Frugal Idea-Swap

Adam Taggart
By Adam Taggart on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 - 1:36am

Great topic for a Group, Amanda.

I'd like to get momentum building for this new Group by asking folks to share a useful idea/tip/habit/experience that may be instructive for others looking to build resilience without spending $$.

Small victories are fine.

I'll start. This weekend I:

  • Fed my chickens with scrap produce from the local market. Our independent local market puts all its food scraps (from sandwich making, etc) into a bin during the day to go to the compost pile at day's end. A few weeks ago, I simply asked if it would be OK for me to show up beforehand with my own bucket and take a portion home to feed my chickens. They were more than happy to agree - getting a commitment of regular eggs out of me, while reducing their waste and helping a local 'farmer' out. My chickens love the fresh assorted veggies, and I love the $0 cost.
  • Canned fruit straight from the tree. Made applesauce from apple trees growing in my backyard, and blackberry jam from wild berry bushes that grow on our lane.
  • Entertained visiting friends for <$10. Surprise guests dropped by with their 2 young children. The adults enjoyed quiche made from our own eggs (see "Chickens" above) and local veggies; and the young ones had a great time making volcanic eruptions with some Mentos and Diet Coke (see "<$10"). Such simple science, but yet it was so novel for them.
  • Sweated to a gym-free workout. We recently moved, and with that, ended our gym subscription. Today's workout included a 45-min mountain bike ride over neighboring hilly streets (bike was bought used over 6 years ago), 10-mins of a push-up/sit-up/pull-up circuit, and organzing the garage (did I mention we moved recently?) Extra benefit: in cleaning out the garage, I came across my old rusty free weights. Time to get those dusted off...

Nice to look back over 3 holiday days that felt well-seized and were well-enjoyed -- despite (or more accurately, because of) avoiding dropping $$ on restaurants, movies, gas/travel, shopping, paid kids activities, gym fees, etc.

What tips do you have to share?

,

22 Comments

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Posts: 3936
Of Cabbages and Kings

Buy sackfulls of wheat berries. You will be suprised how little wheat goes into a loaf of bread. Wheat is just grass seed after all.

I have a Messerschmidt Grinder that does both flour and oats. It is an excelent cardio workout.

2. Get The Bean Book by Rose Elliot. You will need a pressure cooker.

Also learn to make Sauerkraut properly. Use a Gartopf fermenter. Dont let your immagination get the better of you. We eat and drink a Lot of fermented products. Think of Beer.

Whatever vegies you have left over or can buy cheap, ferment them. They will loose their sugar (Which is good) and not be heat treated so vitimins that are destroyed by heat are available. The biggest problem there is psychological. Sauerkraut done properly smell slightly of brewing beer as it ferments.

Get rid of the mortgage and all debts. We get into debt trouble mostly over things that we want, not what we need. I practice what I preach. For instance; i do believe that they are going to put my rent up an exorbitant amount in order to persuade me to get a million dollar house. My response is to go and live on my Yacht. Many years from now when the Real Estate market is below true value I might buy.

A bicycle is a fine medical insurance policy. (If you dont get run over.) The benefits of exercise are expounded in this weeks New Scientist. Go to bed before 10 pm. What is good for the kiddies is good for the adults.

And dont waste your life working. No-one said on his deathbed, "Gee, if only I could have spent more time at work."

My favourite gospel is that of St Thomas. Jesus said: Bring forth that which is within you. What you bring forth will save you. If you do not have that which is within you, what you do not have will destroy you."

 

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
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Popcorn Tins

One of my tasks this summer has been to go to garage sales and pick up the large popcorn and cookie tins which are usually 50 cents or a dollar. I fill them with packages of rice, beans, powdered milk, pudding, soup mix and freeze dried veggies if possible. Many of the items I get on sale. Then I label, add oxygen absorbers and put in the back of a cool crawl space. These are intended for extended family or friends in a time of need. With Halloween coming up I anticipate being able to add a handful of candy to each tin. I have about 6 that are slowly being added to right now.

