I know what you are saying! How can I live FRUGALLY and still be HAPPY?
Let me tell you it CAN BE DONE. You just have to want it enough and change your mindset!
So who am I? I am an “almost ” 50 year old woman who at one time really considered ending it all because of debt. It was from a business that was struggling in the rough financial times back in 2008 – but it almost ate me up and had me considering the dire option because of the stress and embarrassment I was feeling.
If you can relate – let me know because at that time I felt so alone.
I later learned I was not.
Fast forward 11 years – and now, I am almost debt free and live a much more frugally paced life to ensure I am never in that place again. I am putting away more than I ever have – and it is because of the small changes I have made in my life.
My goal is not to be rich (although that would be awesome, I know it will not make me any happier than I am) – but just to have a safety net in the event something happens again that is out of my control. (ahem, the current state of our government for example).
What is frugal living?
Frugal living, in my opinion means you are living within your means and live a life not filled with waste or excess. This does not mean you are keeping yourself from things you enjoy, it just means you are being smarter with what you have! I NEVER sacrifice things I want, I just figure out a way to get them for a better price or how I can save money on services.
You can also see the “real” definition as noted by Wikipedia which basically states “frugality is a quality of spending money very carefully and in limited amounts”.
What can living frugally do for you?
For me – it has made me happier.
Honestly, I have always been the norm working paycheck to paycheck and never getting ahead. That is a stressful and exhausting way to live. Living more frugally has given me a way to put more money away and has also made me a “better person”. Before I purchase anything I really give thought now to how many do without that thing I want – so why can’t I. I think more about those that are less fortunate and how I should be thankful for what I DO have and not want more.
Understanding your income versus spend ratio is the first step!
If you are not one (like I was) – who really looks at what you spend each month versus how much you bring in, you may find yourself spending more than you think you are.
The little things add up! For us – because we are on the road quite a bit for the kids Tae Kwon Do events, band rehearsals and client meetings, it was the stops at WaWa (a northeast convenience store we are addicted to), Dunkin’ Donuts and pizza places that were killing our monthly spend. When I saw how much I was spending I was floored!
Now we limit our trips and bring more pre-made snacks on the road with us that we make at home.
But if you sit and analyze your numbers I bet you will pretty quickly see ways you can cut costs!
If you do NOT know how much you bring in each month – versus how much goes out, you will NEVER be able to live more frugally.
How to live super frugally!
Ok, let’s get to the good stuff. Below are some of the ways I have lived a more money savvy life and other tips to helping you live a more financially responsible life. When I started this years ago most of the information out there were not things that were realistic – like raising my own chickens our getting a freezer for meat.
Yeah, who does that? My family would never eat enough to need a freezer – and if I were to raise chickens, they would be my pets – not food.
So the list below is more focused on things anyone can do no matter where they live! Enjoy!
The frugal ideas!
Buying in Bulk
While we do not typically buy actual food in bulk because we are only 3 people who do not really eat a lot, we do buy things like toilet paper, laundry detergent and other items we know will not expire in bulk. We make a monthly trip to Costco and focus on finding things we can use without risking throwing it out if it goes bad.
Recently we got 4 bottles of laundry detergent from Costco for example because they were $15.99 – we normally get them in Target for $18.99. For some reason I rarely see the laundry detergent we use on sale, so for us the $12 in savings was well worth it.
Off Season Deals
Buying off season is one of the best ways to grab great stuff cheap! I remember one year I wanted to get my husband a hammock for Christmas. We live in NJ – trust me he was not using that hammock any time soon! But I went to Dick’s and grabbed a great one left over from the summer for $39! The original retail was $149! One of my proudest shopping moments!
Any time I need to make bigger purchases – I wait for the off season deals that always happen.
Quality over Savings
One thing I am a stickler on is paying for QUALITY!
Say you buy a pair of shoes – you may LOVE the Aerosoles brand but hate spending that kind of money – so you get a knock off of them. The knock off shoes last 1 season and then you have to buy a new pair the following season. You already are losing your savings by doing this. Certain items are an “investment” – shoes and coats are 2 examples. I would rather spend $100 on a great pair of shoes from a brand that has exceptional quality and have them last for 5 years, then have to buy a new pair of $30 shoes every year.
I only have about 5 pairs of shoes in my closet and I have not purchased a new pair in about 3 years. That is living frugally.
