I'm liking this new habit of finding pretty girls to illustrate my posts. I kind of feel like Bob Barker.

I am by no means extremely frugal.  I’m anything but, in fact.  I like spending money.  Doesn’t mean I don’t watch my spending, try to spend my money on stuff that has value to me and always look for the best deal.  Just means that frugality doesn’t come naturally to me.  I gotta work at it.

On the other hand, in some ways I am very frugal.  Some are conscious decisions, other just habits I’ve developed.  In any case, these ideas can save you a lot of money without really sacrificing much at all.  In fact, a lot of these things are free.  Not almost free, not next to free.  Free!  I call it stealth frugality.  You don’t really have to do much at all, but you can save serious money.  So, here’s another goofy list for those of you looking to carve few more penny’s out of your budget.

  • Fast Food – Not the food itself, although dollar and value menus are pretty cheap, but the free and cheap stuff they give away.  We always grab extra napkins and put them in our vehicles to use instead of buying Kleenex or for spills or quick cleanups.  Condiments are also usually free and great to keep in your car or even at home.  Did you know you can add all kinds of different stuff to the meals they offer and still get the discount?  Instead of fries get an order of jalapeno poppers or instead of a soda get a milk shake.  How about ordering a small drink and just keep getting refills instead of buying the large?  Same amount of soda, less money but this only works if you dine in.
  • This is just funny...and frugal!

    Food – Making your own food is so much cheaper than eating prepackaged meals or eating out.  One of my favorites is the famous beer can chicken on the grill, which I serve with some frozen veggies or potatoes.  I then throw the carcass, which still has a lot of meat on it in a pot and make some stock.  Some cheap veggies and some noodles, rice or barley makes a big pot of chicken soup.  For maybe ten bucks, or less, I can feed the family for three or four nights.  If you don’t have to feed two teenagers, slice off the breast meat first for sandwiches before making the soup.  This is only one example of how you can save money on food by actually cooking.  If you’re retired, you have no excuse not to.

  • Software – I had no idea how much free software you can get until I bought my current computer.  We’re not talking junky freeware here, but professional quality stuff.  Everything from Open Office (Microsoft Office) to Stellarium (awesome astronomy software) to Gimp (Photoshop) is out the and more.  Try a place called SourceForge and browse or just go to Google and search.  This isn’t pirated or illegal.  It’s just free and could save you thousands!!
  • Books – Unless you just have to read big name authors, there is plenty of free and inexpensive reading material out there.  You probably need an e-reader to access most of it, but with the free Kindle app that runs on everything from your home computer to your smart phone most people have an e-reader even if they don’t know it.  Apple also offers iBooks on its devices for free.  Not only can you read many classics for free, many authors who can’t catch a break in the horribly selective publishing industry choose to self publish and either give their work away for free or only charge a buck or three.
  • Internet – You’d be amazed how many places you can get the internet for free.  If you use it a lot, this might not be for you, but it works.  We don’t have an iPhone or a 3G plan on my iPad, so when we travel we get creative.  Lots of motels offer free wireless internet.  Many restaurants, coffee houses and the like do too.  Public libraries usually offer free internet too, as well as computers if you don’t have one, and we’ve found a lot of them don’t turn it off when they close.  You can sit out in the parking lot and find a place to eat, download a map, whatever.
  • Libraries – And speaking of libraries, most public libraries offer so much more than books.  As mentioned above, many have free internet and computer terminals.  Many also loan books on CD, movies and music.  Some now offer e-books for loan.  Some offer printing and copying, conference rooms and educational programs.  Where I live, every library is linked and books can be borrowed even if you local library doesn’t carry it.   They just ship to you you’re local library and then ship it back when you are done.  Neat!
  • World Wide Web – Nobody calls it that anymore, but that’s the fun part of the internet and it is full of free stuff.  This blog is hosted at WordPress for free!  I can read all kinds of news, blogs, etc., listen to radio shows, communicate with friends, list stuff for sale, participate in forums, play games, watch movies and TV shows, and so much more all for the cost of my monthly internet connection.  I pay $40 for internet and almost $100 for DirecTV, but all they give me is TV.  The internet offers so much more, including some of the stuff I get on my satellite.
  • Craigslist – Sure you can list stuff for free on Craigslist and it works really well for most stuff.  We sold my father-in-law’s old pickup in less than 10 minutes!  But did you know that each city on Craigslist has a Free Stuff section.  People just give stuff away.  Not junk either.  Just now I looked and found free firewood, several queen size beds, furniture, a kitten and a goldfish and it’s tank.  Whether you’re looking for something in particular or just curious what you might pick up for free, its worth a look.
  • Costco – Have a Costco membership?  Then you can eat basically free.  In most Costco stores they set up kiosks and give away free samples of their food.  Yesterday I had pizza, a cracker with cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, some veggie chips, tortilla chips, and calamari.  I barely sampled half the stuff they offered.  You don’t even have to buy anything.  I’m sure other stores do the same thing, but maybe not as well as Costco.  The Costco membership is probably worth it too as they have some really fantastic deals and a great return policy.
  • Loyalty Clubs – Speaking of memberships, many, many stores offer loyalty clubs that offer discounts.  Maybe it’s coupons in your e-mail or points you earn on purchases.  These don’t cost anything and can save you a lot of money if you already frequent these places.  I wouldn’t buy something for five percent more than I could somewhere else just to get one percent back, but if you’re buying there anyway, why not get a discount or something back?
  • Yes! I am liking this new habit. Use coupons!!

    Coupons – Speaking of coupons, these are wondrous little things.  They are like free money.  If you can buy something and get a discount, why not do it.  I find grocery coupons are kind of a hassle, but I always check my local stores websites for things I might be buying anyway.  As always, buying something you don’t need just because it’s on sale isn’t being frugal.  You can also look online for discount codes to use when shopping on the internet.  In any case, finding a coupon or discount code for something you want to buy is like free money!

  • Sales – Everyone has sales from time to time.  Some are just gimmicks designed to get you into the store so you can buy something else at full price, but many are genuine.    Many products like electronics, tires, clothing, and more go on sale periodically and if you’re willing to wait you can save lots of cash.  You can even ask employees and often they know when things will go on sale and will tell you.  Sometimes you can save real money.  I’ve seen clothes at twenty-five to fifty percent off.  Electronics often have deep discounts at certain times of the year.  Lots of placed don’t discount their products, but offer free shipping.  Same thing, more or less.
  • Consumer Electronics – When speaking about electronics, sales aren’t the only way to save money.  Waiting for a new technology to become mainstream can save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.  Remember when LCD TV’s were thousands of dollars?  Now you can pick up a 42 inch LCD for a few hundred bucks.  I bought my iPad when the iPad 2 came out.  It’s a top of the line version that went for over $800.  I got it for less than $500.  Once the iPhone 4 came out, the price on the still fantastic iPhone 3G dropped hundreds of dollars.  Not being an early adopter can save you big, big money.

So that’s it.  Well, not IT because there are probably many, many more ways to save money without really looking like you’re saving money.  I’ve used every one of these at one time of another and many are just a part of my life.  And why not?  If you can save money and not have to give up much of anything or just plain get free money or stuff why wouldn’t you?