We take the grandchildren and go to a U-Pick farm and stock up on fresh veggies and have a picnic for lunch. The veggies are about one-third to one-half the cost of the grocery store. The kids love pulling the wagons and helping look for just the right veggis to pick plus it's good exercise for everyone.

My husband just spent two weekends salvaging used lumber, metal roofing and double paned windows from a building that is about to be torn down. Networking can be very useful, let people know if you are looking for something specific as a friend of a friend might just have what you need.

Alaska Granny/WGrit

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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My favorite frugal suggestion is networking

This goes hand-in-hand with community-building for resilience.  Engaging in casual discussions with neighbors and other people who are central in your life often leads to discussion of material and other needs; offer help or the loan of items when you can, and don't be afraid to 'put it out there' when you need something.  This is a practice that can take some getting used to if it's not in your upbringing or nature to discuss your needs with others.

Be generous with your offers ("Do you need a _____?") and specific (yet humble) in your requests ("I'm looking for a _____; know anyone who might be getting rid of one?")

If someone says "no," just keep looking for a source or a recipient.  I have found that over time, as these relationships build, needed "stuff" often seems to flow naturally and build momentum.  I wouldn't think of formally donating a box of unneeded clothing or other items without first setting it out on my porch and alerting neighbors or bringing it to our homeschool group and putting it on the table with a "FREE" sign on the box.

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
Also, just looking at what is in front of me...

We collected old/worn/holey t-shirts for awhile and cut them up into handkerchief-sized rags.  They are soft and sturdy, do not need to be hemmed, and can be washed and reused almost indefinitely.  Plus, depending on your t-shirt sources, they can also be attractive.  I try to minimize the purchase of disposable things like kleenex or paper towels, and this helped us curb the kleenex habit. 

And for a great paper towel replacement, I highly recommend absorbent cloth diapers -- "prefolds" -- mine saw use by four babies and are now employed as thirsty kitchen cloths.

AKGrannyWGrit's picture
AKGrannyWGrit
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Fire Starters

I keep all my dryer lint and about once a year make a bunch of fire starters. Simply add wax to the dryer lint, you can add newspaper, untreated sawdust and shreded paper to the mix. Fill a paper towel or toilet paper roll with your mixture and you have a fire starter. Unfortunately, many people are opting for gas fireplaces and stoves instead of wood. I think this is a mistake because after a major earthquake the gas will be shut off due to leaks and breaks in the gas lines. I survived the 1964 earthquake up here and my motto is "it's not the probability I am concerned with it's the consequence".

AkGrannyWGrit

kevinoman0221's picture
kevinoman0221
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Cooking For Yourself, Ahead of Time, in Bulk

One of my favorite ways to save money is to cook cheap meat in delicious, low-maintenance ways. Sometimes this means slowcooking, sometimes we use a pressure cooker. I like to buy a huge pack of chicken drums at costco for about $9, then brown them in a large electric skillet, add herbs and some water, then let them simmer for about 3 hours. After that, I strip out all the meat (I've gotten good add it, can do a whole pan in maybe 6 minutes), which yields a huge pile that me and my wife use for lunches for the whole week. Then I simmer the bones and cartilage and skin on low overnight with some lemon juice to end up with the most rich, nutritious broth/stock that you can't even buy in the stores. Use the broth for soups, stews, add a few tbsp to stir fries, or make curry. 

mobius's picture
mobius
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Packed lunches to go!

We save by packing sandwiches and bringing drinks along instead of going to a restaurant.

The advantage is that we have a quick bite to eat (in the car on a trip) or when we're at an attraction park (did it at Disney World) and then later we enjoy a ice cream.   Oh yeah, I bring along coffee in a thermos can instead of ordering a cup of Java. 

