Sometime in May, I decided we should institute a No-Buy June. Other than our mortgage, we don't have any debt to worry about, but I figured there is nothing wrong with trying to be a little more mindful of our spending - eating out, in particular. We eat out a ridiculous amount. We've attempted to cut back in that area a few times in the past, but we never really stuck with it for any amount of time. So, I figured the best way to really make a change was to go cold turkey: absolutely no purchases other than groceries, gas, and bills for an entire month. (This was mostly for me and the kids because Steve wasn't willing to stop going out for lunch every day. I suppose he was still sacrificing by not going out in the evenings or on weekends, but since he was still eating out five times a week, he wasn't experiencing nearly the same level of deprivation as I was!)
To go with the money-saving theme of the month, I decided to read The Total Money Makeover. I had never read any of Dave Ramsey's books before, but I know a lot of people like him so I thought I'd give it a shot. I actually found it really interesting, and I sort of had this epiphany that I should start trying to live a more frugal life. For continuing encouragement, I added some interesting personal finance blogs to my Google Reader and soon was on my way to living a more thrifty lifestyle. Woo hoo!
A lucky bonus is that being thrifty often goes hand in hand with being more eco-friendly, and I am certainly all for that. I'm continuing to try to make small changes that will save a little money and help us be more green as well, and there are several about which I am particularly excited.
All the pants Steve wears to work need to be dry cleaned, so we get at least one big plastic dry cleaning bag every week. I have always wished there was some way to avoid using/wasting those bags, but couldn't come up with anything, so into the trash they went. BUT, I recently read a suggestion somewhere on a blog to use them as trash bags. Genius! I tie a hole in the top of the bag, flip it upside down, and voila! It doesn't hold as much trash as a regular bag, but otherwise works great. I snapped this picture of my first dry-cleaning-bag-as-trash-bag experiment.
(As a side note, this picture reminds me of something else. We don't have curbside recycling here - despite my calling the city and the trash pickup providers numerous times to harass them about it - and it bugs me. I bring our paper and glass to other places to be recycled, but does anyone know where I can take cans and plastic? Am I just out of luck with those?)
Another thing I have started to do a little differently is the way I'm setting the thermostat. We've always kept it on 73 because that's where we thought it needed to be for us to be comfortable. I started to bump it up, one degree at a time. Turns out, we are just as comfortable at 75! Seventy-six is pushing it, but I am happy that we made a change of two degrees. Also, I started closing the blinds and setting the temperature even a few degrees higher if we are going to be gone a long time. Now it seems wasteful to me that I wasn't doing those things all along!
This post is getting long, so I'm just going to mention one more thing. Several weeks ago we were pretty much at the end of a tube of toothpaste. Emma couldn't get any more out on her own and since it was basically gone, I was about to toss it in the trash. Before I could, my new little thrifty alarm went off in my head, and I got out a new tube for every one else, but set the almost empty one aside for myself. Every time I brushed my teeth, I squished and squeezed that tube until I got some toothpaste out. After awhile, I had to set my toothbrush down and maneuver the tube with both hands to get every single last bit of toothpaste out. It kind of became a silly little game - how long could I possibly keep using that toothpaste? And guess what? I used it for over two weeks before I was finally satisfied that every bit of toothpaste was out. Yay!
I was going to talk about my experience trying out coupons too, but this post is already too long so I'll save that for another day. I'm sure you are on the edge of your seats!