Guest Post by Kari Patterson from Kari Patterson.com. This is her final post in a 3-part series.
Welcome back! Last week, we talked about the key to making frugality last: Live Simply. By simplifying and streamlining we can gain more than we drain and leave a legacy of gracious giving, not irritable exhaustion.
Here are a few practical ways to make it happen:
:: Watch the clock.
The real trap of deal-hunting can be the toll it takes on our time. Anyone else ever get caught up in online coupon clipping and then realize we forfeited two hours to save two dollars? Not worth it. To keep things simple, set aside a small amount of time each day or week when you will devote yourself to hunting deals. Don’t compromise. Briefly drop by this website each day and do all you can within your allotted time. And when you’re done, you’re done. Let it go.
Remember also that energy is the most valuable resource. We’ve got to think not only of time and money, but of energy as well. Remember to spend wisely in all areas of life.
:: Shorten your list.
Reducing the number of items you buy each month will greatly reduce the amount you spend as well. Example? Toss out the boxes of cereal. All of them. Buy oatmeal instead. One item. Huge savings.
Look at each item on your list and ask, “Can I do without it?” I can’t explain it, but the savings will be staggering. The amount of coupons you’ll need to clip and the amount of time you’ll spend in the store will be reduced as well. In short: more time, more money, and more energy. Chop that list in half.
:: Limit Choices.
We live in America. We love options, choices, preferences. I was in a restaurant recently and I swear the menu was as thick as a phonebook. Ever notice that we’re happy with what we have until we’re given the choice for something else? Everyone was happy driving cars without A/C until we had the option for A/C. We were happy with A/C until we had the option of an auto-thermostat. We were happy with that until we had the option of dual-sided climate control. We were happy with that until we could get heated seats.
Not throwing stones here. I love my thermostat, but it is true that we must daily battle the temptation to believe that choices will satisfy. We think that having two different types of black knee-high boots or having five options for breakfast or three flavors of coffee creamer will really make the difference in our day.
But it doesn’t. When we reduce our options we actually increase our contentment.
Don’t think we’re addicted to choices? Try this fun experiment. We did it this past fall with our church and it was eye-opening. Eat only beans, rice, flatbread, and water for three days. This is the diet of about half our world. Those are the options. Warning: you will probably be miserable. I was. But it showed me how much I rely on my smorgasbord of daily options and take them so much for granted. After coming off that 3-day diet, we had a new appreciation for our choices and it was far easier to limit them. Fewer options radically simplifies our lives.
:: Re-consider “convenience.”
As you’re probably aware, healthy food is not what costs us most, convenience food is. And I understand that for some of us, it’s worth it. But for those of us who can make the time and who are serious about doing this frugality thing, convenience is what’s got to go. No matter how cheap those granola bars are, it’s probably cheaper to make oatmeal bars from scratch.
Good produce can always be found for under $1/pound, but we have to do the hard work of peeling the carrots ourselves. Breakfast cereal, even on sale with a coupon, will always cost more than oatmeal. Our family of four goes through eight pounds of oats a month, which costs approximately $4. That’s the cost of breakfast. For a month. It does mean boiling a pot of water each morning, but hey, we have stoves! That’s convenient in itself. While old-fashioned oats are not a “convenience” food they certainly promote a simple morning routine. And simplicity is key.
Last thought on this: When we do fill our lives with “convenience” items, we often wind up cramming more and more into our already overloaded schedules. This does not promote simplicity. Sometimes when we’re forced to slow down, even just long enough to make simple roast chicken or bake some artisan bread, we find the margin that our lives so desperately need. White space for our souls. Sometimes convenience can take far more than it gives. Sometimes slow is simplest of all.
Leave a comment! We’d love to hear the ways that you have made frugality simple. What has helped you achieve staying power in this long haul of coupon-clipping and bargain-hunting? Share your successes and failures so the rest of us can learn!
Kari Patterson is a pastor’s wife, ministry mommy, writer, runner, blogger, reader and frugal living enthusiast. She enjoys green tea, line-dried laundry and Alexander McCall Smith novels. Her musings can be found at KariPatterson.com.
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.
Loved the post. I just started receiving the e-mails. Any classes on how to live more simply?? I would be very interested.
MK Jorgenson says
“But it doesn’t. When we reduce our options we actually increase our contentment.”
So true! I actually just read about a study where people bought more jam when there were fewer choices. Crazy in a society that screams more-is-better, but maybe we’re starting to listen to that almost hidden voice that’s says “but is it really?”
Sarah W. says
What a wonderful post. Thank you so much for blessing us with it.
We buy bulk oatmeal as well. I just soak it in milk or water or whatever combo, add raisins and cinnamon, or chopped fruit. Then warm in the microwave. My daughter actually likes her oatmeal cold, for some reason. Husband likes his cooked a little longer in the microwave, so he does that with more liquid added. Once I learned that you don’t have to cook oatmeal for any safety reason, I also will add a handful to other dry cereal to bulk it up. Also ground flax.
We eat steel cut oats cooked on low in the crock pot overnight and leave the peels on our carrots. Even healthier, even easier.
