SecondAct Asks: What's Your Frugal Living Secret?
Time to fess up.
When I'm grocery shopping and get to the meat department, I start at the bargain bin.
You fellow thrifty shoppers might know what I'm talking about. Visit any grocer's meat department and tucked in a corner of one of the refrigerated cases you'll find it -- a shelf filled with pork chops, lamb shoulder steaks and odd cuts of beef marked down because they're getting close to their expiration dates.
I usually come home with a couple of packages, one for that night's dinner and the rest for the chest freezer in the garage.
When it comes to frugal living, sometimes you do things that are almost too embarrassing to admit.
Bargains, Bags and Basil
Buying from the bargain bin isn't the only thing I do in the name of saving a few dollars. I now wash out Ziplock bags to reuse again and again. I toss carrot peels, celery leaves and other veggie trimmings into some of those bags with chicken and turkey carcasses to freeze for when I make soup stock. Until I upgraded to a new computer recently, I was using a monitor made in 1997 -- that's older than my fifth grader.
I picked up a lot of thrifty practices from my husband, who makes pesto from basil he grows in our garden and freezes it in assorted margarine and cream cheese tubs saved year-round for that purpose. He learned from his parents, who lived that way even though they didn't have to -- a byproduct of growing up during the Depression. My mother-in-law has always saved everything, from rubber bands to bread wrappers to forgotten sand toys she found on the beach and kept for when my kids came to visit.
[Related: How to Buy in Bulk For One or Two]
Sustainable Living Pioneer
When it comes to thrifty living, though, we're rank amateurs compared to Bea Johnson, the sustainable living pioneer who blogs about The Zero Waste Home and whose motto is "Refuse, Refuse, Refuse."
Johnson, a Best SecondAct of 2011 honorable mention, avoids bringing home anything that must eventually be discarded. Among her suggestions for adopting a zero-waste lifestyle: Ask pharmacists to reuse pill bottles, return plant containers to the nursery and air-dry cuts instead of using bandages. Read more of her advice on the "Tips" page of her website.
His War on Stuff
If you really want to live frugally, stop shopping. Dave Bruno challenged himself to adopt a simpler life by making do with the bare minimum of possessions. The San Diego father of three blogged about the experience and eventually wrote a book, The 100 Thing Challenge: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything, Regained My Life and Regained My Soul.
Bruno's advice: Limit your wardrobe to two weeks' worth of clothes, get rid of things you think you'll need "some day," and take your time downsizing; you'll need it.
The Ultimate Cheapskate
When it comes to being thrifty, nobody outdoes Jeff Yeager, author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. Yeager is so cheap that he reuses orange rinds to polish pots and plastic liners from boxed wine as neck pillows for airplane flights. He also recommends leaving your wallet home when you shop -- to force yourself to sleep on purchase decisions -- going paperless, and eating lower on the food chain to spend less on groceries.
Yeager's tips struck a chord with SecondAct readers, too. My post about him, 8 Tips for (Really) Frugal Living, was the second most popular story on SecondAct in 2011.
What about you? What's one thing you do to save money that you're almost too embarrassed to admit? Share your penny-pinching secrets in the comments section below, on Twitter or by email to editorial [AT] secondact.com, and I'll follow up with another post featuring the best tips from SecondAct readers.
Read more: Cheap Chic: Frugal Living Tips for 2012
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