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Raise your hand if you’d like to start living a more frugal lifestyle?
I frequently get asked about money saving hacks from friends, family and more recently readers who desperately want to start living more frugally but don’t know how or where to start scaling back. It can be intimidating right?
Frugal living isn’t all or nothing folks. There’s really no set benchmark about “making it” in the frugal world. Frugality is more a question of wise financial choices and even the smallest of changes to your day-to-day life can reap incredible payoffs money wise. A few small changes that you make today can save you a heap of money in the long run. If you’re not convinced have a look at my post about brown bagging lunches – those figures should hopefully convince you.
Whether your interested in adopting frugality as a long-term lifestyle or simply making a few changes right now to help you save a couple of bucks or pay off debt there are always things you can do to cut down your spending. We keep our monthly living expenses (outside of our mortgage) around 1000$. To some that may appear extreme and to others excessive – the point is there’s no standard when it comes to frugal living. It’s more a question of identifying what stays and what goes in your budget and creating a plan that you and your family can stick to in order to achieve your goals.
It’s all about having a plan, being consistent and always following through folks.
How to create a starter plan for living a more frugal lifestyle
How to ensure consistency
The hardest part is consistency. It’s no different than a diet really! How many times have you vowed to lose weight, train more or eat better and then fall completely off the bandwagon? Garnering results from any type of lifestyle change involves consistency. You wont feel better if you only eat better for 1 day nor will you become fit if you work out for a day – to see and feel those results you need to keep at it even when it gets tough right?
So how do you do it? Or better yet, how did we manage to be consistent? Well, we created a plan. We sat down and sketched out our financial goals and after realizing how ridiculous our spending was we created something that we felt would be feasible long term. Think about it this way, if I were to tell you that you had to train 3 hours per day for the next week the majority of you would probably be overwhelmed and doubt your abilities to sustain it right? The same applies to a financial diet (and yes in some respects I believe applying frugal changes is a financial diet) – it needs to be realistic and attainable.
So map out your finances and scrutinize where you’re overspending and where you can cut back. Fixed expenses like housing costs, car payments and debt repayment can’t really be changed but living expenses like food, cable, phones and the like absolutely can. Be honest about your spending and really delve deep to see where you can cut back a little.
How to follow through
Once you’ve got a great plan in place it can seem daunting to follow through. I know that when we first created our frugal budget and slashed our spending I was overwhelmed with how we would maintain it long-term. What worked for us was always sticking to the plan regardless of what came up. How many times do you get home from a long day at work and look in the fridge and say “screw it – I’m ordering a pizza?”. Well, we vowed not to give into that mindset and just made do. And, yes, some nights we ate toast and eggs for dinner – we survived and so will you.
Following through is easy when you give yourself no other choice. Just keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it and keep on keeping on. Sure, you might slip up from time to time (we once got stuck in a hosptial ER for 18 hours – and had to buy food and drink) but don’t make it a habit. More often than not, the habit of constant eating out is not the result of a one-time event but rather an accumulation of constantly turning to prepared foods for meals. If it happens every once and awhile when you truly have no choice then don’t beat yourself up about it. Jump right back on to your financial diet and keep on keeping on.
Actionable ways you can start living a more frugal lifestyle right now
With that in mind, here are 10 things you can start doing to start scaling back and living more frugally with a little frugal math thrown in. Some of these options might work for you and others might not. The point being – find what works for you and your family and go with it. Every penny saved is a big deal folks!
Don’t buy bottled water.
I’m always amazed at how much money is spent on buying bottled water and if we’re being frank how much we’ve spent on bottled water ourselves. Assuming you live in a place where you’ve got safe drinking water you can save a ton by not buying gallons yourself.
When we were buying our water we’d buy a minimum of two 4L gallons per week at about $2.00 each.
Every month we’d then spend roughly 8$ on bottled water which accumulated to 96$ a year or $960 over a ten year period. That is a ton of money folks and doesn’t include those random 500 ml bottles you pick up from vending machines, gas stations and other places when you’re thirsty on the go.
Stay away from your local coffee shop.
This was probably my absolute worst bad habit. Way back when I was in University and then later working I’d always swing by a local coffee shop to get a coffee to start my day. At the time I didn’t assume it was a terribly costly habit because at less than $2 per day it wasn’t necessarily something that you felt “financially” because more often than not I’d round up some spare change to pay for it. Problem was, those 2$ added up super quickly.
I’d buy roughly 1 coffee (sometimes 2) every work or school day which at around 2$ a pop would cost me $10 per week. Over the period of a month that added to $40 or $480 yearly. Thankfully, I never really got into the fancy coffee trend but for those of you buying fancy coffees at Starbucks or any equivalent you could be potentially spending $25-30 dollars a week on coffee that you could technically bring yourself.
