Frugal living is the easiest way of saving money and escaping the stressful loop of consumerism, while actually increasing the number of healthy, positive things you can do. At a fundamental level, it means knowing the difference between want and need.
As such, frugality doesn’t mean retreating in a remote homestead and living off the land. By contrast, frugality means enjoying life differently, by purchasing only what is truly necessary and by making good use of everything you already have, thus carefully balancing your spending with your investments. Consequently, frugal living can really make a huge difference to how happy you truly are, as it has the power to reveal the beauty of a more relaxed and simple life.
In our complete guide, we will take a look at some essential tips for frugal living that will not only help you save tons of money but will also improve your social life and contribute to your overall wellbeing.
Step 1 – Tips to Adopting the Frugal Mindset
“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” ― John Stuart Mill
Starting to live frugally cannot happen overnight. Before you’ll be able to move on to specifics, it’s essential that you first train yourself to understand and adopt the frugal mindset. This also means being more and more committed to the changes you’re making. Here are five key tips to consider:
1. Draw A Line Between What You Want And What You Need
The fundamental principle of frugal living is to differentiate between things you really need and things which you can actually do without, as defined by both our actual needs and the needs which are imposed by modern economic standards.
The free market economic system has numerous advantages, allowing us to benefit from unprecedented comfort and prosperity. However, human nature dictates that people will always want more. Nobody denies the utility of this trait, as it is the foundation of competitiveness and innovation. However, if this trait is not checked by common sense and moderation, it can have severe consequences on one’s quality of life because it will bring about unsustainable spending and debt.
Wanting more also has a darker side. Thus, sensing that there are huge amounts of money to be made, marketers go to unbelievable lengths to convince us to buy things. Thus, we are often fooled into buying “better” and “modern” products, which are utterly unnecessary in practice. This also applies to other utilities and services we use, such as cell phones and the internet. (Check out some hyper-cheap cell phone plans here).
2. Control Your Money And Finances
Frugal living is primarily about saving money while simultaneously maintaining a good living standard. This cannot be achieved without exercising full control over your personal finances. Controlling your finances basically means:
- Regularly checking bank statements. Staying informed as to what amounts of money are available at any given time is an absolute must. As such, you should regularly check statements, entries, and withdrawals. Frugal living is perfectly compatible with using high-tech solutions, so an online banking app which allows you to quickly and securely move money around is something you should definitely consider.
- Managing family cash flows and keeping a household balance sheet. If you plan on saving and investing money, you should carefully manage the money you and your family spend. To make this easier, imagine your family is a small company, with income, expenses, and profits. Then, manage all your finances as if you were the company CFO. Check out our Downloadable Family Financial Balance Template to get started:
3. Use What You Already Have
If you want to live frugally and save money, you must learn how to use and exploit the goods already in your possession to their full potential, before even thinking about purchasing something new. This principle applies to a wide set of items normally found around the house, ranging from furniture to electronic equipment.
Chances are that, despite your urge to buy new items, your clothes are not as old as you think, your laptop is working quite well and your bike can be fixed quite easily. Moreover, some activities can be fun to do if you enjoy repairing and recycling your stuff. As such, learn to reuse items to build and upgrade your house.
4. Learn To Value The Small Pleasures Of Life
Frugal living means, above all, spending and saving wisely. In practice, this will also translate into different, cheaper, leisure activities. This should not worry you because, as mentioned, frugality is not about lowering your quality of life. On the contrary, frugal living will allow you to re-discover an entire set of pleasant and fun activities which are easily forgotten in the daily hustle and bustle of the big city life.
If spending quality time with your family and friends is something you enjoy, the frugal life is something you can easily adapt to. The main reason for this is that quality time doesn’t primarily mean partying and going out (which are spending-intensive activities). On the contrary, it’s the small things you do around in and around the house that really bring you peace of mind and satisfaction.
5. Stop Worrying
Really. Depression and anxiety are strongly associated with a relentless scramble to have more, at any price. To satisfy our urge, we work overtime, at jobs we don’t like, and we take a deep and often irreversible plunge into debt. However, once you realize that saving money and making ends meet is actually easy if you cut all unnecessary spending, doing those things also becomes redundant, thus removing the root cause of your anxiety.
Removing financial stress is one the key advantages that frugal living can bring about. However, in order to attain the frugal mindset, you also need to stop worrying about how you will manage without all those items you used to spend so much money on. Here’s how:
Step 2 – Frugal Living: Practical Tips And Strategies
Now that you’ve mastered the essentials of frugal living, we can get down to how you can practically implement them in your day-to-day and long-term activities. From household management to food and transportation, frugal living is fun, easy, and will save you a ton of money. For each category, we have selected one or more key tips which, if followed, will ensure that you rebuild your finances in no time.
1. Housing & Household Items – DIY & Reuse
Smart spending when it comes to housing and household items is very important, simply because of the enormous amount of money you can save. Here are some tips that will help you out:
- Pick a smart house. Whenever choosing a house, do not opt for an expensive one which will drag you down in endless mortgage payments. Rather, look for a practical option, that allows for considerable adjustments and refurbishing possibilities. The more flexible your choices are, the better.
