When did the Jones become the American standard for living? I think frugality gets a bad rap because of the stereotypes associated with cheap behaviors. As a college student my dad advice me to make as much money as possible; it was good advice but it was hard to do without a degree. I followed his advice by maintaining 2-3 jobs and picking up as much over time as possible. I learned to value frugality as a nice alternative to the sacrifices I made during that time. Becoming frugal can turn into a lifestyle or can be just a tool used to help get in control of your finances. I came up with a list of tips that might help you save some pennies (hopefully at a decent interest rate).
- Dine in like you eat out- When you're craving food from a certain restaurant go one of many copycat sites and to find the recipe. At home you can control cost and calories. Plus you can impress your friends and family. Keep healthy snacks at home and in the car so you will be less tempted to stop at the nearest fast food joint. If you're not a health nut, buy junk food in bulk; better yet learn to make to make it from scratch.
- Switch to online bill pay- Spend less on stamps by paying your bills online or set up automatic bill pay to avoid late charges. Make a habit of routinely balancing your checking account by comparing your online statement with your register (daily is best but at least weekly). Call to cancel payment ahead of time if you are not going to have the funds for your payments; late fees are cheaper than overage charges.
- Strategic shopping- Planning out your shopping list works great for grocery shopping, but use it for clothes or any miscellaneous item. Keep a notebook of your frequent purchases and write down the different prices from the places you shop most often. Compare prices, sales papers and coupons to create a shopping list. It is somewhat time consuming in the beginning but gets easier with time.
- Flip the switch- Of course you already know how to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but it can take some discipline. There are lots of ways to save on your energy bill: keep used appliances unplugged (cell phone chargers consume a lot of energy), switch to CFL bulbs, wash clothes in cold water and line dry when you can, close heat vents in rooms you don't use, buy heavy drapes (or put up plastic) to keep the cold air out.
- Consolidate car trips- Plan ahead by grouping your errands and activities together by proximity. Invest in a backpack so that if you need to pick up a few items that are just down the street, you can leave the car at home and take a walk or ride your bike.
- Carry your own water- Want to avoid the plastic scare, buy stainless steel containers for your family. Make sure to take them everywhere; I'd suggets using even when your at home, washing them once a day or more often as needed. It saves you money from beverage purchases, calories from sugar, and time from washing cups.
- DIY your latte- A lot of people heard about the latte factor. If you can afford luxuries like manicures and Star$$$s, enjoy them guilt free. Just create a budget and abide by it (ex. $100/month for hair care). Supplement your routine in between appointments or purchases by learning how to Do It Yourself.
- Consume less- I know it's easier said than done, but all it takes is effort: Measure out food portions according to the suggested serving size, keep a sewing kit handy or take clothes to dry cleaners for mending, organize your closet so that like items hang together ( it helps you avoid buying clothes you already have), take a shorter shower (set a timer if it helps), before you throw something away ask yourself can you repurpose it instead, ask friends for cuttings from their plants and pot them, turn off the water while you brushing your teeth and put a half a gallon water jug in the toilets tank.
- Free fun- frequent your local library for books and movies, play board games, look in the paper for free events for the family, visit site that list fun activities, plan pot lucks with friends instead of going out to eat, spend more time outside (go read at the park, have a snowball fight with the kids, buy a kite and have a picnic)
- Always take paper over plastic- to slow down spending come up with a spending plan that also includes fun money and only carry cash allotted. If you are a credit card or debit card prone, try freezing your cards in a cup of water. That will give you a little time to reconsider your desired purchase.If frugal living appeals to you try a few of these tips and track how much money you save in one month. If it is worth it keep it up and add some new habits. A lot of these tips not only save dough but can impact the planet. Avoid envy of other's lifestyle by writing down a list of things that you value the most. Your priorities should be reflected in your spending plan; I'll take an emergency fund over an expensive mortgage any day. Don't worrying about the Jones; who knows they just might just go green trying to keep up with you.
You've read some of my tricks now it's your turn. Please leave a comment and share your personal money saving tips.