Thrift Tips for Stretching a Buck and Making Ends Meet in a Tough Economy

Thrift Tips for Stretching a Buck and Making Ends Meet in a Tough Economy
Don't panic. With a little "belt tightening" and a realistic plan, you will make it through the crazy financial times we live in. 

Being laid off, underemployed, restricted from opening your business or going to work... or just watching your paycheck buy less and less at the store has become a reality in most homes.

As businesses are downsizing, more and more work gets sent overseas and energy prices continue to soar, what can you do when you realize your income is not able to comfortably sustain your family? Here are several practical tips...

Don't Panic

First, in any survival situation, and trust me, being laid off, under-employed or broke half-way through the month can be a very real survival situation... Rule #1 is "Don't panic." So: step back, take a breath, sleep on it, pray and trust that you are going to make it through this.

Plan Ahead and Network

This is where having gone to the ant and observed their lifestyle comes in handy (Proverbs 30:25 & 6:6 - The Good Book). It is a really wise rule of thumb to be prepared for what you think may never happen. In our home, we have a decent stock of food that we lay by for the possibility of joblessness – which we actually have lived through multiple times.

Little Blessings From Others...

One winter, at the beginning of our marriage, before we had a chance to think through anything wise, we wound up jobless with two little ‘uns. That winter stands out in my mind as precious because we were fed almost entirely by a friend who was a delivery person for a food supply company.

People would reject a bag of flour that had a tear in it or cans that were dented. He had a ministry of feeding many needy people like us with surprise deliveries of this food which would otherwise have been thrown away. So, in our need, God supplied. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of networking and bartering. Someone else might raise what you need and perhaps you have a skill you can trade for something. Or vice-versa. Bartering is a great American tradition and it knits people together in a way passively forking over greenbacks can not.

Seek Out Local Resources and Encouragement

We have a wonderful Mennonite community and country store near us through whom we can order bulk foods. They never look to profit on this, only to serve and it has been such a huge blessing in being able to order large quantities of food to stretch our budget and lay things aside at the same time. Another place we are extremely fond of is a local surplus food store.

Bulk food is still affordable when you have a good source... Bulk food is still affordable when you have a good source...

They resell those dented cans and just-expired foods at amazing prices so that we come home with a lot of food for not much output. I’ve been to a store like ours in another locale and it was a rip-off. So make sure you’re actually getting a deal.

Roadside Stands Can Be a Fun Surprise

  Folks who run roadside stand often go to produce markets and then bring their haul to reasonably resell. Roadside stands usually offer a great value when compared to grocery stores... But better yet, find the wholesale produce market! But be ready to process all the food you’ll buy there! It’s an auction-like atmosphere, a lot of fun and a way to get semi-locally grown produce in bulk quantities. Make sure you have your stamina that day because you may have to wait until the end for what you really want to get. So search your area for resources like these. Ask around…people who are thrifty are everywhere, you just have to find them! I learned about the produce market from one of these folks!

Find Encouraging People in Tough Times

Look around for people to whom the almighty dollar is in its proper place – at the bottom of their priorities. These are the people who will keep your spirits from plummeting during hard times because they understand what is really important (people) and will reach out to help others. If you seem at a loss to connect with such kinds of people, there are some great, others-minded churches and charitable organizations out there, and some wonderful loving folks who are in them. If you need help, seek them out.

Do It Yourself - Canning, Dehydrating & Freezing

Having a garden and canning, dehydrating and freezing what you grow is also an invaluable way to stretch a food budget. It also allows you to have things laid up for that rainy day or week or month or year.


Our traditional way of “putting up” food for the future is a laborious but rewarding venture. However, as I learn more about nutrition, I am realizing that canning will give me food on my shelves, but its nutritional content is minimal, having been processed with heat for long periods.

Canning is a great way to preserve foodCanning is the traditional way to preserve food... but dehydrating is easier.

Dehydrating Dehydrated foods keep indefinitely if dried properly.

Dehydration uses a very low heat and air circulation to lock in nutrients and enable you to have what is called, “living foods” kept on your shelf. So dehydrating is MUCH better than canning from a nutritional perspective. Because you’re not dependent on electricity to preserve your “goodies” after they’re dehydrated, it is better than freezing.


