Frugal living is one of the most powerful enablers to saving more money when starting out in your financial journey. It comes in when you are already working as many hours as you would like and you currently don’t have any means to increase your income in a short time.
Living cheaply allows you to put away most of your income. You can use the saved money to:
- Invest in your qualifications and secure better-paying jobs
- Make investments
- Reduce how much you have to work to live a comfortable life
- Build financial independence
The Frugal Living Trinity
Before we go on, take some time to understand the frugal living trinity. These are three golden rules I use to embrace cheap living without taking it as a punishment.
- Forget the idea that more money = more happiness
- Get maximum value out of each item you spend on
- Reduce the waste you create. Don’t buy then realize you don’t need it
Like most things financially, turning living cheap into a habit will yield better long-term results. You won’t feel like you are constantly compromising once you get used to the drill. Here are some simple things you can do to get started.
1. Practice Mindful Spending
Before making a purchase, ask yourself if it’s a necessity or a want. Take a moment to evaluate whether you truly need the item or if you can find an alternative or secondhand option.
Practicing mindful spending involves being conscious and intentional about your purchasing decisions. It means taking the time to evaluate whether a purchase aligns with your values, needs, and long-term goals.
A good way to practice mindful spending is to take a week or more to think about a purchase before making it. This delayed gratification will help you:
- Curb impulsive purchases
- Take time to check reviews and identify the best quality product for the price
- Research and compare prices
- Find and bookmark any coupons, offers, or offer dates
- Avoid emotional spending since you will buy things later
Create a complete thought process that you take your purchases through. Sort of how governments create and deliberate over a budget before approval.
2. Keep Receipts and Actually Return Items You Don’t Like or Use
Modern-day shopping can be very unpredictable. There is either no chance to test something before buying it or we just don’t care to. More often than not, you will find a purchase you made isn’t what you thought it would be.
In this case, most people will let the item sit in the garage or attic hoping to use it one day. That is money just lying around.
The right thing to do will be to return that item as soon as you realize it isn’t what you wanted. Ideally, this should be within a day or two of receiving it.
To achieve this, you will need the receipt – unless you shop online. Mindful spending and well-researched buys will minimize the need for this but returns are inevitable.
3. Have a Meal Plan
Food is a basic need. As such, we spend tons of money in a month getting the correct meals for sustenance.
Going into it blindly is a great way to make expensive last-minute purchases to quell your hunger. You will find yourself on Uber Eats or ordering ready-made food more often than you should if you don’t:
- Create a complete meal plan for the week or month
- Buy basic ingredients in advance
- Schedule some time to turn those ingredients into real food.
Take some time each week to plan your meals and create a grocery list accordingly. This will prevent impulse buying and reduce food waste.
It will also improve the quality of food you eat hence reducing the possibility of ending up with an expensive health condition.
4. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – Make The 3Rs Work
The three Rs are a great way to do away with unnecessary expenses without turning your life into a miserable miser’s paradise.
Reducing means you evaluate your life and identify a theme or philosophy. After this, you can model all your purchases on this template to ascertain whether they will fit into your lifestyle or if they will be an expense that will soon turn boring.
Use again and again
Reusing is all about repurposing or using something more times than anyone else would. For instance, going for durable shopping bags that you can use multiple times is a good way to reuse them. Turning an old towel into a mop instead of buying a new mop is more reusing.
When you can no longer reuse, recycle. You can handle the recycling yourself or get some coins by sending the product in question to a recycling center. Since not everything is recyclable, you could make a conscious decision to purchase items that are easier to reuse and recycle to being with.
Idea: My wife loves crocheting. I see her recycling knitting thread from old sweaters, garments, or crocheted items and mixing it with some new thread. The end product always looks amazing since she lightly dyes the thread herself
5. Find Good Value Deals in Everything You Buy
Frugal individuals always prioritize value when it comes to their purchases, whether it’s a fresh pair of sneakers or a grocery store meal.
Living frugally means maximizing the benefits you get from your money, ensuring you get the most out of every penny spent.
