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by: Bridget Daniels Carlson

Lets stretch those dollars as far as they will possibly go. Here are some tips on saving money for the Frugal Military Spouse.

Make a Budget. A must for any military family. You can't start saving money until you know where that money is going. See How To Make A Budget.

Use money management software such as Microsoft Money or Quicken. Both programs allow you to set up your monthly bills and keep track of your spending through a register. Even if you use cash, you can set up an "account" and call it your cash account. Record every purchase you make and make sure every purchase is put into the appropriate spending category. It is worth the investment.

Turn off all lights when not in use. Make a habit of teaching not only yourself, but your children to turn off all lights when not in use or upon leaving a room.

Unplug items when not in use. This includes, computers, fax machines, TVs, DVD players, CD players, cable boxes, cell phone chargers, hair dryers, stereo's, lamps, small appliances, etc... If it plugs in and can be easily unplugged when not in use, unplug it. Even when these items are "off" they still use electricity. They are what is know as "vampire electronics" because of the electricity they suck down even when they are turned off. Or plug them into a power strip that you can easily turn off.

Use Freecycle. If you have been around this site long enough you know we talk about Freecycle, a lot. Before you go to purchase a new item, see if someone on your local Freecycle or even Craigslist might be giving the item away.

Wash Clothes on Cold and Dry on Low. Most clothes will clean up just fine in cold water. They even make cold water detergents just for cold water. Most clothes (except jeans and large loads of towels) will dry on the low heat setting in the same amount of time as they would on high heat. Using low heat and cold water will save you some money on your electricity bill.

Lower the temp on your water heater. If you have children it should be lowered anyway (don't want them getting burned). Move your water heaters temp down to 120. That is still hot enough to wash dishes and yourself, and it will save you money on your electricity bill.

Drain a quart from your water heater. Every couple of months drain a quart of water from your water heater to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers its efficiency.

Make a list before you shop. I'm not just talking about the grocery store here. Anytime you need to shop, always have a list before heading out, and stick to that list!

Shop when your in a rush. Shopping while your in a hurry or have other prior engagements limits the chance that you will veer off of your list or browse around for something you may not need, therefore saving you money. Trust me and just try it once.

Shop at your local dollar store. If you have a Dollar Tree or even a dollar store around you, shop there first for cleaning supplies, school supplies, and other household items. Make sure you take a list of what you need. DO NOT GO IN WITHOUT A LIST, and stick to your list. If you don't then you are bound to spend money on stuff you don't need and it will have defeated the purpose of shopping there.

Shop at consignment shops for clothes. Check consignment shops for clothes before buying brand new. Most consignment shops have "almost new" clothing at great prices.

Use Coupons. When grocery shopping, use coupons for items you need. Don't, however, use a coupon just to use it or because you have it. Always check to see if the generic version is cheaper as well. The generic version may be cheaper than the brand name version even with a coupon.

Buy in bulk. Buy things you know you will use in bulk such as toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, soap, etc...

Plan meals in advance. Planning meals in advance will give you a definite grocery list when it comes time to do grocery shopping. Stick to your list and you will avoid impulse buying as well as buying duplicate items.

Stock up on sale items. No I don't mean go hog wild at your nearest sale. But if an item is on sale that you regularly use, stock up on it (if you can afford to do so).

Shop high & low at the grocery store. What the heck does that mean? It means that usually the lowest priced items are kept on the bottom shelves as well as the higher shelves and the more expensive items tend to be at eye level. Go figure.

Buy generic. Granted some things are better left to the brand names, most generic brands taste or work just as good as their brand name counterparts but cost much less.

Make your own small portion snacks. Instead of buying those individually packaged snacks, make your own buy buying the family size and dividing it up among ziplock bags. Save the ziplock bags and use them again.

Ask for a to go box BEFORE your meal arrives. Yes your waiter may look at you like you lost your mind, but that's ok. When you meal gets to you, put half in the to go box. Not only will you be helping you waist line, but you will also have another ready to eat meal for the next day.

Set your thermostat to 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer. This will help lower your heating and cooling bill (whether it be electric or gas).

Weatherize your home. You can buy kits at your local wal-mart from "shrink wrapping" your windows, to weather strips, and more.

Make sure that gaps in doors are filled with weather strips. This will help ensure that the air outside stays there.

"Shrink wrap" your windows in the colder months to keep the cold air from seeping in through the glass and the heat from inside seeping outside.

Keep access to your attic and other unheated/uncooled areas of your home closed, weather-stripped and insulated.

Caulk around windows and doors to stop air leaks and check caulk annually to make sure it is in good condition.

Install draft protectors on the electrical outlets and switch plates on outside walls. Remember to turn off the electricity before you do this.

Use compact fluorescent bulbs. They give off just as much light as regular incandescent bulbs, but they use up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer.

Take a shower instead of a bath. Showers on average use 50% less water therefore saving you money on your water bill and electricity.

Shorten your shower to 10 minutes max. Sure it feels great to stand there under the running hot water for 10 minutes, but it's also a waste of water and electricity. Shorten your shower and you will save on your water bill and electric bill.

Only run the dishwasher when its full. This will save on electricity and water. Also use the air dry option for more savings.

Only run the washer when its full. This again will save on water and electricity.

