Simple Frugal Living Tips
There are times when we just kill it in the frugality department. We spend less, save more, and have no expensive surprises. High five and pat your frugal self on the back. Then the following month, your house needs a new water heater, your car needs new tires, and your kid needs new shoes. That’s probably the month you blow the grocery budget, too. Hang head and kick your good intentions to the curb.
The frugal life definitely has its ups and downs. Some months are better than others, but it’s a constant learning process. Here are 5 simple tips that have been tumbling around in my brain lately. These are no Chinese proverbs, just areas I have personally been working on to get my frugality back on track.
Just because you want something doesn’t mean you need it.
I get these four letter words confused all the time, forgetting that I have relatively few true needs beyond food, clothing, shelter, and
coffee water. I have no problem with interests, hobbies, or indulgences, but I never want to pretend that the quality of my life depends on the brand of my cell phone.
Need? Want? Call it what it is, and then evaluate whether you can afford it or not.
Just because you need/want something doesn’t mean it has to be new.
The frugal life is satisfying, but it requires patience. I struggle in this department, but I have found that thrifting makes a huge difference. The desire for instant gratification is replaced by the thrill of the hunt.
In the last few months, I have purchased 3-ring binders, footy pajamas, snow boots, bulletin boards, long-sleeve shirts, and mixing bowls from local thrift stores. My husband found a cable modem for our computer, an adapter hose for our car, and an impedence matching transformer for our homemade tv antennae (don’t ask).
They were all gently used but perfectly fine. We were planning to buy all of these items but saved a significant amount of money by waiting until we could track them down at secondhand stores.
Related: How to ditch cable (and still watch TV and sports!)
Just because you don’t feel like doing something doesn’t mean you can’t.
Take eating out, for example. I crave a Little Big Burger with a side of truffle fries on a weekly basis. Every single Thursday night I want to eat at a restaurant, followed by Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. The thought of someone else cooking and cleaning for us is way more appealing than anything sitting in my fridge. Some nights I feel paralyzed by my complete lack of desire to cook dinner.
Then I remember that I can create a wholesome dinner for a fraction of the cost and calories of a restaurant meal. I don’t feel like making dinner. I don’t feel like loading the dishwasher. Yet I find that if I just start busting through the moves of getting dinner on the table, I feel capable and satisfied. Oh, and proud. I feel proud of myself for pushing through the temptation of whipping out my debit card instead of my cookbook.
I’m not knocking eating out, I absolutely enjoy it. But I definitely find that I enjoy it more when it’s planned and within the budget (sometimes with a coupon or discount) versus last minute because I don’t FEEL like cooking. When you’re budget-conscious and frugal most of the time, not planning can actually feel frustrating.
Just because clothes have been worn doesn’t mean they are dirty.
I have young kids so I know dirty laundry piles up quickly. My daughter thinks her shirt sleeve is an attached napkin, and my son attracts dirt like any respectable boy. However, a couple of weeks ago it hit me. Why do I automatically throw all of their clothes in the hamper after one use? Much of their clothing can stand a second or third wearing before washing.
By paying more attention and only washing clothes that are actually dirty, I have cut my weekly laundry load by 1-2 full loads of clothes. Crazy! Even our high-efficiency washer and dryer costs around 80 cents of electrical energy per load. If I cut out 2 loads per week over the course of a year, that could be a savings of $83. Line drying clothes obviously adds up to an even greater savings. Little Big Burger, here I come.
Now if I can just train my kids.
Related: Laundry hacks for big families
Just because you have never done something doesn’t mean you can’t learn.
You can learn to save early for Christmas or change your car’s oil or bake a loaf of bread or cut your son’s hair or make your own iced latte at home. Challenge yourself to learn one new skill every month. Write it down and make it happen.
This year I want to learn how to make crackers and pasta. There is a never ending list of home and garden projects I plan to tackle. I am sloooowly teaching myself how to use Photoshop. All of these involve new skill sets that often help our budget and ultimately enrich my life.
Related: How to make homemade chicken stock
Related: How to make and freeze applesauce
Related: Homemade 3-ingredient BBQ sauce
Would you add anything to this list?
