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Playing the Frugal Game Is Fun!
Old 05-23-2013, 02:33 PM   #1
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Playing the Frugal Game Is Fun!

Playing the Frugal Game Is Fun!


A couple of days ago, I was about two thirds through my errands run when I realized I was really enjoying myself. What’s this, I said to myself. How can I be having such fun just buying groceries or picking up a ream of copy paper? And then it came to me. I was playing the Frugal Game, I was scoring point after point, and I was really feeling good about it.

Yes. Practicing no-sacrifice frugality puts me more in control. Helps me come out ahead. Gets me in a winning mood. And who isn’t going to feel good about all of that?

Too often, when frugality is discussed it is on the assumption that by being frugal one is giving something up. Doing without. Sacrificing one’s todays for the sake of one’s tomorrows. But that definitely is not how I experience frugality. To me, it is – literally – a fun game.

On that errands day earlier this week, I went to the office supply store for some copy paper. Shelf price: $5.79 a ream. But I had gone online for a rebate coupon and I had a credit for bringing in a spent ink cartridge. My price net: $2.00 a ream for 2 reams. Score! And I got even better quality paper than usual, so I definitely gave nothing up.

Next stop, the grocery store. I had room in my refrigerator freezer for more meats and a $5 off coupon in my pocket that I could use if I spent $25. Hey, perfect combination! Ten minutes later, I was walking out with packages of country ribs, steak and chicken – and a savings of not just $5 but over $15 thanks to my selections. Score! And I certainly won’t be giving up good eating either.

(I almost danced a little jig in the parking lot with that one!)

To play the Frugal Game successfully, I find that I have to plan my spending ahead of time. Otherwise, I would not have had those coupons, would I have? Hunting for and finding the deal is definitely part of the fun of the Game.

Last week, I went on a little camping road trip. I planned ahead by making sure I had both my National Parks and Virginia Parks lifetime passes in my wallet. In just 2 days I saved $15 on vehicle admission to the Skyline Drive, $8 on camping in the Jefferson National Forest and $4 on admission to 2 Virginia state parks. Score, score, score! And I got all the same benefits I would have had without the savings.

On that trip, my endpoint destination was Natural Bridge (and Caverns), which sports a hefty $29 admission. But I scouted it ahead on the web and saved myself $6 by prebuying the ticket. Score! And I gave nothing up on that one either.

I like playing the Frugal Game at home just as well. That’s where some people are more likely to think that one has to give comfort up to play the game. But… not so much.

Every day, one of the first things I do on getting out of bed is to turn on my classical music internet radio station. That used to be Sirius, for which I paid a fee every month. But now it’s Pandora, which is free. And you know what? With Pandora, I have been able to customize my listening experience so that “my” classical radio station only plays musical compositions I really like! Score on the savings and I improved my listening experience. And I get to start every day with that little win. How cool is that?

Another thing I do every day at home is to use electricity. But I now play the Frugal Game to win by not misusing and wasting electricity. I just got my bill for last month: $48.31 for 425 kWh. A year ago, my bill for the same month was $125.83 for 1107 kWh. Big score! (And another little jig.)

What in heavens name have I given up by playing the electricity Frugal Game? I have lights on whenever and wherever I need them. I don’t limit my computer or television time in any way. I don’t keep myself from turning on ceiling fans if it gets warm or a heater if it gets chilly. I have NO idea what I have given up – if anything – except maybe the wasteful privileges of walking out of rooms (or the house itself) and leaving lights and electronics on willy nilly… or letting a near-empty freezer just keep churning away 24/7… or being so lazy that I would not take the time to switch out my inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

The bottom line is that my whole daily life is like this now. I am playing an ongoing Frugal Game that keeps rewarding me with little “happy jolts” practically every time I open a bill or whip out a credit card. And it’s fun.

Maybe it’s that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Or that I have a very strong Scrooge gene in my DNA. Or maybe – just maybe – it’s that playing the Frugal Game puts me in touch with how much I am in financial control of my life. And that, as they say, is priceless.

How about you? Do you get the same kick out of playing the Frugal Game?


Alex in Virginia
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Old 05-23-2013, 04:16 PM   #2
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I love this post Alex !

I've played the Frugal Game all my life. I have everything I need and just about anything I want within my means.

