21 Ways To Become More Frugal
Question: What do you think of when you hear the word “frugal?”
By definition, being frugal means economical in the use of resources.
The keyword here is “economical.” It doesn’t mean living in poverty, setting your thermostat at 58-degrees or eating Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The secret to living frugally is this: Planning.
By doing so, you pare down the possibility of an emergency financial crisis that will throw you – and your budget – totally out of whack. Then, it’s more likely emotions will become involved, making your financial decisions even less practical and budget-friendly.
Say, for example, your older model car needs new brakes, and you don’t discover this until your warning light comes on while you’re driving. Your first reaction is not going to be good, and probably carries a message along the lines of, “Why is this happening to me?” and/or “Where am I going to get the money to pay for new brakes?”
Developing A Frugality Mindset
If you are in the mindset of living frugally and PLANNING, you will have set aside money for car repairs as part of your yearly budget. You will know that bad brakes aren’t a sign from the universe that you’re being singled out for bad luck. It’s just something that happens to high mileage cars. Repairs will be needed regularly. So, prepare for that.
On the other hand, if you live richly, you will have a brand-new model car that may not need new brakes, but comes with a hefty monthly car payment that you won’t likely pay off for years. That means you can tack on interest to your original loan.
Being frugal is a lifestyle. It’s based on planning. As they adapt to a frugal lifestyle, many people find they have to change from a life based on whim and instant gratification. This is all part of reaching adulthood! It can be as small as not adding surround sound to your movie tickets, or as large as keeping your television without super-sizing for the newest model out there.
Here are some suggestions for getting into the mindset of living frugally and making it part of your everyday life:
1. Put your savings goals in writing.
Research has shown when you put goals in writing; you have a higher chance of following through. Something about seeing the commitment in writing makes it a reality. Set a specific date by when you want to have reached your goal(s) and then sign it and post it where you will see it regularly (we recommend the fridge).
2. Keep at it until it becomes a habit.
A habit is something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it. Studies show it takes just three to four weeks to make a habit automatic. You’re in the habit of brushing your teeth before bed, correct? And, likely, you don’t even have to think about it, it’s just part of your routine. Stick to the commitment of living frugally, and it will become habitual.
3. If you’re married, your partner will need to get on board with this new way of living.
But if you’re single, it helps to have an “accountability buddy” that knows your goals and applauds you when you make progress. Maybe it’s a parent. Or a best friend. Or another loved one. Having someone to talk to during times of impulsive buying can make a difference of hundreds of dollars!
4. Plan small rewards for hitting your goals.
No, that does not mean buying new furniture because you’ve saved enough for a new sectional couch. It means something small, like a celebratory bottle of champagne to toast your success. By rewarding yourself, you will want to continue doing it! Think Positive reinforcement.
5. Do the research ahead of time.
For car repairs, you can look up the make, model, and year of your vehicle and find info about the durability, life, and cost of average repairs. New brake pads, oil changes, and new tires all take place at regular mileage intervals. These things shouldn’t be a surprise!
6. Change your mindset of buying brand names.
This applies to everything from a bag of stir-fry veggies to trash bags. Do you need the top brands? Much of the time, generic brands will be close enough that you can’t tell the difference. Besides, who will be looking in your cupboard to make sure you have Campbell’s soup and not the knockoff brand?
If you’re suddenly buying several generic things regularly rather than the name brand thing, your expenses are going to drop naturally. As you have success with this, you become less resistant to trying all kinds of low-cost strategies. Once you start to witness the effectiveness of better buying habits in your life and how being a little smarter about the results of your choices in savings, you’ll begin to want to try more of those kinds of tactics, and they’ll become completely normal to you.
7. Plan to minimize the effect of unpleasant events in your life.
It’s good practice to include an emergency health issue in your budget. So, take a look at your health insurance carrier and see when they pay for things like acute care visits or hospital stays. Then, plan around this to determine the amount you would have to put out. Having an emergency health care allotment in your budget will decrease panic and the impact on your savings account.
8. Have more confidence.
When you’re prepared ahead of time for what’s around the corner in your financial life, you will feel empowered. That unpleasant feeling of panic will be diminished. Once you were planning for the future, you can be confident knowing that the unexpected will not catch you off guard. As an added benefit, your stress and anxiety will diminish!
9. Set goals outside your monthly living expenses.
You and your family deserve a nice summer vacation. This means deciding on the dollar amount you are capable of spending and setting that aside monthly. This does not mean waiting until the heat of summer sets in and going frantically on Travelocity to look for a fast deal that may not be a good deal whatsoever. When you decide a year ahead when and where the vaca will be, you can look forward to it all year. It’s a great lesson for your kids, if you have any, to delay gratification.