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Donald Rain says
I didn’t have any expectations concerning that title, but the more I was astonished. The author did a great job. I spent a few minutes reading and checking the facts. Everything is very clear and understandable. I like posts that fill in your knowledge gaps. This one is of the sort.
Kaitlyn Smyth says
Frugal is the only way we can survive right now! My husband and I are both Army vets, with a 21-month-old and a 5-month old, and are full time students. I do my courses online so I can be at home with the kids and save on child care. It’s really inspiring to find articles like this so help us to save as much as we possibly can. I recently just wrote a post on how to save money on fixed monthly expenses: http://www.checklistsandcornstalks.com/tips-to-decrease-the-cost-of-your-fixed-monthly-bills-2/ , but we’re ALWAYS looking for ways to do better.
I go to the library for movies and books, coupon, use a homemade cleaning solution, cook everything from scratch (I have vegetable gardens, fruit trees, make Bisquick mix, condiments, breads, we raise cattle…), limit washing clothes to when we need it, and my husband just went out and paid $500 on a new cell phone without consulting me (the bill payer)!! I guess my 2015 frugal project is my husband… LOL
We haven’t had cable/satelite in 10 years. Kristy, if you have a flat screen TV you just need an antenna (bunny ears) hooked up to your TV. We have a couple of the flat square antennas but the set of old bunny ears work best for us. If you still have tube TV’s you will need a digital converter box (walmart has some online for $28) in addition to antenna. You could check goodwill as well. You will get local channels like 2, 6 etc. We have friends who live in a lot of trees outside of town and are unable to get a signal, so keep that in mind. You can also try one of those anntenas on your roof. We live inside city limits in a neighborhood and have never had any issues. We also subscribe to Netflix, mostly for our two older kids to have stuff to watch.
yeah, we’d read that the average consumer spends 400$ on black friday related sales, so we were trying to reduce our yearly spending (I meant yearly not monthly above) by 400 instead 🙂
Every year I go through our monthly bills and try to find ways to reduce them, one bill at a time. Last year, I reduced our mortgage payment by $350/month by refinancing using the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Your credit doesn’t have to be stellar and you can owe more than your house is worth. If you haven’t already refinanced to a lower rate within the last 3-4 years, go visit your local community bank (where you’ll get infinitely more personalized attention) and start the process…just answer a few basic questions and the lender should be able to give you an idea of your likelihood of qualifying or the steps you can take to do so.
This year I did this for Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day, we stayed home and made a list of all our reoccurring necessary bills and my husband and I divvied them up and called all our service providers and asked about getting lower rates. After a couple of hours on the phone we’d saved a few hundred dollars per month on phone, internet, car insurance, utilities, and lowered our credit card interest rates in case we ever had to carry a balance.
We’re going to make ‘Reverse Black Friday’ a regular thing now.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
I love this idea, Kate! If you add in the savings of not shopping on Black Friday, you probably doubled your savings for November. 🙂
Just because you want it or need it doesn’t mean you need it right this minute. Give it some time and shop for exactly what you want, only at a better price.
I would add even one more… Just because it is used, does not mean it can not be gifted. I have found perfectly nice things at thrift stores that I have thought would be perfect for so and so. But, I used to pass up on it because it was used, did not have a box and that would be “tacky” to give as a gift. However, I have changed my way of thinking. I can not afford to buy a $100 painting, but I see one in perfect condition for $30 at a thrift store that my aunt would love for her new home. She is thrilled and it is environmentally friendly! Noone likes opening all the boxes and packaging anyways. 🙂
My idea!! I’m dutch and supposed to be frugal. Your thought fitting my life. I always ask myself: “do I need it,or can I live without” Saves me a lot of money. My kids learned it and living the same way, just by example. I’m sure your kids will learn too.
Great post! I just figured out that after being married nearly 17 years, we’ve saved nearly $10,000 by NOT having cable (assuming we were paying $50 per month). Helps to look at the big picture rather than just what you feel like doing (or not doing) at the moment.
Melissa in Salem says
I was a dutch bros junkie! Im talking every work day, sometimes twice depending on how tired I was! I bought several kinds of coffee creamer (in mulitples) with an amazing personalized deal from safeway, that i stuck in the freezer. I would have to say i have saved at least a 100$ in the last month alone! Baby steps. Baby steps. 🙂
Excellent points-thanks !
