When you first think of the word ‘frugal’, you might have some negative ideas about it. After all, isn’t a frugal lifestyle one in which you have to sacrifice a lot and live on much less, and even on lower quality items? Well, although that can be one way to live frugally, it’s certainly not the only way, and there are actually a number of excellent positive ways to change your lifestyle and become a more frugal person.
So what exactly does frugal mean if it’s not all about sacrifice? At its most basic, frugality just means being careful with your money, and only spending on things that you truly need. It’s about being intentional with every purchase. When you bring this into your life, not only will you only buy the things you really need, but you will also find that your home is a more pleasant place to be; it’s not full of clutter that really isn’t necessary (this will lead to positive mental health benefits too).
Although this is generally what frugality means, there are many different ways to approach it, and that means that there are many different paths to go down when you are looking at creating a more frugal life. We’ve put together some of the ideas you can start incorporating into your everyday life and this will give you a good idea of where to start. Read on to find out more.
Before you can do anything else when it comes to your finances, you need to have a budget. Without one, you won’t know what position you’re starting in, and you won’t know when you have reached the place you want to be. Neither will you know how much you’re currently spending on things you just don’t need.
Budgeting might not be the most enjoyable thing to do (although some people do like it and find it rather therapeutic), it is absolutely fundamental to your overall financial success, and it will allow you to understand more about the priorities in your life. Even if they are essentials, there might still be ways of lessening the cost, and if they are fixed costs like your rent or a car payment, then they are where you need to start and work backward from there.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself or a loved one once in a while. The key to frugality is that you always plan your purchase rather than make spontaneous ones, so if you want to buy someone a gift, think about it in advance and determine how much you can spend on it. This is what spending wisely is all about.
Plan Your Meals
As well as planning your expenditure for the month, you should also plan your meals. Do this at least weekly, and it will be much easier to stick to a budget when you are grocery shopping; you’ll know exactly what you need to buy and you won’t overspend by buying any extras that you aren’t actually going to use. If you currently find that your weekly grocery bill is spiraling upwards and that you’re throwing out lots of food before your next shop, then you’re not only wasting food but money too. This is where planning comes into its own.
Take some time on a set day each week to create a meal plan for the week ahead. Not only will you know what you’re making for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and therefore don’t have to rush to throw something together because you didn’t think things through beforehand, but you will also be able to save money, as detailed above.
Before you make your plan, check through your fridge, freezer, cupboards, and pantry to see what you already have. Can you build any meals around these items? If you can, you’ll be saving even more.
Cook In Bulk
Not everyone enjoys cooking, and not everyone has time to cook a meal from scratch every night – or rather, they often won’t have the energy to do it after a hard day at work. What happens in this case? Very often a takeout will be ordered, or a quick microwave meal will be slung together. This is, as we’ve said, not a problem every now and then if it’s something you enjoy and something that you have planned for, but using these methods to find a meal on a regular basis is bad for your health and bad for your bank balance; this kind of convenience food is more expensive than other food – you are literally paying for the convenience.
There is an answer, and it’s something that even the busiest person can find time to do. The answer is to cook in bulk. Taking just one day each month is all it would take, and although that day would be a busy one in the kitchen, after that all your meals would be in place. You would cook everything you need for the next few weeks and then freeze it, packaged individually, so you simply have to defrost and heat up to enjoy.
It’s easy to see how this links to your health and to time-saving, but what about frugal living? Does it connect with that idea at all? Yes, it does. When you cook in bulk you will also be buying in bulk, and buying in bulk will lead to savings. You will often find that you can purchase more of something for a discount, depending on where you are shopping. Plus, the fewer visits you make to a grocery store, the less chance there is of falling back into bad habits and buying things you don’t need.
To give yourself more of a chance to save money, don’t forget to look for coupons. They can be used to make any grocery shopping trip a less expensive one, but coupons can be used for many things other than food. Search around for coupons for clothes, day trips out, even fuel, and you’ll be surprised at what you can find.
In the past, shopping around meant literally that; you would need to go from store to store to determine just where the best prices were and what you would get for those prices. Then you would have to go back to whichever store offered the best value for money and buy what you needed from there.
Thankfully things are different today, and shopping around is no longer quite such a chore. Instead, you can use the internet to find prices for anything you need, and it’s easy to compare the various items to work out which is going to give you what you’re looking for.
Alternatively, you can speak to the company you currently buy from and see if you can get any kind of discount. A good car insurance company that you’re happy with might be able to match other insurance prices, for example, meaning that you can save money and stick with the company you like using.
Remember that cost alone should not be the determining factor in your purchasing decisions. Buying cheap can sometimes mean poor quality, so you need to consider everything before making a final decision and spending any money. Sometimes spending more at the start can save you money in the future.
Use The Library
If you love reading then you’ll love buying books, and if you love buying books you’ll know how expensive that particular hobby can be. If you’re trying to be more frugal, you might be buying fewer books, but that means that your relaxation time is impacted negatively and that can lead to mental health problems.
So should you stop buying so many books (or stop buying books completely) and let your mental health suffer, or should you continue to buy books and spend a lot of money in the process? The answer is neither; you don’t have to do either of these things. You can instead join your local library. By joining the library, you can borrow as many books, magazines, or even audiobooks as you want to, and not have to pay anything for the privilege. On top of that, you won’t be adding to the clutter of your home by bringing in new, permanent, books.
In fact, this idea of borrowing rather than buying can be something that is incorporated into all areas of your life. When you think about what you might need, try to borrow the item from friends and family first before buying it as a last resort.
One of the biggest drains on any bank balance is accommodation. Whether you rent or own, you’re going to be paying out a huge amount of money each month to stay in your home. Is it possible to reduce this cost? If you have a mortgage, you might be able to remortgage to a lower interest rate, thus saving yourself a lot of money over time – keep switching mortgages every time your deal ends, and you can continue to save money. Renting, of course, is a different story, and unless your landlord is very understanding it’s unlikely that they will reduce the rent just because you ask them to.
In either case, the option of downsizing might be open to you. Downsizing just means searching out a smaller, less expensive place to live. When you do that, not only will the amount you’re paying for your accommodation reduce, but so too will your energy bills and anything else associated with running a home.