Spring cleaning is not my bag but New Year’s sure is. This is likely because I have time off around New Years and like to put my idle hands to good use. Some frugal projects to consider as we roll into the New Year:
- Frugal Fridge. I always give my fridge a thorough cleaning around the New Year. I block out a couple of hours, take everything out and discard anything suspect due to expired use dates or what have you. I then take everything questionable or that needs to be used up quickly and make meals out of it all. This results in some pretty creative uses for the odds and ends but the results are always pretty good. I generally do not restock because if I am getting rid of something, I likely should not have bought it in the first place. Of course, I also give the inside of the fridge a really good cleaning. In tandem with a good fridge cleaning, I also make sure I have a:
- Frugal Freezer. Both freezers in fact as I have one in the garage and one in the kitchen. Here I throw out anything I have not used in a year along with some serious reflection on what I tend to freeze and why. This keeps me honest and my frugal goals intact. This year I did a brutal clean out, getting rid of old jams and jellies I had frozen long ago. I then reused all the jars by refreezing all my legumes, dried beans and lentils so I could also have a:
- Frugal Pantry. This year, my youngest grandchild volunteered to help me out and we had a grand time of it. We literally took every single item out of the pantry, shelf by shelf, and reorganized everything. To my credit, I didn’t end up throwing much of anything away but I did reorganize the entire pantry so it flowed better and made every ingredient more accessible so I would be less apt to forget I had something. I completely reorganized all my baking ingredients more efficiently so my grand-daughter and I could locate what we needed faster. I put aside anything I wasn’t sure of using again and found a way to use it up immediately which made for some creative effort in the kitchen. My grandbaby is always up for a fun time in the kitchen and thus she went home with a number of freshly baked goods. In turn, I now get to enjoy the pantry of my dreams. This effort also led to an entire day of cooking and baking in the kitchen so I could test out new frugal recipes. Pure bliss.
- Frugal garage. Ah yes, the dreaded garage. This project is somewhat…on going but promises to come to a merciful end this coming weekend. I simply take out four large boxes and label them trash, donate, organize and use. Trash is obvious as is donate. Organize means it goes back into the garage and use means I have to find a use for it immediately or into the donate box it goes. Before I head to the charity of my choice to drop off my donations, I do a run through my closet as well to ensure I’m donating anything that no longer fits, is outdated or simply doesn’t work for me.
- Other year-end chores include replacing certain kitchen items. This year it was my muffin tins and cookie sheets. Man, do they see a lot of use. I recycle everything that is old, dented, and beat up of course. Having new bakeware in the New Year is my little reward for doing all my year-end chores and it costs me very little.
- Time to empty your makeup bag. Makeup should only be used for six months to a year so grit your teeth and replace everything. I know, this one is tough but the risk of pink eye or worse just isn’t worth keeping a couple of tubes of old mascara. Just buy new ones and consider it a New Year’s gift to yourself. Most makeup is chemically nearly identical so you are paying for expensive packaging if you don’t buy cheaper brands.
- Check the contents of your first aid kit and medicine cabinets. Get rid of anything that is out of date and replace what you need to replace. With a new box of band-aids and a fresh bottle of night time flu meds, I am ready for the new year.
- Grown up time: Finish up all those pesky medical appointments. As I said, I tend to have time off at the end of the year so I schedule my medical appointments, all on one day whenever possible. It isn’t my favorite day off obviously but the frugal rewards of keeping on top of health issues cannot be overstated. Keep up with any and all medical issues. Surgery is outrageously expensive even with medical insurance. and you don’t want to go on long-term meds if there is a medical issue that can be addressed with diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. I always ask for copies of my medical tests, I want to keep track of everything. For example, given my genetic and medical background, I happen to be high risk for thinning bones which can lead to fractures and worse. Thus, every five years I have a bone density scan and the last time, I actually modestly increased my bone density by a couple of percentage points. This actually promoted a phone call from several of my doctors (I make sure all of my doctors receive test results) lauding me for the accomplishment because it is apparently rare. When I went back to do an updated scan last week, the doctor’s office team actually remembered me as the woman who had increased her bone density. I asked them to mail me an updated report. Frankly, I’m curious to see if I beat the odds again or if I am at least am holding my own, bone density wise. if not, I will be adding more weight-bearing exercise to my exercise regime. And I always ask my doctor for the results of my blood work. I like to know how my organ function is doing, thank you very much. It doesn’t take a medical degree to keep track of your health and to take control. After a hip replacement a couple of years ago (what can I say, I injured my hip decades ago) I found I only wanted to eat shrimp which blew my cholesterol out of the water (prompting a call of concern from my doctor). Before putting me on cholesterol lowering meds, I asked my physician for 30 days to lower my cholesterol back to its normally much lower range. It worked. I went back to eating normally (though I missed the shrimp!) and my bad cholesterol number plummeted. And yes, my doctor called again to praise me. I was good to my word. Shrimp is now relegated to special meals for both health and financial reasons but the upside is that my bad cholesterol is firmly back in the basement again. The lesson here is to take charge of your medical issues before they take charge of you.
- Tax time is coming so haul out a $1 binder and start collecting everything you need. It’s not a fun project (unless you are an accountant and then yes, it is really fun I imagine) but save yourself the grief of trying to locate everything you need. MY CPA sends me a check list so I know what to gather but you can easily find what you need to gather up, paperwork wise, on line.