Recent conversations with family and co-workers have unearthed a slew of converts to the frugal life. Well, maybe not complete converts, but every journey begins with a single step. (Another favorite saying.)
The woman who sits across from me is amid a low-carb diet. I admire her determination, because just about anything starchy is my kryptonite. A good way to get protein and vegetables without being bad is a salad with a scoop of tuna fish. With its healthy offerings, Subway is a good place to get that meal.
After paying more for a salad than she would for a foot-long tuna sub and a drink, she had an "aha" moment. She bought the foot-long sub with lettuce and tomato, scraped the filling into a bowl, and discarded the bread. She actually gets more tuna and saves a little money in the process.
That's what real frugality is all about.
You can end up saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year by looking for small ways to save. My co-worker hasn't really sacrificed anything, and she's got an extra dollar in her pocket.
I was the most surprised when my sister, a self-proclaimed shopaholic, said she's cutting out her nearly $10 breakfasts at work.
She works in the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 100 company. The cafeteria is more like a mall food court with stations for soups, salads, sandwiches and grilled items.
She, too, was trying to eat healthy by buying a large oatmeal ($2.50), a large latte with two shots of espresso ($6) and one or two pieces of fruit ($1 each). Even though employees received a 20 percent discount, she came close to $10 with tax.
After listening to me preach the gospel of savings, she got smart about her spending.
She bought a box of oatmeal packets for $1. With 10 in the box, she said three equalled what she purchased from the work cafeteria. Each floor in her building has a coffee bar with free coffee. Sure, it's not latte nor espresso, but it's still caffeine.
There's a slew of casinos just across the river, and as a "diamond" member, she's allowed into the high-rollers club that offers free food and drinks. She said she always grabs a few bananas and apples before she leaves and takes them to work in the morning.
I guess with that weekly $50 she's saved, she's able to spend even more time gambling.
Small savings apply to more than food.
A male reporter who sits behind me was complaining about the outrageous price of disposable razors. One co-worker commented on his Don Johnson throw-back look, and he lamented that he easily spent close to $20 for refill blades for a razor that cost about $10.
I told him how my husband has just as rough a beard and goes through blades just as quickly. Because my husband wasn't willing to invest in electrolysis, I convinced him to use the coupons in the Sunday newspaper.
Most of the popular brands are regularly on sale, and the manufacturers often offer coupons.
To save even more, sign up for discount clubs at your grocery or drug store. I get cash-register coupons on just about every trip. The store keeps track of the types of things you buy, and when a manufacturer is offering additional savings, those coupons print out at the bottom of your receipt.
With little effort, he can save as much as $5 on each purchase. If he buys blades twice a month, that would be $120 a year.
Now that's what I call saving money where your mouth is. (New twist on another favorite cliche.)