The decision to practice frugal living can be something that is forced upon us. If money is tight and you need to make savings, then we often look at how frugality can become a part of our lives. However, for many people, frugality is a choice. In today’s commerce driven world, there are a million forces out there trying to get our money, and it takes strength to resist these. However, frugality and making savings can easily become as much fun as going out and spending!
In 2018, ING, a Dutch bank, did a study that found that having savings were a major factor in a person’s overall happiness. It is well known that shopping can be addictive, due to the brain releasing a ‘pleasure drug’ called Dopamine when you buy something. What is less well known, is that this exact same effect can be achieved by SAVING money. The achievement of not spending and seeing your bank balance stop dropping, and in fact, growing over time, can be just as addicting as shopping sprees, and much better for your financial health.
In this article we will give you tips on how to prepare for your frugal life, live your frugal life, and how to then reap the rewards of being frugal.
What does living frugally mean?
Frugal living is really practicing a form of financial mindfulness. It is being aware of all your spending as it relates to the funds you have available, and ensuring that you are making the best choices in terms of what you buy. It may involve choosing a cheaper option, but it does not have to mean being cheap!
Why live frugally?
With a frugal lifestyle, you can take control. Stop letting money rule your life, and make your money work for you. Not only will this help your finances and health, but it will work wonders for your self-confidence.
Can you be frugal and still live well?
Of course! Even the mega rich practice frugality in their lives. If someone had the choice of buying their Ferrari at either one car showroom for $150,000 dollars or at another for $200,000, then choosing the cheaper option is a classic example of frugality! It is just eliminating unnecessary spending and ensuring that you are not wasting money.
Preparing for your frugal living
1. Find out exactly where you are financially
This could be the hardest part, but it’s so worth it! Gather all your financial data for the last few months – bank statements, credit card statement, bills etc. Find out exactly how much money you have coming in each month, how much savings, how much debt, and what all your fixed costs are i.e. every single penny that goes out, and when.
2. Analyze your spending
Once you know your financial position, then it’s time to look at your spending habits. Keep a diary for a few weeks, and detail everything you spend money on. You will probably be surprised at what you find! This will be a place for you to find some great ideas on how you can create your budget.
3. Create a budget
Once you have completed steps 1 & 2, then you will be able to create your budget. There are many budgeting tools and apps out there that are free or very low cost, or you can even just do it with good old fashioned pen and paper! Analyze your spending and financial position and write down exactly what’s coming in and coming out, and highlight where you can make savings. It is also a good idea to create a separate savings account if you don’t already have one, so you can put all your excess funds into it.
4. Prioritize paying off debt (and don’t get any more!)
It is great to start growing your savings, but always remember that it is best to get rid of any debt as soon as you can, because you are paying for that debt each and every month in the form of interest. The quicker you can pay this off, then the quicker you save that cost. In addition, avoid using high interest things like credit cards if you can, as it is so easy to build up costs on these. Put those credit cards away and use debit cards instead, so you only spend what you have.
Living your frugal life
5. Plan your food/groceries shop
Never head to the store without a clear plan in place. Which meals you need to make is a good start, and then you can build a list from there. Not having a plan can lead to buying things you don’t use, which is a waste of both food and money.
In addition, choose the store you go to wisely. The differences in cost between different supermarkets can be huge!
Do you know what things you actually own? Have you ever bought something, then realized you already had something similar? You won’t believe what you might find if you scour your kitchen drawers or your wardrobe – maybe even things you forgot you ever owned!
Knowing exactly what you already have helps you avoid buying things you already have, but also gives you an insight into your spending, so you can get more efficient.
7. Budget for your luxuries
Living frugally does not have to mean you have to deny yourself the things that make you happy. We all need to splurge and treat ourselves. However, becoming more mindful on how you do this can save time. A little planning and comparing on prices can cut the costs of those little luxuries by half, whatever they may be!
8. Cancel that gym membership
Gym memberships cost a fortune, and far too many of us never use them. A survey in the UK in 2020 showed that a staggering 12% of the people in the UK have a gym membership that they never use.
These days, virtually any fitness program can be found on YouTube. With just a cheap exercise mat, you can do many different exercise routines in the comfort of your own home (with no strangers around to watch you sweat!). Alternatively get a pair of trainers, and run or walk around the neighbourhood.
9. Get on your bike
Transport can be expensive. Whether you go by car or public transport, the costs can mount up. However – see if it’s possible to add bike rides into your life. Obviously if you can commute to work that way then great, but even if that is not possible, then if you can run errands, pick up the kids from school or just zip around your area, then it will save a fortune on the costs of running a car or bus/train fares.
10. Cut those bills!
It can sometimes take a little work, but these days there are competing companies out there for pretty much all utilities – whether energy, internet, mobile phones. All of them are offering out great deals to new customers, so you can make significant savings by regularly checking what is out there and changing providers.
11. Learn to cook your favourite comfort foods
Love burgers, pizzas, fries? Look forward to your fast food treats, or restaurant meals? Most yummy foods are pretty easy to make, and if you do it yourself, are usually WAY cheaper to do! Google and YouTube are your recipe friends – you can find detailed instructions of how to prepare any meal!
12. Prepare lunches and snacks at home
Once you have learned how to make all your favourite meals and snacks, then get some Tupperware and a Thermos and start taking lunches and tea and coffee with you when you go out. This alone could be the biggest saving you make!
13. Cancel all your unnecessary subscriptions
These days many activities are billed on a subscription basis. Whether Netflix/Amazon Prime or other entertainment products, gyms, mobile phones, TV/cable. They all love to lock you in to a steady monthly amount that you pay.
You can go through a simple process for each one of these: First – ask yourself if you really really need it. If you definitely do, then check if you are on the best value deal for you.
14. Take a pause before you spend anything
Give yourself a 20-30 minute breathing space before spending any money that’s outside of your set budget. Consider; do you really need it? Is there a cheaper alternative? Remind yourself of the peace of mind that being debt free and having savings brings.
Reaping the rewards of your frugal living
A mindful, intentional approach to your financial life can provide many benefits. Simply feeling in control of your spending can be an incredibly empowering feeling, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have more coming in than going out will work wonders for your stress levels. In addition, watching your savings grow, and then being in a position to look at other ways of growing your wealth via investments, can open up a whole new world!