Rather than solely focusing on finding cheaper alternatives, consider the combination of quality and price when making buying decisions.
The aim is to invest in products that will continue to function effectively and provide value for years to come, such as a reliable laptop or cell phone.
Going for a known brand impact drill that sells for $100 would be a wiser investment than buying a generic unit for $50.
The high-quality known brand unit will last you longer and will have amazing resale value. Moreover, aftersale support will be tremendous meaning you can service it if something goes wrong.
A better trick would be buying a used known brand drill as opposed to going with the cheaper and new generic unit.
6. Pay Off High-Interest Debts and Avoid Unnecessary Debt
If you’ve read a couple of our posts, you’ll by now know that we are huge proponents of paying high-interest rate debt as soon as possible.
The longer that debt hangs around the more you keep paying on accrued interest rates. In some cases, it might even grow fast enough to outpace your long-term passive investments and interesting earning savings.
Chopping down on those loans will steadily save you money and eventually, you will have no loans and more money in your pockets. You will leave cheap with more money to spare.
7. Use Everything Until You Run it to The Ground
This sort of lends to my idea of reusing and recycling. When you buy high quality (or whatever quality) product, you can save money by using it until it is absolutely worn out.
Resist the urge to toss something away or replace it just because it is not fashionable or you don’t want anything to do with it.
If it still works okay or repairs are cheap, there is no point in buying a replacement. You will have to keep whatever it is you are running to the ground maintained properly and looking good.
Otherwise, you will look like a miser with no self-worth. No, I don’t mean to wear torn jeans. I don’t mean to wear bare-thread shoes. I don’t mean to drive a dilapidated car.
I mean use things a little bit more within reason. The goal is to be cheap, not to look very cheap.
8. Find Cheaper Alternative Entertainment
Seek out free or inexpensive entertainment options such as local community events, outdoor activities, or exploring public parks and trails.
Replace expensive things in your entertainment budget with cheaper alternatives that will still get the job done. You don’t have to buy expensive wine or whiskey. You don’t have to throw an expensive birthday party at an exclusive club.
Making trade-offs and still getting the task done will keep you entertained while saving you more money.
9. Grow Your Own Food or Visit the Market
Buying in bulk at a supermarket can save you money even on groceries. Buying fruit and vegetables and even meat from the farmer’s market can save you even more money. A farmers market is a great stop to get fresh produce at a good cost.
The only problem is local farmer’s markets are highly seasonal and you will have to modify your diet to suit what the market can offer.
Better still, you can do your own gardening for basics if you have the space. Gardening can be therapeutic and will be a great source of very very cheap vegetables, fruit, grains, and even meat.
If you can’t garden, you can be friends with a farmer or gardener and buy surplus produce from them at a discounted price.
ProTip: When at the farmer’s market or your friend’s farm, look for less-than-perfect or okay produce that might not be visually appealing for supermarket shelves but is still good enough for your pantry, freezer, and stomach.
10. Buy a Reliable Used Car and a Bike
Yes. I know, I love public transport. But sometimes, it might not be as practical and economical as you think. If you live far away from any public transport lines, you will always waste time or have a hard time getting to work or doing your chores.
A good way out would be buying a very reliable but used old car that you pay in cash or with a very low loan that you can clear fast.
Ensure it is a well-maintained vehicle from a manufacturer with a good reputation. It doesn’t have to look good or cool. It should just work without fail. Also, ensure it is small and not a fuel guzzler.
Now, you will be using it only when absolutely necessary to save on fuel. A car could save you hours if public transport is not reliable – time you can spend with your family or put into a side hustle.
It could make shopping in bulk, hunting for deals, or dumpster diving simpler.
The bike will be the quick errand vehicle you can use for local hops when you don’t have to go into the interstates. There’s no point in firing up the car for a 3-mile drive to the local supermarket – especially if what you are going to buy can fit in the carrier on your bike.
Oh, and by bike, I mean something useful with a rack or two to carry stuff on. Not those performance road bikes or mountain bikes that even have trouble carrying a bottle of water.