Frugal Living 

Frugal Ideas I’ve Always Wanted to Try

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One of the really fascinating parts of the recession is the effect it has had on news stories. During the boom, mainstream media focused heavily on the excesses of those who had money. You had stories of the most expensive wine or the most expensive dessert. There were stories about luxury cars and of fantastic mansions on enormous estates. Nowadays, the stories are focused on more pedestrian subjects. They’re focused on people who grow gardens on their deck or raise chickens in the city. I find those stories infinitely more interesting because it shows our creativity and our resourcefulness, not our ability to write a check or swipe a card.

The stories that share tips on reducing electricity are great – I try to use as many of the tips as I can to reduce our own bills. The stories about how to drive more efficiently are even better, who doesn’t like saving money at the pump. However, there are some ideas out there that fall in the category of “cool I’d like to try that” but I have yet to try. This is a post about those ideas (and why I have yet to try them).

Raising Chickens

Chicken!Every few months I read an article about how you can raise your own chicken hens and enjoy eggs daily. While we don’t eat a tremendous number of eggs, our honeymoon two years ago to Hawaii taught me that fresh eggs (we had eggs that were an hour old) are absolutely delicious. You could, presumably, also sell the eggs at $4-5/dozen too, which is a nice side benefit that can supplement feeding and maintaining them.

Why I don’t do it now? Space. I live in a townhouse and we simply don’t have an area we can use to raise chickens.

Solar Panels

Solar PanelsThere are few things in life as reliable as the sun. It’s always up there, generating a tremendous amount of energy, and we should find ways to take advantage of this absolutely free resource. We don’t need to send human beings down hundreds of feet into the ground to pull sunshine out. We don’t need to leave people on rigs in the middle of the ocean to pump the stuff out. We simply stick a few black panels on a wall and the energy flows in. You get free electricity and you can sell some of it back to the grid if you can generate more than you need.

Why I don’t do it now? It’s just not financially viable where I live, we don’t get enough sunlight to be able to justify installing solar panels (assuming they are accepted in our HOA’s covenants). It might make sense in high sunshine areas like San Diego or Arizona, especially after federal subsidies, but it doesn’t make sense here in Maryland.

Hunting & Fishing

Fishing PoleThis is another one of those “live off the land” type of ideas and something I’ve always wanted to try. In most places you’ll need to get a license, understand the seasons, and practice before you’ll get any good at it. I’ve tried deer meat before, as both ground meat in chili and as a grilled steak, and I enjoy it. Sometimes people are put off by the “gamey” flavor but I personally enjoy it. It gives it character and a flavor you aren’t usually exposed to. (I added fishing, despite having fished before, because it’s the same idea and it’s something I haven’t done often)

Why I don’t do it now? I grew up on Long Island and never once even thought about hunting. There was a little bit of fishing but I was never exposed to it as a kid, so I never picked it up. Having gone to school in Pittsburgh, I met quite a few people who hunted but never tried it myself. I did, however, go salmon fishing with a good friend several years ago and had a blast. I chalk this up to just something I never tried simply because I never thought to try.

What are some frugal ideas that you really want to try but have yet to try?

(Photo: protohiro, waynenf, mrbeck)

{ 54 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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54 Responses to “Frugal Ideas I’ve Always Wanted to Try”

  1. I would be amazed if you can actually sell the eggs for $4-5 / dozen. If so, I would really be surprised if you could do it routinely.

    Also, chickens are very dirty, mean animals. As cheap as eggs are, that is one frugal experiment that I would NOT consider. Eggs for $1-$1.50 at grocery = not worth it to raise your own.

    • freeby50 says:

      $4-5 a dozen seems very high.

      But he may be comparing to what organic, farm fresh, cage free, etc. eggs cost in his area. I know that the organic cage free eggs around here are more like $3 a dozen or something. I bet people would be willing to pay such a premium or more for eggs they know came direct from a neighbor.

  2. With the solar panels, you also have to factor in the risk of damage. I looked into those a bit, but basically found that they are still not cost effective enough. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it would take something like 15 years before they actually paid for themselves… and that is assuming that they are still in good shape, not damaged. I would imagine that as the technology is further developed, the price will slowly come down some. Maybe at some point in the future they could be a reasonable investment.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    The raising chicken thing always interests me, but i can’t do it. I’d also be interested in a hydroponic garden.

    solar panels are not as bad as you say. First, if they can be used successfully in Oregon and Washington (probably the least sunny in the lower 48), then they can work well in Maryland. Plus there are a lot of easy ways to use solar, such as companies that install and maintain the system for a set period of time and take it down after. You have a relatively small downpayment and pay the company a certain amount each month which would be less than what you’d normally pay.