Love, love, love this! Simple really does save money. I too over-spent when I first got into coupons, but we’re back to our basic grocery list and my spreadsheet shows that we’re spending les than half what we used to. I grew up in a big family and my parents simply didn’t give us multiple choices for meals or snacks. If a kid is hungry, they’ll eat new things and things that aren’t their favorite. Tip: I’m a fitness trainer and I can tell you, not all kids go thru growth spurts at the same time. Some kids are simply smaller than others and a moderate appetite is a gift in our culture — don’t mess with it by trying to tempt them into eating more than want. Remember – what you see on TV commercials about “nutrition” is actually marketing to convince you that you “need” a product.
I think this is a very important post that all newbie couponers should be directed to.
When I first started couponing, I found 3 or 4 blogs that I checked multiple times a day to make sure I got the limited time offers. I clipped or printed every possible coupon I might use–and then I spent *more* than I normally would have because I bought things I otherwise wouldn’t have bought because I didn’t want to miss a deal! (Turns out there is always a super deal on candy. I never bought candy before and suddenly I was spending a dollar or two here and another dollar there and bringing it into my home because it was such a great deal! NOT!) AND I spent way-way-way more time shopping.
At some point, I realized that this process was supposed to make my life better not harder! Now–against the prevailing advice, I *only* clip the coupons for things I know we really need and I would have bought anyway. I only shop in one or two stores and ignore all the rest of the possible bargains. I’ve learned that everything is on sale again in a few months and I can buy it then. (Some things like toothpaste can be had every week for free!) And I’ve accepted that many things (like oatmeal and whole chickens) will never have a coupon, but they are almost always cheap to start with and nourish my soul along the way.
Whether or not I agree with the details of this post, I think there is a fundamental truth to the tone and message that reminds me to find balance and strive for peace in our lives.
Offer a toddler too many options and what happens? They have a meltdown. Simplicity is sanity in my household 🙂
25 pounds of oatmeal from Bob’s Red Mill, I’m set for a few months *lol*
I love the idea of simplicity. I just changed our eating habits to more wholesome foods, leaving out all the processed foods. My grocery list is way more simple! I have started cooking alot more and am finding out that I don’t mind it! I used to grab convenient food at least 3 times a week. Not only was it unhealthy, I was spending way more money. Thank you for your post. I enjoy reading them.
I AGREE!!!!! We go through about 12 lbs of Oatmeal a month. We have 2 breakfasts ONLY:
Oatmeal or Eggs and toast- we switch back and forth. I cook whole chickens in the crock pot, and make 3 meals with the meat: chicken tacos, chicken with rice and the rest to a big pot of Chicken noodle soup. Our food budget is kept low and we are healthy because of less stress. We love our simple lives and it allows me the energy to pray and spend time with the Lord instead of feeling like “Martha”. Love Love Love it!!!!
Tiffany Kerns says
I love the thoughts here. I am currently pondering the “slow down” part. Making a chicken for dinner is really satisfying even if the cost savings vs/ time isn’t in my best interest….slowing down and preparing the food is good for my soul. thanks for your post. I think our children have too many choices much of the time as well. My husband just returned from Africa and honestly, our choices are off the map!!
Oh, it’s so good for the soul. If you enjoy it, at least. I find the savings to be decent when I make food from scratch, but the joy I get from doing it far outweighs anything else. Knowing exactly what we are eating and what went into it is such a wonderful feeling. Just teaching myself how to do these things (I was terrified of roasting a whole chicken before last fall!) is so validating.
I also agree with simplifying your list. We have been eating more whole and unprocessed foods and our grocery budget has skyrocketed. However, I realized that I was stocking up on produce like I used to stock up on dried and canned goods. I was trading one addiction for another. 🙂 I’m relearning how to eat from our pantry and make every little bit stretch.
I just told someone the other day that I wish I lived in a simpler time. Not always, as I do love modern conveniences, but sometimes I feel like too many choices is actually more limiting and more stressful.
Twin Mom says
1) Know your family. If your children won’t eat oatmeal cooked without sugar or salt or fruit, the option listed in this post is NOT for you. If your family doesn’t eat breakfast together, HOT oatmeal is NOT for you. If “cold porridge” every morning works for your family, then you’re set.
2) Know which 5% of deals to pursue. I just bought 14 packages of Huggies for $37 at Rite Aid a couple weeks ago. I like Huggies Overnites and know this is a great price. For other families, cloth diapers are the best option. My family drinks several gallons of milk each week and I know $2.07 at Rite Aid is the best price.
3) I disagree with the “shorten your list” option. I love Winco bulk, because I can buy small amounts of many of the items my family uses and use them quickly. I know the prices of virtually everything I buy regularly. Maybe simplifying works if your kids are good eaters, but for those of us whose kids often don’t eat (and have the low percentile growth curves to prove it), food battles may not be worth it.
4) Put a value on your time. I try to go to the grocery store twice/week. Deals influence where I go. To make a stop (even if I’m driving right by the store), I want to save $5. Everyone’s choice will be different, but I agree with her overall point to use time wisely. (for me, that means buying peeled carrots instead of peeling them myself. I would rather use the $5 I just saved towards a 2 lb bag of peeled baby carrots vs. peeling 3 lb of whole carrots and composting a lb of tops and peels.
I totally agree, but when I go out to dinner I would love it if they had one vegetarian option for me–all to often( and I rarely go out to eat) when I can’t pick the restaurant there is NO vegetarian option–bummer 🙁 But on a better note – there are studies out that say the people that tend to eat the same meals and usually thinner–Interesting huh!