How To Live A Frugal Life

Since the post I published on how I saved $4000 as a nanny over the summer, I have been getting a lot of feedback from friends asking for more specific help.  I know that for a lot of people, the hardest part of saving is curbing excessive spending and impulse buying.

Opportunity cost, a term used by economists when describing the “real cost” (non-monetary), is something that I have been considering a lot lately as I have really been buckling down with my budget.  For example, I love the beach and I love bathing suits.  I have totally been loving the one-piece bathing suit trend, but they are not cheap.  I have bought a few from Aerie, and at regular price they are typically around $40.  So let’s say I am buying the bathing suit at full price (if you know me you know that I NEVER buy something at full price, but bear with me.)  I make $15 an hour so that bathing suit (when you add tax and such) equates to about 3 hours of work.  It also equates to around 4 meals at a sit down restaurant, a tank of gas, and about a quarter of the round-trip plane ticket I purchased for next year’s spring break.  Considering the opportunity costs of things helps me to be a smarter spender.

When it comes to buying something that I really need or have been wanting for a while (and has been deemed worth the opportunity cost), I consider a few things:

  1. Is it something I can buy discounted/secondhand or is it worth a greater investment?
  2. How much use can I get out of this and when will I need to replace it or parts of it?
  3. Where can I buy it for the lowest price? Do they have it on Amazon Prime?
  4. Do I have coupons? Is there an upcoming sale that I can wait for?
  5. Is there a generic version?

I only allow myself to impulse buy when I know I will have a lot of excess money in the budget for the week and it is for presents for other people or a donation to a cause that I feel is worthy.

A huge way to save money daily is being very mindful of what you eat.  Eating out costs so much money.  As I mentioned in my post on keeping balance in a busy life, I am out of the house almost every day, usually during at least one or two meal times.  Going without food is not something my body agrees with, so snacks and regular meals are a must.  It is super easy to get fast food for dinner or ever to stop by McDonald’s to grab some fries or the gas station to get some trail mix to hold you over until your next meal, but those few dollars add up, especially if it is a daily or bi-daily occurrence.  Eating at home or packing meals and snacks is crucial for saving money.

I generally try eat healthy and prepare as many fresh meals as possible.  In my family, we buy things in bulk at Sam’s Club and we shop at ALDI or Walmart for generic off brand foods. Of course there are certain foods that we do buy the name brand of, simply because the taste of the off brand just does not cut it, but you can find tasty off brands of most things.  Also, if you like baked goods and fresh baked breads, Walmart and some other bakeries will discount day-old products or products that are nearing their sell-by date.  These products are still good to eat but do not meet the “baked today” freshness standards that many places have.  When we find a good deal on breads or rolls, we will buy what they have and freeze them.

Being an adult costs a lot of money and there are so many tips I can share on saving in different areas, but I am going to keep this post brief.  I intend on making this into another mini-series since I have gotten positive feedback on these sorts of posts.

To close off, here are a few more general tips on living a frugal life:

  1. Live within your means! Set, be aware of, and respect your financial boundaries.
  2. Draw the line between frugal and cheap!
  3. Come up with cheaper social activities!
  4. Find cheaper ways to do the things that you love! For example, I love going to parks. Most of the parks around me are free on weekdays but a few dollars on the weekends. If I am planning a picnic with friends or want to just go to the park, I schedule these things on weekdays to save the few dollars.
  5. Use Groupon! This site sells coupons for all sorts of restaurants, concerts, races, touristy things, etc.
  6. Know the difference between wants and need!
  7. Always set aside money for tithing or donating to a worthy cause! This is really important.  This practice helps you to remain grounded and to not become so obsessed with money that it rules your life.  There is always somebody who needs your help.

I hope my advice on living a more frugal life can make a positive impact on you! Happy saving!

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