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Frugality!

I'm being frugal with words here, so forgive the brevity of my opening paragraph. Call me inspired to do more with less. I recently asked visitors to my Facebook fan page to suggest some ideas for frugal living and they came through, big time.

Sharing is a frugal thing to do, so here goes.

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For sheer uniqueness, the suggestion to dry your razor blade after every use stands out. Apparently, you can get nine months of use out of it that way. No word on whether you'll have any skin left.

Another non-traditional suggestion was to improve your driving skills. Stop rushing up to red lights and instead try taking your foot off the gas pedal as you approach the intersection and then braking when appropriate. Some drivers have made a science out of gas-saving techniques like this called hypermiling.

Downsizing your car to something more fuel efficient was another suggestion, as was trying to get by with one car instead of two. Or, chuck your vehicle altogether and try a car-sharing service. Another car tip: Avoid costly tickets by always parking legally and keeping close to the speed limit.

At home in the summer? Open your windows and turn on your ceiling fans instead of using the air conditioning, another member of my Facebook posse suggested. Check out the potential savings from this substitution on a website called Saving Electricity. It says you could save $438 per year using ceiling fans instead of your air conditioner.

Men, make your dress shirts last longer by washing them in the gentle cycle and hanging them to dry. Get a clothesline and never use the dryer. (You can gauge the cost of using electrical appliances here.) We've tried hanging clothes to dry outside at our house and it's great if you don't mind everything coming out stiff like a popsicle stick.

For the frugal, eating in restaurants is strictly verboten. Bring your lunch to work - use up those leftovers - and drink the office swill … um, coffee. Eat dinners at home. Sensibly, one Facebook friend suggested a nice bottle of wine to make the eat-in experience more pleasant.

If you do dine out, make it your mom's place. One person said she regularly gets sent home with groceries.

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There were many opinions on ways to be a frugal shopper. Several people like the idea of paying for things out of pocket with cash instead of using debit or credit. When you run out of cash, you stop spending. Hopefully, you get all of your items through the grocery check-out before this happens.

Some people favour the idea of making a shopping list and sticking to it, while others suggested being flexible to the extent of loading up on sale-priced items that you use a lot. Of course, reading supermarket flyers to find the best bargains was suggested. (Here's a list of coupon websites, from last week's Personal Finance Reader.)

Buy in bulk, buy generic products, avoid heavily processed and packaged foods and try lower-grade cuts of meat that can be tossed into your slow cooker. Apparently, being a vegetarian is a frugal thing to do.

A neat suggestion for curbing impulse purchases was to give yourself a "cooling off period" when you spot something you must have. If you still want the item tomorrow, you can buy it then.

Things frugal people should avoid include malls and supermarket aisles. Hug the grocery store's periphery, where the fresh produce and meat are.

Buying videos, books and magazines? Stop right now - that's what libraries are for. Buying other miscellaneous stuff? That's what Kijiji, Craigslist and eBay are for.

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There are actually two kinds of frugality. The first is active, where you control spending by choice to save more and stay out of debt. The second is reactive, where debt or other circumstances force you to cut back.

How do you limit debt? The suggestions ranged from amassing a bigger down payment when buying a home to paying bills on time and sticking to a household budget. One budgeting suggestion that has worked well for my wife and me is weekly mortgage payments, plus automatic transfers of funds each week to savings for retirement and other purposes.

We close with the wise words of the Scottish mom of one Facebook friend: "Mony a mickle maks a muckle," which means something along the lines of lots of little things add up to something. Such is true frugality.





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About the Author
Personal Finance Columnist

Rob Carrick has been writing about personal finance, business and economics for close to 20 years. He joined The Globe and Mail in late 1996 as an investment reporter and has been personal finance columnist since November 1998.Rob's personal finance columns appear in The Globe on Tuesday and Thursday, and his Portfolio Strategy column for investors appears on Saturday. More

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