It was drilled into my head at a young age to save money by both of my grandmothers. Grandma grew up during the depression. Gammy married the day before the banks crashed and closed. With the Depression a large part of their lives, it was inevitable that their tricks and tips rubbed off on me. I'm glad it did as I struggle to pay off large medical debt on an artist's income, these tips make it feel less difficult.
- Gam's favorite tip was to make all your own meals.
She's right. It is far cheaper to make mini meals and freeze them for lunch at work than to buy Lean Cuisine. You are also guaranteed the quality of the product and can adjust what you make based on dietary concerns. For example, I am on a low salt diet and many frozen meals are high in sodium. She would let nothing go to waste. If a veggie was turning, she'd chop out the bad bit and throw the rest in a stockpot to make a veggie stock. Chicken bones also went in. I don't eat meat, but I do make a lot of bean-based dishes, so I make a big pot of beans and then freeze what I don't need. Dried beans are far cheaper (especially when bought in bulk) than canned beans, bonus is that I make them low in sodium. I also freeze homemade muffins as then I always have a quick snack or breakfast ready to go, microwave and you are done. The convenience cuts down on me buying a snack on the road and I eat healthier.
- When's the last time you hosted a potluck?
Potlucks are fun for get togethers among friends. You can assign dishes or make it a true pot luck and end up with 10 salads. With everyone sharing in the cost of the food and it is home cooked, it is cheaper than going out to a restaurant and you may learn of a new recipe.
- This brings me to another of Gam's and Mom's tricks:
They would get-together with friends and make food for the freezer and then trade dishes. I works a bit like a cookie exchange. Everyone makes something and freezes in single serving batches and then trades. You can make it together and save on entertainment bills.
- Both Grandmothers were avid card players.
Entertainment these days means going out, like to the movies or shopping or an amusement park, but you don't have to leave home to have fun. You can invite friends over for a game of Gin Rummy or Bridge. Invite the kids for board games and save on baby sitting. I copied this method and hosted knit nights at my home. So friends would come over with their knitting and we would have a potluck dinner and enjoy each others company while knitting.
- Gam said to know your farmers.
It's interesting that the trend to shop local rose again with the recession, but it also makes sense. By getting to know your farmer, you know what you are buying. Gam would get calls from different area farmers about what was in season and send me off to buy what she wanted usually by the bushel or two. She'd spend all summer freezing and canning for the winter. I frequent a local farmer's market. They see me coming and yell out what seconds they have available knowing that I will probably buy up most of it. Seconds are the veggies that aren't as pretty and may have a bad spot, but are actually just as full of flavor, so you can get freshly grown veggies at a fraction of the cost at the markets. Want to know how to preserve food? Contact your local university extension program for the Master Preserver' Program. You will learn all you need to know and then some. I learned from my grandmother, but I know folks who've taken the programs. They are usually free or very low in cost and well worth it. Don't have time teach yourself by checking out books on the subject from your library.
- Grandma swapped and shared - the barter economy.
Grandma loved to bake. She couldn't eat a whole cheesecake by herself, but she loved making them and having a slice or two, so a local shop owner she knew would trade her the rest of the cake for some of his dried tea. Yep, BARTER is the name of the game. I bartered dental work for an artwork. A professor I had bartered legal fees for a divorce for one of her artworks. Many cities offer barter exchanges and registries are popping up online, such as Hudson Barter Exchange.
- Make your favorite clothes.
Grandma sewed all her sons clothing until they were teens. Today I don't think that makes much sense with how cheap some fashion is, but I do believe in making many of my own sweaters. I have the pleasure of making them and then the fun of wearing a custom fit item. This is a bonus for us ladies with awkward figures. I am built like a stick so clothes tend to just hang on me. I only develop curves when I custom fit my sweaters. Woman will large breasts whose sweaters hike up in the front can knit with short row darts in the front to ease this problem.
- Buy what fits you and is well made rather than what is in fashion, even if it isn't on sale.
Both grandmothers lived by this credo. Flash fashion is meant to be worn a few times before it wears out or fades. What's the point of buying a shirt that looks horrible in just a few washings. Buy what you like,that fits well and is well made-even if it isn't on sale, you will wear it so many more times and always feel like a million bucks. A shirt that cost $20 but is only worn 4 times, costs $5 a wearing. Whereas a shirt that cost 40, but is worn 20 times costs only $2 a wearing. See, breaking it down into units helps you see the savings.