I love the grocery shopping tips. I purchase most staple foods that normally don't go on sale (milk, bread, eggs) at Aldi. ALL my meat, paper products, and cleaning supplies are purchased ONLY when they are are on sale at the "name brand" grocery stores. When I find those $5 of $50 purchases I do the same happy dance you've done (I'd be jumping 5 feet high with a $5 off $25 coupon !!!). At the bottom of the register tape there is a "you saved" total. My goal is to save as much as I've spent and I get "mostly" there most weeks.

I also look for coupons online before I make purchases but sometimes (sad to say) I forget. Maybe that will get better once I retire. The copy paper savings you got were amazing !

I'd love to hear more about how you reduced your electric bill so much. Since I live in Florida I use ALOT of electricity on air conditioning. Ceiling fans help but if I could cut the costs on the non HCAV costs I'd feel less guilty keeping myself nice and cool during the long hot days of summer. Please share more of your tips.
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Old 05-23-2013, 04:23 PM   #3
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That was a fun post to read, Alex! Yes, I too enjoy playing the frugal game, now that w*rk is not holding me hostage. The fact is, it does take some forethought. However, if my financial survival depended on it, I might find it stressful. For example, a new friend that I met through a social club is diligently avoiding any event that involves spending more than a cup of coffee. It's becoming clear to me that she is watching every penny, because she must. That's not so fun!
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Old 05-23-2013, 05:50 PM   #4
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...I'd love to hear more about how you reduced your electric bill so much. Since I live in Florida I use ALOT of electricity on air conditioning. Ceiling fans help but if I could cut the costs on the non HCAV costs I'd feel less guilty keeping myself nice and cool during the long hot days of summer. Please share more of your tips.

Hi, Live and Learn,

Thank you for the kind words and for your reply to my post.

I'll give you a couple of electricity-saving tips that come to mind right now from my experience. I'll come back and post some more soon.

The very first thing I did -- no joke -- was to go through the entire house and switch every incandescent bulb for a cfl bulb. (You know, the curly pig-tailed ones.) Of course, I bought a bunch of those cfl bulbs with a discount coupon provided by the power company. (Hah!)

The second thing I did, based on a tip I got from someone else in a frugality forum, was to check the temperature setting on my electric hot water heater. It was too high! So I cranked it down to 120 degrees F (from the 150 degrees it was set at). Then, as soon as I got the chance, I wrapped the hot water heater in a thermal blanket I bought at Lowe's for about $20. (I only got 5% off on the blanket by using my Lowe's credit card, but a savings is a savings.)

More tips later.

Cheers!

Alex in Virginia
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Old 05-23-2013, 08:06 PM   #5
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That was a fun post to read, Alex! Yes, I too enjoy playing the frugal game, now that w*rk is not holding me hostage. The fact is, it does take some forethought. However, if my financial survival depended on it, I might find it stressful. For example, a new friend that I met through a social club is diligently avoiding any event that involves spending more than a cup of coffee. It's becoming clear to me that she is watching every penny, because she must. That's not so fun!

Meadbh, thanks for replying to my post.

I'm very clear with myself that what I am practicing is "no sacrifice frugality", as I said in my original post. There's a line there somewhere, and it has to do with the difference between being frugal by choice and doing without because one has no choice.

If your new friend truly has no choice, I feel sorry for her.

Alex in Virginia
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Old 05-23-2013, 08:28 PM   #6
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Guess I have always been frugal. Did the CFL bulbs years ago, water set to 120F, Thermostat cooling set to 85.

I do my own oil changes and have not paid for oil/filters in years. Stock up when it's on sale with rebates. Currently have about 5 years worth of oil/filters in the garage all obtained for free or close to it. Orielly auto currently has a promotion on where you get a coupon worth $5 off on a $5 purchase. Been picking up 3 quarts of oil on clearance foe $1.99each, with coupon it come to ~$0.34 /qt
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Old 05-23-2013, 08:38 PM   #7
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So some parts of this frugal game, I enjoy very much. Like finding a lower cost way to see TV or improving the energy efficiency of my house. But much of the game I loathe. Stores with variable pricing are the worst. It's the same item and I'm buying it at the same time, but I get a different price with and without their loyalty card, a better price if I go online in advance and load a coupon onto my card, and still other better prices if I scour unrelated publications and happen to find a printed coupon. I cannot compare shelf prices, because those are no longer the "real" price and I have to keep all of this up to date to know what the best cost should be. I'm glad some people enjoy that kind of price hunting, but I do not.
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Old 05-23-2013, 09:08 PM   #8
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I'm with you, Alex. I always enjoy saving money. It seems like a small victory. I keep a budget, where I record my spending, and I challenge myself to keep the final total as low as possible. I recently switched from regular home phone service to BasicTalk, which is $10/mo, and the savings on that (about $500/yr) pleased me quite a bit. You mentioned turning down the temperature on the hot water heater. I did that and enjoyed watching my gas bill get cut in half. I don't clip coupons, but I may start doing that, too.

