I remember watching an episode of TLC’s Cheapskates where the family saves on toilet paper by reusing rags.
Now I was already grossed out by the concept, but I really had to turn the channel when their little boy held up the rag and said that it was dirty because of the stains. He, like I was not convinced (no matter what his mom said).
If this was what frugal was, I wanted no parts of it.
I understand saving money is important, but there’s a difference between being frugal and being cheap.
To me, frugal living is a lifestyle and like all ideas can vary greatly.
There are some people who clip coupons who consider themselves frugal…
…and then there are people who wash and reuse paper plates.
I’m somewhere in between.
I understand that there are lifestyle changes I can make that will save me money.
But I’m not so rigid that I live my life just to save a few cents here and there.
That’s not living.
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I love to go out to eat, go on vacation, and go to concerts – but I’m not going to go broke doing it. I’m also not going to spend hours of my valuable time to drive ten miles away from my home just to save 50 cents.
You can be frugal and enjoy life as well. It’s all about balance.
See, I’m not going to spend my rent money to go see Beyonce’ (even though this is on my top 10 list of things to do before I die) …
The goal of this blog is to show you how possible it is for you to live your best life – without going broke.
It also doesn’t mean you have to sit at home being miserable either.
So how can you live frugal without feeling, well you know…cheap?
I can give you advice that may or may not fit your life. I can tell you to get rid of your car, but if you live in a rural area – this won’t work for you.
Or if I tell you to downsize to an apartment, but the going rates in your area for a one bedroom is $1500+/ a month or a family of four, that wouldn’t help much now would it?
Nope. But I can give you some general advice that will help you to make decisions that will help you to live more frugally.
Cut Expenses Where You Can
What’s important to me, won’t be the same for you. So, even though I can live on Netflix and YouTube, some of my family members cannot. My dad wants cable and is willing to pay for it.
Find out where in your budget you can cut expenses that won’t affect your life. When I worked everyday outside of the home, I didn’t mind giving up my Starbuck’s habit. My mom purchased me a coffee pot with a timer and even when I forgot to set it the night before I drove past a Dunkin Donuts.
I still fed my coffee habit, but at a much lower cost.
Are you paying too much for utilities or other monthly bills? If so, start there first. You may be surprised how much money you can save if you call these companies up to negotiate a lower bill.
Create a Budget
I am an advocate for saving as much money as you possibly can. If you don’t have emergency savings, you’re living on a slippery slope.
People believe that being cheap is helping them to save a lot of money. Often this isn’t the case. And if it is, at what cost?
Creating a budget (again with that b word) helps you to picture how your money is working for you. It helps you to see what’s coming in, what’s going out, and where you can afford to pinch and save.
Many of us are not following a budget and therefore don’t know where our money is. It may seem like we’re living paycheck to paycheck, but if we take the time to write our expenses down – we’ll see where our money is going.
Commit to a Savings Plan
If you find it difficult to save money, make it a point to put money into savings before you pay anything else. You may also find it easier to set up automatic deductions that will go into your savings account.
Waiting until all of your bills are paid, you’ll find that the extra money you have will never get to savings.
Most of us feel like we have to be frugal because we think this is the way to have more money. Making a conscious effort to save money will help you to – ahem – save more money.
Every budget should include a savings portion. This is the amount of money you have agreed to save (at the minimum) each and every month. Savings can go towards your emergency fund, a family vacation, or a Christmas gift fund.
When you make a plan to save money each and every month, you are lessening the chance that you will have to go into debt when an emergency arises.
Get Rid of Debt
One of the biggest things preventing us from living our best lives is debt. It doesn’t matter if it’s student loan debt or credit card debt – debt is debt. And it is sucking the wiggle room out of your budget.
Make a plan to pay more than the minimum balance due. Set a timetable when each debt will be paid off. It may involve sacrificing your entertainment budget or finding a part-time job to do it, but in the end, it will all be worth it.
You will feel a burden lifted off of your shoulders once you’re completely or mostly debt free.
Getting rid of debt will not only lessen the amount of stress in your life but increases your financial security and gives you more money to spend on the things that you really enjoy.
Set Life Goals
When was the last time you sat down and determined how you wanted your life to be in the next five years?
Most people don’t work towards anything because they haven’t set goals for themselves. Knowing where you want to be in the next 1, 5, or 10 years will help you make changes in your life now.
If you don’t see yourself in the same job, what are you doing now to change it? Are you sending out resumes? Have you started taking classes to earn a certificate or degree?
I know a lot people who moan and groan about their jobs EVERYDAY, but are doing absolutely nothing to change it. If you feel like you’re in a rut, do what you have to do to get out of it.
Complaining about life is a miserable way to live.
Set Financial Goals That Will Help You to Meet Those Life Goals
Most of your life goals will have some sort of financial component to it. If you want to buy a home, later on, you’re going to have to save for a down payment, fix your credit, and pay down debt.
Determine what you have to do financially to meet those life goals and make a plan to do it. Planning to go on a cruise in a year is pointless if you’re not putting money aside now to pay for it (because putting it on a credit card with no immediate plan to pay it off is foolish).
Living frugally with a goal in mind can also help with a reluctant spouse come on board and do what needs to be done to reach it.
Keep What Makes You Happy and Get Rid of the Rest
It baffles me how people will give up Starbucks but really enjoy their coffee. Yes, you may have to cut down having a latte five days a week to save money, but you can continue to do whatever you enjoy – in moderation.
Make the decision to save money in areas where you won’t miss it. If you have cable, but barely home to watch it – get rid of it! But if you like to binge watch Netflix on the weekend, that’s a keeper.
Use that mindset in other aspects of your life as well. A friend of mine loves to travel, but for the past year, she has decided to forgo it altogether.
I asked her why she would do such a crazy thing and she said that her husband told her they couldn’t afford it, so she scratched any vacation plans she might have had.
Now I don’t know their financial situation, but I told her it was silly to get rid of something she really enjoyed.
She might not be able to take a 14-day trip to Europe, but who says she can’t put in a mini vacay? Going on a road trip, finding last minute travel deals, or sharing an Airbnb with another family could save a lot of money and still fulfill your love of travel.
The reason people it hard to find ways to be frugal and save money is that they give up the things they enjoy the most, which causes them to give up the whole idea entirely.
…Or worse, feel miserable while doing it.
That’s not living fabulously. Find out what you love and be creative on how to achieve it.
What do you do live your best frugal life?