In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and really struggle to find time for much of anything. It becomes so easy to trade home-cooked meals for take-out, or a full bank account for a few pennies. I find myself guilty of this and have to remember that there are plenty of things that I can do to live a fuller, more frugal life. Even with all the craziness, there are ways that you can cut back on spending and make your bank accounts a little fuller, all while making your life less stressful. Here’s some of my tips for how you can live frugal.
In the Kitchen…
Check what’s in your pantry before shopping! For newlyweds and old married couples alike, everyone can appreciate this point. Take a look at what food is still in the house. For me, I will usually buy a large package of chicken so I can do a few different recipes with it. As a result, I will often have some left over chicken in the freezer when I go grocery shopping the next time around. As I put together my menu, I will try to make dishes that include chicken in the recipe. Using what you have can drastically cut down on your grocery bills each month.
Again with the chicken… Often times, chicken is the cheapest meat on the shelf. I have always preferred to get boneless, which runs about $1.99 per pound; however, you can get cheaper cuts as well. As a result, try adding more chicken and less beef to your recipes. Beef can often run $5-6 per pound, and sometimes higher. If you feel the need to use beef, try using ground beef. It will save you a few dollars. I like using beef for either special occasions, or for just one meal as opposed to several. Another option would be to make vegetable or pasta based dishes, excluding the cost of meat altogether.
Eat out less… While it is “easier” to eat out, you will be raising your expenses drastically. Many restaurants will charge around $10 for a single sandwich, occasionally adding in chips and a drink. But is it worth it? When you start breaking down the cost you realize that if you made the same item at home, you would be paying a fraction of the cost, because you will get so much more for your money. For $10, you could make several sandwiches instead of just one. In the case of a sit-down restaurant, you have to pay tax on the food and drink as well as tip your server, merely increasing your expenses once again. Eat at home, save money, and tip yourself 😉
In the Home…
Get rid of cable/satellite! I know this sounds like a drastic move, maybe even a little scary for some, but trust me, this is one of the best moves you can make toward saving money. Below is a chart showing the number of channels you receive and the amount of money you have to pay.
- 125 channels = $59.99*
- 175 channels = +$20*
- 200 channels = +$20*
- 190 channels = $49.99*
- 240 channels = +$15*
- 290 channels = +$25*
Often times, these prices do not include the movie channels or sports channels that you are wanting in the first place, making you spend additional money to get the channels you want. The asterisks indicate that these are special promotion prices. Once the time is up, you will have to pay a higher price. It is nothing for people today to spend well over $100 on cable or satellite. If you would like to stop paying this price, but would like to watch your favorite movies and TV shows, try Netflix instead. You’ll only be paying anywhere from $7.99-$11.99, depending on which package you decide. Using Netflix can really cut down your costs each month and you’ll still get to watch movies and TV shows. Plus, you can get your first month free if you want to try it out first.
Phone Service… First of all, do any of you still have a landline? Second, why? If you don’t have a good reason to have a landline, don’t. This will save you some extra money every month. Next, what about your cellphone? While you can get unlimited everything on your phones, do you need it? For some of you, yes, you do: for work, etc. For others, is it really necessary? I really like having unlimited talk and text, and for some companies, you don’t have a choice. It’s become pretty standard. But what about data? It’s gotten to the point where you can’t help but get a little, but how much do you really need? In order to save money, my husband and I have the very minimum amount of data. And you know what? It works just fine. Due to our jobs, we’re on the computer all day, interacting on social media, surfing the web, and watching videos. So when we get home at the end of the day… I don’t always want to be online. I need that break. So while having more data might be a luxury and sometimes a convenience, not having it is saving us money.
Have you ever monitored your data usage before? I had some promotional data given to me recently, only 1 GB. And it actually took a long time before I came close to using it up. Of course I wasn’t watching videos, but using social media and looking on google didn’t eat it up that fast. So do you really need those 10 GB you’re paying for? Are you actually using the data? So what about unlimited? Obviously you’ll never use it up. For some people, they get an extra amount of data to act as a cushion, just to make sure that they don’t go over and have to pay overage fees. Check out T Mobile. Why? Because if you go over your data allowance, it will just drop down from 4G to 3G. I wouldn’t do this intentionally, or excessively. But in case it happens, T Mobile is kind enough to give you that cushion.
