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May, 2012


Recently, I attended an awesome opera performance, Turandot, by Puccini, and did not have to pay a dime. The show was so good that the audience was on its feet, cheering, and applauding loudly well before the first curtain had finished coming down. As a budget-conscious guy living on a "fixed-income," this was definitely the right price for me. My monthly state retirement check has stayed about the same, except more now is being taken out for healthcare, since I quit working at the end of 2001. Yet, with modest intervening inflation, each dollar I received a little over 10 years ago is now worth about 67 cents. Happily, Valerie, though retired as a teacher, continues to bring in some earnings as a musician and nature photographer. Also, our investment nest egg has not done too badly. Nonetheless, it would be far-fetched to think we need not watch how we allocate a modest revenue. So getting several comp tickets a year as a result of Val's orchestra performances with the Austin Lyric Opera, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin's chapter of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and occasionally an assortment of other musical engagements is a most welcome form of "ghetto" savings for our household finances.

Hopefully, it is not just a matter of our getting by at times on tighter budgets but also of having quite enjoyable lifestyles without this costing us extra appendages.

Here are a variety of frugal ideas, some tongue in cheek, others that seriously can save one a bundle in the long run.

  • Volunteer. By ushering and doing other needed things for diverse organizations, one can get admission to sporting events, see museums, go to plays, hear concerts, listen to excellent speakers, and so on, often with snacks or meals thrown in, and all for free or at very low cost.

  • Avoid getting the latest in new gadgets.

  • Just add water. Getting low on shampoo or dishwashing detergent? A little extra liquid can made that residue go farther.

  • Go to things on their admission-free days. Valerie points out, for instance, that every Thursday in Chicago one could get into the planetarium, the aquarium, and the museum of natural history at no charge.

  • Get your dog, cat, or other pet from the pound, not from a professional breeder.

  • Adjust the thermostat. In cooler months, set it a little lower than is most comfortable, but wear more clothing, and cook with gas. In warmer months, set it a little higher than one's ideal, but take cold showers, wear less, and use a lot of fans.

  • Buy in bulk.

  • Plant and look after good shade trees.

  • Attend free or low cost meetings, community courses, discussions, yoga classes, book groups, hobby get-togethers, wine tastings, etc.

  • Buy day old baked goods on the cheap.

    A nice dog from the pound is just the thing! (Wikipedia)

  • Go Dutch.

  • Cut the TV cable.

  • Avoid trendy anything.

  • Don't speed. This leads to lower gasoline costs, less adverse effects on the environment, fewer tickets, and smaller insurance premiums.

  • Travel during the off-season.

  • Buy tires and tire services at a discount.

  • If the yard dies during a drought, don't re-sod; just mow the weeds.

  • When shopping, stick to a list and avoid impulse buys.

  • Cut your own hair (or let your significant other do this for some creative surprises!) or go to Fast Freddie's Clip Joint, not to Veronica's Hair Salon.

  • Eat delicious Ramon noodles, peanut butter and jelly (or honey or banana) sandwiches, 95 cent frozen dinners, or five-for-a-dollar soups.

  • Do regular auto maintenance.

  • Practice do-it-yourself dentistry on yourself, your spouse, and your kids.

  • Selectively shop at a nearby dollar store.

  • Avoid buying new cars.

  • Get a lot of your clothes as hand-me-downs or from Wal-Mart, Goodwill, those little piles that appear periodically on people's curbs, or with coupon cards distributed free from department stores such as Kohl's.

  • Get free or low cost music off the internet.

  • As much as practicable, live below your means.

  • Take care of yourself.

  • Comparison shop for big-ticket items.

  • Leave your car out in the rain instead of taking it to an expensive carwash.

  • Don't keep up with the Jones.

  • Buy a reasonably priced starter house in an average neighborhood, maintain it well, and stay there.

  • Use a reel-mower, not a power grass cutter, a scythe, not an electric or gasoline weed whacker.

  • Take leftovers home after almost every meal eaten out.

  • Use your health insurance company's offer of free gym workouts.

  • Make your own stuff (woodworking applications, greeting cards, clothes, food, gifts, etc.).

  • Buy a dollar's worth of stock shares for 50 cents or less, sell for full value, and do this over and over again.

  • Finally, for a super deal on free books and movies, use the library.

Naturally, not all these will apply to everyone's situation. They are meant to suggest an attitude of simplicity and thrift. It may be fun to come up with additional such recommendations to apply for oneself or that are already being implemented with happy results.


Larry is not a professional. Don't take him seriously!

Actually, the investment article provided here is for general information only and should not be considered as professional advice, a solicitation to buy or sell any security, or the Word of God. Investors are encouraged to do their own research while considering their personal goals and circumstances, or consult their own professional financial advisors, before making investment decisions. Neither Larry nor LARVALBUG will be liable for any losses sustained by any visitor to this site.

(Disclosure statement: Larry and Val have holdings in some of the suggested assets but do not "make a market" in any of them and do not derive any direct benefit from recommending them, except perhaps for a bit of smug self-satisfaction.)

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