How to Live Frugally Without Feeling Poor or Deprived
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First let’s define what being frugal is, and what it isn’t.
In my dictionary, there’s a definite difference between being frugal and being cheap.
Living frugally means you’re paying attention to your money and making sure you only spend it on things that are necessary and for the best price. Splurging isn’t forbidden; but thought is put into a purchase to make sure the splurge isn’t a burden.
Being cheap means neglecting to give appropriate dollar value to products and services and refusing to pay for the value you receive, even if you have the money for it. Being cheap is more about having a negative attitude about parting with money.
Cheapskates like to disguise themselves as frugal, but being frugal doesn’t mean you’re miserly, it means you’re resourceful.
Banish the thoughts of being cheap just because you’re frugal. Do it with the right attitude and you’ll find you’re making wise financial decisions for your family. Here are 21 ways to live more frugally without feeling poor or deprived.
Know Why You’re Doing It
Set some goals for yourself. What are you trying to achieve?
Would saving money and living frugally allow you to save for a home? Pay off debt? Travel? Become a stay-at-home mom? Retire sooner?
Having a clear objective will allow you to be motivated to keep up your frugal lifestyle to accomplish your goals.
Start with a Budget
Whether or not you like the idea of a budget, you need to know your standing with money. How much is coming in and how much is going out. If you’re not keeping accurate track of your money, you won’t know if you are making progress.
Once you have your budget established, switch to using cash where appropriate.
This would be anywhere that you can go into a retailer to buy goods. Such as a grocery store, a restaurant, salon, department store, etc.
Using cash helps stick to a budget and avoid overspending. Once your cash is gone, you have to stop spending until your next paycheck when you can refill your cash envelopes.
Related Article: How to Make a Cash Envelope Budget to Save You Money
Know How to Say “No”
You might need to say “no” to others, and you’ll definitely need to say “no” to yourself.
If others invite you to an outing that’s outside your spending limits, suggest a more budget friendly activity or simply tell them you can’t this time around.
You may feel inclined to share your goal with those who will support you and find they are more than understanding.
Keep your goal in mind when you have to tell yourself no. Remember, a no right now doesn’t mean no forever. You may just need to work it into your budget and give yourself a little time to save for a splurge.
Wait for Sales
This is a simple strategy to buy what you want and get it for less.
Sales will always come and go. Keep an eye on your pantry, freezer and even your closet to know when your items need to be replaced.
If you notice you’re getting low or something will need to be replaced soon, add it to your shopping list and just keep an eye out for sales that will allow you to replace your stuff at a lower price
Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s on Sale
Buying things on sale doesn’t automatically qualify as saving money.
If you don’t need the item or won’t use it on a regular basis, you’re not saving yourself anything.
Only buy items on sale that your family will use and you were going to buy anyway.
Save Up for What You Want
Sometimes this is a big purchase and sometimes it’s not.
It’s easy to understand saving up for things like new furniture, but it’s also easy to just finance it. You’ll save money by saving and paying cash because you won’t have to pay the interest attached to a credit card.
You may also decide that you no longer want/need the new big purchase and keep the money you saved for something else.
It may also come in handy to save up for smaller purchases. For example, I use cash for groceries and household items. Case lot sales at the grocery store can sometimes offer a great value, but because it’s in bulk it might overextend my grocery budget. If I know a case lot sale will be coming soon, I might save $20-$40 from my grocery budget for a few weeks so I have a little extra money when the sale comes around.
Related Article: How to Pay Cash for Big Expenses
Try New Brands
If you want to save money, don’t be brand loyal. Branch out and try new brands (when they are on sale of course!) and you may find you like a new brand better that doesn’t cost as much.
Cook at Home
Eating out is a huge culprit of overspending. Reduce the amount you are eating out and switch to eating at home whenever possible.
It’s easiest to eat at home when you have a meal plan in place.
I use The Dinner Daily meal planning service because they help me with dinner ideas based on items on sale at my local grocery store that week. You can get a 2-week free trial of The Dinner Daily here.
Eat Your Left Overs
Left overs make a great lunch for work the next day.
After dinner when you’re cleaning up, serve up your leftovers into a handy microwavable lunch Tupperware and it’ll be ready for you to grab as you’re heading out for work in the morning.
You can also try repurposing leftovers into a new meal. Have leftover spaghetti noodles? Try turning your noodles into something other than spaghetti for dinner then next night.
Drink More Water
Not only is this healthy for you but can save a lot of money.
Try to limit the amount of soda pop or alcohol you buy when you’re out to eat or that you drink at home.
If your tap water is subpar, invest in a nice filtration system. You’ll save money in the long run by being able to drink filtered tap water.