To me, it's about the challenge of seeing how low I can keep expenses. You're right, it is a game. But aside from just the fun of playing the game, I enjoy the payoff. To me, every dollar saved is another dollar invested in my financial independence.
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Old 05-23-2013, 09:59 PM   #9
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Went to the grocery today and started paying attention to prices. Tried cod instead of salmon (half the cost) and came up with an excellent recipe reminiscent of sea bass. Might be kind of interesting, and learn more about cooking. Found some interesting less expensive alternatives on several items. Don't HAVE to, but thought we'd give frugality a try as we enter into retirement, to see what happens.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:02 PM   #10
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Guess I have always been frugal. Did the CFL bulbs years ago, water set to 120F, Thermostat cooling set to 85.

I do my own oil changes and have not paid for oil/filters in years. Stock up when it's on sale with rebates. Currently have about 5 years worth of oil/filters in the garage all obtained for free or close to it. Orielly auto currently has a promotion on where you get a coupon worth $5 off on a $5 purchase. Been picking up 3 quarts of oil on clearance foe $1.99each, with coupon it come to ~$0.34 /qt
I am frugal on the big stuff such as old car paid off, low taxes, liability only insurance, high deductible health, etc. But I slide badly on the low end things. I will keep my regular light bulbs until the bitter end, and sometimes the lights stay on for no reason other than I didn't turn them off. But you rbmrtn are way more of a man than I am... Thermostat set at 85? Although when outside my range of comfort can be anywhere from 40-100 degrees my indoor comfort has gotten extremely narrow. When it gets above 73 inside during the summer I am hot and when it is below 70 in the winter I am cold. If my utility rates doubled I would be furious, but still wouldn't adjust the thermostat.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:18 PM   #11
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...I do my own oil changes and have not paid for oil/filters in years. Stock up when it's on sale with rebates. Currently have about 5 years worth of oil/filters in the garage all obtained for free or close to it. Orielly auto currently has a promotion on where you get a coupon worth $5 off on a $5 purchase. Been picking up 3 quarts of oil on clearance foe $1.99each, with coupon it come to ~$0.34 /qt

That's the ticket, Rbmrtn (and thanks for replying to my post).

I do the same thing with meats at the grocery store. My refrigerator has a pretty big "side freezer" and I take advantage of it by buying my meats when they are on sale. Chicken thighs and drumsticks at 0.99 per pound... chuck steak (my favorite) under $3 a pound... etc. And I find I don't have to go out of my way or do anything special to make this bargain buying work.

Each week when I'm doing my shopping, I just cruise by the meat cases and see what's there. Whenever there's a good deal, I buy a bunch, and freezer bag it in reasonable portions when I get home. Over time, I end up having some of everything (chicken, pork, beef, ham, brisket, whatever) in that freezer. It's like having my own private butcher shop. So I always have something good to eat for dinner... and I never pay regular prices for it.

It feels great to beat the price system, doesn't it? Particularly when you can buy stuff on sale and then slap a discount or rebate coupon on top of that!

Keep on saving!

Alex in Virginia
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:22 PM   #12
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Nice post Alex. We think alike. I've never attempted to put into words these types of strategies, but that is how I have always gone about spending my money. Finding the lowest possible way to procure just about anything can be a lot of fun, and when you score a great deal, it's like winning a game. It has a very victorious feeling to it.

I don't shop for groceries at major supermarket chains, mainly because they seem to have mostly processed food that I prefer not to eat. Almost everything I buy for groceries comes from either Trader Joe's or Costco, neither of which generally accept coupons, but both offer very competitive prices all the time. Buying things on the internet is the easiest way to find discounts. There are so many hidden coupons and promotional codes out there to be used.

This week I called AT&T wireless because I noticed I was being charged airtime minutes when I call forward my cell phone to my land line. I let them know I wasn't very happy about this, and they offered to give me unlimited calling to any five phone numbers I choose to solve the problem. And for my inconvenience, they threw in 10,000 rollover minutes and a $25.00 credit. This allows me to stay on the least expensive plan they offer, and with 10,000 minutes, I will never use those up, so I will never need to upgrade to a more expensive plan. I wonder how many people would have just paid the bill and the overage fees without complaining.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:34 PM   #13
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But you rbmrtn are way more of a man than I am... Thermostat set at 85? Although when outside my range of comfort can be anywhere from 40-100 degrees my indoor comfort has gotten extremely narrow. When it gets above 73 inside during the summer I am hot and when it is below 70 in the winter I am cold. If my utility rates doubled I would be furious, but still wouldn't adjust the thermostat.
Same here. I get very uncomfortable if the indoor temp goes above about 76. If I tried keeping it at 85, I'd save some money but just make myself miserable.

