The Canadian dollar is plummeting and the exchange rate is terrible (1.51 as I write)... That means that if my grocery bill is 100$, I actually pay $150... Ouch! We rarely pay for campgrounds (and usually prefer BLM lands), but now, we truly cannot afford them (a $30 night would cost us $45... No way!).
Our biggest expense has always been our grocery bills. With active growing girls, we needed to find a way to cut down on these bills. We very rarely eat out, but we like good food. Isabelle started researching discount groceries and found some awesome places. Here in Tucson, we have found Market on the Move where you can get 60 lbs of fruits and veggies for $10! It changes every week, but it's all local fresh stuff. This week, we had 60 oranges, 2 grapefruits, 25 tomatillos and 6 poblano peppers in our box. No need to sign up in advance, just show up between 8 am and 1 pm on Wednesday. And the best part: it's a block away from the Rock Gym!
Combine that to a discount grocery where they sell expired dried goods (yes, this is legal and most items are only a few months past the expired date) and you cut your grocery bill in two! The trick is to Google "expired or dented groceries" and the town where you are to find these places. Mexican grocery stores also have great prices (and usually much less additives than American products). I don't need to buy expensive organic canned beans to avoid BHT or other nasties that give me a migraine: most Mexican canned beans are only beans, salt and water. Papayas are super cheap there too, as well as homemade tortillas.
We get a lot of our clothes from thrift stores and even found a store here that will give us some money back for the clothes we bring in (instead of having to wait for them to sell them, which doesn't work when you move every two weeks...) or a credit to use in the store: a great way to turn old clothes into new ones without any money exchange. What they do not take, we bring to a park near the rock gym where there is a lot of homeless people. We have left men tennis shoes, pants, fleece and other useful piece of clothings in the parking lot.
Jen also cut everybody's hair this weekend. She is very good and it is one less expense!
Before going to a museum or restaurant, we look for Groupons, but we mostly focus on free outdoor activities. The Rock Gym turned out to be such a great investment, especially since our water heating system is not working right now and we can all shower for free at the gym. You do the math: $115 for the month for the 5 of us, we are there 3-4 days/week and all shower 2-3 times a week there.
The positive side of the crazy exchange rate is that the gas prices are incredibly low. We usually use the Gas Buddy app to find the cheapest place to fill up, but the best way to save on gas is still to not drive much and stay in one place longer, exactly what we are doing now! And well, driving slow, which is a no brainer when you have two old buses... This way, you also save on speed tickets!
Laundry is about $30/month (so $45 for us right now...), so we go to the cheap (sometimes a little sketchy) laudromats. You know you've hit the jackpot when the change guy is behind a cell-like area and the only (old) TV showcases old murder stories for the mid 90's...
I'd love to hear about how you live frugally. Any tips or ideas are more than welcomed!