How to be Frugal – Best Ways to Save Money
Back in the days of the Great Depression, knowing how to be frugal was a necessary virtue. Although some today believe that being frugal is analogous to being ‘cheap’, or Scrooge-like, this is really not the case. My dictionary defines frugal as, 1. not wasteful; thrifty and 2. inexpensive or meager. No one wants to be wasteful, especially with food and resources. Being thrifty is sometimes viewed as synonymous with cheap, perhaps only because many younger people interpret this as an old fashioned word. Learning how to be frugal, that is, not wasteful, is now coming back in vogue!
This current economic downturn demands that we cultivate a frugal lifestyle, making the most of our assets and buying power. If you’re new to the frugal scene, here are a few easy ways to get the most for your money, while not significantly impacting your lifestyle. The most painful steps might be eating out less frequently, or cutting back on a few TV channels you never watch anyway.
Utility costs are through the roof. In better times, most of us didn’t think too much about turning off the heat, lights, TVs or computers when not in use. Just by forming a few new habits – and getting family members to buy into the strategy – you can save big dollars every month on your energy consumption. Another big time saver is in the laundry room. Avoid doing those small loads whenever possible. Fill the machine. Clean out the lint compartment after each use. Insulate your water heater. Inspect weather stripping for leaks. While the microwave is a convenient appliance, it does eat up gobs of electricity. As appropriate, use the stove top more frequently. Taming that utility bill is an important first step in learning how to be frugal.
Food costs today can make anyone want to learn how to be frugal at the grocery store! Whereas we might previously made our menus according to what we felt like eating that week, this is a wasteful shopping strategy. If you plan menus around what’s on sale this week and stock up on staples, such as coffee, sugar or butter when they’re on sale, you’ll save at least 30-40% on your monthly food budget. Using coupons and rain checks on sale items can boost your savings by another 10%. Using a price book is another way to track your prices on everything you buy, so you know a good price when you see it.
If you have growing children, you know that clothes may be outgrown in the space of a few months, most of which are still in good condition. If you haven’t heard, thrift and consignment shops are now thriving. Take those outgrown clothes to a consignment shop and get cash or credit at the shop – usually about 40-50% of what the shop will sell the clothing to another frugal Mom. You can turn around and use the money to buy an almost new wardrobe for that growing child, at a fraction of department store prices. You may also want to check out the adult clothing selections for your own wardrobe. This tip on how to be frugal can save you hundreds of dollars on clothing every year!
Our last suggestion on how to be frugal requires that you examine your monthly expenses. Save your receipts for a month and record them by category on a spreadsheet. You might set your sights on trimming 10% off your expenditures. Instead of dining out once a week, make it twice a month. Do you watch all 200 channels on your cable or satellite package? Look over your current lineup and see if you can’t downsize.
So there you have the basics of learning how to be frugal. BTW, it might well be a good idea to take those savings and apply them to your highest interest debt. You’re on your way to living as well as you have been, but for lots less money!