Uniquely Frugal Finds: Swaps, co-buying, and a change of perspective

I pulled together a (long) list of money saving tips that we use in our household to share with my new MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group here in Santa Barbara.  Some of them are obviously specific to our area, but you may have similar resources in your neck of the woods.  And some of them are a little “outside the box,” so be prepared…

(Note that my husband is a school teacher, I stay home with our 3 – soon to be 4 – kids, and we were just able to purchase a {foreclosed} home in one of the most expensive cities in the nation.  In addition to God’s ultimate provision for us, we have been able to do this because of all the ways we have been creatively frugal over the years.  Be inspired – you can do it too!

FRUGAL FINDS FOR YOUR FAMILY

Housing – This is the most expensive bill each of has.  Here’s how we have saved literally thousands of dollars on mortgage and rent over the years.

One of the houses in DC that we co-bought with another awesome family and shared with many a great renter.

– Co-buy a house with trusted friends and save on mortgage costs (WHA?! Yes, we’ve done this twice and though it was sometimes hard or inconvenient, it became more of a blessing than any of us expected.  Perhaps I’ll blog about it someday…)

Make room for a renter  – All 3 of our kids are in one room so we can make space for the various and wonderful women that have rented from us over the past 5 years.  We’ve found them through church classified ads, college programs in our area, and friends of friends.

Help a fellow mom with childcare for a discounted price from what she would pay a nanny or preschool and be a mutual benefit to each other.  (I’ve done this twice and though it is a bit of extra work, it has been more of a blessing for the moms and kids alike.)

Car

Downsize to one car so you can save on payments, gas, and repairs while also doing your part to cut down on pumping junk into the environment.  We have been a one car family since 2003 and have never looked back.  It takes a bit more planning and a husband that bikes to work, but on the few occasions when we have needed another car, God has provided generous friends or family to let us borrow theirs.

Our 8 passenger gently-used Honda Pilot.

– Carpool around town.  We purpose-ly invested in an 8 seat vehicle so we could tote extra kids, visiting family members, and friends around with us.  And whenever I have my ladies’ nights out, I always try to email my fellow book club members, church friends, etc. ahead of time to see if I can catch or provide a ride.

Bike!  My husband isn’t the only one who bikes – we have become a biking family.

Even Little Person is a bike enthusiast!

Almost all of our bikes have been used (or passed down) and they provide endless entertainment for the kids.  I will often bike to State Street to run my errands (running errands alone is like a vacation, no?) and my husbands favorite date nights have been biking to a new restaurant (with a Groupon, of course!) in downtown DC.

– Walk!  Before living in walkable DC, we never really knew you could live in an area where so many places were near your home!  (Totally foreign concept when you grow up in the ‘burbs.)  We even moved halfway through our time there to be within walking distance of our church.  So in moving to SB, we specifically chose an area that was highly walkable.  www.walkscore.com was an awesome resource for researching walk-a-bility.  Now we live within walking distance of our local library, Trader Joes, our daughter’s school, multiple restaurants, parks and we are just over 1 mile from the zoo and the beach.  Okay, now I sound like I’m bragging…

Furniture

Repurpose!

We repurposed our metal rack from mere garage storage to pretty pantry!

We’ve moved 3 times in the last year and to shift with the changes in each house, a tall bookshelf became a standing desk and a garage storage rack became our kitchen pantry.  I love to reinvent new uses for old things.

Use online resources like Craigslist, Freecycle, etc.  I cannot count the ways that these two sites have allowed us to furnish our home and get rid of stuff we don’t need over the years.  If you don’t have a group in your area, start one!

Thrift & consignment stores are in almost every area and you can always find fun little gems.  Ask about discount days for even more savings.  We got a large white wooden dresser for the kids room for $31.  Random price, but I’ll take it!

Estate, yard, and garage sales are a fun way to find great deals as well.  Many advertise on Craigslist or in the local paper (online).

Pray!  To remind me that He cares about the little things, God answered a desperate prayer for a dresser for our new renter after I had scoured the thrift stores to find only over-priced furniture often in bad condition.  (Apparently many things in SB are overpriced just because they can be.  Lame.)

The free dresser God provided for us.

I came to my last store and prayed as I parked the car.  I got out, turned around, and saw a dresser in the parking lot with a “free” sign on it.  The store owner inside didn’t want to bother fixing the drawers that were off the rollers, so he helped me put it in the car, my husband fixed all but one of them when we got home and our renter now has a beautiful, real wood dresser that was gifted to us by the Lord.  (We added fun handles to spice it up.)

Groceries

Get on your local stores’ email lists because they will often send out special sales/coupons to their loyal fans first.

Discount opportunities – Some of our local health food stores and farm stands have dollar/discount bins, 10% off days for teachers (get your free homeschool teacher ID card here), bulk/case discounts, and a big percentage off for food about to expire.

My loot after I raided the dollar bin at our local organic farm stand. I spent $14 total.

I just pop in as I’m running errands nearby and have proudly saved receipts that show 50% off organic eggs, grassfed beef, and pastured bacon.  So grateful!

Coupons – My major couponing days have gone the way of the dinosaur since the bulk of my shopping is now at Farmer’s Markets, couponless Trader Joes, and health food stores, but you can still find some useful natural food coupons available at http://www.savingnaturally.com and http://www.mambosprouts.com.  I also recommend googling “discount code/coupon” whenever you purchase anything online.  I have gotten many a free shipping or 10 – 20% off my order, just by checking this before I check out.