I bought a new winter coat this year – my old one got too small because I got too fat. (Working on that!) – I still got a name brand from TJ Maxx – original price was $249 – I got it on clearance for $49. I will have this coat for several years.
But – think smart because some items work in reverse! For example if I can buy Shoprite brand cereals instead of the name brands, I will choose those any day! Cereal is so expensive and truth is most will not notice the difference. Buying the bags of cereal is even cheaper, so you can get a plastic cereal container and put the bagged cereal in it to keep it fresh and save a great deal of money.
Skip the Paper Goods
OK well of course we need toilet paper – haven’t found a way out of that one yet! But paper towels and napkins, we minimized that greatly!
We use cloth napkins every day and instead of paper towels we use rags.
The cost savings for this has been huge as we were a family addicted to paper towel use for every little thing. At one time I was spending about $15 a week on paper towels – now I buy them once a month.
Pick or Grow Your Own Produce
This I started about 2 years ago and have not looked back. I also joined a local crop swap as well to get some more unique items to my food menu! The produce is typically much cheaper than stores and fresher which has me throwing a lot less out. I find when I buy produce from supermarkets it goes bad so much quicker. I also think it is just healthier to buy from local farmers!
To find a farm where you can pick fruits and vegetables near you – visit Pick Your Own. I am lucky to be in Central, NJ which is a treasure trove of great farms but we also realize that there may not be farms near all of our readers which is why we are giving another option below!
Crop Swaps are where you can trade, grow, buy and sell homegrown food. There are resources all over the country for this type of thing – even city dwellers. There is an app called CropSwap App that you can use on your phone or if you type in “crop swap near me” you can find some local resources. We actually have a town near us that is known for their crop swap where people go every Monday to get their produce.
Grow Your Own Produce
In all fairness – this is not in my plans because I am the most black thumb person on the face of the planet. But if you can – growing your own produce is a top way to save money and be a cleaner eater as well. While there is a time investment – it can definitely be a family activity and can be a great learning experience for the youngsters.
Ok – this is one of my pet peeves, the cost of razors is downright insane! I get my razors from Dollar Shave Club which has saved us a bit of money. I wish there was something out there like this for “female products” as well, the cost of those items are crazy and they are a necessity! If you have several daughters – I feel for you.
Money Saving Apps
This is one of our favorite money saving ideas when shopping – the only problem is there are just so many options! There are different types of apps – some will strictly save you money by showing you sales and deals, others are rewards programs where you can earn money for shopping. Here are a few popular options:
Ibotta: Ibotta is a mobile app that pays cash for your everyday purchases. They provide a list of special items with rebates – you shop and send in receipts, and voila’ money back in your pocket. Get started with Ibotta
Shopkick: With eight different ways to earn some cash or gift cards, Shopkick has something for everyone. From scanning products to submitting receipts – there are a lot of ways shopping in-store or online can result in getting a free Amazon gift card! Learn More at Shopkick
Savings.com: find great savings at top retailers as well as their best deals, closeouts and more! Visit savings.com
In the Home
Yes, seriously! Flushing the toilet less is a great money saver. I work from home – I drink a boatload of water everyday – if I flushed every single time I pee’d I would probably be in debt. I use a very little amount of toilet paper to avoid clogs – but only flush maybe 2x a day. Of course if I go #2 I flush immediately – no one, even me wants to see that!
This is especially effective if you have an older toilet in your home because they were less water efficient. If you do have an older model, we would recommend upgrading, there may even be eligible for rebates from your water provider. You can get more water saving tips here to help you lower that water bill.
Contrary to belief you do NOT have to wash jeans, coats or sweatshirts every time you wear them. We even reuse towels in our home so I am only washing them every 2 or 3 uses. Wash clothes only when the load is full or you will just waste water and unless they are really dirty and gross, use the shortest was cycle available
If you can hang your clothes to dry – then definitely take advantage of that for great electrical savings! There are great options for outdoor clothes dryers or even indoor clothing racks. I remember my grandmother using an indoor clothes rack to dry clothes my whole childhood – she never even owned a dryer!
Cable Television/ Telephone
We removed our home phone line years ago and never looked back. It was a small savings – but still a savings!
Cable is one we are currently working our way through ourselves. We do want to get rid of cable because the cost just keeps skyrocketing and the amount of TV we actually watch is minimal.
