Frugal Living: A Beginners Guide

Frugal Living: A Beginners Guide

Frugal living is not about being cheap and stingy or always denying yourself; it’s about being resourceful. It’s about being able to live life the way you want to because you make smart choices.

According to wikipedia, frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.

I agree with that definition right up until the end. Of course you avoid waste, but extravagance? That depends on your values.

I never drink coffee or soda or beverages and I rarely eat out. Instead, I cook from scratch. I put a lot of effort toward feeding my family of ten CHEAP (I budget about $300 a month for groceries). I do care about good nutrition, but food isn’t high on my priority list.

Scrimping on groceries allows me to divert extra savings to travel. We travel internationally as a family for months at a time, which others might call extravagance. Since we homeschool I call it education!

And that’s exactly what frugal living is! It’s different for everyone, but it’s always a tool that gets you to where YOU want to go!

A friend of mine lives frugally now so she can retire by 30 and travel the world. Is that extravagance?

You might want to scrimp now so you can invest all your pennies and become a billionaire. Is that extravagance?

I can’t tell you exactly how to structure your own budget or which categories you should trim, because that all depends on your financial goals. But I can give you some general frugal living ideas, and then you get to decide how to prioritize them (or whether to throw them out the window).

 

 

Here are 41 ways to Embrace Frugal Living:

1. Be happy and confident being YOU!

The Joneses don’t matter! But that’s something you have to learn for yourself.

You’ve got to be okay with driving an older car and wearing clothes for more than one season and not owning the latest tech gadgets. You’re going to have to laugh in the face of criticism and not worry about what others think.

You hear about billionaires driving old but reliable cars and living in practical homes. Wouldn’t you rather be like them?

>>>Learn more frugal living habits of the wealthy! <<<

More Frugal Living:

  • Don’t confuse frugal with cheap.
  • Instead of thinking of frugality as going without something, think of it as building your financial goals.
  • People don’t think about you as much as you think they do.
  • Wear your frugality like a badge.

 

2. Buy a smaller home.

Just think about all the ways your home costs you money. First, you have to buy it. Obviously, a smaller home will cost less.

There are a million little things on top of that initial purchase price, though, like the cost of maintenance. According to the one percent rule, you should budget at least one percent of your home’s value every year for home maintenance. For a $360,000 house, this works out to $3,600 per year, or $300 per month. I’ve found that estimate to be pretty accurate with my own home.

That doesn’t include periodic improvements and renovations that are required to keep your home in good shape — things like a new roof, windows and doors every 25 years. A larger home will also require more furniture, cost more to insure, and more to heat/cool and clean.

Plus, your property taxes every year will be higher on a larger, more expensive home. I’m not saying everyone should live in a tiny home or sacrifice comfort.

Frugal LivingI’m just advising you to be strategic. Carefully determine what you actually need and what your financial goals are.

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Keep your total home-related costs (including maintenance) under 30% of your budget.
  • Proper home maintenance costs less than repairs.
  • Research things like property tax and average utility costs of an area while shopping for a home.

 

3. Wear your clothes out.

I’m no fashionista, so this one’s pretty easy for me. I’m working right now in a sweatshirt I bought in high school!  My grandma grew up during the depression and lives by the mantra, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

She even washes out the plastic bags she buys bread in to reuse. I won’t ask you to go that far, but I will tell you that nobody thinks less of her for wearing her polyester pants from the 70’s. Everyone thinks she’s adorable!

frugal livingPlus, it’s no longer taboo to wear holey clothing or white after labor day. Anything goes. Why waste your hard-earned cash on stuff that looks trashed when you could just wear your old legit trashed stuff?

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Keep your closet minimal and clean.
  • Dress in a classical, timeless style instead of chasing trends.
  • Try a “capsule” wardrobe.

 

4. Shop thrifty to live frugally.

And by thrifty I mean thrift stores, my friend. My oldest child got married last year. As an avowed frugalista, I DIYed that whole, entire wedding.

I spent months gluing silk flowers onto styrofoam balls, which sounds dumb, but it turned out really pretty. I’d go so far as to say it was magical! And I managed to keep the cost incredibly low, too. I was so proud of myself!

And then, last month, my best friends daughter got married. I offered to help because I knew how exactly much effort weddings take. My friends said, “Okay, but I have almost everything already. I picked it up cheap at Goodwill.”

