How To Be More Frugal
For many of us, saving money sounds like a daunting task and one that will take a monumental effort, affecting every aspect of our lives, and generally taking the joy from our days.
But it shouldn’t – and isn’t – that hard to make everyday changes that will add up to significant savings. The pay-offs may be more than just monetary: by placing less value on things and more on people, you may find your family grows closer and more content with the smaller gifts in life.
Realistically these days, it’s vital to have a plan to keep your spending in check. Something that helps when you launch your more frugal lifestyle has a goal. Maybe it’s short-term, such as a treadmill so you can exercise at home, or a new bicycle to ride to work. Or perhaps you’re being smart enough to start saving now for your child’s education or putting a down payment on a new home or rental income property. These are all outstanding goals that give you something to shoot for!
To help you along in your new goal to cut back on expenses, we’ve come up with 19 ways to be more frugal in your everyday life.
1. Use a thermostat you can program.
There’s absolutely no reason to control the climate of your home while everyone is at work or school. You might need to shell out around $200 to $300 for the latest and greatest thermostat, and may need to pay to have it installed, but the investment will be well worth it. While you’re at work, program your thermostat to either turn off entirely or adjust to a warmer or cooler temperature, depending on the time of year. Some thermostats can be controlled remotely, so even if you forget to program your desired temperature before you leave the house, you can adjust it using an app with the touch of a button. The average savings per year vary for every household since you control the adjustments you make, but savings in winter and summer could easily exceed the cost of the thermostat.
2. Pack your lunch the night before work/school.
Let’s face it, none of us want to set the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier to give us time to make lunch, and chances are, in the morning rush to get out of the house, you won’t make it a priority to do this. Buy a reusable insulated lunch bag and use it every day. Have ingredients in your fridge to make a sandwich, add fresh fruit, or whatever else appeals to you. It will be far less expensive than buying lunch, even a couple of times a week. Savings could be up to $100 per week, or more if you like lavish lunches.
3. Use coupons for items you use every day.
Clipping coupons can present a slippery slope: If you enjoy seeking out bargains, you might begin using coupons for items outside your regular use. Be very clear about this: Clip coupons only for items that you consume daily. Studies show the average face value of coupons is around $1.55, and you can slash your costs for everything from bread to beauty products to laundry detergent. If you can be diligent about only buying items you will use – and not be tempted to buy that 3-blade razor just because there’s a coupon, but you already have an electric shaver – you will be on your way to significant savings.
4. Stay within the speed limit.
Not being Speedy Gonzalez will bring you significant payoffs in several ways. It will cut back on your fuel consumption, which is better for your wallet AND the environment. Next, it will reduce your chances of being pulled over for a speeding ticket. Aside from the inherent stress from being pulled over, this is an expensive lesson to learn. The ticket itself will be steep, and it is likely to impact your vehicle insurance. Was that worth it to be 5 minutes sooner to your destination? Get in the habit of driving at the speed limit, and listen to music or podcasts or something you enjoy to keep yourself entertained along the way.
5. Plan your meals out for every day of the week.
All of us are guilty of running to the grocery store at the last minute and searching the aisles for dinner foods – or buying something already prepared, which tends to be pricey. Then there’s the costly option of take-out food, so easily accessible now with home delivery apps. To reduce these temptations, make up a weekly calendar for dinner and a list of grocery items needed. When you shop, buy ONLY what’s on the list and don’t be swayed by impulse items!
6. Cancel the monthly gym membership.
If you work out regularly, you should certainly keep your membership current. But give this some thought: if you plan to go but never seem to make it, and haven’t been there in weeks (or more), does it make sense to keep paying for something you’re not using? That doesn’t mean you should forego exercising – it will give you significant health benefits, which means fewer doctor visits – but there are plenty of ways to work out at home. Subscribe to a yoga channel, get a training app, buy a jump rope, do a few laps around the neighborhood, ride a bike. The list is endless. And it’s all far less costly than a gym membership that’s never used.
7. Wash your vehicle yourself.
Have you been to a car wash lately? The price for a basic wash and dry has revved up to a very high cost – some as much as $20, and that doesn’t even include the extras like waxing or undercarriage cleaning. Compare that to the price of a few buckets of water and some dish soap. Back in the day, everyone washed their cars and trucks. Drive-through carwashes are an unnecessary luxury, especially if you live in an environment that requires continuous cleaning due to road salt. Do it yourself, and feel good about it!
