10 Steps towards a Frugal Lifestyle
If you’re reading about how to live a frugal lifestyle because you’re stretched financially, you’re in the right place. You’re probably in dire need of money and may be facing some serious financial hardships up ahead unless you halt all spending. But living frugally doesn’t have to mean being the most miserable family on the block. Check out these 10 steps towards a frugal lifestyle and see what applies to you.
You already know to cut out the expensive Starbucks drinks, so this article is not about that. And I’m not going to tell you how to take a family camping trip instead of a Disneyland vacation because that’s obvious too.
This post is more of a reality check to make sure you have certain fundamentals in place. It’s about redefining your values. Think you can’t cut any more from your budget? Keep reading to find out how to develop the mindset you need for living below your means.
1. Lower Your Housing Cost. How much house can you afford? Experts say to keep your housing expense below 30% of your household income. If you’re like me, you want your family in a safe neighborhood—one where you don’t have to worry about them all the time.
If you need your kids in the best schools, but you can’t afford it, it’s time to reexamine your square footage. It might be worth it to move and have your kids share a room or to re-purpose the living room for a home office so you can afford to stay in that neighborhood you love.
Go for a smaller house or get an apartment. If you own your house, move the kids into one room and Airbnb the other room. You might get your entire monthly mortgage paid for, so it’s worth a shot.
2. Keep your car for at least ten years. Things are broken on your car, and it’s starting to bother you. Lately, it’s been making a funny sound, and you can’t help but peek through the blinds at your neighbor’s new ride. I get it. It’s embarrassing driving around your old car. Do you ever find yourself wishing someone would hit it so you can put it out of its misery?
Before you take that test-drive on a brand-new vehicle, realize that it’s almost always cheaper to repair your old car rather than foot another monthly bill. Remember when you used to love the car? Get it back to that phase. Instead of buying new, make a list of ten things that bother you about your current vehicle. It’s usually the small things that irritate us the most: the faulty inside light, the rickety center console, the trunk button that magically stopped working. Most of these issues can be repaired.
3. Use Food as Fuel. The grocery bill is a big concern because it’s the one major bill that’s variable. You get to control how much you spend. But how do you cut costs without succumbing to Ramen noodles? First of all, forget Ramen . It’s a waste of money.
The best approach is to consider the nutrients you need and cut out all the other stuff. Why bother eating filler foods, like white rice, pasta, and bread? Do you really need to fill up with these? A lot of the starchy foods do nothing but make you even more hungry for the next meal. And all that stuff costs money too.
Instead, put lean meats, fruits, and vegetables into your cart. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, that will be beans and plant proteins like soy.
If you must have grains, go for the heavy-hitters: brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and potatoes. It will be hard at first, but you’ll get used to it, and soon you’ll see no point in stuffing yourself with non-essential items. Always make a list and stay within your budget, but make sure your bags are heavy when you leave the store. If something is lightweight, put it back on the shelf. It’s probably valueless in terms of real food.
Bonus tip: Use the last week of every month to eat already-bought foods from the refrigerator and pantry. Don’t buy anything new. Make it a game and see if you can create all your meals from food that is already there.
4. Don’t Purchase Clothing You Don’t Need. Some of us are addicted to buying things. For many women, buying clothing is a feel-good measure to control our happiness and satisfaction with our appearance.
But how much clothing do you need? Stop continuously shopping for clothing. You only have one body to clothe. Purchase a few good outfits and leave it at that. Let the kids choose a few items too, and refrain from buying them clothing that you think will look cute on them. It might sit in the drawer with tags all year long until it’s too small.
Does your clothing have holes in it? Is it ripped or stained? Ask yourself these questions before you consider buying another piece of clothing. If it is not damaged, wait until it truly needs to be replaced.
Have you gained weight and need to buy a few pieces to look good again? Stop. You’ll never be satisfied. Get your butt to the gym instead!
5. Make sure everything you buy serves at least two purposes. An example? A small plastic, rectangular tub can be used as a dishpan, a pedicure station for soaking feet, and a cleaning bucket for washing the floors.
Use olive oil for cooking, cleaning your face, and as a moisturizer.
I have a gray headband that lost some elasticity and no longer looks good on my head. Now I use it as an armband for my cell phone, so I can listen to podcasts at the gym. Who needs a twenty-dollar cell-phone holder?
You get the idea. Always re purpose an older item and make a household rule: If it can’t be used to do several tasks, put it back on the shelf.
6. Avoid impulse purchases. Think about it for a while. If you’re like me, you have a rack full of clothing you don’t even wear. And you have crap sitting around the house that you don’t even like! Before you make your next purchase, really think about it. Consider the hours you need to work to make that money back. And remember, the more stuff you buy, the less money you’ll have.
I have a friend who has a strange obsession with buying small lamps. Every corner of her house has a lamp in it. You can’t walk two steps without stepping around a lamp table. She’d probably be a rich woman if it weren’t for those lamps!
7. Resist the urge to keep up with everyone else’s spending habits. A new friend of mine and I were having tea one day. I told her all about my frugal lifestyle and how I don’t buy much anymore. Halfway through my explanation, I noticed her shoulders relaxing. She told me it relieved her to hear that she wasn’t the only one who liked to have a frugal lifestyle.
Stop giving in to social purchasing. No one cares how many things you put in your cart at Costco. Even if people are impressed with something like a new television, it will likely last two seconds, before they begin thinking about their own life again. Your bragging moments are brief, but your bills last all year long.
8. Quit purchasing two or more of everything. I used to always buy three cucumbers for salads. I always managed to use two during the week, but the other usually sat in the bottom of the pan, molding until I threw it out.
At some point, I realized that 25-40% of my purchased produce is wasted food. And I know I’m not alone. We overbuy, over prepare, and leave food to spoil because we simply can’t eat it all.
I no longer load the cart with fruits and veggies. If I want fruit, I’ll buy one pineapple and keep track of it.
9. Don’t let money define your relationship with your kids. In the back of your mind, you’re probably thinking, “Money has nothing to do with it. I love my kids!” Okay then, show them.
Sometimes we use our wallets out of guilt. You yelled at Tommy last week for not cleaning his room and then watched him sink his head lower while picking his clothing up from the floor. This week you buy him a new pair of shoes to make up for it. That will put a smile on his face, right? Maybe, but it will be brief.
10. Have fun anyway. Have you ever noticed that some people are having fun, even while they’re standing in line at the DMV? And that others manage to turn an exciting concert or a night out into a dull activity that you can’t wait to be over?
My auntie has a saying that’s famous in our household. She says, “Money can’t buy fun.” What does it mean? It means stop flinging money around to manufacture fun. Make good memories and happy times through humor and spontaneity, instead.
The key to frugality is mindset. Do you have something to add to the list? I’d love to hear it.
If you tackle at least three of these 10 steps towards a frugal lifestyle, you’ll be well on your way to saving hard-earned cash and creating a better future for your family.