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
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Make your own fertilizer to

Make your own fertilizer to keep the gardening costs down. Put a shovelful of manure in a 5 gal pail with a lid and fill it up with water. Let it steep for a couple days to make "compost tea". To use it I dilute it at a rate of about 2 cups into a regular sized watering can and give it to my veggies. When the pail is empty keep refilling with water and using until the tea weakens. Dig the used manure into a bed and put a fresh shovelful into the pail and start again. Works great and a little goes a long way. I am still working on a bag of manure from last year. Bonus points can be had of you can source local organic manure.

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
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Air Conditioning

We live in Texas. AC is common in most homes. We have many days in the 105 and higher range. We have central air. My wife likes to sleep at meat locker temperatures, so I installed a 12000 btu mini-split in our bedroom. At night we set central air to 85 in our house and our bedroom temp to 65. We gather up the Labrador and the Poodle and shut the bedroom door. I was worried about condensation, but it has not been a problem. I scored major points with my wife and the 21 seer mini-split uses very little electricity. It's got to be Frugal to only cool 1 room instead of the whole house.  

VeganDB12's picture
VeganDB12
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spekaing of beans, you can make soymilk at home

I have been making soymilk at home for 3 years using the Joyoung soymilk machine-about 100 bucks and it is not exactly Silk soy but much less sugar and if you work at it you can make it your own style.

Product Details

I use one ounce of beans for about 2 quarts of milk and at 1.69 a pound for soybeans....10 cents a quart versus 3 or more dollars a quart in the store and much less sugar. It is asian style, may seem watery but I prefer it now. You can also use these machines to make tofu but it takes 2 recipes and some inexpensive culture product to curdle the soymilk.  Homemade tofu tastes awesome but is more work than buying it.

ed:spelling error

 

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Pellagra.

Following your lead about the Joyoung soy milk maker Denise, I found out about the problem of Phytic acid in soya beans which inhibits the uptake of iron and calcium. The problem can be mitigated by soaking the beans in an acid, by lactic acid fermentation (Sauerkraut) or by sprouting.

The lead took me to the practice of Nixamalization practiced by the Mezo Americans who depended on maize. The maize is boiled in lime and then allowed to soak for a day. This made the nutrients in the maize available. People who do not pracitce nixamalization suffer from Pellagra.

Soyabeans are also a rich source of Niacin (Vit. B3) which is the antidote to pellagra. It appears to me as though soyabeans are the problem and also the solution.

Isn't the internet wonderful? Now you have something else to worry about.

VeganDB12's picture
VeganDB12
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Posts: 740
Thank you for the information Arthur

You will have to do much research to outdo my ability to cause me worry :)

 

I understand the issues with phytic acid, and soak the beans for 12 hours before processing to try to eliminate some (I have read that can help but cannot guarantee it works). I will also ferment the milk with villi culture to make soy  villi drink. I should have included this information as well.   I appreciate your warning on this and my apologies for overlooking this issue.

D

 

 

David Huang's picture
David Huang
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Posts: 75
water heater

Several years ago I decided to make what I like to call my poor mans not-so-instant water heater.  I had looked at getting one of those tankless instant water heaters so I wouldn't be spending all that energy keeping water hot 24/7.  Then I realized I really don't need instant hot water.  I can plan ahead so there was no reason I could see to not just shut my electric water heater off when not needed.  So for a few dollars in parts I wired up an easy to access switch.  Now I just turn it on a half hour or so before I want hot water and then turn it off the rest of the time.  It's worked fine for me.  My girlfriend has started doing this too.  She was luckier than I though in that her circut breaker panel is in a very accessible location so she didn't even need to wire anything new.  She just flips the breaker.

This is just one of the things I've done to get my electric use down to 100 KWH or less every month.

RJE's picture
RJE
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I have mentioned this before

I have mentioned this before and I was wondering if anyone else has done this.

Your home was worth say $200,000 dollars and based on replacement costs your insurance company sets its rates. Say $450 a year. Now that your home has dropped to $125,000 in value you would think the insurance company would have dropped their rates as well. They don't, unless!, you call them. Ask for a reduction and you will get one.