– Buy in Bulk – When you start asking around, you can find a group of folks buying a local cow and get in on one-quarter of it.  Not to mention taking advantage of your local U Pick produce farms.  Or join a buying co-op in your area.  Untied Buying Clubs hosted the one that we were a part of in DC and Azure Standard seems to be a big presence on the west coast.  There are also many buying clubs online including :  Tropical Traditions Healthy Buyers Club and Green Pasture, where you can get a big discount on Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil products when you buy 12 or more.

Clothing

Clothing Swaps – I have organized a number of women’s and children’s clothing swaps at my house (for a small group of female friends) or church (for kids in the community) and come away with some amazing freebies.

A super-cute (and free!) find at my friendly neighborhood clothing swap!

Just gather friends who are interested, have everyone set out their own clothes, and go to town!  We always give the leftovers to a local women’s shelter or pregnancy center so everyone wins!

Hand-Me-Downs – Once you develop a reputation as a frugal deal finder, people will start handing you bags of clothes.  No joke.  And we tall girls with big feet stick together.  I have gotten more jeans that actually fall below my ankles, long shirts, and size 10 shoes that other “fellow big girls” have grown out or tired of.  And, inspired by another frugal friend with multiple children, instead of holding on to gobs of baby and kids clothes that we may (or may not) use two years from now, I have passed most of them on to people who can use them presently, trusting that God will provide when we need them.  And, of course, He always does.

Thrifty Consignment – Before moving to SB, I researched the local thrift and consignment stores and have already found my favorites for repetitive deals.  I’ve gotten 4 maternity bottoms in great condition for $3 each and found Crossroads, a “gonna keep me in style longer than I expected” consignment store that pays money up front for the clothes you bring in and has shockingly great prices.  They’re all over the west coast, in New York and in Chicago.

Books/Videos

Libraries are seriously one of my favorite places in the world.  I’m not kidding.  Free information brings me such joy and they are an equal opportunity ministry.  But look beyond just your local public library branches and you may find churches and thrifts stores who host specialized lending libraries.  If your a true bibliophile, get a lending library started in your community.  We have a local church who opens their lending library of Christian books and videos to the homeschool community at large.  Thank you, Betty!

A little shout out to the Book Club Girls.

– Buy Used, Swap, and Borrow – I love used bookstores (particularly those who let you pay a dollar an inch), thrift store book aisles, Paperback Swap, boxes of free books on the sidewalk, and book club friends who loan and borrow.  Check out these resources for free online and audio books.  And of course Kindle and the iPad are bringing ridiculous amounts of free and inexpensive books to your fingertips.  There is no better time to read than the present!

Babysitting – In our 7 years of having children, not living near family and yet having consistent date nights, we have only paid for babysitting a handful of times.  Here’s how:

Swap with Like-minded Families – Due to a wonderfully organized friend with similar aged kids and a desperate desire to have date nights with her husband too, I received an email every month for almost 4 years asking when each of us were available to watch the others’ kids and go out with our husbands.  It saved us potentially millions of dollars in babysitters and more importantly, what was left of our sanity.  Thank you, Sarah L.!

Parents Night Out – Suggest/organize one of these for your church or local organization.  They make great fundraisers for youth groups, mission trips, etc. or could be run by volunteers who just like being around kids.

Host a Girl Party  –

Sweet Anne, one of our favorite renters and baby sitters!

I wish we would have done this more, but for our last date night in DC before we moved, I invited 5-7 of my favorite single girls at the church who love our kids.  I provided dessert and they played with the kids, put them to bed and then watched a movie, painted nails, played games, etc. until we got home.  The kids loved it because the girls went over-the-top and made cookies & forts and the girls appreciated having the space to make such a fun memory.  TOTAL win-win.

Do It Yourself

From gardening and backyard chickens to haircuts and making your own beauty supplies, there are endless ways to Do It Yourself.  And there is plenty of support out there from other Do It Yourselfers.

Fermented Pickles and Cranberry Chutney. Wanna swap?

I got gardening inspiration from a local seed swap and a discounted composter through Santa Barbara county.  You Tube is full of how-to videos, Pinterest has ridiculously addictive ideas, and don’t underestimate your resourceful local community.  My friends and I have  cooked meals, made cleaning supplies, and even hosted fermented food swaps together.   The number one rule of DIYers, before you go out and buy, is to search “Make your own…” on the internet to see if you can do it yourself first!

HELPFUL HINTS

Being frugal is about more than just what you do (or don’t do.)  It’s also about how you think (or don’t think.)  Here are some helpful hints on how to have a good attitude toward saving (and spending and giving.)

¨     CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE – We are rich!  I Timothy 6:6-10

¨     BE GRATEFUL – Psalm 136:1

¨     GIVE GENEROUSLY & CHEERFULLY – 2 Cor. 9:6-11

¨     REDUCE – Just because we like something doesn’t mean we have to own it.  Buy less stuff – the little things add up.

¨     REUSE – Make your great grandma proud and use stuff longer.  Repurpose things before getting rid of them;  waste less.

¨     RECYCLE – Give and get stuff for free; buy used; swap.

¨     RETHINK – Do you NEED it or just WANT it?  See if you can obtain something through bartering skills instead of paying cash.

¨     SPEND WISELY (not cheaply) – Think quality, justice, and ecology before you buy.  Do your research – often the cheapest isn’t always the kindest purchase.

¨     BE PATIENT – It takes time, planning, & consistency to develop frugal habits and attitudes.

¨     PRAY AND TRUST THAT GOD WILL PROVIDE – Phil 4:19

What are some of your unique ideas for stewarding your finances well?

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2 thoughts on “Uniquely Frugal Finds: Swaps, co-buying, and a change of perspective

  1. Pingback: The Laundry Quandary | Shesourceful

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