Freezing is also a better way than canning to preserve nutrients, but with freezing, you have a dependency on electric – which can go bye-bye at any time.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap!!!

Did you know that with a few basic very inexpensive ingredients you can make your own laundry soap? I’ve been making my own for a few years now and it works great!

The Clothing Budget - What?

Well, we’ve been married well over a quarter century and we’ve never had the prescribed clothing budget that you see in all the ‘how-to-make-a-budget’ books. In fact, we’ve never had most of their categories!

Going to Thrift Shops can eliminate the need for a clothing budget...

I can count on one hand the times I’ve purchased new clothing (excepting underwear, of course!). I simply cannot bring myself to drop the amount of hard-earned money called for to buy things new. Seems like bad stewardship to me for the purpose of vanity. So, yeah – we shop at the exclusive places like Goodwill and Salvation Army. I actually find it fun! You can often find something that appeals to your fancy in a way you’d never imagined and it’s like a scavenger hunt/ surprise party every time you go!

Remember: Always try things on – even at a thrift shop, why waste money on things that don’t fit right? Sometimes I look longingly at people who have wonderful store-bought clothes in just the right style I wish I could wear, but I really do pretty good at the thrift shops. And if you’re clever with a needle, you can jazz up a simple second-hand tee shirt quite amazingly!

“My Secret” Resource For Everything!

I cannot write an article such as this without celebrating the age-old yard sale!

 My "secret" resource for almost everything...


Oh my, if you look through my house, almost everything in it has come from a yard sale or was a gift. You simply cannot tell that we have only two pieces of store-bought furniture. I have had many compliments on our eclectic décor and we have never been without what we need- in large part, due to yard sales. Homeschool your children? Yard sales offered us a plethora of low cost resources and teaching aids. We always had a craft table full of fun things to make and do – compliments of other people cleaning out their craft supplies.

I still rely on my $50 23-cubic-foot Montgomery Ward deep freeze I got years and year ago when it was already old. Outfits can be put together for a couple dollars. And one year I got a whole new wardrobe of brand new shoes that some lady who had a shoe fetish was getting rid of! All of my canning supplies – yard sales. Yard tools – yard sales. Christmas, birthday, baby and bridal shower gifts – yard sales (think ahead!). I’m pretty sure people looked forward to seeing what would be in my shower bags because I always found such unique and wonderful things! You don’t have to be a skinflint and can, in fact, be very generous, when you learn the art of yard sale-ing.

One Last Tip - Take 21 Days...

Every time you go to spend any amount of money, no matter how small, ask yourself: “Do I really need this?” If it is a need, ask: “Is there any other way I can meet this need without spending money?”

Resist impulse buys - wait 21 days. If it is a large purchase – a great rule of thumb is to wait 21 days to a month. Sit on it. Train yourself against impulse buying this way. At the end of the time period, you will likely have moved on and your marriage may even benefit from this frugal, selfless practice!
Okay... Just One More tip: Leverage the Internet for Bargains...
And NEVER, EVER... purchase anything on the Internet without first doing a Google search for the name of the company you are going to buy from, followed by the words, “coupon code.” You’ll be amazed at how much you can save scrounging for a few minutes trying coupon codes. The Internet has come leaps and bounds in just a few years with amazing availability for resources of any kind. You can get food delivered to your front door now! Craziness!
We use probably the most because we like that our financials are kept in one place there. My most recent find has been where I have found the best prices on many things we use -and they have it set up that the more you buy certain things, the more your prices decrease. Very interesting!
I also am jazzed about for my special needs foods which I have a hard time coming by in the boonies. You just have to do your homework and know what price is a good price for things. And the Internet is an incredible broker of information too! It is loaded with resources on how to do all sorts of things like make your own electricity, find ways to fuel your car cheaper, heat your home for less, decorate on a budget, use simple ingredients like a gourmet, etc.,etc. And these are just a few of a plethora of ways to stretch what you have. Just make sure you get all your valuable info together in hard copies because well, who knows how long the internet will last? Care to share how you save a buck? We'd love to learn with you! Until next time...
~ Carin
(David's Wife)