I am insured with State Farm, I have been in the construction business my whole life, and I called asked for and received a very nice reduction. Mostly a loss is a moderate loss and the new policy will cover that loss. In addition, most homeowners have a replacement costs attached to their policy that rises with inflation so that would cover the catastrophic loss too. The insurance company has a formula they use and will come up with a new insurance cost for you but like anything these days they won't give back anything unless asked.  So, if you have any questions or I wasn't clear I would gladly share more but honestly it doesn't hurt a bit so call your insurance company.

I saved 20% on my insurance coverage and are still secure from a total loss. That means $110 bucks for a simple phone call. This cost is now a savings year over year. My deductable wasn't raised a red cent either.

Regards

Go Tigers

BOB

herewego's picture
herewego
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Free fertilizer

This will trigger the yuck response for some, but I have been learning from some long-term off-the-grid homesteaders who fertilize fruit trees with dilute urine.  This summer I have no toilet anyway, so saving urine is easy as peeing in a bucket.  The basil and kale are my best ever, and my baby fruit trees seem pretty happy even in very sandy infertile soil.   Yellow foliage goes away in a few days after a dose of 10 parts water to 1 part urine (approximate).  From what I understand, urine, unlike feces, does not carry pathogens.  Using it is free and it's oddly satisfying to become part of the nitrogen loop in your own garden.

So far it's working just fine to buy 50 lb bulk bags of beans (pinto, garbanzo, lentils) and just store them in their paper bag in clean snap-top garbage bins for a quick, cheap, medium term food cashe.  It's been 2 years and no pests.  Organic, local, durable, plantable, sproutable, cook-able and super-cheap.  When TSHTF, you'll want to be upwind of me!  Brown rice DID get pests after a year treated this way though.

Cheers

Susan

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
So many frugal tips, so

So many frugal tips, so little time. I love the one about turning off the water heater! Here are some of our recent frugal items.

A tree came down in our church parking lot, an old seasoned dead white oak. After an excuse to play with a chain saw and some work, we've been bringing bits of it home every Sunday after church. We've been contacted by co workers and friends when they want a tree taken down all year. It build community and they do not have to pay a company to remove the tree. And hey - free firewood.

Sewing: Sewing is a huge money saver. Last week we covered a daybed and its bolsters for $30 worth of fabic which is WAY cheaper than buying a daybed cover set. We made moth-proofing sachets out of cedar animal bedding stuffed in mismatched socks. I mend things rather than replace them, and sew gifts (last year I made homemade cat felt-and-string toys full of homegrown catnip). All of our home made valences are the kind that trap the heat coming in the windows so they save us money on summer cooling and cost only a few dollars in fabric and a strip of used plywood. We sewed new clothing items, cutains, pillows, but chair seat covers requred no thread: we just stapled padding and fabic on thrift store chairs.

Machinery repairs: We saved friends big repair bills when we fixed an embroidery machine, a few computers, cars, water and air conditioning/heating units. That builds community but the big frugal tip is to look for the parts on eBay. Serioulsy, you can save like 80 to 90 percent of the cost of parts.

Food: Free grapes in the yard, some planted by us and some "volunteers," became juice and jam with a little sugar and a lot of cooking. Learn to can and the bounty of the farmer's market, sales on produce, and other free things (I'm thinking suburban foraging) and you'll eat welll all year. Those things that cannot easily be canned are often dehydrated: we like to do that with mushrooms, for example, and honey figs. We also buy our bulk grains at the local oriental market that supplies local Chinese restaurants. It's the same price per pound for brown rice as some internet grain provider, and no shipping. Get involved in your local LDS Food Pantry: you do not have to be a Mormon to use it, and  you can get things there like oatmeal (that we use every week) for half the price per pound as a supermarket.

