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!
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I’m teaching my oldest piano lessons
I technically started giving Raven piano lessons over a year ago, but we took a loooong hiatus during the flower farming season and the first trimester of my pregnancy so that I virtually had to start all over again last month. While I technically have the skill set to teach her for several years yet, I know that she’d probably do better eventually under the tutelage of an instructor that wasn’t Mom. So my plan is just to teach her the basics of reading music for a couple of years and then eventually find her a more permanent teacher.
I figure that for every lesson I do give, I’m saving myself between $15 (if I hired a high school student) and $50 (if I went much more professional). If I continue teaching her for two more years, that’s a savings of nearly $1,000.
I got some gluten-free cake mixes on clearance
Because the only large grocery store we really have in our area is a Walmart, my mom will often look out for deals for me (since she has access to most every major grocery store) and will buy them for me, and I’ll just pay her back via Venmo. Since we see our families at least once or twice most months, it’s a system that works out pretty well.
The latest find she got for me was a whole bunch of gluten-free cake mixes on clearance at Smith’s. Gluten-free products tend to cost much, much more than their regular counterpart, so I’ll often look for ways to make it myself from scratch if I can since I usually save a lot of money that way. However, I do like having some convenience mixes on hand for when I don’t have a ton of time and energy, so the fact that she was able to find several for me (some costing less than $2 a box!) was amazing.
I washed and re-used my old seedling trays to start my first flowers for the farm
Business expenses are always a little tricky to know how to frugal-ize, just because sometimes it most definitely is NOT worth cutting corners. With our flower farm, we try to economize on the things that don’t make a huge difference to our product, and we tend to pay more for the things that DO make a difference (such as making sure we get high quality seeds, bulbs, and tubers, as well as buying certain packaging and business brand options that help give us a much more professional look).
I start thousands of seeds per growing season, so one place I do economize is on thoroughly washing and re-using seed trays for as long as they hold up for me. I also make my own seed starting mix from scratch, which saves me a ton of money in the long run because I can buy the ingredients in bulk. (In case you’re curious, all I use for my seed starting mix is equal parts coco coir, vermiculite, and perlite, and then I fertilize weekly using fish emulsion.)
We packed a home lunch every day for Raven
In case you missed it, I did a post not too long ago that was a deep dive look into the cost of packing a home lunch vs. buying school lunch for your kids. With what we packed in her lunch this last week, each sack lunch cost 44.3¢ (sandwich) + 31.9¢ (juice box) + 30.7¢ (fresh mandarin orange) = $1.07. Considering that her school lunch costs $2.10 every day, that’s a savings of just over $1 per day. Sure, $5 a week isn’t a ton of money, but multiply that over the course of a school year (and especially once my son starts needing me to pack a school lunch for him, too), and the savings really start adding up.
As I mentioned in the deep dive post, we do let her pick out a handful of school lunches per month to eat, so we do sometimes go with that option. Also, for many kids, I recognize this sack lunch definitely runs on the smaller side. I’ve asked my daughter multiple times, and she assures me it’s the perfect amount of food because whenever I pack more, she doesn’t have time to eat all of it and just ends up wasting some.
We took advantage of hand-me-downs
I’ve posted before about how much money hand-me-downs save us, but they also save me endless amounts of TIME, not to mention gas. For example, I noticed the other morning that my youngest son’s sneakers appeared to be too tight. Rather than needing to worry about running to the store to get a new pair, I just walked down to our storage basement, found the right box with the right size of shoes, and selected a pair of sneakers that I knew he would like and that would be comfortable. Considering that even fairly inexpensive pairs of kids shoes will run you around $15 (not to mention the $3 or so in gas it would take us to run to the store to buy them), I’m super grateful for all the hand-me-downs we’ve been given over the years.
For the record, if we don’t have many shoes in a particular size, I will check thrift stores as well. Unfortunately for me, the thrift stores that are the closest to me haven’t had much selection in the past, so that option has only worked out maybe a quarter of the time (or less). Something I do want to be better at is looking at garage and estate sales for the things we need, but I know that in order to start down that path, I really need to become MUCH more organized so that I know exactly what we already have; otherwise I know I’ll waste money by buying repeats. That’s one of the many reasons I’m really re-focusing in 2023 on simplifying and minimizing, as well!
Other Frugal Wins
- We finally got our dog neutered, so while he was already there at the vet (and under anesthesia), I tacked on a couple other procedures he needed done anyway, including two vaccinations and getting a microchip. This saved us a decent amount of gas and time since the vet is nearly a half hour away.
- I looked in my stockpile to see if I have any spare face wash while I wait for a Mary Kay order to be shipped to me (which is taking a really, really long time). I was able to find a barely-used bottle from not too long ago that should tide me over fine until my order gets here, which saves me from having to go to the store and buy some in the interim.
What are your frugal wins (or failures!) this last week?