- DIY as much as possible. Do not hire people to do stuff for you, unless absolutely necessary. On the contrary, try to solve/repair as many things as you can yourself. Fixing stuff around the house is actually quite easy, and there are some common household fixes which you simply have to know how to do yourself.
- Reuse old furniture and items. If your furniture becomes damaged, why not try to repair it and replace broken parts rather than going straight for a new purchase. Besides cutting costs tremendously, it will also make good technical practice and a fun activity to do with your family. For example, check out some useful techniques for repairing furniture.
- Only buy household items you literally cannot do without. A very important part of living frugally is avoiding the purchase of unnecessary items. For example, while you shouldn’t consider abandoning the washing machine as a basic household item, you might want to think twice about whether you also really need a microwave oven, a dishwasher, a touchless waste bin, an air purifier, and anything which is motion-activated. Taken individually, such items might not accrue too much of an expense. However, if taken together, such items of dubious real utility will open a gaping hole in your budget.
Case Study: The Dishwasher
Take the dishwasher now. If each person in the house would simply wash his/her dishes after each meal, it would amount to a maximum of 5 minutes of work per person, at almost no expense. A dishwasher, however, can cost up to $1000, doesn’t wash the dishes that well, and will entail additional monthly costs, including:
- Dishwasher detergent (which is highly toxic by the way);
- Dishwasher cleaner;
- Electricity (lots of it);
- Water (much more than for manual washing);
- Accessories and repair kits;
- Professional repair costs;
The amount of money you end up spending each year on these can simply be saved by taking 5 minutes to wash your own plates after dinner. Not that hard, is it?
2. Food – Become A Master Chef
Cooking your own food, rather than eating out, is both fun and highly economical. You will have tons of fun if you do it together with the people you like, thus turning an annoying chore into a fun and constructive activity. In addition, good food is not considered one of the finest pleasure of life for nothing. To demonstrate, check out some great recipes you can do at home.
What is more amazing is that frugal cooking is really easy and can be done by anyone. In addition, frugal recipes are also very diverse. You will be surprised by just how many extraordinary dishes you can prepare by yourself and on a budget.
3. Transportation – Cycle & Share
We waste an incredible amount of money on inefficient transportation. Personal vehicles costs can exceed, in average, $8000 per year (all costs included), per car. Imagine your family has three cars and then imagine how much you can save by using alternative means of transport, like cycling and using public transportation when possible. Read more about the advantages of cycling to work and discover just how the alternatives to driving can greatly improve your quality of life.
4. Sport & Exercise – Rediscover Nature
Spending money on going to the gym and/or a personal trainer is another thing adding to your monthly financial burden. However, did you know that you can get into shape all by yourself, without spending one extra cent, regardless of your age? The first thing you should do in this regard is to rediscover nature and drastically increase the time spent doing outdoor activities. Secondly, you don’t need expensive fitness equipment to get your body pumping. Your own bodyweight is more than enough to train all your muscles and build a great physique. Check out these great exercises which don’t require any equipment and which can be done anywhere.
5. Leisure – The Company Is What Matters
Leisure time can be ridiculously expensive, especially if you engage in high-society pastimes on a regular basis. No matter what you do, it is the company that really matters when it comes to having a good time. Thus, aim for fun activities that you can do together with your loved ones, which don’t require any major purchases. For instance, instead of going put for a shopping/movie spree at the local mall, why not take your family or friends on a hiking or cycling trip? The costs would be much lower, and the benefits much higher.
6. Debt – Avoid It If Possible
Debt free living is not only possible but easy to pull off if you save money and then invest it. Getting a loan is extremely attractive due to the short-term purchase power it provides. However, in the long run, remember that you’re actually losing, not gaining, money.
Worse, borrowing money creates the illusion that you’re able to afford more. Actually, you’re only compromising your future prosperity. Read more about what it takes to live a debt-free life.
However, if you must obtain a credit for objective reasons, make sure you know all the tips and tricks to raising your credit score fast. Such unavoidable loans can be student loans, which can amount to huge sums, that are paid over the course of many years. Nevertheless, there are many ways in which you can get rid of student loans faster.
7. Investment – An Absolute Must
Finally, frugal living is not just about cutting costs. It is also about investing your money in something that can bring you revenue in the future. One option would be to invest in stocks, which, if done properly, can result in considerable financial gains. Alternatively, you can also choose to invest in mutual funds, which are also a great way to pump up your cash reserves.
Last, but not least, frugal living will allow you to save money which you can then invest in a small family business. The cornerstone of American prosperity throughout history, small and medium business create prosperity not just for their owners, but also for the entire community. Frugal living is a way to get started down this path. If you don’t believe it’s possible, just check out what this family has achieved by living the frugal live:
Frugal living is much more than just an experiment you can try for a few weeks. It’s a way of life which can considerably improve your financial standing and your overall quality of life. With these tips, you are now able to start applying the principles of frugality, and consequently see your financial situation improve.
Far from the isolated and withdrawn lifestyle which the term “frugal living” might inspire, this way of life actually means making good use of modern technology and financial techniques, alongside a great deal of common sense, in order to allow you to save and invest.