Some of the options for watching TV in different ways include:
- Streaming through Xbox 360 or Playstation
We are reviewing all of these to make sure we can access all the shows we do actually want to watch like the Simpsons, Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds come to mind! But making this change will easily save us almost $2,500 alone!
This is a topic we can write so much about – and we will do a future post on this about how we save on our electric! But for now here is a list of things to think about in regards to saving on your utilities.
- Read your own meters and make sure they match what your bills are saying.
- Turn down your thermostat – add a jacket.
- Leave lights off unless you need them.
- Add better home insulation, this will help in the long term savings if you plan on remain in your home.
- Invest in a home energy audit so a professional can offer insight into leaks and where you are wasting energy.
- Keep air/heat vents, radiators and air conditions free from any blockage that can limit their circulation.
- Shorten your showers – and make them less hot. (I take short ones, but no way can I limit the hotness!)
- Keep appliances you are not using unplugged.
This one everyone knows – the library is your friend. I have a daughter who is an avid reader and we always bought her books and we still do, but for a specific reason. Once she is done reading them – we actually donate them to a local camp/special needs schools for underprivileged kids. So for us spending the money – so we can donate is a win win.
When we do buy books we start at the discounted book area though – many of the books we have were reduced or on sale. I also make my daughter always choose the soft cover version because it is cheaper.
But by going to a library you can save SO much money.
Take advantage of what your community offers! Many have so many great activities for kids of all ages from plays, to holiday events to sporting events.
Visit a local school and support a play they are performing (even if you do not have kids in the school!), go to a music ensemble from a local business that teaches kids music.
These kinds of activities are free and are sure to entertain – as well as make you feel good since you are supporting members of your local community.
Reach out to your local parks department and ask about their upcoming events too – you may be surprised how much they offer!
Definitely sign up for the move club that your local move theater may have! They offer great deals of frequent movie goers like free snacks or reduced admission rates. Of course this varies by chain – but definitely worth looking into.
Going to a movie during the week at noon can almost be half of a weekend visit so if that is option – then definitely do it! Many theater chains also offer movie passes for the summer that can save you money – even if you do not use all the passes it still may be cheaper.
Sadly most here in NY/NJ are kind of expensive but on a recent trip to NC we found that they were free! See if your local science, art or any museums offer free admission or even reduced admission on certain days.
FINAL THOUGHT: Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses!
I know how hard this is! I happen to live in one of the most expensive parts of the country – Monmouth County NJ. The median house price in the town I live in is $538,00 – and that is for a typical 1970’s style colonial house. Nothing fancy – no bells and whistles. Our taxes are over 10K a year for a little less than a quarter acre.
Now do you understand why I am trying to live more frugally?
You can go 2 blocks from my house and their are homes that are $800,00 – go about 2 miles and they are in excess of $2 million.
If anyone understands how hard it is to not keep up with the Joneses – it is me. When we first moved here abut 12 years ago, I wanted to be “one of them”. I wanted the Lexus, I wanted the granite countertops and the built in pool with the waterfall.
But – 12 years later, I still have my white formica kitchen and my boring green backyard.
Why? Because having those 2 things was NOT going to make my life any better.
The pool would bring 3 months of happiness – but with it more electric use, more manual labor, more food for entertaining, more laundry. None of that sounded appealing and was not in touch with the frugal life I am working towards.
We joined the local swim club instead – which we could walk to from where we live.
Would a new kitchen be awesome? Yes!
But it would not make my cooking any easier. It would not make my food any better. It would not make me enjoy entertaining any more – and my friends love my kitchen just the way it is.
Because we did not do these things – we were able to put our money towards a trip to Italy to see a cousin get married.
New kitchen? Family trip to Italy to see a wedding?
It was a no brainer.
Oh – and we drive a Ford and a Nissan – and we are A-OK with that.
So living a more “financially aware” life is a mindset you have to train yourself to get used to. This DID NOT happen overnight for me. I have spent my life “wanting more” because I never had much – but now I want less so I can enjoy life more. But I am still a work in progress – there is a lot more to learn.
I think with EVERY purchase I make – from a candy bar – to a couch. Do I need it? Do I want it? Will it add value to my life?
And that my friends – is how you start living more frugally!
Have a great frugal tip or story?
If you have a great frugal story – let us hear it! I am sure you are already doing something that is saving you money – the more we share the more we learn!