  4. Now, with the hunting and fishing, I certainly agree that you can save some serious money IF you are a big meat eater. I live in KY, so I am VERY familiar with the hunting craze. A few things a lot of people don’t really think about are that there really are quite a few expenses! For hunting: sure, you need a gun (couple hundred bucks), but most people would argue that you then need to buy camo outfits (easily another $100). If you deer hunt, you would probably need heavy camo gear to protect from the cold, possibly hand warmers, either a deer stand or a blind. Then, after hours of sitting silent in the cold, IF you do manage to get something, you have to clean and process it. Unless you know how to do all of that yourself, you are looking at another couple hundred when all is said and done.

    So, what I’m trying to say in all of this… hunting is a hobby that many enjoy. Those that have the gear, and spend LOTS of time, may save a few bucks, but I would not recommend it if you are only aiming to save money. Focusing your time elsewhere could yield MUCH larger returns. If you are doing it for enjoyment, well, that’s another story.

    • lostAnnfound says:

      My husband did this for years. When we first go married 20+ years ago I bought him a Mossberg 12 gauge for Christmas ($350.00). As you say, next came camo, which here in New England meant some warmer stuff to go hunting deer. In all the years that he went out he got one deer, which a friend of ours who is a butcher did package it for us for a couple of venison steaks. All in all, not a very frugal idea.

      I think my husband enjoyed walking out in the woods with his buddies more than the actual hunting itself.

    • freeby50 says:

      My dad is a very frugal guy (bording on cheapskate) and he gave up hunting years ago cause it just wasn’t worth it to him. Spent a lot of money on gear and a lot of time and ended up with one deer that he then had to clean etc.

      • saladdin says:

        It depends on a lot of things. I live in The Great State of Tennessee and between my best friend (we hunt together) we kill 7-10 deer a year and easily could double that. Processing is 65 dollars each and our biggest ongoing expense is twinkies for hunting snacks. We use guns that were given to us as kids 20 years ago and old coveralls. Camo and most of the other stuff is just a marketing ploy when it comes to deer.

        But, some states have larger game populations then others and frankly, hunting is not easy. It is a hobby but a skilled one.


  5. billsnider says:

    I know someone who attended an upsate NY college. One winter to save money he and his roommates went an entire winter without heating their apartment. I thought they would give in as the winter progressed, but they did it. I did not enjoy visiting them. Cold is cold!

    Bill snider

    • LOL. Yeah, there is frugal, and then there is stupid…

      • Jason Ronis says:

        I used no heat in an apartment one winter. Just leeching heat from our neighbors… It wasn’t too terribly bad. Low’s in the 50s in the kitchen, but upstairs it might have been a full 10 degrees warmer.

        • Traciatim says:

          You say leeching, I say stealing.

          • cubiclegeoff says:

            I wouldn’t call it stealing since the person is a renter and can’t control the insulation between one apartment and the other.

          • daenyll says:

            heat goes up, thus the heat would have been lost from the lower apartment anyway(assuming lower/upper unit arrangement). side by side would be a little less efficient for neighbours, but I’ve known landlords to basically use this tactic in vacant units, only keeping the temperature up enough to protect the pipes from freezing and letting excess from neighbours keep the unit warm.

          • Strebkr says:

            Thats not stealing. He didnt go out of his way for the heat. It just leaked in.

        • govenar says:

          I don’t use the heater in my apartment (but, I’m in California; I do use the AC in the summer).

    • Matt K says:

      For a few winters while I was single, I decided to leave the house thermostat at 55, and only keep my room warm with an electric heater. I pretty much lived in my room. It was definitely a bit cheaper, but I felt like i was going to a cave in my house….

      • billsnider says:

        When i was in Ireland, I noticed that they only heat the rooms they plan to use. They will turn on and off rooms as needed. I decided to add this feature when I expanded my house. I can also turn the thermostat down to 50 in non-bedrooms at night. Works great once you accept the extra routine you have to build into your life. I have noticed a reduction in my heating bills.

        I also turn the thermostat down when I am not at home. That helps too.

        Bill Snider

    • Erik says:

      My mom does this every winter, it’s killer!

      For the most part I can handle the cold, but for some reason, once my feet get cold they _do not_ warm up again which makes the cold unbearable. I finally got a foot warmer this winter. Now the cold is a lot more bearable, probably is a lot cheaper to use the foot warmer anyway.

