This is a new series in the style of The Frugal Girl’s Five Frugal Things, where I’ll be posting weekly(ish) about what I’ve done lately to save money and make things stretch in order to further our financial goals, which currently include us paying off a decent hunk of debt. I encourage you to play along and post your own weekly frugal wins in the comments section below!
Note: There are affiliate links to the books, products, and services mentioned below.
I made homemade chicken broth for an inexpensive Christmas gift
Years ago, I found the most amazing recipe for homemade chicken broth in this book. While I’d made homemade chicken broth before that, nothing even came close to the flavor that this one offered, and it elevated everything it was paired with to a truly gourmet level. I don’t make it often because it’s time intensive, but I thought it would make the perfect Christmas gift to hand out to neighbors, teachers, and Matt’s coworkers. (Plus I love that it’s not yet another dessert — it’s nourishing and delicious and means that you’re already halfway to dinner.)
All told, I maybe spent $25 to make 14 quarts, which comes out to $1.79 per gift. Not bad!
Also, bonus — Matt ended up coming down with the flu last week, and the leftover broth made an excellent thing to serve him when almost nothing else sounded good.
The leftover chicken pieces from the broth were saved for dog food
Unlike many broth recipes, this one actually calls for chicken meat (not just the carcass and remains), so we had a LOT of leftover chicken drumsticks and liver when I was done. Rather than waste it all by chucking it into the garbage, I put some of the meat into a white chicken chili I made for dinner that same night, and I put aside the rest to give to the dog over time.
We made homemade treats for our drive to look at Christmas lights
One of my monthly goals for December was to make an evening out of going on a drive together as a family to look at Christmas lights. Originally I’d thought about going somewhere and picking up hot chocolate for everyone as a special treat, but as our options are limited for that around here, we would have been out over $10 for even just a small for everyone. Instead, I decided to make a big batch of Chex Muddy Buddies before, and we just gave everyone their own baggie for the drive.
(And Chex was on sale this month at Walmart for $3.50 for a family size box, which is the lowest price I’ve seen in a really long time, so I bought six boxes since it’s one of the few gluten-free cereal options we have.)
We ordered an off-brand part to try and fix our dishwasher
Now, the verdict is still out whether this will end up being a frugal win or fail, but we ordered an off-brand part for our Whirlpool dishwasher to see if that will fix the problem (it’s been out of service for over a week now). If Matt is able to DIY the repair, we’ll only be out the $20 or so it cost us for the part, rather than the $150 or so it would likely cost to hire someone to come in and fix it for us. Here’s hoping our gamble pays off!
For the record, if you buy the official Whirlpool part, it costs around $65. We’ve decided to try out a part that says it’s compatible and an equal replacement for the part number for less than a third of the cost. We did look for the part locally but couldn’t find it, so we ordered it from Amazon, which means that if it doesn’t work as promised, we can always return it. (We also used a gift card Matt had gotten for his birthday back in September to pay for the part, so we didn’t even have to find room in the budget!)
We started turning our heat down at night and when we’re away
We keep our house pretty cool during the day (between 65 and 66), but I had forgotten to turn it down at night too during November, which meant that our heating bill was higher than expected due to rising energy costs and a colder and earlier winter start than last year. We’ve started turning the heat down to 63 at night and 60 when we leave the house, and hopefully we should see a change in our bill for next month because of it.
If you’re curious, there’s a long-perpetuated myth that you should just keep your heat at the same temperature all the time because your furnace will have to work extra hard (and therefore cost you more money) if you turn it down and then back up throughout the day.
According to this article, an HVAC expert with 25 years of experience says, “Don’t let anyone tell you that your furnace has to work harder to bring the temperature up from a cooler temperature. That’s a myth. No matter how cool the house has gotten, it will warm up at the same rate.”
He goes on to say that a good target temperature for when you’re out of the house is 58, which is a bit chilly for us just because our thermostat isn’t programmable, so we can’t set it to raise the temp before we get home. It definitely might be worth our money to get one of those in the near future, though!
Other articles say that by turning down your house’s temperature by 7-10 degrees for a third of the day (so, 8 hours), you’ll save 10-15% on your energy bill. Food for thought!
Matt also made sure to change out our furnace’s air filter (which you should do monthly) after our last heating bill, which should also help it to be more efficient.
Other Little Savings:
- I used the Ibotta app to get cash back after my trip to Walmart today. I’m getting close to the $20 I need in order to cash out!
- I swapped out three name brand items for their generic counterparts today so that I would still be leaving myself $10 in the grocery budget to buy milk and bananas next week. (If you want more insight into how we do our grocery shopping for the month, check out this series.)
- I needed more face wash and moisturizer, and I’ve been using Mary Kay for years. I asked my consultant if she could give me a discount, and she knocked 25% off the price, which means that the cost ended up being comparable to a mid-range cleanser and moisturizer you’d get from the drugstore.
Okay, now it’s your turn! What are your frugal wins for the week? And what are some of your favorite inexpensive gifts for neighbors, teachers, and coworkers?