Stay Current on Bills
This is a small step that also helps in the long run. By paying bills on time you avoid running into extra late fees or higher interest rates on credit cards.
Ask for Better Rates
Contact your service providers for TV, internet and cell phones to see what specials or better packages they have to cut back your bill.
You might also contact your insurance providers to see if they have a way to save money on your premiums. If you go with a higher deductible, be sure you have enough saved in your emergency fund to cover the deductible and avoid financial trouble in the future.
Use Coupons for Household Items
I often hear people say there are no coupons for things they use. I’d beg to differ.
I know not everyone has patience or time for coupons, but there are plenty of coupons available for items like toothpaste, laundry soap, dish soap, shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant, razors, etc.
There’s a long list of items found in almost every home that you can get coupons for. Combine coupons with sales and you’re in for some amazing savings. I haven’t had to pay for toothpaste for 6 years by using this strategy.
Related Article: How My Family Eats Well for $400/Month (or Less)
Buy in Bulk or Start a Stockpile
You don’t need mass quantities to have a stockpile. It also doesn’t make sense to buy everything in bulk, but having a stockpile can really help with saving money because you can buy items less frequently.
I like to have a stockpile of household, pantry and freezer items. This allows me to wait for the sale before I buy items for my rotation.
For example, laundry soap can be pretty expensive. If I wait for the sale and use coupons, I can get it for super cheap … like $1-$3 cheap! If I only buy 1 laundry soap at that price, I’ll be stuck paying full price as soon as I run out. If I buy a few laundry soaps at that price, I’ll have enough to hold out for another sale + coupon combo and only ever pay rock bottom prices.
The same can go for pantry items like cereal. I never pay more than $1 for boxes of name brand cereal. I use a coupon and a sale, then buy enough to get me through to the next sale.
Know When to DIY and When Not To
Sometimes building or fixing something as a DIY can save money.
Sometimes you’ll be better off paying a professional to get things done the right way and avoid extra headaches and expense in the future.
Go ahead and DIY things that you’re confident you can do yourself the right way. If it’s a big job that you’re not sure about and there’s a chance you’ll mess it up, call a professional. (Don’t forget to get bids from a few sources to get the best person for the best price!)
Maintenance is Key
Don’t let your home, health or vehicle go without regular maintenance and checkups.
I know someone who “couldn’t afford” to get her oil changed so she kept neglecting it until her car had a major breakdown and required serious (and expensive) repairs to get it fixed. She would have been better off financially to upkeep her car on a regular basis.
The same goes for your health. Take care of yourself and get regular checkups to prevent major health or dental problems that could've been prevented.
If you don’t think you can afford maintenance on your car and your home, you either need to reevaluate your budget, your income, or what car/home you own.
Know When to Buy Used and When to Buy New
Sometimes it’s just not worth the money to buy new when you can save and get something perfectly acceptable that was used. This includes anything from used cars to used clothes.
The same holds true in reverse. Sometimes used items will not last long. Or the sale is final on a used item and it doesn’t work and is useless.
No matter what it is you are buying used, give thought to the longevity, the value that the item still holds, and your ability to make an exchange if the item doesn’t work.
Navigate Your Traffic Route
This is a secret I learned by accident.
I was driving my daughter to school by the same route for a couple of years. One day there was a horrific snowstorm and I was sure she was going to be late for school. I decided to check Google Maps on my smartphone to see how long it would take to get to school. Sure enough it would take 40 minutes (instead of 15).
However, a second back route popped up that would cut that time in half. Nice!
I also learned that even in regular everyday traffic, this back way will still save me time, and therefore gas money.
I now check Google Maps frequently and have avoided accidents, construction and other traffic delays. If you don’t have to sit in traffic as long, you’ll save time and gas. Double win!
Dye Your Clothes
Do you have clothes that are looking a little faded but are otherwise still in good condition? You can freshen them up by dying them.
This trick works especially well if you’re required to keep a uniform for your employment. My husband worked as a server that required navy blue jeans and a black button-down shirt. Both items would fade quickly and his manager would ask him to get new clothes to stay in uniform. Replacing the clothes was expensive, so instead we’d buy navy and black clothing dye for a couple of dollars and dye his clothes in the washer.
Use Your Library
I’m a book worm and I also love online learning. Two things that can cost a lot if you always buy new books and courses.
Not only can you check out almost any book you want at the library, they also have eBooks, movies, magazines, newspapers, music, and yes some library’s provide access to top name online learning like Rosetta Stone and Lynda.com.
Library's will also have fun events that you can attend for free entertainment.
Check the premium services your library offers, you might be surprised how extensive your access is.
There you have it, several ways you can start living more frugally and still enjoy your life.