I bit my lips to keep from guffawing. This sounded like a disaster!

So I drove over to her house to see exactly what she’d picked up. It was gorgeous! It turns out that lots of wedding decor gets dropped off at thrift stores after the wedding, because nobody wants to hang onto boxes of stuff on the off-chance that they’ll use it again. Who knew?

You’ll also find great deals at garage sales, if you can make time for them. Thrift stores and garage sales are great frugal living tools.

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Hunt down the clearance racks and bargain shelves.
  • Purchase things for the next year at the end of the season for deep discounts. (Great for kids who grow every year, as long as you can pretty accurately gauge the size they’ll be.)
  • Most cities have yardsale pages on Facebook. Check that first when you need something.
  • Ask friends. Wouldn’t you rather give your hand-me-downs to a friend than to Goodwill?

 

5. Use coupons and rebate apps.

Coupons are only your friends when you use them to save money on things you were going to buy anyway. My sister-in-law got really into couponing for awhile and had a garage full of stuff she’d never use and no place to park her car. You have to use them strategically.

I actually prefer cashback apps like ibotta for that very reason. I don’t typically buy name brand products. Often, the rebates aren’t brand specific, so you can scan “any brand of bread” for 50 cents off, etc. If you do coupon – you can STILL use Ibotta and get a rebate.

Get a $10 bonus just for signing up with Ibotta through this link. You’ll see your first $10 bonus after your first purchase. Next time you go are running errands, open the app and tap the items you will be purchasing. Once you earn $20 or more, you can transfer the money to your bank account via PayPal or Venmo. It won’t take you long to get frugal livingto $20 – I made $40 my first month!

Frugal Living Tips:

 

6. Stretch your grocery budget.

This is where I make bank. The average person spends $250 per month on food. That’s per person! I only spend about $300 per month for my whole family! That’s about $1 per person per day, and we eat really well.

Meal planning, cooking from scratch, growing a garden and brown bagging it to work are all simple ways to stretch your grocery budget. Can you really eat for a dollar a day?

>>> 35 EASY Ways to Save Money of Groceries (without skimping on nutrition!) <<<

Frugal Living

 

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Don’t shop hungry.
  • Make a meal plan and use a list.
  • Base your meal plan on the weeks sales.
  • Shop as infrequently as possible.

 

7. Share a car to save money.

We’d been married five years and had three kids before we bought a second car! It wasn’t always convenient, as we had to plan ahead and make arrangements for me to have the car if we had doctor’s appointments or something important.

But at the time both the hubs and I were in college and working for a pittance, and it enabled us to graduate college debt free. Frugal living is often a matter of weighing costs against benefits.

In addition to saving a boatload on car insurance, we saved a lot on gas, because when you can’t just jump in the car and go someplace, you think twice about going anywhere. Being extremely intentional with your driving and saving all your errands for one day saves a lot of gas (and time) for mindless trips.

There are even ways to share a car if you aren’t married. Check for a car sharing resource in your area.

Frugal Living Tips:

  • You’ll also save annual taxes & registration
  • You won’t lose money to depreciation, wear and tear

 

8. Or buy a cheaper car.

When we finally splurged and bought a second vehicle, it was a used minivan for which we could pay cash. I honestly don’t ever recommend buying new, because new vehicles depreciate so much more quickly than used vehicles.

Saving MOneyBut when you drive a cheaper vehicle, you’ll also pay lower insurance rates and taxes. You might also pay less for gas, since cheaper cars are often smaller and more fuel efficient. Then there’s the cost of financing if you have to get a loan.

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Proper maintenance will make your car last longer, so get regular oil changes.
  • Adequate tire pressure will boost fuel efficiency.
  • Certain types of cars are cheaper to insure.
  • Avoid speeding tickets by driving the speed limit.

 

9. Take advantage of free entertainment.

There’s no need to spend a bundle when fun, FREE opportunities abound! Check websites for free days at your local museums, zoos, and national parks. Or you could take a hike, go for a bike ride, or even just go get samples at Costco together.

Frugal Living

My kiddos love nothing more than family game night, or DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) camp after visiting the library. You could stream free movies or grab DVDs from the library for a fun movie night. We even take free (and extremely reduced price) vacations using credit card points and rewards.

