One word that hasn’t been very popular in recent memory is frugal. We live in a time of disposable convenience items, credit card debt, and single-use plastics. We covet celebrities’ lavish lifestyles that are constantly displayed on social media. In a consumerist society the messages we receive are all about aspiring to having more.
And then came the coronavirus.
Suddenly, with most of the country shuttered inside and millions out of work, pinching pennies is a necessity. People are seeking out ways to save money on food and other supplies. I’ve found myself watching depression-era recipe videos on YouTube.
In addition, with an extremely contagious virus spreading throughout our communities, shopping is no longer a leisurely pastime. Social distancing requires minimizing our trips to the store by stocking up when we do go and making our supplies last as long as possible. The days of running to Target for that one needed item are over for the immediate future.
I'm a cheapskate even in the best of times. My grandmother Mary Cappelletti taught me to never pay full price for anything, and I’ve carried that lesson throughout my life. I find it a fun challenge to save money and to avoid waste where I can. These ideas are not sexy, but they are suddenly in vogue again. So I’m sharing a few tips that have served me well in living a frugal lifestyle.
1. Use half as much - Try to be more conscious about the amount of stuff you use on a daily basis: toothpaste, shampoo, cooking oil, dish soap, laundry detergent. Often we get in the habit of using way more of these products than is necessary to get the job done. Experiment with using half as much as you normally do, and you may find these things work just as well and you can stretch your supply much further.
2. Use things up completely - Maybe I’m weird, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of using every last bit of something that comes in a container. With liquids like laundry detergent and hand soap I will turn the almost-empty bottle upside-down on top of the new one to get the last drops out. I take that tiny shard of bar soap and stick it to the new bar I just opened. A new tip I picked up recently is to cut plastic squeeze tubes of hand cream or other toiletries with scissors to access what is left. I’ve been amazed at the amount of product hiding in there when the tube seems empty!
3. Take care of things properly so they last - It’s easy to be careless about the stuff we own and put off maintenance tasks, but a few minutes now will help increase the life span of our stuff in the future. Take the time to clean, oil, or change the filter on those things in your home that haven’t been addressed in a while.
This tip also applies to perishable food items. Storing produce properly will help extend its freshness, and you can check this list for guidelines. I eat a lot of leafy greens and I’m able to make them last longer by first selecting packages at the store that have a minimum of condensation inside (indicating they are fresher) and adding a paper towel to the container after it has been opened. This seems to absorb excess moisture and keeps the greens from getting slimy longer.
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Make it fab!