In this tough, super-competitive economic climate of the twenty-first century, it's more important than ever to be thrifty. We need to conserve our resources and cut down on waste. The good news is, with just a few small changes, you can significantly stretch your budget without depriving yourself. Here are just ten of the many great ways to learn to live more frugally and save yourself a lot of money that can be put to better use than simply being wasted, because you are accustomed to spending without thinking. So dive right in, think about how you spend money, and see where you can improve your frugality!
- Quit buying stuff.
Do you really need a new car right now or can you wait six months? Should you buy that book, or can you check it out from the library, read it online, or borrow it from a friend? Do you need that new outfit, or can you update something you have with a new accessory, or rework your wardrobe? Will replacing the buttons or adding some trim to the collar and cuffs make that blouse look new? See if you can find what you want for free on craigslist, freecycle, or somewhere else. If you must buy something, first check out the thrift stores in your area. Often items in the thrift store are just unwanted, and I've picked up many expensive brands of designer clothing for under a dollar—with the store's tags still attached.
- Drive frugally.
Don't take the car for just one errand--you'll use a lot more gas because cold cars use more gas than warm ones. Plan your trips in advance, so that while you're out buying groceries, pick up what you'll need at the drugstore, too. Don't speed up and slow down a lot, but drive at an even speed. Rather than continuing to have your foot on the gas pedal when pulling up to a red light or stop sign, take your foot off the gas early and coast to the light. Don't idle in the drive-through--get out of the car and go into the store. Your gas tank will thank you. And don't forget to keep your tires properly inflated!
- Eat at home.
Most of the expenses at the restaurant don't go for food ingredients, but for things like utilities, insurance, and other expenses. You can make it yourself much cheaper. In addition, the food will be fresher, and you will be able to get exactly what you want. Recipes for just about everything are available on the internet, with step-by-step instructions and pictures of each step.
- Amuse yourself.
These days, a movie plus snacks for three children and an adult can be more than $55--but you can rent a movie and watch it at home for under $10. Even cheaper is to teach your family how to amuse themselves. A board game will cost only a few dollars (especially if bought second-hand) and can give your family years of fun. Or teach everyone a different musical instrument and learn to play together. Libraries, museums, and other venues often have free events--some even provide free food or classes. If you learn a useful hobby like sewing, you might even be able to turn it into a home business. At the very least you will save money.
- Make it yourself.
Buying almost anything is more expensive than making it yourself. Sign up for a free class on sewing, cooking, etc. Even paying to learn to sew or cook will pay off in the long run. You can make a new shirt for a few dollars, and patterns are reusable, or take a worn-out piece of clothing and use it as a new pattern. A few herbs, onions, tomatoes or peppers grown in a windowsill can reduce your food bill. We spent $3.53 for a tomato plant that gave us 30 pounds of tomatoes in a single year.
- Don't throw it away!
Instead of throwing away reusable containers, reuse them. Is that piece of clothing worn out? If so, can it be made into a pillow, a scarf, or something else, or can you salvage the buttons? Our grandmothers made quilts from worn-out clothing. Before you throw anything out, ask yourself if you can salvage something from it that would be useful in another application. A lens from an old projector can be made into a magnifying glass. Chicken bones, vegetable peelings, etc. can be made into a delicious stock to use for soup, and frozen.
- Buy low, sell high.
Stock up on nonperishables while they are on sale--not just at the food store, but white sales, closeouts, any kind of sale. Stock up in advance on presents for Christmas and birthdays. You can even save time by pre-wrapping presents and keeping them tucked away and out of sight. (Don't forget to buy your wrapping and bows at the after-Christmas sales!) Try the thrift stores in your area--they will often have new items with the tags, or something that looks just like new.
- Pool your resources.
Not just carpooling! If you and your neighbours have memberships to discount stores, each of you buy a different one and go together. Need a new piece of furniture? Perhaps a friend or neighbour is storing one. You can arrange to borrow it, saving you the cost of buying it, and your friend the cost of storing it. You can also trade coupons with your neighbours--give them your dog food coupons, get their diaper coupons. (Couponing may not seem to be worth it, but I bought a pickup truck bed full of groceries for $30.62—over $600 worth of food, on a single trip, using coupons on sale items.)
- Wait for it . . .
Rather than seeing a movie on the first run, wait until it goes to the dollar theatre. Instead of going to the movie in the evening, wait for a matinee. Don't buy the book on the best-seller list, but wait a few months and find it in a used book store, or check it out from the library. Love that new outfit? If it's still there a month later, ask the retailer to mark it down. Nobody will know that you didn't buy it on the first day it came out, and just hadn't gotten around to wearing it yet!
- Quality, not quantity.
Rather than buy something cheap that will wear out or break, invest in something that may cost a little more with a longer lifespan. A good piece of furniture may cost twice as much as that cheap one, but if it's well-made your great-grandchildren might still be using it. One well-made dress may last so long that it goes out of style and comes back in again (I wore my mother's college clothes when I was in college, and they became fashionable again). At the same time, don't spend money for stuff that won't affect usability. Your bank's default checks will go through just as easily as the expensive ones will. Think long-term rather than short-term!
I hope that these suggestions will spark some ideas and help you to reduce your expenses. Please share your bright ideas in the comments to help us all out!
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