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11 Ways to Master the Art of Frugalness

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Did you know that spending less can give you more? Mind-blowing, right? But it’s a fact, American consumerism has not only dragged us into debt and polluted the environment, but it has also made us extremely depressed.

Being frugal will allow you to be happy with less and help you make mindful financial choices that will free you from debt. You’ll be able to enjoy the little – and bigger – things in life, like traveling or investing.

Contrary to what most perceive, a frugal lifestyle does not mean living in deprivation, but instead, learning to prioritize real needs over frivolous expenses that provide momentary gratification. The key to financial success is spending less than what you earn. Are you ready to master the art of frugalness?

1. Reevaluate your Transportation

People spend most of their yearly income on their cars. Insurance, fuel, parking, repairs, and maintenance, expenses add up. So consider having only one, especially a fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicle. If it’s possible, carpool, opt for public transportation, take your bike or walk to work!

Possible Action Steps:

  • Shop your Car Insurance – Make sure you are getting the best deal.
  • Reevaluate deductibles and insurance limit. Get only the amount of coverage you need.
  • Does it make sense to carpool or take the bus to work? Figure out how much you would save if you did.

2. More House Than You Need?

If it is possible, move to a smaller house that is comfortable for you and your family. It’s cheaper to maintain a smaller household, and you will spend less on utilities. And very important, pay them on time and in full to avoid extra charges.

Downsizing is a great way to reduce expenses and, since housing is often our largest expense, this is a great place to start. If you can’t downsize think about ways to decrease your living expenses. Can you offer a spare room to a friend? Is your guest house a good candidate for AirBNB?

Possible Action Steps:

  • Shop housing in your area and within a reasonable radius. Does your housing choice make sense based on your finances?
  • Do you have space for a roommate? Consider your family with college-age kids who may want to be “out of the house” or perhaps you have a friend whose older relative needs to downsize. Roommates don’t always have to be strangers. Look into options.
  • Can you AirBNB for partial income? A friend of mine who works for the government recently needed to AirBNB in southern California where he was called in to help with fire cleanup. The AirBNB place he rented got a nice, quiet pet-free tenant and some extra income as well!

3. Adjust the Thermostat

Save energy at home by adjusting the thermostat to 76° in the summer, and to 70° in the winter. Set the HVAC to auto, make sure your home is insulated and windows are sealed. Unplug any electronic appliance that is in use and make sure they are energy efficient. If possible, hang your clothes to dry. There are lots of ways to cut costs on electricity. In fact, if you haven’t done so already, check out my recommendation for 7 steps you can take to reduce your electricity bill.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Start off with just 3 degrees higher or lower than what you are used to. Gradually adjust your “normal” range until you are comfortable with 10 degrees different than where you started. How does that impact your bill?
  • This summer, open some windows when you can and let the cool breeze in. Small steps will add up!

4. Ditch Cable

Get rid of cable and sign up for a streaming service. Adopt a hobby that does not involve a remote control, get a library card and rent books, music, movies, read magazines and newspapers for free. Take advantage of free family events in public spaces. I know you have heard this tactic before, but have you done it? Worried you can’t go without? See if your cable company can put your account on vacation mode for a month so you can see what life is like without cable.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Call the cable company and see what their cancellation policy is and discuss plans. If you can’t cancel, see if you can adjust.
  • Make a commitment to make a cut. Do you have cable, YouTube Red, NetFlix and Hulu? Cut one for 90 days.
  • Reevaluate your current subscription level. I went into Netflix the other day, thinking about canceling and found they had a lower tier plan. I downgraded instead.

5. Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Coffee

Choosing a healthier lifestyle can save you money in the short and long run. Cigarettes, junk food, alcohol, and fancy coffee are not making you healthier and are very expensive. Cut back or nip them. Drink more water, and if possible, exercise at home.

Can’t give up your morning Coffee? Consider brewing it at home or hitting the kitchen at work instead of buying it on your way in. A couple of dollars a day for coffee really adds up.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Check with your health insurance company. They may offer programs or treatment for nicotine addiction.
  • Treat yourself to fancy ground coffee for your in-home coffee machine. It isn’t a sudden “step-down” in quality, but it isn’t as expensive as buying out either.