Builing supplies: Did you know Habitat For Humanity has a chain of thift stores? They're called ReStore, and you can get things like plumbing and electrical supplies, fixtures, furniture and vintage house fixtures like fireplace surrounds/mantles and chandeliers. We got a bathroom vanity sink top for $15, and two end tables for our porch at $10 each. And big bags of tile grout for $2 each. They don't have everything but what they have is dirt cheap, and much of it is new, from overstocks.

RJE's picture
RJE
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Posts: 1369
Maintenence of your

Maintenence of your appliances are just as important as anything you could do. For instance, with you hot water tank and especially those using a well it is important to flush your tank twice a year. So much iron and other setiment settles at the bottom of the tank that its efficientcy is compromised. Just attach a hose to the bib at the bottom of the tank and run the cold water in take until clean water is present. vacuum all coils of the refrigerator, clean lint from dryer, vacuum household vents. Don't forget to sweep your chimney and the furnace filter is a must to replace every couple of months during the winter as it effects the air flow to all rooms of the house.

Regards

BOB

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
herewego wrote: So far it's
herewego wrote:

So far it's working just fine to buy 50 lb bulk bags of beans (pinto, garbanzo, lentils) and just store them in their paper bag in clean snap-top garbage bins for a quick, cheap, medium term food cashe.  It's been 2 years and no pests.  Organic, local, durable, plantable, sproutable, cook-able and super-cheap.  When TSHTF, you'll want to be upwind of me!  Brown rice DID get pests after a year treated this way though.

Cheers

Susan

If you freeze, thaw, then re-freeze your grains or beans, it eliminates the possibility of pests, in my experience.  (The ick version is that the first freeze kills any existing critters, the thaw allows any eggs to hatch, and the second freeze kills those hatchlings.)  I try to buy my dry goods like rice and beans in the winter so I can simply leave them out on the porch or in the unheated garage for a few very cold nights at a time to accomplish the freeze, being careful to contain them against animals.  When that isn't possible, I buy 25-lb bags instead of 50-lb because they fit flat on a shelf in my upright freezer.  The cost for the smaller bag is slightly more but I find the convenience to be worth it; also, the 25-lb bags fit just about perfectly in (free) 5-gallon deli buckets.  (I added screw-top lids for easy access).  I have always stored my beans/grains this way -- no mylar, no oxygen packets -- and so far have had no critters or rancidity, even with brown rice. 

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
Going to the source for food, buying in bulk, scratch cooking

I live in a small "city" of 14,000 and we have a number of working farms in our area.  I've negotiated for seconds and gleanings, bought by the bushel for the best price, participated in a locally-subsidized CSA, bartered for produce/eggs/maple syrup, and -- my favorite -- waited until the end of the day at the farmers' market (or the end of a growing season) to negotiate a discount on whatever is left that I need. 

It helps to have friends who are growing food and excited about helping others, so that goes back to the point of essential community-building.  I agree with those who have written in comments to the recent Mat Stein podcast that the time for building and strengthening those relationships is now, before you need to lean on them or impose on those friends to help get your needs met. 

I am a member of a food co-op that gives a discount on pre-orders and a further discount to "working members" (2 hours a month = 8% discount).  I've also participated in buying clubs to get discounts on staples.  The key for me has been having appropriate storage space and containers in my home where I can easily store quantities of whatever I happen to get.  In my experience it doesn't take much extra cash to start buying ahead in bulk.  If anyone here is on a super-tight budget, I can recommend a way to build up a stock of necessities without much budgetary pain, even on a very tight budget.  It takes some discipline and creativity, but the sense of security and empowerment is worth the effort.