Brown Bag your lunch, dinner and snacks
I wrote a pretty detailed post about brown bagging a couple of weeks back. Have a read if you’re interested in some suggestions and tips to brown bag on the regular and cut out the cost of eating out which I calculated could cost you nearly 100 000$ over an entire career if you never bring your lunch!
Cut your cable
We don’t truly need cable and this luxury is absolutely a want and not a need. Having said that, the costs of cable television can and are astronomical and as a result an easy way to save a bunch of money every month is to end your relationship with your cable company. We fare pretty well with our Netflix subscription and internet T.V which is more than enough to satisfy our television watching needs. We tend to actually have more to watch now that we have fewer options! If you really can’t bring yourself to do away with your cable you can save a couple of bucks by downgrading your package in the summer months when you’re less likely to watch. Then, when winter rolls around and you’re more inclined to be tuned into the tube you can upgrade back to your normal package if you still feel you need it.
The average cost of cable in North America hovers somewhere around $100 per month. Over a year you’re basically giving your cable company $1200 of your hard earned cash. Netflix on the other hand costs me approximately $10 a month which is an astronomical savings of $1080 yearly!
Air dry your clothes
Running the dryer costs money and whenever possible we air dry our clothes. Sure, the savings are not astronomical (every little bit helps right) but by reducing our dryer use we know we’re helping out a tiny bit environmentally.
We’ve got a clothes line on our property (installed by my handy husband) where we dry nearly all our laundry during the hot summer months. In the winter, we have an indoor line drawn across our garage where we hang items that we know will dry correctly indoors. We try to really limit how often we run our dryer because running it on the regular can cost you a good amount of money on your electric bill.
For a few numbers, Simpledollar reports that “the average dryer uses 3.3 kilowatt hours of energy and estimates an average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. A small load of clothes takes about 45 minutes in the dryer, so the cost of that load is $0.36.” If you do roughly 4 loads of laundry per week you’re spending approximately $70 a year drying your clothes which could totally dry for free with fresh air!
If you’ve been reading here for even a small amount of time you know that we try and buy everything we can used. The amount of money you can save by buying used at thrift shops, goodwill, garage sales and online can save you a fortune! If you don’t believe me head on over and read this post: Why Buying Used Isn’t Gross where I show you a detailed account of how I saved 93% of the retail cost of pricey outdoor toys by buying my kiddos gear used.
Buy or rent less house than you can afford
When we were shopping for our first home we went through a pre-approval process with our bank to determine how much mortgage we could afford. Once we had a fixed number we deducted 30% from our pre-approval and set that as our absolute maximum we were comfortable spending. Sure, we probably could have bought a larger more expensive home but we didn’t feel the extra investment of money, time and energy was worth it for us. The larger the space the more time, money and energy it takes to maintain it right? We currently live in a small home that we absolutely love and most importantly can afford to live in comfortably. So, if you’re shopping for a home or living in one and looking to move always be mindful of the fact that you should be looking to buy less house than your bank account can afford.
If you’re in the rental market don’t be shy to negotiate. Depending on where you live and the cost of living a tiny apartment can set you back a large sum of money. Don’t be shy to be upfront about what you can afford and why you don’t want to bust your budget – you’ be surprised how many landlords are willing to drop their rental prices to score financially savvy and responsible tenants!
Walk/Bike anywhere you can
This is a no-brainer. If you live in an area that is conducive to walking take advantage and get moving. Not only are you saving money on fuel but you are also getting some really good for you exercise. Walking is free, it’s great for the environment and if you do it often enough (think driving 2 minutes away to pick up milk) you’ll save a good chunk of change on gas.
Stick to a meal plan & grocery budget
Meal planning is key for sticking to a grocery budget and not letting “extras” slip into your cart. I used to be a horrible shopper just roaming around aimlessly throwing anything and everything I thought we might need into the cart. My bank account would literally cry when I’d leave with at least a $250 bill and then end up eating fast food all week because I never felt like I had “enough” food to make proper meals. I now like to budget approximately $25 per person and for our family of 4 (3 adults and 1 toddler) costs usually run around $100 per month. If you’re curious how we do it have a read of this post: How I feed my family on less than 100$ per month.
Eat 2 meatless meals per week
To continue the discussion about grocery shopping above – slipping 2 or more meatless meals into your meal plan can save you a ton of cash. Beans, lentils, chick peas and tofu are awesome and cost effective ways to save a little money on your grocery bill and still prepare incredibly delicious and healthy meals.
I want to hear from you!
How are YOU living more frugally today?