photo by amazing podgirl
darned sock

Frugalitarians are disciplined consumers. While they might be tempted by savvy marketing, they don't fall prey to it. I've discovered that I'm happy to admire merchandise without having to own it. I'm not anti-consumer, but I do believe in spending my money wisely. Today, my readers share their own frugal rules. If you're interested in saving a few bucks, try to apply a rule or two to your life.

LIMIT FOOD BUDGET: I try to spend only $5 a day on meat. That's meat for the whole day and for four really big meat-eating people. -- Andrea, Texas

CONSERVE: We turn off the gas to the furnace on May 1 every year, rain or shine. I don't believe in having credit cards at all and use cash only. -- Tango, e-mail

MEND: If a sock gets a hole in it, we do not throw it away! You would not believe the money that we have saved by sewing up holes in socks. All electrical appliances must be unplugged when not in use. All leftovers must be eaten up. Food waste has never been tolerated here. I make all of my own cleaning products. They're safe and just as effective as the toxic store-purchased ones. I almost never purchase new clothing, unless it's out of season and marked down by at least 60 percent. We're avid Goodwill and garage-sale shoppers. No carwashes. We do it ourselves and get a good workout by doing so. The same goes with carwash vacuums. We haul our shop vac out and use it. Just think of how that 75 cents to $1 adds up every week, 52 weeks a year. -- Lynne, Michigan

DELAY: If I can make it cheaper, I don't buy it. If I can fix it cheaper, I fix it. I never buy anything until I think about it for a week. -- Lisa, e-mail

PROTECT: I wear aprons to protect my clothes. I never cook, do housework or garden in my nice clothes. -- Margery, British Columbia

ORGANIZE: I keep an envelope with my free-after-rebate money from pharmacy purchases. This is all I have been using to purchase more free-after-rebate items. That way, whatever I buy free after rebate, it doesn't cost any "extra" cash out of my own pocket. -- Marie, New York

PRIORITIZE: My biggest rule is to never forget why I live frugally: To remain 100 percent debt-free, my husband and I have always been tightwads. What we have isn't fancy, but every last speck is completely paid for. Some of my rules: All purchases must be paid in full. All purchases other than basic groceries, pet supplies and cleaning supplies must be discussed in advance. The bigger the cost, the longer the discussions and mulling. Can we find it cheaper? Can we substitute? Do we really, truly need it? Impulse buying is for yard sales only. We each get a yard-sale "allowance" of $20 every two weeks (payday) to spend however we choose, but when the money is gone, there is no more fun money until payday. -- F.W., Alabama

COMPARE: My biggest rule is that I have to comparison shop. It doesn't matter if it's a used vehicle or per-ounce price on cereal. I need to know the price is the best price, or very close to the best price, I can get. -- G.G., e-mail