    • Strebkr says:

      I admire their strength without heat. It was probably fun to do it once just to say you did it.

  6. Matt K says:

    I’ve been wanting to get rid of my car, and just going with zip car or something of that nature. Haven’t made the move yet…

    I’ve also wanted to change out my water heater for a tankless water heater. maybe i would if the water heater was really old, but given that it’s ~4 years old…I can’t justify replacing it.

    Another thought was installing heated pads in the ground, underneath the flooring… I think something like that could make you feel a lot warmer verses heating up all the air of the room. not sure about cost/benefit.

    And final thought was installing a whole house humidifier. I’ve heard it makes the air feel warmer, cutting down heating bill, but I also get dry skin during the winter… it’s a tossup. but yeah, the only reason i haven’t done it is because i’ve been thinking about moving out of the house within the next year. otherwise, not just for cost, but for quality of life, I would’ve done it.

    • SoonerNATX says:

      you’re better off putting a heater blanket on your tank and lowering the water set point. whether you go gas or electric tankless… you will more than likely need piping or wiring upgrades… this will destroy your payback.

      fyi, the tankless you see at the box stores are not the uber 90+ efficient ones. to get above 82-85% eff you must condense the combustion gasses which requires a stainless steel heat exchanger (adding roughly $800 to the price)… destroying what payback you had after upgrading your piping.
      you might be better off going solar thermal.

  7. zapeta says:

    If we had a house, I’d consider the chicken or the solar panels. If you live somewhere windy you could set up a windmill in addition to the solar panels.

    I’d like to try to go without a car. I mostly take the bus to work so I think we could be a one car family and save the expense of having a second car right now.

  8. Scott says:

    A garden (if you have the right space w/sun & water) is a great thing to do & a little relaxing too. We just built a 8″ deep “crate” that did great in TX. We haven’t had the same success in CA yet.
    We ended giving 30-50% away at the peak of harvest and enjoyed something every day during late spring through Nov-Dec depending on the first frost.
    Many of the seeds from the prior year automatically came up the next year for tomatoes & basil (just a tasty weed).
    Here in Cali we have fresh fruits, orange, lemon, fig, tangerine. All are in season right now and we have a couple lemon trees in the back yard. Can’t beat picking your own food…

  9. Scott says:

    Something in Cali interesting is the older homes have floor heaters (we have 2 in our home of 1700 sq ft) They work pretty well, but there is no thermostat, so when you get warm, you just turn them off / down.
    We really do not use them much. Last month’s bill was $50 vs. the normal $25-20 on gas.
    Our electric is non-existant compared to TX too. We may have $150 for 2 months. TX was like $300 for 1 month…

  10. N.W.Journey says:

    We live in an apartment and the one thing we have been meaning to try is growing some herbs, and tomatoes on our balcony. We know others who have done it successfully. We just haven’t gotten around to it, and honestly, I am not sure if either of us have much of a green thumb.

    Hopefully, we will try it next year when the weather is right.

    • Shirley says:

      Once you’ve tasted a vine-ripened home grown tomato, you’ll scoff at the store bought ones. And you don’t need a green thumb, just a sunny spot, a pot of soil and a tomato cage or screen for them to climb on. They produce for months.

  11. Michele says:

    I’m not sure you’re right about Maryland not being compatible with solar panels. I have some friends who live in the Philly burbs, and bought a home with solar panels in the summer of 2009. In the year and a half that they’ve lived there, they’ve never once received an electric bill. Their solar panels generate all the energy they need, even in the dark days of winter.

  12. cdiver says:

    What about raising rabbits for food?

    • Scott says:

      How on earth could you kill a little bunny? What’s up doc?

    • Shirley says:

      We did raise rabbits for food for a couple of years. I always took our young son with me shopping or errand running when it was time to put some rabbits in the freezer. We called the meat 4-legged chicken when we ate it since he had played with them and watched them grow.

      One day he asked, “How come we never eat any of the rabbits?” We ate rabbit after that. The truth always wins out.

  13. Marilyn Knox says:

    Wayne,Nebraska has way more solar installations than the normal town. Turns out that during the Carter years when we had solar discounts there was a solar panel manufacturer in town. It is interesting to see two or three installations per block. Not sure of pay back but they last a long time.

  14. eric says:

    Solar energy definitely interests me but my area is kinda hit or miss with sunshine.

  15. Chuck says:

    Solar electricity is expensive and ridiculous, but a solar heat collector can pay for itself very quickly.

