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my friend cubby cheng, over at super frug, blogs about all the different ways she saves money so she can live the kind of life she wants (ie. being creative and not being chained to a desk in an office all day!).

she has *a lot* of great ideas about how to save money in little ways that really add up. it’s like when i drink water to “save calories”–100 here and there may not sound like that big a deal, but over the course of a year, it really adds up. for example, cubby notes that her revised beauty regime helped her go from $66 ($792 a year!) a month on bath and beauty products, to just $15 a month! and she looks fabulous, in case you are wondering. and that’s not all. she has a lot of awesome tips to get the most from your dollar.

given this economy and the fact that my husband and i have both recently finished graduate school and have been recently out on the market–and the fact that we aren’t necessarily high rollers–so to speak, i was inspired to share some of the little things we have been trying to do. especially since we are, unfortunately, the kind of people who always inadvertently choose the most expensive option.

image borrowed from outblush.com

buy your burberry on ebay. ok. not technically frugal. what i can say is that i have found some fabulous buys on ebay, at garage sales, or at consignment shops. especially local, indie consignment shops, i can still feel like i am paying into the local economy and supporting a small business. for example, i got my orla kiely handbag at a consignment boutique for over $100 less than what i paid when i purchased one new. and it was hardly used! on my last trip to the east coast, my impulse buy (and then return) of a burberry handbag would have set me back $1200, if i hadn’t had the good sense to reason with myself about the reality of my finances. later i found a simular handbag, and one that was originally more spendy, for less than one-third of the price on ebay. and it came with a matching wallet. plus, it will last forever.

another big plus of this system of purchasing is the lack of anxiety attacks that come from scratching, dropping, spilling on, and going out in the rain with, your prized possessions. 

image borrowed from clinique.com

ask yourself if your pricey product really is better (or if the product is bad, just because it is cheap!). i was spending a chuck of my pocket money on clinique facial care. and i guess i wasn’t sure if it was really making a huge difference–it wasn’t bad, but i wasn’t sure if it was great. so after a lot (a lot!) of experimentation, i decided to try out another product. cetaphil (about $5 per bottle!) gentle skin cleanser and moisturizing lotion (and the SPF 15 lotion for the daytime–which is more like $10 bottle). yes. boring, cheap. and you can buy it at the drug store. i was anxious at first that this system wasn’t customized to my “combination” skin, nor did it explicitly address skin aging. yet, my skin feels more moisturized than before. i use dickinson’s witch hazel as a toner (something like $3.50 a bottle)–which actually DOES address my combination skin. AND–if you happen to look at the #2 toner–the purple one–for clinque, you will see that the major ingredients are witch hazel, purple coloring, and menthol–which is more like $20 for the same amount. i did splurge to address my anti-aging issues. i purchased a bottle of kiehl’s midnight recovery oil, which i use nightly. 2 drops a night out of an eye dropper. it is $50, and will last me at least a year. and i am really happy with my skin! the only thing i haven’t worked out a cheap-but-good option for is my eye cream. but, for the last six months i have been using free samples of eye creams that i like.

another big plus of this system of purchasing is that you don’t get sidetracked into the nordstroms’s shoe section on your way to pick up your face wash. 

image borrowed from khanapakana.com

restaurant.com. yes. i am on their mailing list, so i get notices when their gift certificates go on sale. i do not pay more than $2 for a $25 gift certificate to restaurants in my neighborhood–and not just mediocre ones either. restaurants that i would normally go to! the catch is having to spend at least $35 + tip. Which means my husband and i can have a very nice dinner for about $15.  

another big plus of this system of purchasing is that we always have ideas for date night! just sift through our pile of gift certificates! or for friend-dates, everyone gets to save. 

image borrowed from iamkoream.com

do your own pedicure. classic advice, i know. but i can take the $40 for a (cheap!) pedicure and go to the russian bathouse for the entire day. i’d rather have the piece of mind that comes with soaking in the salt bath and drinking tea than professionally painted toenails. i love a good pedicure as much as the next person, but i have to say that i’ve been doing my best to keep up with my own podi-grooming. and for the most part, it’s good. nail polish is pretty cheap, and you can soak your feet in the bath with epsom salts (less than $1 a pound). my toe may not look *as pretty* but no one, including myself, is close enough to check it out.

another big plus of this system of purchasing is that i’m actually getting better at painting my own nails. and since i do it myself, i can redo it every week instead of feeling obligated to make it last forever. it’s healthier for my nails to get a little breather.

image borrowed from parents.com

 giving meaningful gifts. being in this time in my life where friends are lining up by the drove to get married, have babies, graduate from school, and settle down, i am finding that i spend a lot of money on gifts. a lot. and events with high spending expectations–like weddings, which can be three separate gifts for the lucky couple–get spendy. especially when our friends are getting married in wonderful, lovely, and exotic (read: far away) locales. so we try to budget. i would rather spend the shower gift + wedding gift money together and get one really nice piece–for example, a piece of china, or another useful item that the couple will really have for a long time–as opposed to a couple towels for the shower, and another medium/small gift at the wedding. what that might mean is showing up to the other occasion (shower or wedding) somewhat empty-handed–which feels uncomfortable. so i try to give a meaningful gift at the shower, and then something handmade or fun at the wedding. handmade gifts really do mean a lot, and they are twofold for the giver. it’s fun to make them, and fun to give them. sometimes i give jars of jam (reuse jam jars and fruit purchased at its lowest cost), matching knit hats (buy yarn on sale at specialty yarn shops, usually locally run), hand-edited photos in frames (purchase low cost frames and embellish), embroidered fleece blankets (2 yards of fleece material on sale for about $5, with yarn to edge and embroider names and dates), or aprons (easy to make from scrap material). handmade gifts are great for holidays, too–especially knit scarves or consumables are always appreciated. for baby showers, i knit little hats (made out of merino wool). for about $10 of yarn (on sale!), i can get 4 hats. of course, that doesn’t include time, but it’s quite relaxing to knit while i’m watching tv, commuting on the bus, or in long, boring meetings. if you can’t knit, you can. if i can do it, trust me, you can too.

sometimes an experience is a meaningful gift. in lieu of an actual thing or piece of stuff, i give a card outlining a dinner party in the recipient’s honor, asking them what they would like to eat, and which day. one idea for major gift giving–for example, when you might need 12 gifts, is to “gift” friends a dinner in a certain month (so now you have lined up having friends over for dinner every month for a year). this works for us because we would love to have our friends over, gift or not. again, i ask them to select a theme or dinner idea, and to choose a date that works for them.

another big plus of this kind of gift giving is that you get something back, too! you get to spend time with your friends, cook (if you enjoy cooking) and indulge in your hobbies purposefully (cause seriously–i only need so many knit scarves for myself).

image borrowed from mylot.com

use cash. i can’t stress this enough. our spending has plummeted since my husband and i have started to use mostly cash for things. it doesn’t leave a paper trail, no, and when you loose it, it’s gone, true. but we’ve really reduced our spending by simply using cash–regardless of credit card rewards, etc.

another big plus of using cash is limited frustration with $5 debit credits and/or cash only bars and bistros.

we haven’t kicked our savings up into the thousands, yet. but it’s a start. and i’ll keep looking for good ideas to keep up the trends!