6. Dine at Home

Being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t go out once in a while, but you can consider eating at home before heading to the movies or out to dinner. Choose breakfast or dinner over lunch and ask for the specials. Ask your group of friends to plan weekly get-together nights to play board games, have a potluck or watch movies at home.

Potential Action Steps:

  • Start small and schedule a get together with a small group of friends at your house once in the next month. You choose the theme but don’t be shy about asking your guests to bring a side.
  • Meal prep ahead of time and make it easy to succeed. Heading out to soccer practice? Have snack bags ready to go.

7. Research Before You Travel

Research before traveling. Chose to travel during the off-season and learn to travel on a small budget. You can also buy deals restaurant, hotel or spa deals on websites like Travelzoo or Groupon.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Out of town for work? See what free events the local area has while you are there. In Los Angeles, for example, there is something FREE to do every day of the week! Check out this list at socalmuseums.org.
  • Going on a road trip? Pack ahead to limit spending on the road. Drinks, food and snacks add up.

8. Pack Your Own Lunch

Forget about ordering food at work, it’s expensive. Instead, brown bag it. Cook your meals, pack your lunch bag and brew your coffee. This can save you up to $2,000 a year. Eating less meat can help as well. Try Meatless Mondays and vegetarian recipes. My favorite, cheesy pasta. It is great for dinner and packs well too!

Possible Action Steps:

  • Prep as much of your lunch ahead of time as possible. Cut veggies, pre-package ranch dipping, bag up fruit. Make it easy to grab and go even when you are rushed. This goes for mom, dad and the kids!
  • Partner up with a co-worker. Make a deal to alternate lunch packing. It will hold you accountable and give you both a great way to keep lunch interesting.
  • Keep it simple. It is OK to still just do PB&J with some chips as an adult. You don’t have to deprive yourself but it’s OK to be simple some days.
  • Consider buying in bulk and stock up. Plan your grocery list and meals according to the specials on the grocery store or supermarket. And don’t forget to check their price-match policy.

9. Buy Items That are “Pre-Loved”

If you have to make a purchase, make an effort in buying second-hand items, or ask family or friends if anyone has the item you need. If you do decide to buy new, sign up for the loyalty rewards and take advantage of coupons.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Shop second-hand. This doesn’t mean the thrift store (although I find some awesome stuff there!), consider Poshmark, threadUP, etc.
  • Shop at discount stores. Ross, TJ Max, etc these stores really do have some nice clothes at a discounted price.
  • Upcycle Your Current Clothes. There are so many pins on Pinterest for ways to upcycle clothing. Depending on your style, some of these are super neat!

10. Turn Your Passion into Profit

Find a way to capitalize on your hobbies, like a side job as a ghost writer if you enjoy writing or selling your crafts on Etsy. Sell things you no longer use and are only wasting up space to consignment stores or organize a garage sale.

Possible Action Steps:

  • Find FREE items on Craigslist then upcycle and resell them.
  • Challenge yourself to sell 3 unneeded items this week (use Ebay, Craigslist, Etsy, you choose).
  • Find one client this month you can help with your skills. No matter what or who you are, you have something you can do to help someone.

11. Pay Cash

And finally, forget about your credit card, at least until your financial situation is settled. Stick to paying in cash and keep a budget. Work on getting rid of debts with the highest interest rates and pay them off as soon as possible.

Possible Action Steps:

  • The cash envelope method is great to get started. It allows you to see the money going out which will, hopefully, give you an incentive to spend less!
  • Don’t want to deal with cash or cash envelopes? Commit to no new debt. Use your cards but stay within your means.

Final Thoughts

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to do everything in extreme. Take things step by step. Figure out what your goals are first and then look for ways you can be more frugal to reach those goals.

If you hadn’t noticed, the main theme of this post is to find an action step. What is the very next step you can take towards achieving your goal of becoming more frugal?

The ultimate goal for most of us is financial freedom. How can being frugal help you get there?

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