You've probably already discovered that saving money takes some creativity. You can't always think inside the box. You have to be willing to try something different. You need to improvise.
I feel like I have learned a lot about saving money in my somewhat short life. This has been partly because I have been forced too learn to live on a little due to tight income during different times in my life and partly because I choose to save money. I believe that we are called to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us and I also enjoy finding ways to save. To me it is a challenge. And so I have found different ways to improvise...doing things differently to save us money.
I thought I would share a few of the things I do and also a few things that have worked for some of my family and friends. Obviously, not all of these will be ideas that you may want to try, but hopefully it will help you get ideas and think outside the box about ways to save.
* Use plastic grocery bags as trashcan liners- I grew up doing this. It works for any small trashcans that you might have. And if you are like me, you have an over abundance of those bags around anyway!
* Improvise on other trash bags- I work occasionally at a pharmacy and the prescription vials come packaged in nice heavy bags inside a box. We always just threw those bags away and one day it suddenly dawned on me that this was crazy! Those bags are perfectly good and are sturdier than the same sized bags I buy for our trash at home. So every time I stop by my store, I clean them out of "vial bags" and therefore we very, very rarely ever need to buy trash bags.
* Use rags instead of paper towels- Maybe I am crazy, but I hate the idea of spending so much money on something that you just throw out. So I rarely ever use paper towels and instead use rags to clean up spills etc. When we have towels that are getting a little ratty I just cut them up and viola...we have some nice rags. (If you want them to stay nice longer, surge the edges.)
* Make your own buttermilk- Again, I think buttermilk is overpriced and besides, I almost never need a full-sized container for my recipes anyway. So I make my own. Simply add 1 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, let it set for 5 minutes or until it starts to thicken and whohoo- you have yourself buttermilk!
* Use conditioner or shampoo instead of shaving cream- This is way cheaper if you use the cheap 99 cent stuff which works just fine. And the shampoo or conditioner works well as a moisturizer while you shave too.
* Use baby wash as a facial cleanser- We all know how expensive facial cleansers are. And we know how cheap baby wash is, not to mention gentle and mild. My sister had recommended that I try this a couple of months back and I have been very happy with it.
* Cheap substitutions for red and white wine in recipes- While I haven't had a chance to try this yet, I just recently read at allyou.com that you can substitute white grape juice or apple juice for white wine and pure cranberry juice for red wine. I anxious to try it.
* Use ground turkey instead of ground beef- Okay, I'll admit, this isn't incredibly original. In fact many of you probably already do it. But what I want to suggest is this. To use 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey. See, I tried 100% ground turkey and we just simply didn't care fore the flavor. Plus it made pathetic burgers. So I switched to doing half and half and we really like it. And besides it is healthier and cheaper than 100% ground beef.
* Print coupons on the blank side of used paper- I had considered doing this before but felt "cheap" and wasn't sure that stores would actually accept the coupon. But then I read this discussion online where people were talking about how they do this and decided, why not? And just for the record, I have had no one even give me a weird look when they take my printed- on-both-sides coupon. Just make sure there is no personal information on the coupon back!
* Use greeting card envelopes instead of regular ones- I used to work for 2 greeting card companies and after every holiday, we just threw out all the envelopes from the leftover seasonal cards. So I started bringing some home with me and using them for paying bills etc. You can do this too. Just watch for greeting card merchandisers in your local stores and when you see them ask if they would be willing to save the holiday envelopes for you. I did this for a number of people when I worked as a card merchandiser.
If you have more ideas I'd love to hear them. I'm all about learning new ways to save and think outside the box.