7 simple rules for frugal living

Do you ever wonder where all your money goes? It’s frustrating to feel like you never have enough in the bank–especially when it’s time to pay the bills or to buy that sweet item you’ve been eyeing.

It requires a few changes to ease that frustration. But–good news–it can be done! Adopting a few new mindsets will eliminate excess spending and help you keep some money around for the situations in which it really counts.

In frugal living every dollar matters.

We’re going to get frugal. That doesn’t mean we’re getting cheap or miserly. Rather, it means we’re getting judicious about where our money goes and making sure we’re getting maximum value for each dollar we spend–because in frugal living every dollar matters.

So here’s how to make each dollar in your account go a little farther.

7 simple rules for frugal living.

Eliminate mindless spending.

We have a “sign-up” habit in my household. We quickly and liberally sign up for little subscriptions: an online newspaper subscription, a daily journaling subscription, a premium channel on Amazon. Each of these subscriptions cost very little individually–but taken in sum, they start to drain our account.

When we found ourselves wondering why there wasn’t more money in our account at the end of each month, we tracked back our spending and found we were spending a lot of money on items and subscriptions which we surreptitiously purchased and then ceased to think about. Most of them cost us less than $10 a month. But, once again, when taken in sum, they produced quite a drain on our account.

What forgotten subscriptions ding your account each month? What services are you paying for that you really don’t derive much value from? If the only time you’re thinking about a service is when it withdraws money from your account, it’s time to let it go.

Don’t buy on impulse.

In frugal living, every dollar matters. Where each dollar goes warrants consideration. We want to avoid letting our dollars go to whims of passion, clever packaging, or a rush we get from purchasing. We want to consider our purchases. That may mean sticking only to the shopping list when we hit the grocery store. Or only buying items online when we know exactly what we hope to get.

I’ve adopted a variation of this rule to limit my own impulse shopping. If an item–like a new record from a cool band–catches my eye while shopping or scrolling, I’ll note it, and then sit on it for a week. If after a week, I remember that I wanted that item and still feel a want for it, then I’ll consider purchasing it.

Never, ever, ever use credits.

The compounding interest on a credit card costs you more than you think. Think of it this way: for each item you purchase on a credit, the cost goes up each day until you finally pay it off. 

To be fair, most credit card companies give a month before interest accrues. But if you carry a balance–which most of us do when we use credit–then the cost of your purchases increases daily. It’s best not to get involved in that.

Some frugal folks use rewards based credit cards for ALL their recurring purchases. They pay off the balance each month and then use the accrued rewards to finance vacations and holiday presents. One must know thyself to do this. As for MYSELF, I don’t yet trust me enough to pay off that balance each month.

Don’t pay someone else to do what you can do.

Washing your car. Mowing your lawn. It’s likely there are some activities you’re paying someone else to do that you can do yourself. 

YouTube enables us to do a ton of do-it-yourself fix up jobs. Here are some jobs I’ve learned to do for free through YouTube:

  • Install a new motor in a dishwasher.
  • Installed a new control on a microwave.
  • Put new heating coils in my oven. 
  • Installed new window motors in my car.
  • Learned the drum groove for Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.”

The main consideration here is where we’re paying someone else to do things we can do ourselves. What are you paying someone else to do that you can likely do?

Give yourself the satisfaction of doing something and save some bank by going a bit D-I-Y.

Buy second-hand items.

I haven’t bought new clothes in years. It’s not that I never update my wardrobe. It’s just that I buy my clothes second-hand. I’m a thrift store shopper.

Doing my shopping at thrift stores enabled me to buy brands I might never consider in the retail marketplace: Doc Martin, Uggs, North Face. I’ve scored a cashmere sweater. The point here is that I don’t believe my expression of personal fashion suffers because I don’t buy new clothes (but I’m also 44-years old… so I may not be on the cutting edge of fashion).

I feel a sense of justice in buying second-hand, too. Most resale stores are run by charities–so patronizing them provides for a good cause. AND, buying things like clothes second-hand removes me from the questionable human and environmental practices of many garment producers. A lot of textiles are produced in pretty deplorable conditions for human workers and drain natural resources–like water. Buying second-hand displaces my money from those practices and allows me to buy brands that are more conscientious–which are generally more expensive in the retail marketplace.

An addendum to this rule is considering how you can get items for free. I read at least 40 books a year. That would be quite a tab if I paid for those books. But I don’t. My community has this amazing depository of books where they let you take the books home for free. You know what that place is: the library. Your local library is likely ecstatic to have you come browse.

There are online marketplaces where folks are giving things away, too. Search for “buy nothing” in your area in your search engine or on Facebook. You’ll find a nearby group where folks are willing to let you have their old moving boxes, kids toys, mismatched furniture, raw construction materials and more, simply for the cost of coming to pick the items up yourself.

Use the heck out of the stuff you pay for.

We tend to overlook items we pay for in taxes: like our local libraries and parks. You’re paying for them, like it or not, so use them! Exhaust that stuff. 

We tend to overlook subscription services, too. That Disney+ subscription you haven’t used since you watched “Hamiltion”? It’s time to use or lose it. You’re gym membership might be there, too (don’t stop exercising, though–good health helps one remain frugal!). The end goal is to assess what you’re paying for and what you’re actually using. Be real and ditch the things you don’t use.

Borrow things.

Yeah, as noted, books are a great thing to borrow. So are tools–as long as you know folks willing to trust you. Many of us can honestly identify a tool or two we’ve bought and used for one specific job and now sits in a bin underneath another unused tool we bought for another specific job… Those items might have been borrowed and returned.

The idea to address here is to see if we can temporarily lay hands on items we have limited use for. Borrow the folding table you need for a yard sale. Borrow your neighbor’s power washer. Most folks really don’t mind you asking. Really.

These seven rules should have you well on your to having a little more coin in the bank–and not hurting while you’re saving.

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