Drink tap water. Did you know that most bottled water isn't actual Spring water straight from a Spring? A good filter on your faucet will closely produce the same results at a fraction of the price. Not only will you be saving money, you will also help save mother Earth.

Lower your cable package. Do you really watch all 250 channels. Chances are a big ole heck no. Figure out what channels you really watch and go from there on which package you should choose. And don't keep the expensive premium channels such as HBO etc..., if your anything like me, you "may" watch that channel only once a month if even that, and honestly I think we only turn it to that channel once or twice a year. Add up the dough and each movie is costing me around $120/each. YIKES! Reminder to self...cancel the premium channels.

Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels Yes this may mean a tad bit more laundry but in the end it's cheaper to toss those napkins in with the load of towels that you are already washing instead of buying paper towels every week.

Boil water in a closed pot. It will boil faster therefore causing you to use less energy. Hey small things really do add up!

Use plastic grocery store bags to line trash cans. Instead of buying those expensive trash bags for your smaller trash cans, use the plastic grocery store bags as trash bags instead. My grandmother did this (of course this woman also grew up during the great depression) and so did my Mom. In fact my grandmother also used them in her kitchen trash can. Of course she rarely ever threw anything away to begin with.

Use plastic grocery store bags as dog poop baggies. Yep I said poop. Instead of buying those expensive poop bags, use plastic grocery store bags instead.

Consolidate debt to a lower interest loan. Take a look at all your credit cards and loans. See if you would qualify to consolidate them to a lower interest loan. This could save you lots of money in the long run. If not, always try and pay off the higher interest loan first.

Ask creditors to lower your interest rate. You mean I can do that? Well of course. What's the worst they will say? No. Especially if you have always paid on time, they may be willing to lower your interest rate for you. It doesn't hurt to ask, so ask!

Put your credit cards in a safe. You will be less likely to make impulse buys if they are kept under lock and key. Notice I said in a safe, not in ice. Although you are more than welcome to freeze the living begeezus out of your card, what happens if there is a true emergency and you need it. That's right you have to wait for it to thaw out. Not so cool after all.

Pay bills on time to avoid late fee's and penalties. This seems like a no brainer, but pay your bills on time! Avoid the unnecessary late fee's. All you are doing is handing the companies free money.

Ask your cell phone carrier for a Military Discount. Most offer a military discount even if they don't advertise it, and if they don't offer one, maybe it's time to start looking for another carrier.

Combine your cable, internet, and home phone. Combing your services into one bundle usually will save you a good chunk of change every month.

Get rid of your landline. Most everyone now a days has cell phones that they use way more than they ever use their landline. So get rid of it and save some money. If you must have one but rarely use it, try Voipo (which I personally use and love for both my home phone and an additional line which is my fax line), magicJack (you no longer have to have it plugged into your computer to use it, I have used them as well when it had to be plugged into the computer and the service was a hit or miss sometimes) or another low cost Voip company.

Switch to free checking. Are you paying service fee's for your checking. Switch your bank to one that offers free checking. It may not seem like a lot, but those fee's do add up in the end.

Shower at the gym. If you go to the gym, take your shower there instead of at home. It will save you money on your water and electricity bill because you will be using theirs not yours.

Use the base/post gym. Instead of paying a gym membership, use the base/post gym which is free!

Do your own taxes. Save the fee and do your own taxes online for free. Your typical service member has no need for a tax accountant or any reason to use one of those big tax guys. There are however exceptions to that of course in which you would be much better off using a CPA to do your taxes. Once place that offers free filing online that is simple to use is TaxSlayer.com

Look over your W-4. Are you giving Uncle Sam a tax free loan? If you get a refund back every year then yes you are. How nice of you! How about checking your W-4. The more dependents you claim the less that will be taken out every month. Yes this means you may not get as much back at the end of the year, but you could use that extra money to pay off higher interest loans sooner which will save you even more money. Of course this is a personal preference and only you can decide which is best for you and your family.

Sleep on it. Before making a purchase of an item that is say $100 or more. Sleep on it. Chances are the next day you will no longer want it or have found a reason not to want it, thus saving you some major dough!

Have a Garage Sale. As Military families we are no stranger to garage sales. So twice a year get rid of the old in your life and rake in some cash.

Try and buy in off season. In other words buy your summer clothes for next year this year at the end of the season when they go on clearance.

Create a weekly no spend day. What a whole day of no spending!? Yes a whole entire day of not spending one dime. That means not even 5 cents for a piece of gum. If your really good, create a weekly spend day where that is the only day you spend money and all other days are no spend days. Hey it's very possible to do!

Borrow books from the library or swap them with friends. Instead of buying books, head on over to your local library. You remember that place don't you? You know that place where you have to be quiet or get smacked on the hand with a ruler. If you not much into libraries, join a swap group/site such as paperbackswap.com

Stop Smoking. I know, I know. I hated hearing someone tell me that as well, but as of Jan 4, 2010 I have been smoke-free and have saved $5,110.00 in just 2 years. That's a lot of money. Speaking of quitting smoking, a really cool site to join is quitnet.com


How much electricity do household items use? (external site)

Budget Worksheet

Debt Reduction Snowball Calculator (external site)


This site is Gunny Approved

July 18, 2001

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