So you have decided to begin a life a frugality. Congratulations on your new found direction! In a short time you will see the positive results of your new found frugality in your bank account and in your head as you will be stressing less over your financial situation. However, many wannabe frugal livers have trouble kick-starting their endeavor. If you are one of these people, have no fear! Here are 20 simple living tips to kick-start your new lifestyle.
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Establish a goal for why you’re being frugal
Establishing a reason for your new approach to spending is essential in kick-starting your frugal endeavors. Are you doing this to save for a trip? Maybe to afford that engagement ring for your significant other? Or maybe you just want to breathe a little easier at the end of the month when it comes time to pay your bills. Any reason you choose is fine. Just keep reminding yourself of your goals whenever you contemplate straying from the frugal side of living. Your goal is your constant, and as long as you remember it you will less likely deviate from the plan.
Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?
Do you really need that video game or do you just want it? It’s the age old battle of want vs. need, and if you’re looking to succeed in this lifestyle need has to win out. Look, I love my venti caramel macchiatos like the next frugal elitist in Manhattan, but those things cost almost $6 a pop. They start to total up at the end of the week. Sure, some of us may think we need the Starbucks, but maybe we more likely need caffeine which leads me to my next two points.
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Buy food instead of eating out
Frugal friends, the grocery store is your friend. Repeat after me, “Friend.” Good. Now that that is established relish in the fact that you can stock up on items that you can prepare at your home rather than paying for someone else to prepare it every night at a higher cost. What’s that? You aren’t the greatest chef? That’s ok. There’s this thing you probably have called the Internet. It has endless recipes. An additional perk of this frugal step is that once you get good at cooking you will look great in the eyes of your significant other.
Do the same for drinks and eliminate the ones you can’t make at home
As I said in #2, I love my Starbucks but the total starts to pile up at the end of the month. If you are like me you may need to sacrifice the flavor of those delicious sugars they use, but no one is saying to cut caffeine out entirely. As I said in #3, buy your own coffee. You will save a great deal of money and you won’t have take the morning trek on those rainy days to your local Starbucks. Or, consolidate five or six of your monthly Starbucks trips into one and buy a bag of one of their famous roasts. Ok fine, buy one macchiato for yourself too. I won’t tell anyone just this once. Also, can’t make a soda at home? Good. Don’t drink that stuff. Don’t even buy it on your grocery trips. It’s awful for you and drains your account one bottle at a time.
Create/restart a savings account and watch what you save
Ah the savings account, the long since forgotten aspect of my banking youth. When I switched banks I was recently told that I had to start a savings account. While I wasn’t such a fan of this idea initially (Why? Stubbornness most likely) I immediately was a fan when I saw that my small $50 investment had almost doubled by the end of my first month. While it wasn’t a large sum it was great to see a few dollars in my account when I most needed it. Some banks even have features where you can opt to have a dollar or two be transferred into your account after each debit purchase.
Cut the credit cards
“But I have $20,000 in credit,” you may say. That’s great. Now keep it that way! Credit cards should only be used in dire situations. If you have ever been told, “If you can’t afford it, don’t charge it.” I hope you took the advice. Credit card debt isn’t fun. Unless it’s an emergency, remind yourself of advice #1 and second guess that $300 sock purchase.
Need furniture? Try Craigslist!
Many of us have heard horror stories of Craigslist encounters. This is one step that you should partake in only if you have common sense and the ability to vet people through primarily online communication. It is a gamble but the ratio of well-intentioned people to villainous deviants on Craigslist probably still falls heavily in favor of the well-intentioned. If someone seems like a trustworthy seller and the furniture checks out for no signs of bedbugs you just found a significantly cheaper piece of furniture than the one you otherwise would have bought at a showroom or Ikea. Another alternative to Craigslist can be yard sales as well.
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Become the king or queen of coupons
Couponing used to be something most of our parents obsessively did. My mom used to bring at Rolodex of coupons to wherever we went. Groceries? Coupon. Clothes? Two coupons. The lady was stocked. It used to be annoying, but now that I get the same elation of saving $2.99 on eggs I understand where she’s coming from. A bit of my childhood has died over my elation of saving $2.99, but it still feels great! If you choose to coupon, track how much you save for a month. You’ll most likely be hooked on the lifestyle after that.
Go in as a group on a wholesale club and shop in bulk
For a small upfront annual fee you and a few friends can bulk shop from clubs such as BJ’s and Sam’s Club. These clubs usually have great prices in exchange for larger quantities of items, which works out great if you live with a few roommates. The only few drawbacks is that you and your friends will most likely need to coordinate a time that works all of you to shop at once but that is nothing to fret about. Now all you have to worry about is where to put those seven pounds of mayonnaise you just bought for $4.99.
