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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Frugal Tips = Guaranteed Investment Returns

For me, the only good thing about the economic meltdown is that there’s a lot more to read about frugality. Even the Wall Street Journal, which heretofore chronicled the lavish lifestyles of Wall Street titans, now presents the humble frugal tip, although there is something incongruous about an essay in WSJ that earnestly exhorts you to use a bread machine.
Here’s a list from a recent column called ROI (Return on Investment) by Brett Arends. These provide “sure returns” that “will produce a greater return on investment than Wall Street's greatest boom year.” Each tip is followed by my own situation.

1. Buy a bread maker.
ME: Mr. Dr. Frugal Scholar has been baking bread for 30+ years. We have a bread maker for “just in case.”
2. Get a credit card with a sign up bonus. Arends recommends a card that gives you a free flight; after you fly, cancel the card.
ME: We thought about getting the one from USAir, but realized we have tons of frequent flier miles already.
3. Get a Library Card. Use it!
ME: We are already big library users.
4. Use Netflix instead of cable.
ME: We’ve never had cable and already use Netflix.
5. Buy seeds and grow herbs.
ME: We have a garden and I don’t buy fresh herbs at the grocery anyway.
6. Use prepaid cellphone instead of expensive plan.
ME: We already do this.
7. Bring coffee to work instead of buying en route.
ME: We already do this.

The problem for long-time frugalities is that we already do many of these things. The nouveau frugal are, in a way, lucky. They can do all these things and save a couple of thousand dollars and get returns of up to 1000%. But the only thing I DON’T do is something I don’t want to do: I’m happy with my American Express rebate card. I already have tons of frequent flier miles from flying.

So dear readers: Help me find some guaranteed return on investment habits. Can you think of any sure things that are out of the ordinary? What are your sure things?


Donna said...

Smokenders, the patch or whatever it takes to quit smoking.
Big-time returns!

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

I cut my own hair.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Donna-Definitely worth it!
@Cubicle--So does Mr Dr F !(Of course, he has very little hair, so there's no problem with styling.)

Thanks for the comments.

lorecircles said...

I've been thinking about the potential to cut down on the expense (and time) of cooking by investing in a pressure cooker, as described on the "Early Retirement Extreme" blog recently. (BTW, I learned about your blog thanks to a comment on that blog.)

Frugal Scholar said...

@lorecircles--I was given a pressure cooker more than 20 years ago. the giver was German and so were the instructions! I never figured out how to use it. I did start using my slowcooker--to cook beans, make pot roast now and then. It's worth it just for the beans.

Thanks for commenting! I'd love to hear if a pressure cooker works for you.

Terri said...

Hhm. I begun to do my own dry-cleaning!

Pretty Kitty said...

Build an inexpensive solar oven (or free w/ scrounged materials). You can also buy one, the price varies greatly.

I use mine while I'm at work. It bascially cooks at a low temperature, so it is great for beans, stews etc., just like a crock pot.

There are lots of free plans on the internet. Some complicated, some super easy.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--Are you talking about Dryel? Do those things work? Let me know...

@PrettyKitty--Great idea! I saw these written about somewhere. I keep picturing the obese raccoons that eat all our compost learning to open the cover with their little hands. And eating all our food.

Thanks for your comments.

Duchesse said...

1. If you colour your hair, get a girlfriend to spend a few hours and do each other's. Otherwise you will end up dyeing your bathroom carpet and having to repaint your spattered walls! This just happened to me. Watch for a sale on your product and stock up for a year.

2. Clip a few blooms from a civic garden (there are lots where few people go) for your house. Just 3 blossoms will do. DO NOT take from cemetaries, bad karma.

3. Instead of paying expensive shipping, wait for 'free shipping' from online shops. Most will offer it at least twice a year.

4. Work around "legislated' holidays. My DH buys me a box of heart shaped chocolates on Feb. 15. I get a delightful note on the 14th. Why let them legislate the date and then gouge you? Birthdays are another story.

Frugal Scholar said...

Chere Duchesse--You and your blog are so elegant! I am honored that you responded. I especially love your last idea:celebrate holidays the NEXT day. That's great. BTW, we have a large garden, and many people surreptitiously clip our flowers. If they ask, we always say yes.

Completely Alienne said...

Many of the plants in my garden are from cuttings taken from other peoples', with permission (apart from one lovely white fuchsia which I admit came from a cutting I pinched from a park).

Also, I never get anything drycleaned - I fold dry clean only stuff up neatly, zip it into a net bag and put it through the washing machine on handwash. So far I have had no problems with anything.

Shelley said...

In the winter during the day when I'm home, I only heat one room where I'm spending most of my time -- usually the room with the computer and the sewing machine.

We capture rain water in a barrel and use to water gardens. NB: we have no mosquito-borne disease here in England.

We eat a lot of beans, but I see you already know plenty about inexpensive food. I, too, am learning to cut my own hair.

If the grocery store or library is within a mile, I walk there and back for the exercise. Consequently I only fill up my gas tank every 3 months. It probably isn't economic for me to have a car, but I've not yet been able to part with it.

Look at joining a running club rather than a gym. Ours costs £30 per year and that includes the shower facilities after the run.

At least try the cheapest version of things once. Then one can make an informed decision about chosing more expensive brands rather than just go with the advertising garbage.

I'm so glad I found your blog -- and your links. Am really enjoying this (better than TV or magazines!)