February brought great heaps of snow to parts of the country not used to it, but being shut in for days at a time must inspire frugal thinking, because it was a good month for cutting-edge frugalist tips.
Laundry continues to be a fertile area for frugality. Keeping Kingdom First carried a guest post that thoughtfully reminded us to make sure our dirty laundry is really dirty. But the author may go too far when she advises that you ask yourself "If I was paying someone to wash my laundry, would I want to pay to have this item washed?" Obviously, if a frugalist were paying somebody else to wash their clothes they would do it themselves to save money.
SavingAdvice.com brought us instructions on how to make our own dryer sheets. Finally, a way to save money on these household miracles with a thousand thrifty uses.
SavingAdvice.com had a very good month, also sharing a useful guest post on the many advantages of dental tourism, that is, flying to Mexico for a root canal. It was written by the president of Pan American Dental Tours, so he must know what he is talking about. And SA had a third post advising that we Get Politically Active to Save Money. The author shared her experiences saving money by campaigning to save her local library and keeping the county from raising her taxes. After all, what could be more frugal than lobbying for free services and tax breaks?
Of course, there was a major holiday in February, and many blogs helped out with tips on how to make your Valentine’s day a frugal one. Most of the suggestions were fairly commonplace: celebrate it on the 15th, make dinner at home, give your special someone a "certificate" for "services", and so on. One blog that did break new ground was Almost Frugal, which suggested Google AdWords as a budget gift for your special someone. "Target the keywords your partner search the most, write some ads and you are set."
For year-round savings, Quirky Momma explains that you do not need to buy a newspaper to clip coupons. Just bring your scissors to the library. They won’t mind.
More than a few blogs mentioned it was a good time to buy a Toyota. But PersonalFinanceAnalyst went further, spreading the secrets of really saving money with Cars for Under 500 Dollars: How to Find Them. The author does mention that it takes skill both to find such a car and to operate it safely, as it may be missing such things as second gear. "A novice driver will probably end up in an accident."
Continuing on the car theme, and adding to the growing science of Frugal Thermodynamics, The Simple Dollar had a list of tips to save on your daily commute, including that you should only use the A/C or heater long enough to get the temperature in the car where you want it, then switch it off. After a while, "If you find the temperature getting uncomfortable again, just flip the A/C or heat back on." Of course, if you have one of those fancy over $500 cars, it might be equipped with a high-tech device known as a thermostat.
(Speaking of which, I am no engineer, but I’ve noticed that car engines tend to get hot after running for a little while. Couldn’t somebody rig up a car heater that used engine heat to warm the passengers? Wouldn’t this be practically free, or at least a lot cheaper than heating the inside of the car with electricity, or forced hot water, or however it is done now? Again, I don’t know much about this….)
Wise Bread rounds out this month’s survey of what is new in the frugalosphere with a post suggesting we reduce the number of birthdays we celebrate. They suggest 1-10, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and every one after that. I am not sure I share their enthusiasm. Firstly, it is not clear to me that, with appropriate planning and frugal party skills, a person cannot garner enough presents to make a profit on any birthday. And if your birthday celebrations are doomed to run at a loss, why celebrate any of them?
Of course, there is the terrible problem of children’s birthdays. This is a raw deal for most parents. They are expected to have the little urchin’s friends over and feed them ice cream, cake, and soda. You get nothing out of the deal other than the mischievous joy of handing the brats back to their parents just before the sugar crash sets in. Sure, there are presents, but the damn kid gets those. Parents get nothing.
Which is why I am surprised that the entire month of February went by without a single mention of a frugal strategy I have long advocated: having kids on February 29th. It does take planning, and possibly induced labor, but it is well worth the effort. Instead of having to endure and pay for 13 birthdays (according to the Wise Bread plan) before the kid goes to college you only have to celebrate four times.
[Photo – Tudokin]