Walk or take public transportation over driving when possible
As a New Yorker, this one is easy for me to say. For those outside of the bustling metropolitan cities, and some in the cities, this may be harder to do. However, if you can plan to leave a few minutes extra and take one of these alternative methods you will be saving money on gas, mileage and you will have a great cardio exercise to start and wind down your work day!
Track your daily spendings and mark anything that can be omitted
Tracking your spending can be tedious but is the best way to actively gauge your daily spending. By doing this you can see that you spent $35 on the corner store deli this week. Sure, those lox bagels are delicious, but maybe it’s time to cut back a bit. By tracking your spending the numbers will stare right back at you and let you know on what can be reduced or outright eliminated from your spending.
Plan a “Finance Freeze” challenge for yourself
A “Finance Freeze” is a great way to challenge your determination to your frugal lifestyle. Start off small. Tell yourself that you won’t spend any money one afternoon while you’re out with your friends and move on from there. This can span a few days or certain time frames during the day. If you are a big snacker or opt to eat out everyday at work set your goal to not buy anything during your work day. After a short time of this your bank account will breathe a little easier and your determination will be stronger than before.
Save money on books and media at the library
Need to buy the latest A Song of Ice and Fire book? Maybe catch up on your Netflix Instant Queue? What’s that? You don’t want to spend the money on either at this point? Good! There’s an alternative for you, my frugal friends! Since the advent of the Internet we have all taken the library for granted, but that should change. For no charge (late fees aside) you can renew your library card and take out as many books and DVDs your heart desires! You may need to wait a few months to see Iron Man 48, but your bank account will thank you in the long run. If you want to take things to the next level, visit the library to check out one of these investing books.
Sign up for various coupon sites
Groupon, LivingSocial and Thrillist are just a few sites that offer you the chance to gain access to various savings around any major city in America. Some of these offers are drastically reduced from their regular prices and provide you with an ample opportunity to treat yourself to a small splurge (if you have been saving, of course) and reward yourself with an open bar on a rooftop or maybe a hiking trip outside of the city. There are tons of other sites like the three I mentioned that may cater to exactly what you are looking for.
Save on gym memberships, work out from home
Getting in shape is a great way to keep you motivated and have the endorphins flowing. Working out is a great way to relieve the stress of burdening financial times, and many of us insist on going to the gym to achieve this relief. While the gym does offer better equipment and more visual motivation than what you find at home it also offers a hit on your already strained finances. By working out from home you can save those monthly membership costs and channel them towards some of those bills you need to knock out. For a good starter, look into the Core Challenge for a solid workout that doesn’t cost a thing.
Find free activities going on in your area
So you want to meet new people in your community but you don’t have any money? No problem! By scanning the Internet for sites such as Meetup.com or other specialized message boards you can find cheap or free events going on in your neighborhood. Is there an event you would love to be apart of but can’t afford admission? Why not see if the event is in need of volunteers? Commend yourself for wanting to new people and new experiences. Now commend yourself once more for not being stopped by your limited funds!
If a car is an essential part of your daily commute, then if would be wise to consider a carpool system with your fellow coworkers or friends that work nearby. If you live near or with your significant other this can be a great way to spend some quality time together before heading into a long work day. This will save you money on gas and miles on your car. As long as you have punctual carpool buddies you will be making a great stride towards saving money in the long and short term. Which leads us to…
Perform monthly maintenance on your car and other products to avoid larger repairs in the future
Performing monthly maintenance on your appliances and vehicles is a great way to stave off pricier repairs that may build up in the not too distant future. For the automotive incompetent, like your’s truly, it may be best to perform these maintenance checks with the use of Google videos leading the way. If you don’t have a mechanic friend who is willing to barter services with you, then it may be time to establish a rapport with your local autobody shop. You may be spending money on these repairs, but you will most likely save greatly in the long run.
Hold yourself accountable
No excuses! Why hasn’t being frugal worked up to this point? Look inside yourself before you place the blame on your car or the cute barista at Starbucks that has been luring you in there two times a day. Sure, some of you came into your limited financial means due to some unforeseen expenditures that you couldn’t avoid. Yet, there are a lot more of you that are in this position due to the inability to turn down friends for a sixth night out this week or due to your love of expensive delivery food. It’s fine if that’s your case. We all learn and grow at our own pace. Now that you’ve identified yourself as the perpetrator in the case of your missing funds it’s time to hold yourself accountable. Don’t let it happen anymore.
If all else fails, earn more!
If all of these attempts at kick-starting your frugality, then I have one last bit of advice for you: Work more. A lot more. If you find yourself unable to be follow these cheap living tips, which sounds like a cop-out to everyone around you, then it’s time to buckle down and work your tail off. If you find yourself working a 40 hour a week job and you’re still not covering your monthly expenses, then I recommend applying for some part-time restaurant, tutoring and/or babysitting jobs. These jobs are good for making additional side cash on a part-time basis. Or if you don’t want to work an additional job you could, you know, BE FRUGAL!
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