10. Set aside time to review your progress each month.
It won’t take the entire weekend, but 1 hour per month looking at your budget columns will keep uncertainty at bay. If you want to improve your financial health, you need to track your spending. Just like losing weight, you need to track your calories!
11. Learn to live minimally.
This is a huge part of being frugal. Across the country, the concept of tiny homes is taking off like wildfire. People are paring down their belongings to the bare necessity and expanding their free time exponentially. It’s a fact that clutter causes stress, as well as time expended cleaning and organizing and storing. Yes, it’s nice to have all of your grandmother’s holiday decorations, but do you need that enormous Christmas tree with dozens of decorations when you can have a simple tabletop tree?
12. Challenge yourself to think outside the clutter.
Be creative when it comes to saving sentimental items. You don’t need to save every single project from your children’s school days, but you can take pics of them, print them out, and make an album for each child. If you’re guilty of hoarding items from your childhood, decide to pare down to less than ten things, and store them where they can be accessed. Many people box things up and stash them away, never to be seen again. Use clear bins and label them. If you haven’t enjoyed those items in a year or more, chances are they’re not meaningful to you after all!
13. Become more charitable.
This is also part of living minimally. Most of us are guilty of having far more items in our wardrobe than we could use regularly. Do you need seven pairs of jeans? Or 14 pairs of sneakers or dress shoes? Certainly, there are seasonal items you will need to keep, like your winter parka or bathing suit. But get into the mindset of sharing what you have with others less fortunate. Donate clothing items to the Salvation Army or other charitable organizations. You will have more space, save time deciding what to wear, and help others who don’t have even a single pair of jeans or sneakers.
14. Become aware of spending blitzes.
We all know we tend to impulse buy when we shop for groceries when we’re hungry. But there are likely other times when we may lose control overspending. Maybe it’s late-night online shopping, which is a typical trigger time for many people. Plan to avoid this trap! Put your cell phone charger in a separate room from your bedroom and plug it in for that time when you’re tempted to an online shop. Read a book. Take the dog for a walk. There are dozens of ways to keep yourself from impulsive buying. Plan ahead!
15. Apply the 10-second rule.
The rule simply states that whenever you pick up a non-essential item, no matter where you are, hold it for 10 seconds and ask yourself whether or not you need that item right now. If you can’t honestly answer with an emphatic yes, put the item back and walk away.
16. Don’t store your password and credit card online in places you are tempted to shop.
If you have easy access to money, then you tend to spend it, and the surest route to “easy access to money” online is by storing my credit card info on websites and also storing account passwords in the browser. As you’re figuring out your account sign-in information and then looking up your credit card number, force yourself to spend some time thinking about whether the purchase is worthwhile at all. Often, you may decide that it isn’t.
17. Visualize good frugal choices ahead of time.
Studies have shown that there is power in visualization. You can use it all the time in various aspects of your life. What do we mean by visualization? You simply think about an upcoming event that’s going to be challenging and visualize yourself succeeding at it. Picture yourself making the good choices and actions that you hope you will make, and then picture the outcome going well because of those choices. When it comes to being frugal, put an image in your mind of walking out of a store with cash still in your wallet, or adding money to your vacation fund!
18. Learn the art of browsing.
In today’s world, buying decisions are made at the touch of a button. We find something we want and purchase it online in mere seconds. Back in the day, people went into stores and did something called browsing! Commonly, they did not have the money to buy anything in the store, but “window shopping” was just as fun, and they benefitted from delayed gratification. Researchers have found that this ability to delay gratification is not just an important part of achieving your goals. It might also have a major impact on long-term life success and overall well-being.
19. Save and review every single receipt.
Many of us just stuff receipts in the glove box or our car trash bag, soon forgotten. Keep your receipts organized in one place, and go through them either weekly or monthly. Sort them into two piles: Needs vs. Wants. Be honest with yourself! Groceries are a need, but a new pair of Vans sneaks are a want. Unless, perhaps, you have used your sneakers to the degree of them falling apart and will commit to wearing the new Vans for enough time to make them a good return on investment.
20. Cultivate relationships with people and families who are frugal.
Take a look at your social circle. Ask yourself if these friends reflect and exhibit the values you’re trying to adopt in your own life. This can be as simple as curtailing the Friday night appetizers and margaritas with people from work, or as compelling as spending less time with couples who continuously splurge and impulse buy. Studies have proven that people will assimilate and mirror traits of the five people they spend the most time with. It’s highly likely you share much in common with this circle of friends. Make those commonalities smart spending. There are tons of people out there pledging to live with less. Become part of that social movement!
21. You don’t have to do it all today.
You can ease into it. Make deliberate, small changes, and you’ll soon find you have given purpose to your money. You’ll have a frugal mindset and be living a frugal lifestyle without major changes to your way of life.