It's funny how different my spending habits appear to others, but for the most part I consider myself fairly frugal and I live frugal.
I don't spend money on things I don't care for, but I will spend money if it means I will enjoy life more (such as moving to a new place).
There are certain areas which I know others think I'm crazy for spending money on, such as new cars and traveling, and there are other areas I don't really care about, such as electronics and gadgets. I don't care about waiting in line for the iPhone 6, and I think people who camp out are CRAZY.
This is what's great about personal finance blogging – it's personal and there is no correct way for anyone/everyone.
I haven't always been a frugal person though.
Now, I cringe whenever I think about all the money I wasted. We would spend over $1,000 a month on food, thousands of dollars each year on car insurance, thousands of dollars on clothing (I used to work as a retail manager and it fueled a bad habit), and the list goes on and on.
We were spending beyond our means, and we were NOT happy.
Not even close to happy.
We were spending money because we thought we “deserved” it since we weren't happy with our jobs. We thought buying these material items would make us happier.
Once we left our jobs, we decided to stop buying things we didn't need. Thing is, we've been happier than ever and don't even think about buying useless products.
We are more frugal and saving more money than ever, and it's actually been a lot of fun. For some reason, there is this “myth” out there that being frugal and saving money means you MUST hate your life. I definitely do not hate my life (I'm fairly positive that Wes does not either), and I still spend money on things and experiences I enjoy.
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If you are interested in learning how to be more frugal with your money, here are some of my tips:
1. Think about the value an item brings.
I know many people hate this debate, but I think there is a clear difference between frugal living and being cheap. Being cheap means you just choose the lowest price no matter what, whereas living frugally means you are choosing the best value for your money.
Living frugally means you are not wasting money on things you do not need or things that may break within seconds of using it.
Buying the same item over and over again because you only buy cheap products may mean that you are spending more money over time because of having to replace it so often.
An example from just the other day when it comes to frugal living: We used to always buy cheap can openers and not really think anything of it. Then, our can opener broke the other day (it's probably been the fifth one we've bought so far). We went to the store and looked for higher quality can openers and have been using one that is about triple the price of the cheap ones but I can already tell that it will last a lot longer. Also, it doesn't hurt my hands to use it!
2. Utilize any extra space is a great money saving tip.
If you are like most of America, then you probably have some extra space in your home. For us, we have a four bedroom home yet only use two. One is our bedroom and the other is my office. We also have a finished basement. This is not frugal at all and it's a lot of wasted space.
Technically, we could rent out all the rooms in our home. However, our last renter just moved out (my sister) and I think we are done renting out our personal space to others for now. In the past, we have done it because friends and/or family needed a place to live.
Another way to utilize extra space would be to use any space in your front or backyard by starting a garden. You could plant some of your favorite fruits and vegetables and start eating more healthy meals.
3. Sell your home and get a cheaper one.
If you have a lot of extra space in your home but don't want to rent out any of your rooms, then you may want to consider downsizing. If you're not using the extra rooms, then what's the point of having them anyways?
Downsizing may mean a cheaper home, less money spent on utility bills, less money spent on furniture, and a better use of space.
4. Quit expensive and unhealthy habits.
My dad passed away from both lung cancer and brain cancer. His lung cancer was due to his insane smoking habit. He was a great man, but he was a heavy smoker. It cost him a lot of money in terms of both buying the actual cigarettes and paying for his expensive medical care when he got sick.
Other expensive unhealthy habits you may want to quit or cut back include: fast food; drinking an insane amount of soda (I do not like soda, so thankfully I can always skip it); drinking too much alcohol; and more. Sure, all of this can be fine in small quantities, but I know people who get way ahead of themselves and ruin their health by partaking too much in these unhealthy activities.
If you smoke two $5 packs of cigarettes a week, that is $520 a year, or $5,200 every 10 years. If your cigarettes are $10 a pack, then your cost will be $10,400 every 10 years. That doesn't even include the higher costs you are paying for health insurance or life insurance, and it doesn't include any medical problem that may happen years later.
Also, if you drink $1 worth of soda each day, then that equals $365 a year, or $3,650 every 10 years. Don't forget about how much you are probably harming your teeth as well.
I consider myself to be the frugal queen in this category because I don't really have any expensive or unhealthy habits. WOOHOO!
5. Start couponing.
Okay, we do not coupon very much and I am definitely not a frugal queen in this area. I will be honest and say that right away. I just do not have the patience to do it, and I am not organized enough so I will just be wasting everyone's time by doing it.
I did do a little bit of couponing a few years ago, but I didn't do anything too, too crazy. I still have about 10 shampoo and conditioner bottles leftover from those days, so that's pretty nice! They were all FREE too.
I do search for coupon codes before I buy something online, and I do use Restaurant.com gift certificates a few times a year. Other than that, this is an area I slack in.
Even though I don't coupon as much as I possibly could, I know many others who are great with couponing and save their families a decent amount of cash each year.
Also, if you are going to buy anything online, I highly recommend Ebates.com as you can earn FREE cash back for doing your normal shopping. You can also get a free $10 gift card to Target or Walmart if you sign up under my link.
6. Find frugal entertainment.
We used to spend too much money on entertainment. Now, we invest money in items that we know will bring fun for years to come.
These items include bikes, camping and hiking gear, and more. Even though the upfront cost is high, we will be able enjoy these items without spending much more money well into the future.
There are plenty of ways to have fun without spending a ton of money. Below are some examples:
- Go to the library.
- Go for a hike. I recently hiked my first mountain when we were in Colorado two weeks ago and it was amazing! REI is my favorite store to buy all of my outdoorsy items. Everything is high quality and they have a great return policy if something doesn't end up working out correctly.
- Cancel cable and buy Netflix (or go completely without TV).
- Have a bonfire.
- If you need a taxi (such as if you are going to be drinking), use Uber instead. They usually have low rates and you can score your first ride for free with my referral code.
- Visit a park.
- Throw a potluck dinner for friends and family.
- Look for free events in your area. What I really love about St. Louis is that this is a very cheap city to have fun in. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there are free festivals, and free concerts at Fair St. Louis (some free concerts include The Fray, Maroon 5, Steve Miller Band, and others).
- Volunteer to gain free entry to events and festivals. There are many events and festivals out there that will allow you to volunteer in order to gain free entry. So, for a few hours of work you can have some fun for free.
What do you do to save money each month? How much do you think you save?
What's TOO frugal for you? What would you never do to save money?
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