    Get one of these (or similar):

  16. Demi says:

    I’ve been car pooling with 2 guys in my neighborhood for 2 years now. We all work within 1/2 mile of one another…one of us drives and drops off…at the end of the day we all gather at the car for the ride home. I’ve saved a few hundred dollars in gas alone, not to mention the wear and tear on my vehicle. Plus…if I need to travel somewhere immediately after work, I have the option of driving just myself that day. I share the local newspaper with my other neighbor. We split the $400 yearly cost between us. He reads it in the AM and drops it off on my back porch for me when I get home. I then enjoy reading the paper over and after dinner. We split the coupons in Sunday’s paper as well and last year I saved over $700 from those coupons…more than paying for the cost of the newspaper alone. Finally…my neighborhood is ripe with talent. We use the barter system. Anything from hair cuts to construction to cutting grass to cooking to taxi services for the kids…we trade services and share. I couldn’t imagine the amount of money we all save in that fashion. Lots.

  17. piggy bank says:

    We love the living off the land with fishing. I really enjoy fishing as a past time and the fish are great to eat. Each time I go it provides a few fish for the freezer. Which is a nice healthy meal, and is close to free.

  18. Traciatim says:

    As for solar you should probably looks at solar hot water and solar space heating. It’s far simpler than PV, more efficient, and generally cheaper.

  19. pudge says:

    Learn to sew. Basic stuff. Curtains, bedspreads, duvet covers. Used to be taught routinely years ago. Not so much now. Saves a bundle. Have you ever shopped for home decor? Pricey for decent stuff!

    • elloo says:

      Yes, sewing! And it’s not just for ladies. My grandfather was a master men’s tailor (even sewed uniforms for the top brass during WWI). Best quilter I ever met was a guy. Basic sewing machines are not expensive (and they’re a lot less money than hunting gear and solar panels).

      • Shirley says:

        My uncle learned to sew after he was injured and medically retired from the Sheriff’s Dept. When he remarried, he not only made his own suit but also his wife’s very fancy wedding dress. They were beautiful!

    • daenyll says:

      I actually asked for gift cards to amazon this year for holidays so I can get a sewing machine. I want to be able to quickly repair clothes and repurpose things that are no longer wearable due to worn seems and the like.

  20. mamamo says:

    My mother-in-law thought raising her own chickens for food and eggs to sell was a great idea. No one really wanted to pay for the eggs, she had so many she had to give them away. The chickens were noisy, filthy and tore up her yard. The chickens they ate, were skinny…just not worth plucking.
    If you’re going to raise chickens, research it well first. You have to house them, fence them in, pay for bedding, feed and things like oyster shells (to ensure hard egg shells). SO not worth it.

  21. Eli says:

    I haven’t given up cable though I’ve been exploring Netflix, Apple TV, etc. but none provide all the channels/programming I want. I did cut it in one room to save a little (a friend gave me a small flatscreen) and bought an antenna for it, but it doesn’t get great reception. I also haven’t done FSA at work, because I don’t have that many out of pocket medical expenses (though I might do it when I need to replace a crown and my glasses, just need to plan.)

  22. Evan says:

    Why the hell are Solar panels are still so expensive? I feel like they were expensive in my 8th grade tech class to power those stupid cars! All other electronics have come down why not solar panels?

  23. Clay Ivy says:

    I would be down with the solar panels. We have them all over Phoenix. I think the neighbors might complain with a chicken farm. Chicken poop is the worst smelling stuff I know of.

  24. Shckr7 says:

    We moved to Orange County, CA this past year. When we were looking to buy a house we were looking at two main areas. We eneded up choosing the place that was closer to the ocean – which wasn’t really any more expensive (go figure) compared to the other location we were looking at – which was more central to all of the various parts of Orange County.

    We turned on our AC for 1 day this past year and we have yet to have to turn on our heat. Our E-bill and Gas bill together are usually around $65. This is way cheaper than the other location would have yielded where we would have had to turn our AC on quite a number of times as the temp delta’s can be as much as 10-15 degrees.

    This is probably one of the better frugal things we did – when we bought our place. I have some friends in the other location we were looking at and their combined bills are usually $200+.

    I would love to do the solar thing – but at $65 a month, I just can’t justify it, even though we get plenty of sun.


  25. saladdin says:

    I always love to hear the chicken debate and am curious if those interested in keeping chickens have ever actually spent time around them.


    • Shirley says:

      We kept a few banty-hens and a banty-rooster for a bit. Ornery little thing he was!

      People who have not been around chickens usually do not think about the fact that chickens CAN fly. We spent too much time chasing them down and trying to keep them contained.

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