Out on the Town…
Clearance! Clearance! Clearance! Wow, that word stops making sense the more you type it… Ok, so obviously this point is shop clearance. While this cannot apply to everything, it can apply to so many things, especially clothes! I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought clothing for its full price. Paying $30 for a single shirt is really hard to believe. And I’m really confused when people think they got a great deal paying $70 for one item. Sorry, but this is not my budget. If you can afford it, I commend you, but I cannot. So for anyone like me, shop clearance. This means having to dig a little and only buying a few pieces at a time, due to limited sizes available, etc. One great thing to do is to watch the clearance racks at the end of a season, i.e. winter, summer. You can find some great pieces at some even better prices! You can shop at thrift store if you like, but sometimes I’m just ready for something that hasn’t been worn or washed. Some of my favorite stores to shop at are JC Penney, Target, and Kohl’s.
Coupons, Sales, and Discounts… these are your best friends, no matter what you’re buying or where you’re shopping! I recently bought some shoes (and yes, I actually did need these :D) and I was able to buy them on discount and use a coupon. I basically bought two great pairs of shoes for the price of one. Sometimes it pays to buy the extra item so you can use the coupon or discount.
Buy generic… I am not sure why there is such a love for name brand items, but they seem to be selling just fine. If we are honest with ourselves, it is mostly because of how they brand themselves and their marketing that catches our eye, makes us trust every word they say and that if we use their product it will be the best thing since… what? sliced bread? Although quality is sometimes found in the more expensive product, this is hardly the case. Whether it is medicine, beauty products, or food, you can find a lot of great items for a fraction of the cost if you simply buy generic. Sometimes there needs to be a limit to how generic you go, but overall it’s at least worth a try. If you are grocery shopping, places like Kroger actually do a fantastic job with their store brand products and I’ve never really been disappointed.
But, do you really need it? On the flipside of my first two points, do not buy something unless you need it. If it is cold and you do not have a winter coat, that’s something you should buy. Did you just finish eating the last piece of cake? Well, you probably don’t need to go buy ice cream, lol. Everyone will have different needs, so really assess your needs and your wants. There will always be those basic necessities, such as paying for food and bills, but there are those gray areas too. You may also be able to hold off on making a purchase now in the hopes of buying it at a better time. Having a budget is really using a whole lot of strategic planning. Every month, and sometimes for the next several months, you really have to look ahead to figure out how much to put towards certain items, how much you can save, and so forth. Planning ahead will help you to be more financially stable and help you throughout your year.
Have a skill? Are you good at making something? How about cooking? Or crafts? There are countless things being made in homes across the world. In America, doing-it-yourself seems to be making a comeback with a vengeance. I have read so many posts on people making their own laundry detergent, bathroom cleaners, and other great items. Hobbies such as wood work, beading, and knitting have also become more popular as people find more and more uses for them. Sometimes making your own stuff is simply rewarding, and other times it’s also less expensive. Taking a little extra time to make something yourself is not only fun, but also frugal. For instance, I love all the pretty infinity scarves that seem to be in style right now, but I didn’t feel like paying $20 for one. So instead, I made one, for about $7. Which also means I was able to pick the color and the pattern. What about in your kitchen? Rather than spending money on store-bought bread, why not make your own? You can’t beat the taste and aroma of homemade bread…ever.
Cutting down/eliminating debts… There will always be those debts that just won’t seem to go away, like your mortgage. However, there are plenty of other debts that do not need to be in your life. How much do you owe on your credit cards? Pay them off. What about loans? Those can go too. Look over your expenses for the month and see what you can get rid of. Slowly work them down until you can get rid of them completely. Depending on your expenses, this could free up hundreds of dollars for you, every month! This last point is mainly just to point out that if you have anything you can pay off within the next few months, try hard to do so and work your way towards being debt free.
Our lives don’t have to be buried in debt. Just take small steps at a time and soon you’ll be living a more frugal life. As you eliminate an expense here and a debt there, you’ll be able to focus that extra money on other expenses you have, or better yet, put it in savings! The goal is to eventually pay down the things that are reasonable until you can put that money to better use. Think retirement, family vacations, and your savings account of course. I hope these pointers help you as you work towards living a frugal life.