Oil changes would be another example of a time when I'm happy to lose the frugal game. I know I could save some money by climbing under there and doing it myself, but that's something I'm happy to pay someone else to do.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:43 PM   #14
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I do the same thing with meats at the grocery store. My refrigerator has a pretty big "side freezer" and I take advantage of it by buying my meats when they are on sale. Chicken thighs and drumsticks at 0.99 per pound... chuck steak (my favorite) under $3 a pound... etc.
Alex in Virginia
It maybe a regional thing but I can't recall ever seeing a coupon for just meat other than processed things like hot dogs etc.

For beef one of local groceries marks down previous weeks leftover meat on mondays. I pickup ground chuck for $0.99/lb, in store made pork sausage $0.59/lb and it goes in the freezer.

Tried coupons but in general they are for things I don't buy and the store brand items are cheaper than the name brand even with a coupon.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:46 PM   #15
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I like this. It is a game and it is fun. If I could bring my wife totally on board, then it would get really exciting.

I never thought I was really frugal, and in the past maybe not so much, but when I look at things I do, I think I'm quite frugal.

From installing solar panels, tankless water heater, and mini split systems in my home to eating vegetarian. My lunch can be as simple as going to El Pollo Loco and getting a bean burrito and loading it with all the salsas. Also, besides a scooter that gets 85 mpg, I have bikes to take on 50 mile trips.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:51 PM   #16
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Oil changes would be another example of a time when I'm happy to lose the frugal game. I know I could save some money by climbing under there and doing it myself, but that's something I'm happy to pay someone else to do.
I actually like working on my vehicles. For one I know it's done correctly. It only takes 10 minutes versus wasting an hour having to drive someplace , wait for service and drive home.
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Old 05-23-2013, 10:56 PM   #17
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Alex in Virginia, This was a fun post to read!
Mulligan, we have more in common than Anthem. I like your thermostat settings!
rbmrtn, I have the same problem with coupons. They are typically for things I don't need or use. And if they are, I'll clip them but then loose them. Need to get more organized!
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Old 05-24-2013, 01:12 AM   #18
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How about you? Do you get the same kick out of playing the Frugal Game?
Yes, we live very much like that and do many of the same money saving tactics.

Most of our outside lights are all now either solar powered or LED lights that run on rechargeable batteries charged with a solar charger. All the inside light bulbs are getting transitioned to LEDs. We make a lot of meals in the crock pot, use drying racks, have an energy efficient fridge, and have a front loading washer.

We also do the ink recycling for store credits, stock up on loss leaders, especially for meat, and also do many similar money saving tactics. I wish I'd know to live like this years ago. I didn't really quite get it until I found forums like this and books on urban homesteading these last couple of years.
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:08 AM   #19
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I buy used golf balls from lostgolfballs.com. Does that count?
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Old 05-24-2013, 06:20 AM   #20
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...But much of the game I loathe. Stores with variable pricing are the worst. It's the same item and I'm buying it at the same time, but I get a different price with and without their loyalty card, a better price if I go online in advance and load a coupon onto my card, and still other better prices if I scour unrelated publications and happen to find a printed coupon. I cannot compare shelf prices, because those are no longer the "real" price and I have to keep all of this up to date to know what the best cost should be. I'm glad some people enjoy that kind of price hunting, but I do not.

Don't let the b*st*rds get you down, Growing_Older! (And thanks for replying to my post.)

I think of it as game strategy -- like in football or basketball. You've got to play offense AND defense. That's where "going with the flow" of loyalty cards comes in.

I can't think of a grocery store chain that doesn't give lower prices to loyalty card holders. I say why leave that money on the table when it's there to be had? It takes just a couple of minutes to play defense by getting a loyalty card at the service counter. (I even do this when I'm traveling.)

Don't want to bother? Okay. Try this. Tell the cashier you left your loyalty card at home. At some of the chains, the cashiers have a card under their counter that they'll swipe through to give the loyalty discount to anyone who asks. (Really! I've done it myself quite a few times.)

Cheers!

Alex in Virginia
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