Friday, February 22, 2013

Of Houses & Things, Part 4

We Cut Corners Creatively

Clothing. I used to be able to make a dress for much less than the cost of a ready-made one. That is not the case now. So, I plan my wardrobe carefully to be sure that each item I buy can be combined several ways to make more outfits--by sticking to favorite color families that coordinate; by choosing pants, turtlenecks, jackets, and accessories in basic colors that go with a variety of colors and prints; and by avoiding impulse buying and fads. Buying clothes at the end of the season during clearance sales also keeps the costs down.

Maintenance and Personal Services. My husband cuts expenses by doing much of the house and yard maintenance himself. He is our plumber and general handyman. For car upkeep, we have discovered that it is cheaper to go to an independent auto mechanic who is certified to do work under our manufacturer's warranty for basic servicing, such as oil changes, than to take it to the dealer. For new tires and major maintenance, we save ahead to avoid having to pay interest on our credit card. I am the family barber, hairdresser, and housekeeper. When I was growing up, my mother cut and permed my hair. The only time I go to the beauty shop now is to get a permanent twice a year. And I do my own nails. If we can't do things ourselves, we trade services with friends and family members whenever possible.

Food. We have found tasty ways to prepare cheaper cuts of meat. Poultry is a favorite and usually a bargain. Cutting down on convenience foods, junk food, and eating out also cuts the grocery bill. Doing our own baking is cheaper and tastier than buying ready-made. Popcorn makes a great snack and is cheaper and lower in calories than many other snacks.

Cards and Gifts. We often give homemade gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I have tole painted plaques, crocheted tree ornaments and afghans, sewn aprons, and painted plaster craft lamps, bookends, and knickknacks. I also keep my eyes open all year for Christmas and birthday gifts for my children and grandchildren. My husband and I enjoy "recycling" some of the especially nice greeting cards we've given to each other. One year, I gave my husband a new card, and then we realized it was identical to the new one I'd given him the year before. Now, we do it on purpose. They are too pretty to throw away, and the message is just as good the second time. Sometimes we design our own cards or write special letters or poems instead of giving new cards.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Living on less doesn't have to be painful. Make it and game. What creative ways have you found to cut corners?

Next Post: Of Houses & Things, Part 5, "If You're in Debt" 

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