I will be the first to say that I do not live a frugal life. I enjoy seeing how others live frugally but it’s just not my jam to shop at a thrift store or the discount grocery store. You can call me a snob, that’s okay. While I don’t live my whole life frugally I have tried to adapt some frugal habits. By adopting a few frugal habits we live much more intentionally and can actually enjoy splurging on things that are important to us (like a family vacation!).
It doesn’t matter what your income level is, frugal habits can make a big difference in your overall financial health. Have you ever heard the term millionaire next door? Your neighbor could drive an old beat up pick-up truck, live in a modest home, and clock in at their 9 to 5 every day while having a million dollars in the bank. You would never know. They have adopted frugal habits throughout their life and have continued to live by them even after saving a decent amount of money.
Frugal Habits are not just for the poor.
What exactly does it mean to be frugal?
Frugality is defined as the quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness.
You’ll see many different forms of frugal living. Frugal living can on the extreme of only shopping second hand, living in a tiny home, composting and growing your own food etc. On the other hand, you can be frugal by menu planning for your family and repurposing old furniture. Of course, most of us fall somewhere in the middle and adopt frugal habits based on how we were raised or research we have done.
10 Frugal Habits That Make a Big Difference
Live Below Your Means
Living below your means is easier said than done. Just look at the number of American’s who are in credit card debt or have a car payment. The numbers are astounding. We fell into this trap in our twenties and are currently spending our early thirty’s digging ourselves out of debt.
What exactly does it mean to live below your means? It’s simple. You spend less than you make. Like I said before, it’s easier said than done. To live below your means you need to have a grasp on your income and your expenses. You need to have a plan for saving money and you need to understand your budget.
If you need help with your first budget I have a blog post that may help you get started! Creating a Budget for a Happy and Secure Home
Menu Plan (at least for dinner)
Driving through McDonald’s is convenient but those trips add up. The same is true for your morning latte. $5 daily is $150 monthly, and that’s if you are only spending $5. Just imagine how much you are spending at restaurants and on fast food if you have a family to feed. The answer to the dinner time debacle is creating a menu plan. This can be weekly or monthly. The key is actually sticking to your menu plan though! You’ll need to shop according to your menu plan and make time to cook each night. The slow cooker can save you on those hectic nights. Put dinner together before work and it’ll be ready when you are home!
Find Free and Cheap Entertainment
I remember going to the movies every weekend as a teenager. My best friend and I saw the same movie over and over in 2001. Sometimes we ended up at the movies on both Friday night and Saturday night. Of course, my parents were paying for this through my allowance and just being generous. Now, I couldn’t imagine seeing a movie every weekend. It is expensive! Then you add in popcorn and a drink. You can easily spend $50 at the theater as a couple.
Finding free and cheap entertainment has been a frugal habit my husband and I have stuck with over the years. While we occasionally enjoy a movie we go to a matinee and skip the snacks. Yes, it’s nice to have the popcorn and drink but we really don’t need it.
Other free and cheap entertainment can include going to a state park for an afternoon picnic, game night at home, check your community activities, visit a local museum etc. There are countless ideas that don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg per person.
Create Financial Goals
What is one thing you want to accomplish financially? Do you want to buy a home? Do you want to take an epic family vacation? There are so many financial goals to meet and we need a plan to get there. At the beginning of every year, my husband and I sit down and write out our goals for the upcoming year. Financial goals are always a priority for us. We write down our financial goals and then make a game plan with our budget for how to achieve them. Sometimes we are a bit overzealous and need to tone down our goals a bit but we create a plan and do our best to achieve them.
Don’t Make Emotional Purchases
Have you ever made an emotional purchase? I know I have and I almost made one earlier this year. My car was having problems and was in the shop yet again. It was another $1000 out of our pocket to fix the issue and I just wanted to throw in the towel and buy a newer vehicle. We even make it three dealerships and looked at vehicles! What?! It was very emotional. I was tired of fixing my car and thought buying something newer (not brand new) would be the answer to our problems. The issue with this is we didn’t plan for it. We don’t have the cash to buy a used vehicle and we don’t want to add any more debt. I was letting my emotions get the best of me and almost made a rash decision because of it.
If you find yourself in an emotional situation step back for a minute and assess the situation. If it’s not life or death give yourself a day to sleep on it. See how you feel the next day. See how you feel in a week. You’ll probably realize you weren’t thinking rationally and you were letting your emotions get the best of you.
Pay Yourself First
Have you ever heard the phrase pay yourself first? What exactly does that mean? By paying yourself first you are putting money into your savings for use at a later date. You are spending less than you make to reach larger goals. Paying yourself first can be investing in your retirement accounts each paycheck. It can also be setting money aside in an emergency fund to cover yourself in the future. By paying yourself first you are making your family the main priority. This frugal habit is something we all need adopt.
Pay With Cash
This frugal habit is something I struggle with but I understand the power of paying with cash. When you have $100 in your hand and you need to make a purchase you are emotionally attached to that money. Normally you’ll think about the purchase first and then make a decision if you want to part with your hard earned money. You do not have the same emotional attachment to your money when you are swiping a debit card or a credit card. You don’t think about the money leaving your hand when you are paying with plastic. This frugal habit can save you from making rash decisions and actually help you save more of your hard-earned money.
By comparison shopping, we are trying to find the best deal for ourselves and our hard earned money. I don’t comparison shop for the little things but if I am going to purchase something over $50 or $100 then I tend to think about the purchase and the best place to buy it. Depending on the item I will look on Amazon.com to see how much it is selling for then compare it to a local shop as well as a big box store. Comparison shopping can save you hundreds of dollars. This is especially helpful during the holidays when we are spending more of our money at once.
Not Investing in Quality Products
This may sound counter-intuitive but shopping for quality products over the cheapest products can save you money in the long run. This may not seem like a frugal habit in the beginning. Let’s take a pair of jeans for example. You find a pair of jeans at the thrift shop for $5 that fit you well and are comfortable. A few months later you notice the jeans starting to fall apart. You buy another pair of jeans at the thrift shop for $10. This cycle continues. If you had invested $30 in a decent pair of jeans you could have saved yourself from numerous trips every few months to replace the jeans. Buying a higher quality product will last you longer. You’ll save yourself both time and money.
Have Like Minded Friends
This frugal habit is a hard one but having like-minded friends will save you so much time and money. If you have like-minded friends they won’t mind staying in and watching a movie on TV or coming over for a home-cooked meal. If your friends are always asking you to go out to eat or to go shopping you may fall into bad habits and lose some of the frugal habits you have worked so hard maintain. Maybe you say no more often than not and in the end, it strains your friendship. It happens. I get it. By having like-minded friends you’ll both be able to talk about your goals and find entertainment that compliments your frugal style.
Frugal habits are not just for the poor.
Choosing to live a more frugal lifestyle can be enjoyable. By adopting just a few frugal habits you can make a big difference in your financial health. You’ll see the amount of money in your bank account rise, you’ll start to meet your financial goals, and you’ll be able to enjoy your money more. You don’t have to be ultra-frugal to make a lasting impact on your finances. We have adopted just a few frugal habits and have noticed a huge difference in our life. While I won’t call myself the most frugal person on earth, I have learned that frugality isn’t a terrible trait to have.
What frugal habits has your family implemented? Let me know in the comments below.