Also, this may go without saying, but knowing how to cook from scratch and make "something out of nothing" is an incredibly helpful skill.  Soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, and pilafs all have a nearly infinite potential list of ingredients.  If you can open your fridge or pantry and put together meal ideas using up what is in there -- particularly the things that need using up right away, like ripe produce or leftover grains -- you'll be able to use that skill to make do when times are tighter.  My usual basic formula for any of those things is a grain, something green (or another colorful veggie), some protein, and something to add flavor (fat, salt, seasonings, garlic, whatever you might have.)  You can cook this way from garden or pantry or freezer or whatever.  Using premium ingredients like meat or cheese sparingly, as "condiments" or flavorings, helps stretch the pantry and the budget. 

Keep the ideas coming!  I love seeing how others express frugality.

Thrivalista's picture
Thrivalista
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Posts: 60
Passive hot-water pre-heat

So happy to find this thread! :)

We welded the tanks from two free non-working water heaters into the incoming supply line in the basement, and are looking to add more next spring. They pre-heat the water without using any additional energy, so when it reaches the tankless hot water heater we get higher temps at no extra cost.  And they give us another 70 gallons of water we can use during temporary water supply issues. (There was a local boil water notice a few months ago, for example.) They're fitted with faucets near the bottom that we can hook hoses up to for accessing the water if there's no pressure in the pipes.

We've also just redone the floor of our tiny front foyer with gorgeous tongue-in-groove maple we picked up for a song from a salvage place.  Cheap entertainment: DH calls it our dance floor. ;)

The upstairs unheated bedroom is our "cold" room for storing potatoes, onions, squash, apples, canned goods, bulk foods, etc. while DH builds the root cellar in the basement (which will be a thrifty use of our building's footprint - increased function without increased property taxes.)

We have a good-sized raspberry patch, planted from seedlings that sprung up in a friend's lawn outside their patch. We get 4-5 gallons of raspberries from the bushes every summer, and give some of that away to neighbors as a community-builder.

Hope others chime in with more tips, and keep those creative juices flowing!

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
online frugal shopping

Yeah, I know we want to buy local, but what if it's not availalble nearby? We often look online.

Online shopping is best when you follow this process.

  1. Can you get it for free? Craigslist has a "free" section. I also have a local site that does "free" listings; you may have a site like that, in your area. Check there first.
  2. Can you wait to get the item? If there is no rush to get an item, give it some time. Start looking for a great deal on it. Once you've removed your scotoma you will start to see oportunities that you would not have noticed before. Think of how you notice all of the same kind of car you just bought when you first start driving it: your blind spot is removed. Those similar cars were there before but now you SEE them. If you start looking for free or inexpensive things, they will start to jump out at you.
  3. Can you swap for it? There are swap boards, and up where Amanda lives there is the swop column in Yankee magazine. My local paper back on Long Island, NY (The Beacon) had a swap section. Check there.
  4. Garage sales, thift stores, flea markets. Think outside of the (big) box (stores). I usually have a list of three or four items I want that I check for when I stop at a  one of these venues, a list which changes based on my needs and current projects. Example: we are about to get chickens, so I am on the lookout for a quiche pan/dish. I doubt I will pay full retail for it.
  5. Do a "Google Shopping "search. As long as you are careful to type in exactly what you are lookng for, a Google Shopping search the best way to comparison shop. This includes used items on places like eBay, if you add the word "used" to your search. Sort the results by price, low-to-high. Then note that it even lets you know the shipping costs!
  6. Use online coupon codes. Did you end up having to buy something new? Search for coupon codes to use at checkout at your chosen retailer at places like retailmenot, coupons.com, or couponcodes.com. I routinely get discounts there like 5% to 25% off, or free shipping. Never hit the virtual checkout without looking for applicable coupon codes.
jasonw's picture
jasonw
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 17 2011
Posts: 1019
The frugal hair cut

Part of the weekend plans is to get my frugal hair cut.  It is very simple really - clippers and the #8 hair guard and I are looking good again.  Takes my wife about 5 minutes to have me looking clean and sharp once again.  The only thing probably better would be a flobee but that is $115.  This has now been going on for about 3 years and I think over that time I have saved over $300 in haircuts.  One of my frugal moments. 

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