Getting By When Times Are Tough

There’s no denying it, times are tough right now. Money is tight. And more and more people are realizing the need to pinch their pennies in any possible way they can. I myself have been trying to find little ways here and there to save my family as much money as possible. Fortunately, there are a lot of little things you can do to stretch your income a little further, no matter where you are in life.              

Here are some things I do to help keep us within our very tight budget. See if you can pick out one or two to begin with, and apply them to your own household.

  • Eat out rarely, and cook meals from scratch; stop buying processed foods.
  • Grind our wheat for homemade breads, tortillas, pancakes, etc.
  • Make homemade yogurt, ice cream, etc.
  • Raise a garden and can any extra produce and meat we come into.
  • Raise chickens for eggs and meat.
  • Keep goats for milk.
  • Unscrew unnecessary light bulbs throughout the house.
  • Keep the air conditioner set high, and the heat low. Use a wood stove in the winter time.
  • Unplug appliances not in use.
  • Condense trips to town to conserve gas.
  • ake homemade soap and other toiletries myself.
  • Fix broken things and mend tears instead of replacing damaged items.
  • Stay away from the mall and only shop for clothing second hand.
  • Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels.
  • Buy prepaid phone cards for cell phones.
  • Ditch the television all together.
  • Cancel any and all unnecessary bills, memberships, subscriptions, etc.
  • Let kids enjoy the outdoors and play at the park instead of paying for extra curricular activities.
  • Be low maintenance; learn to go without the salon for tanning, getting your nails done, and highlighting your hair.
  • Find free activities to enjoy as a family or date night for entertainment.
  • Wash Ziploc bags and reuse them.
  • Hang dry all clothing instead of running a clothes dryer.
  • Use newspaper for going to the bathroom. (I’m kidding! Kidding people! Just had to toss that one in there for kicks.)
  • Dilute whole milk with water, especially when cooking and in cereal.
  • Use cloth diapers and wipes instead of expensive disposables.

One thing that helps me stay focused on this goal is a saying that was very popular during The Great Depression,
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

I love this! This idea can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Some areas of saving money may take a little more creativity than others, but I’d encourage you to try to think of ways to scrimp and save in everything you do!
Use your things sparingly. See how you can stretch them to make them last even longer.

  • Dilute shampoo and conditioner with water. It’ll still work just as well and last twice as long! (Don’t try this on the cheapest brands though, it doesn’t work well on them.)
  • Use half the recommended amount of detergent in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Only use a pea size amount of toothpaste instead of a whole glob!
  • Lightly dab on moisturizer instead of saturating your face with it.
  • If you use dryer sheets, tear them in half to make them last twice as long.
  • Clean countertops using plain old water most of the time instead of spraying costly cleaners.

And use it all up, completely.

For example: toothpaste is pretty expensive (in my frugal mind). So when we get low on toothpaste, and the tube has been squeezed as flat as it possibly can be squeezed, I don’t stop there. Realizing that there is probably a little more paste still inside, I cut the tube down the side and… BEHOLD! There’s always a bunch of toothpaste still sticking around. So, I just scrape some off onto the toothbrush, and put the cut tube into a Ziploc baggie to keep it fresh. It usually lasts for another week and a half!

What else can you squeeze the last drop out of?
Swish water around in containers like shampoo/conditioner, liquid laundry detergent, dish detergent and such. Shake up your empty chocolate syrup container with a little milk, to get the very last bit of chocolate out before you toss the bottle. Cut open tubes of products, and be amazed at how much more stuff is hiding inside!

Before you throw something away, see if there might be at least one more usage out of it. The savings really add up!
Make do with what you have, or learn to live without it.

Often we think we need so many things, when in fact they are nothing but fluff. If there is something that you think you just have to have, give it a week before you buy that item, and I betcha you’ll decide it wasn’t so important after all.

Speaking of  The Great Depression, here are some ways those folks pinched pennies back in the day. We could learn a lot from their frugal ways.

  • Used the backs of worn-out overall legs to make pants for little boys and overalls for babies.
  • Made diapers and underwear out of flour and sugar sacks.
  • Made smaller clothes out of bigger hand-me-downs.
  • If their shoes wore out before a year, the children went barefoot.
  • Bartering; not only goods for goods, but work for work.
  • Used patterned chicken feed sacks to make curtains, aprons, and little girl’s dresses; three sacks were enough to make a housedress.
  • They mended worn out socks with a patch from another sock.
  • They saved string that came loose from clothing and added it to a string ball for mending and sewing.
  • They used newspaper instead of toilet paper. (They really did!)
  • They saved every scrap of material for making quilts.
  • When there was nothing more to eat, they had lard sandwiches.

