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Tips for Frugal Living

Frugal living is about making choices. There just isn't enough time and money to do and have everything. It's been said that you can anything you want, but you can't have everything you want. Develop the skill of discerning what best serves your goals, and keeping your spending and attention focused on those things.

Use a 30-day list

To limit impulse buys, create a 30-day list. If there's something you want to buy, that's not a necessity, put it on the list. Put the date next to the item you've added and commit to waiting 30 days before buying it. After waiting it out a few weeks, you'll find that many of the items are no longer a priority or even a desire. Imagine how much money you'll save simply by practicing delayed gratification.


"Bigger is better" is not always a true statement, especially when it comes to houses and cars. Live in as small of a house as you feel comfortable in. Not only will the mortgage be cheaper, you'll have less space to fill with household items; saving you even more money. Smaller cars are usually more affordable in cost and in gas. Again, go with what fits you and your family, but downsizing could save you thousands.

Buy second-hand

Deprecation on new goods is a killer. To avoid this initial and immediate loss, make it a habit to buy second hand. Ebay, craigslist, Amazon and other classified sites have nearly everything you are in the market for. Yard sales and thrift stores are also great for getting things cheap. Just be careful not to overbuy, even if it's a great deal.

Look for hand-me-downs

Before buying an item, ask friends and family if they have one they're no longer in need of. Social media is great for this. You'll be surprised how often people respond because they just want to get rid of something, but they feel better it's going to someone who really needs it, not just sitting on a thrift store shelf.

Reduce eating out expenses

When people create a budget they're surprised how much of their discretionary income goes toward eating out. Cutting out even one meal a week can save hundreds in a year's time. Think of how much you'd save if you brought your lunch from home to work everyday. When you do eat out, there are many ways to make it more economical. Look for specials, clip coupons, share a plate, skip the pricey beverage and just go for water, etc. You'll be amazed at the difference these small steps can make.

Cut out cable

Think of how many channels you pay for month after month that you never watch. Cable has a buffet-like mentality. You feel like you have to keep watching (eating) to get your money's worth. You almost become a slave to your television. By cutting out, or at least reducing, cable costs, not only could you be saving hundreds a year, you'll have time (and money) for more healthy (socially, mentally and especially physically) endeavors.

Find free entertainment

The cost of entertainment can really add up. There are so many cheap ways to have fun. Do online searches for free activities in your area; you'll be amazed at how much there really is to do that costs little or nothing.

Use the library

Books can be so expensive. So borrow them instead of buy them. Most libraries have a large selection of DVDs and CDs which will help save on entertainment costs too.

Don't shop

Do you ever find that you don't really want or need anything until you go to the mall or other retail establishment? Having all of that merchandise shoved in your face immediately adds to your wants list. If you need to go to a store, have a list of exactly what you want, make a bee line for that item and get out quickly. If you get distracted by another item, add it to your 30-day list. That way, you're not telling yourself no, just "not right now".

Stay healthy

We all know how much poor health can cost; lost wages, medicine, doctor's visits, hospital bills, etc. Obviously there are conditions that are beyond our control, but there are many things we can do to prevent lifestyle ailments. Eat healthy by avoiding fast food and gas station goodies, good for your body and your bank account. Ride your bike to work, again, not only healthy but it will save you a ton in gas. Or walk whenever you can. Stop smoking (that could save you thousands per year) drinking soda or sugary drinks (or other costly habits that harm your health); once again, your health will improve and so will your finances.

Rent rather than own

Don't assume that buying is the better investment. If you calculate the interest you pay on a mortgage, the cost of insurance and maintenance, buying is often much more costly than renting and if you rent, save money, and then invest the difference, you can actually end up well ahead in the long run. Now, it's not a given, so do a comparison, factoring in all expenses as well as tax deductions.

Cancel subscriptions

There is so much free information online and at the library that you don't really need magazines or newspapers anymore. Also consider the favor you are doing for the environment by reducing all of that paper.

Do it yourself

Try doing things yourself instead of hiring someone to do them for you. You can save hundreds by learning to cut hair, changing your own oil (and countless other car maintenance services), aerating your own lawn, tune your won bike, trouble shooting your own computer, painting your own house, doing your own basic plumbing, etc, etc, etc. Sure, it's not as easy and convenient, but learning new skills keep you sharp. Plus, you'll be so busy learning and implementing your new skills, you won't have time to be wasting money in other areas.

Take care of your stuff

Taking care of what you already have will make it last longer. Read up on how to maintain items and make a checklist.

There are several other habits you could practice. But always keep the following questions in mind before you buy anything:

  • Do I have the money to cover this expense, or would I be going into debt for it?
  • Does this expense forward my financial goals?
  • Can I get this need or desire met without spending money on it? Could I spend less money?
  • Does this money need to be spent now, or can it wait thirty days?

These questions can be very useful for curbing impulse buys and keeping you focused on financial goals. Some final words to live by "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without".