Frugal Living Tips:

10. Learn to DIY

YouTube and a little elbow grease are a match made in heaven when it comes to frugal living and saving money! Whenever something breaks around here, I just search for a YouTube tutorial and save myself hundreds of bucks in repair fees.

DIY doesn’t just save you money on repairs, either. A couple of years ago, right after purchasing our current home, a plumbing problem caused a flood on our main floor. Our insurance company estimated it would be about $10k to repair, but we knew we could take care of the problem for a tenth of that, and use the rest for some much needed renovation.

With that insurance payment, we were able to fix the plumbing problem, remodel that bathroom and lay hardwood through the entire main floor, up the front stairs and on the landing. We used some of our own savings to completely remodel the kitchen and dining rooms, and we had a practically new house with very high quality finishes, for under $20k total ($10k from the insurance company and $10k of our own).

We would never have gotten that much done for that price using a contractor!

DIY also includes things like sewing, repairing clothing, building headboards, reupholstering furniture and making soap and other beauty products. These are all great ways to save money through frugal living!

Frugal LivingFrugal Living Tips:

  • YouTube has tutorials for practically everything.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn new skills!
  • Look for free building materials on your local yardsale site.
  • Construction dumpsters often have really great materials, too! Speaking from (ahem) my dads experience.

 

11. Don’t waste resources!

Did you know the average American uses 101 gallons of water daily? I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not drinking that much, and a 10-minute shower only uses about 25 gallons of water. So where is the rest of that water going?

You’ll find similar statistics for electrictity and natural gas, and our dumps are overflowing with garbage. I’m no environmentalist, but wasting resources is wasting money. You pay for those utilities. You might as well toss your dollars in the trash.

And then there’s the food waste. In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the food supply. That’s huge! If that’s true in your case (it’s absolutely not in mine) then you should be able to reduce your grocery bill by an equivalent amount.

As your granny always told you, “Waste not, want not.”

Frugal Living Tips:

 

12. Just say “No.”

A lot of frugal living just comes down to the ability to discipline yourself to spend wisely and intentionally.

Finances are a lot like dieting. You have to want to be physically fit more than you want the cupcake. And you have to want to be financially fit more than you want whatever thing you want to buy.

Frugal Living CupcakeIf you choose to eat the cupcake or give in to your impulses financially — choosing what you want right now instead of what you really want (long term) — you’ll never reach your goals. You must tell yourself no.

Frugal Living Tips:

  • Start by disciplining yourself to live on less than you earn by paying yourself first from each paycheck.
  • Know your weaknesses and avoid temptations.
  • Set SMART goals.
  • Create better financial habits.

 

 

 

Does frugal living sound too hard?

I don’t recommend trying to implement all of these frugal living tips immediately. I give you permission (not that you need it) to embrace a few of them and ignore the rest. Or come back to them later.

You’ll be more successful and happier if you work on one or two things at a time. One beauty of frugal living is that every step you take, no matter how small, gets you closer to your financial goals.

Another beauty of frugal living is that seeing progress makes you want to work even harder. You’ll see those first few dollars add up, you’ll watch debt dwindle, you’ll watch your investments grow, and you’ll be hooked. Honestly, it just gets easier and easier!

In fact, today when I transferred money from my checking account to my investment account (I was paying myself first) I was so close to meeting one of my smallish goals that I couldn’t help but bump the amount up a few hundred dollars.

I was so excited I couldn’t help myself! Then I went to pay all of my bills and realized I would be short. Oops!

Then I spent about an hour trying to think up a way to not buy groceries this month!

Saving money is so much fun and so addictive that I was almost willing to forego eating. Or, rather, I was willing to live on homemade whole wheat bread (I have a lot of wheat stored). You’ll be happy to know that I decided not to starve my kids (that’s a joke!) and transferred funds for groceries over from another savings account. So I’ll have to make my goal next month instead.

Good luck with your frugal living venture! I wish you all the best!

 

 

 

 

Pins these ways to embrace frugal living for later!

 

 

 

 

Did I miss any great frugal living tips? Please share your favorites in the comments below!

 

 

 

Let’s keep in touch! For homeschooling inspiration and frugal living tips, make sure to follow Orison Orchards on FacebookPinterestInstagram and Twitter, or subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter!

 

 

 

 


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