8. Wear your jeans twice before washing them.
This applies to many items of clothing. If you wear a t-shirt underneath your button-down or flannel, do you need to wash the outside shirt after one wear? Does that hoodie you put on to go for a walk need to go in the laundry afterward? We aren’t suggesting you wear your socks two days in a row, but you can get out of the habit of tossing everything in the hamper after one wear. Doing less laundry will save you both time and personal energy!
9. Thrift shop.
Even celebrities have touted the perks of finding one-of-a-kind clothing and accessories from second-hand stores. It’s called retro! Second-hand items are significantly cheaper than new things, and there is no longer a stigma attached to shopping at consignment shops. It saves you money and saves energy and materials used in the process of manufacturing new items. Plus, you won’t show up to work wearing the same sweater like everyone else. Be unique and be proud.
10. Pay off credit cards on time.
So many people have unfortunately fallen into the trap of paying just the minimum due on their cards, and this leads to monumental interest charges. Ditto for late fees. These pile-ups and seem to take on speed and snowball into enormous costs. Our best advice is to pay off your credit cards IN FULL every month to avoid any late or interest charges.
11. Learn to fix things.
This is one of the many strengths of YouTube – the ability to teach all kinds of tasks to clueless people. Why call a plumber when you can learn how to stop the water from running continuously in your sink? Or a painter to fix up some nicks in the wall? Or any of the hundreds of other small household jobs that need to be done in your home? Handymen charge money just to come to your house and get a hefty hourly rate. That’s if you can even find one! They are few are far between these days. So, learn to use a wrench, painter’s tape, and a hammer to be your own handyman or woman.
12. Write a budget and stick to it.
We don’t mean just a general budget; we say accounting for every dollar spent. There will be significant categories, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, and food, that will be pretty much constant. But other areas, like entertainment, fall within your control. Don’t forget, including in your monthly budget, adding to your investments.
13. Watch Netflix.
If you’ve been to a movie theater lately, you know the price of a single ticket has grown gigantically. Is it worth it to see a movie in theaters the first weeks it comes out? Or can you be satisfied to wait a few months or less for it to come on Netflix? Making popcorn and watching a movie at home is also considered a great date night.
14. Shop around for insurance.
Most of us automatically renew our vehicle, homeowners, or rental insurance, but it’s worth the effort to do some research and see what else is out there. Insurance is an incredibly competitive field, and many companies will offer deep discounts for new customers. Look for offers to bundle homeowner’s and car insurance for the best discounts, and don’t be afraid to tell them you’re comparing costs from competitors!
15. Drive a pre-owned car.
You don’t need to be a mathematician to understand the bottom line if you buy a $40,000 vehicle, and your salary is $49,000. Interest will add up fast regardless of how good a deal you managed to get. Studies show the average person in the U.S. spends $483 on a new car payment monthly. It’s time to give up the notion that you have to keep up with co-workers or friends and drive a luxury vehicle. It’s a massive cut in expenses to drive a used car and pay cash for it. Keep it clean (see tip #7) and tidy and drive with your head held high because you’re wiser to be frugal rather than follow the pack.
16. Be content with what you have.
Across the country, there’s a growing trend of people downsizing and living in Tiny Houses with minimal square footage. We’re not suggesting you pare down that significantly, but we are saying it isn’t always necessary to have the most massive tv, best audio system, top-of-the-line vacuum, a bar in the basement, three vacations a year. Learn to live with what you have. Not only will you be saving money, but you will also be teaching your kids by example, what it means to not define yourself by what you own.
17. Give the gift of time.
Holidays come quickly, and then there are the in-between occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. Ask yourself the pivotal question: does Uncle Todd need a new striped tie? Or Aunt Helen, a box of candy? Chances are good they do not. But it’s more than likely they need help with something – fixing a broken doorknob, getting to a doctor’s appointment, setting up auto-pay online - that you can help with just by giving a little time.
18. Stop all impulse Amazon/online buying.
Identify the time of day – perhaps it’s just before bed – when you’re likely to impulse shop for things you don’t need and fill that space with another activity to wind down. Read a book on Kindle or borrow one from a friend; walk the dog; clip coupons – there are hundreds of better ways to spend your time than online shopping.
19. Give thanks for what you have.
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to show gratitude. Many people don’t have a warm home, food on the table, happy pets, and family time. Learn to treasure what you have as far as intangibles – family stories, jokes, memories everyone will hold on to tightly. This is what life is meant to be like, and it can be yours as well.