Pretty hard core, huh? And we think we have it bad now!

There are so many other things you can do to keep your hard earned cash in your own pockets. Get creative, waste not, and reconsider everything you think you need! Do it whether you think you need extra money right now or not. There may come a time when you are suddenly without an income, and you’ll be so thankful for anything you’ve been able to put away for a rainy day.

So what do you think? Could you try any of these ideas in your home to help ease the burden of a tight budget? How are you getting by during these tough economic times?

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Elizabeth LaPosta
12 years ago

You can also save quite a bit by washing in cold water. Most of the things on that list I do, and I’d also like to recommend another site: Great tips there too!

12 years ago

Save more electricity by hand washing clothing using the 2 tub method. Wash in one tub, rinse in another… then toss in automatic washer for the last rinse and spin. When wash water gets too dirty add soap to the rinse tub, then drain old wash water into your yard… refill that with clean rinse water.

Use instant-on compact florescent bulbs. Thirteen watt bulbs give as much light as a 60 watt incandescent. Limit the amount of lights on at one time. In the evenings we use 2 lamps (26 watts) instead of the overhead florescent lighting that use 120 watts total.

Cool off the house by strategically placing fans. Suck air in from the cool side (Shaded) of the house and push it out the hot side.

Use silver emergency blankets to film sunny windows. Clean window, then spray with water then squeegee the film on the window. It will reflect a lot of the heat from the sun, but still allows you to see through the window.

Check your attic vents and fans to make sure they are in good working order. A lot of the heat in the summer is retained by your attic and returned to the house through radiant properties. These attic fans help remove the heat. (even better if they are solar powered)

Make yourself a solar furnace (or solar food dehydator) using black paint, aluminum cans, wood, stainless steel screen, glass … or fashion one out of cardboard boxes, cans, glad wrap, and ingenuity. Check out Youtube for ideas.

Stock up on non perishables when they are on sale and you have coupons to make them an even better price. Toilet paper especially works well with this idea.

Rather than patching clothing, learn to french re-weave and darning. It looks much nicer than a big old patch… and is more comfortable too. Check out Youtube for darning and weaving techniques.

Recycle or upcycle clothing by dying, tie dying, and decorating. Embroider over small holes and spots, Lengthen by adding trim, enlarge by opening side seams and adding a narrow panel of matching or contrasting cloth of similar weight… it gives a “tuxedo” effect. Further embellish by adding a strip of matching fabric as a binding around pocket edges.

Have your shoes cared for by a pro. They can re-sole, re-heal, re-polish and repair opened seams. It costs much less than a new pair of leather shoes. (and your favorite shoes stay just as comfortable as they were before you had the work done)

Learn to make or repair your own moccasins. Sacrifice a pair of tube socks put them on and have someone duct tape over the socks while you are wearing them. Cut the duct taped socks off your legs and feet from the outside leg. Once off, cut around from the side cut across the toe area and back to the outside of the heal so the pattern lays flat. Add 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance around toes and heal. Add 1.5 inch allowance to front edge of the side cut 1 inch to be back side. Voila you have a patter that fits only you! Cut each moccasin out of soft tanned deer, elk, or calf skin leather. Sew around toes, and heal with seam allowance facing to the outside. Test fit and determine where the lacing holes should be up the sides. Mark and punch holes. Lace up. Now you have soft soled shoes to wear around the house. If you want more durable souls, cut up an old inner tube, glue that on with some flexible glue such as shoe goo. Or visit the local tire shop that does re-treading and ask them to save you a bag of tire shavings. Coat the bottoms with shoe goo, and while on your feet, stand in the shavings repeat until you have the thickness desired. Shake off excess shavings and carve any weird bumps away with a sharp knife or razor blade.
Decorate as desired. Voila nice hand made shoes only YOU own.
Make a short pair out of heavy wool (like an old blanket) and they make nice winter slippers. You can make them as neat or rustic as you like too.

Love the taste of Cream Soda? Make your own non-fizzy drink at home using Real Vanilla extract, sugar or spenda, a dash of salt and water. (the salt is optional but it really helps)
2 quarts of water
4 tbsp Vanilla
3/4 C splenda or sugar
1/2 tsp Salt.
Stir and enjoy over ice. (make it fun or pretty, add a drop of food coloring)

That’s all I can think of at the moment.

12 years ago

Get rid of cable or dish TV. Get or make an antenna and watch regular TV. I discovered my area had 25 channels free over the air. If you are techno savvy and have an HDMI capable TV and Computer… attach a cable and watch full episodes and movies via the internet. (requires DSL connection) Channels such as syfy, fox, pbs, all have full episodes and movies available to watch online.
instructions on how to make an antenna are here.

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