Frugal-minded homemakers—whether we’ve embraced a lifestyle of frugal living or are practicing frugality long enough to pay off a debt or save for future splurges—know that planning ahead is key to our success. As winter comes to an end and change nips at our heels, here are some of the ways we can plan ahead to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges that the season of spring offers.

Plant a Garden

Grow your own vegetables, flowers, and plants for landscaping, but don’t skip the research. If you don’t already know, learn more about which plants grow well in your gardening zone. Consult your local agriculture agent for information and advice. Beginning with seeds takes more time, but it’s the most cost-effective plan to follow. Consider joining the Great American Seed Swap group on Facebook or swap seeds with friends and/or neighbors. Use empty egg and/or milk cartons to sow seeds, rather than buying expensive trays. Consider joining a garden co-op in your community, or form one in your neighborhood.

Build your own compost. Look for gardening tips and special deals at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Let your neighbors know you would be interested in some of their cuttings or seedlings when they trim their plants or thin their gardens, and offer to exchange them for some of yours. Consider joining freecycle to find free plants in your area.

If space for growing a garden is a problem, you might want to check out the resources at ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), an organization that provides information about planting an urban garden. Don’t plant a garden if you don’t have the time to take care of it and harvest the vegetables when they are ready, or it may cost you more than it is worth.

Prepare for Spring Cleaning 

Avoid brand-name cleaning products, and make your own solutions. A weak bleach solution works just as well as many of the brand-name products that contain bleach. Many of my friends rave about the effectiveness of a cleaning solution that contains equal parts Dawn dishwashing liquid and white vinegar. Both plain white vinegar and baking soda are relatively inexpensive, and they are effective cleaning agents. (Here’s a website with 1001 tips for using white vinegar.)

Use rags rather than paper towels to clean, and if you have a Swiffer, make your own washable cleaning cloths with rags rather than buying expensive disposable ones. Ask for receipts for tax purposes when you donate clothing and other items to charity.

As you clean and de-clutter and want a new look to change your décor from winter to spring, look for seasonal items at thrift stores, make new covers for your throw pillows, or frame a free printable, like those from Pinterest. The day or days that you dedicate to spring cleaning will help you save time and energy and avoid stress. Avoid the cost of a fast-food meal by making dinner first.

Plan for Spring Break and/or Summer Vacation  

Look for good deals on Groupon. If your family enjoys sports, consider going to the less expensive (and sometimes free) spring-training games. Share a cabin or condo with another family to reduce costs. Stay at a place where you can bring and prepare your own food, especially snack foods and drinks.