town.
Local Art Exhibits
Many towns have local art centers that show off the work of artists living in the area. You can find paintings, handmade dresses, or even hand made jewelry. It also give you an opportunity to buy interesting works of art for your home at a much lower price. These centers often offer art classes that families can enjoy together. Many I have visited have a free class for young children to enjoy.
Many book stores have events such as book releases or a weekly story time. These are fun to visit. You have the opportunity to enjoy contests, arts and crafts, or just wander the store and get to know people. Hardware stores also may offer classes for children, such as building a bird house with a parent.
If you love to go camping consider becoming a KOA member. Many KOA campgrounds have extras such as water slides, canoeing, or a swimming pool. The have camping spots for both vehicle campers and tent campers. Many even have cabins. Plus there is a camp store and clean bathrooms.
Some local farms offer berry picking in the summer and pumpkin picking in the fall. Most of the time these activities are inexpensive. Many farms also have a petting zoo for children to enjoy. Just watch out for the goats!
Salad dressing is a fun way to spice up food, and it’s great for foods other than salad.
Salad dressings make great marinades for meat. What I love to use the most are vinaigrettes to marinate chicken or beef. For pork a fruity raspberry vinaigrette works fairly well. A vinaigrette soaks more into the meat you’re trying to marinate. They are also better for when you need to travel with the marinating meat. Cream based salad dressings are better for home and it may take longer for the flavor to seep into your meat.
Sandwiches are often the old stand by of any lunch. We don’t like them quite so much because they can often lack creativity. We also avoid creativity on the off chance our creation won’t taste that great and then the food could be wasted. Salad dressings are a safe way to experiment with sandwiches which consist of meat, cheese, and/ or vegetables. They can extra flavor to a sandwich, where mayo just keeps the bread from being dry and sticking to the roof of your mouth. Italian dressing (creamy or in vinegar form) can add an extra kick to your lunch time stand by. Or replace the cheese in your sandwich with a blue cheese dressing. Salad dressings add a lot more options to sandwich making.
We use salad dressings for dipping sauces all the time for items such as hot wings and pizza. They can also be used for other items. Tater tots or french fries go great with honey mustard. Thousand island salad dressing goes quite well with fish sticks.
When making a casserole, sometimes a salad dressing can flavor your mix better than a dry seasoning. Salad dressings mix better into casserole ingredients. Plus you can change the flavor of the casserole by changing the salad dressing. This means you can cook the same thing more often and have different tasting results.
With Other Sauces
Sometimes it’s fun to mix two sauces to see if you can get a taste you like better. Ketchup with mayo or with mustard is one example. For the bold, trying different mixes of salad dressings can be fun and add a new flavor to your list of enhancing ingredients.
Well, of course!
As a Thrifty Diva we aren’t usually too picky about taking used items and hand me downs. There are times, however, when free is just too high a price to pay for what you are really getting in return. Here are a few times not to accept the thrifty gifts of others.
When There Is A Catch
A friend or family member decides to give you a bunch of stuff out of the goodness of there hearts and all of a sudden you owe them. After all they were so generous towards you. You can usually tell this is happening when you never asked for any of the items given and they just show up out of the blue at your home with a smile and a favor request.
If you don’t trust the person’s motives, but you don’t want to directly confront them and cause a scene, plead a lack of storage space. Let them know you are thankful they thought of you but you don’t have the space or need for all this stuff. If they insist, tell them you’ll look through it to see if you need anything, but you’ll probably just end up donating it. Then end with a thank you.
When You Really Just Don’t Have The Space
Sometime people bring you stuff knowing that they needed to clean out a closet and that you have that thrifty habit of taking old stuff. The problem is that you don’t have room in the back of your closet either to store six hundred old sweaters. Let them know that you have been going through your stuff as well, and are getting rid of a bunch of stuff. Suggest that the donate it or, if they want their things to go to someone they know, put it on the swap table at a church or community function.
When It’s Broken
Even when people are trying to get rid of things, you are under no obligation to take stuff that is broken. It doesn’t matter if they think it would be a great fixer upper project for you or not. Let them know that you are glad they thought of you, but you just don’t have the time to take on this item. Suggest they pay to get it refurbished if it’s a really nice piece or gently let them know it should just be thrown away.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I suppose that’s true considering that before all our modern conveniences we had still to do all the things that we do now. Don’t misunderstand me. I love modern conveniences as much as the next person, but I have often wondered how much money I could save by applying some of the camping practices I use to my life every now and then.
It Inspires Creativity
Outdoor living makes us think out of the box. We have come up with numerous ways to cook without an electric or gas stove. We have found ways to keep water out of our tents. We have found ways to make water that is dirty clean enough to drink. There is no limit to our creativity when we take ourselves away from our modern conveniences.
How does this help us save money? These creative methods used during camping can also be used in our backyards to cook. We can make tin foil dinners to cook in the back yard fire pit or in the family fireplace. We can use clothes lines or drying racks instead of an electric dryer. Imagine how much money that could save us in electricity.
Campers usually have other skills as well, particularly when it comes to finding food. Campers learn how to forage for edible plants. Some campers hunt. Other campers like to meditate in the form of fishing. Hunters often even learn how to dry meat and prepare food for storing for a rainy day. These skills have the ability to cut down our food budgets.
Lowers Our Luxury Threshold
The comforts of home, such as a mattress made of springs and stuffing, suddenly become a bed fit for a king when you have been sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag all weekend. Things we take for granted on a day to day basis (like indoor plumbing) suddenly are an appreciated luxury. When we find the every day things in our lives have become a luxury we are less inclined to want to replace them with the latest, greatest product. We are instead, content to sit in our air conditioning for a while and enjoy what we have.
What’s better than starting your own spring garden? Starting a family garden with your whole family living in your area!
Choice of Yard
When you have extended family around someone is bound to have a yard. It most cases many someones. Multiple yards means you get to pick out the best yard for a garden. It may be the yard of the person who has enough time to water a garden every day. It may be the yard furthest out of the city or the yard with the best soil PH. It could even just be the yard of the person who came up with the idea. Or the garden could be spread out among multiple yards growing different things in each. For those in an apartment smaller plants, like tomatoes, can be put out on the balcony. You could even grow the families herbs on the window sill. The more gardening options and room the better.
You’re not on your own when it comes to creating and growing the garden. People of the family should be showing up and lending a hand. If you have a brown thumb, consider it a garden with training wheels. Have those with greener thumbs help you learn the ropes of gardening. Eventually you could have enough experience to plant your own garden and may even succeed in getting something to grow.
A shared garden means a split cost. You could cover the cost of fertilizer while someone else may cover the cost of pots for a container garden. The person who has the garden in their yard will be covering the cost of water for the garden. Keep that in mind as you split the costs of your family project.
It’s not likely that the produce of your garden will got to waste when split between a few different family groups. What would be more tomatoes than you know what to do with becomes a good crop for all that will get used. Just keep in mind what other family members will or won’t eat when planning a garden. Everyone should have something that they would like to eat planted in a joint garden endeavor.