You must have gotten my electric bill in the mail today. LOL! It jumped $30 last month and a whopping $80 this month. Talk about killer for a one income family of 6.
Great article. I always have to tell myself, Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean I need it. It’s just so hard to pass up that good deal though. I find that not going to the store in the first place has helped with that. 🙂
Can’t wait to see the crackers and pasta you make.
Kaitlyn Smyth says
If you’re into Craigslist at all you can always take advantage of really great deals through resale! It’ll serve the purpose of settling your buying craving and your money-saving craving!
I would also eat little big burger multiple times a day but both my waist line and wallet are thankful I don’t!
Kari Patterson says
LOVE this, Emily! Amen! Great thoughts, and I love how you write. Thanks for sharing.
I found one way to deal with nights when I just can’t or won’t make myself cook – my freezer is the solution! Throughout the month, every time I’m cooking on a weekend, I’ll double the batch and freeze half. Granted, I have to make sure that the meal will freeze well (i.e. the potatoes just don’t want to freeze well:-). But it is amazing how much money and sanity is saved on those nights when do my own frozen meals. Healthy, cheap and delicious. Tuesday night was a surprise – I found a batch of my chili experiment which was fantastic but somehow completely forgotten. Yum!
Hi, I totally agree with not washing clothes just because they have been worn once. I have way less laundry than most people I know because I don’t overwash! I now feel justified, not embarrassed…Thank you!
I’m with you too 🙂
Makes your clothes last longer and not get faded and wore out as quick.
I just got a brand new pair of boots at goodwill. They were 40.00, wide width size 10 AND they fit my calves! But… 40 at goodwill… Grabbed my phone and Google them.. Brand new 160.00! They went home with me. I got 2 other pairs of leather shoes for 8.00 each…. Score! Was nice day out but I had to think if I really needed a new pair of boots and I did.
Tracey Monette says
A great way to work on learning photoshop is to sign up for a month at http://www.lynda.com . For $25 a month they have an unbelievable number of online videos you can learn from. If you ever want a quick answer about how to do something in photoshop, please feel free to leave a message on my blog (they all come to my email) and I’ll be happy to give you a call or email message to talk you through how to do it. Comments on my blog are not posted to the blog unless I allow them to so I can keep the phone number private. I live in photoshop and design for digital scrapbookers (the most frugal way to scrapbook!!!). I’ve been doing that for 6 years now.
Thanks for the post. It can be hard sometimes to resist the urge just to purchase. Eating out was my favorite hobby before having a child and working part-time. I constantly need to remind myself that it is better to make my coffee and my food than purchase. This year I really want to plant a vegetable garden. I started the process last year but could not get it up and running. This year I am hoping to plant at least a few basics.
Miss Steph says
Ha-ha…I thought I was the only one with “rabbit ears” anymore. After years of doing the whole cable thing, one day I just said…enough. Upwards of $60 per month was just way too much to pay for what was primarily background noise anyways. Now, if I want to watch movies at home, I check them out from the library or rent them from Redbox instead (when I have a free code, of course). I love checking out documentaries and entire television series, too (also available at the library). I find that I really don’t miss cable at all, and sadly, even without it, I still seem to know way too much about the comings and goings of the Kardashians! 🙁
Nicole B says
Haha, I love this Miss Steph! We too decided to get rid of cable & for the most part I don’t even miss it! Which if you knew me before kids (when we had cable) I was a tv junkie! But now I’m honestly too busy all day with my kiddos to worry about the latest reality tv show 🙂 So yes, it can be hard to give up things you “love” but it’s so worth it, especially on the budget! 🙂
I would love to know more about cutting cable. I have considered it for a couple of years. My hubby is finally on board. Our hurdle – how?? What equipment is needed? What services? I am lost on where to start and figure this out. Maybe a monthly new year’s resolution?
Angela Davis says
Hey Kristy! I talked about how we cut cable in this post:
Full disclosure — we have Comcast cable right now so my husband can watch NBA games but I honestly like watching “my shows” on Hulu Plus or Netflix more than regular TV. The commercials are about to push me over the edge.
Thanks! I need to do some serious looking. I think our main tv only has one HDMI spot. Greatly appreciate all the resources!