My favorite topic! I love being wise with my pennies because I know what the difference is in being frugal and spending beyond your means. What it works out to is either sleeping well at night and being at peace over all or staring at the ceiling at 3:00 am and hearing your heart pound with anxiety.
Living a frugal life is living a simple life. It may be hard to get used to at first but eventually, it becomes a way of life and as you gain the rewards of being debt free and having an emergency fund when trouble comes a callin’ you begin to really enjoy it. There are even bigger rewards like owning your own home and taking vacations with your family. But overall it is personal freedom, environmentally and globally considerate, and easy.
Here is a simple trick to get started: If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy. If you are in a financial downturn, don’t spend period, on anything except the bills and rent.
There is hardcore frugal and everyday frugal.
Hardcore is when you downsize everything: home, utilities, cars, groceries. You walk to work, you move from a 5 bedroom house to a two bedroom apartment, you go from shopping at the Natural Foods Coop to Winco, you trade in the gym membership for a free daily walk in the park, you start considering the library your new Barnes and Noble.
This hardcore is for people in huge debt and wanting out now! Or suddenly on a fixed income like disability or a baby came into the picture and mom wants to stay home and you have to learn how to live with half the income you were making. Perhaps you have decided to go to med school or become a full-time writer.
This is where you decide to make huge sacrifices to have a better life in the end. You trade in the consumer driven, keeping up with the Jone’s life for the simple life. You go from eating out daily to brown bagging it. But you have a goal in mind…or you’ve been forced by critical circumstances.
Everyday frugal: This is for people like my family. We were in debt and suffered and now that we are free from that slavery we do all we can to never return. We have emergency funds, house buying funds, a common household fund. We even have a coin jar. We get these backup funds by being frugal every day in all we do. Our lifestyle has morphed into one of major thrift and frugality. Sales and free are two of my basic words.
Families that live on one income and do it with ease have learned to enjoy a house half the size of their peers. They have learned how to grow food and make easy compost in their little backyards. They are the family that has the weekly wash blowing in the wind on the outdoor clothesline. They have a large wagon they drag the kids and groceries around in on foot because they walk EVERYWHERE. They don’t buy pets, they wind up with rescue pets (some of them just show up at their back door). They use vinegar and baking soda for everything. They learn to sew and borrow from the neighbors. They make do with what they have or they go to the thrift store to find the item. They love hand me downs. They can be seen picking up a piece of furniture off the curb that had a free sign on it. They find the local farms where they can pick their own produce for cheap.
I live this life. Well, it’s not as intense as it used to be. There are times we had to be ultra frugal because we had very little funds or no funds coming in for a time. Now we live like this out of habit and because the benefits outweigh shopping and dining out on a regular basis.
Today we have no debt, no car payments, no credit card payments and we have big savings set aside. My husband has a good job now so I have relaxed in certain areas. I purchase store bought cleaners and I enjoy store bought cakes now and then. I shopped at Safeway the other day because there is a really fancy one down the way and I just felt like shopping in a fancy store. I still looked for sales and stayed with produce in season. I bought the basics because I don’t shop outside the main produce, meat, eggs, flour….I cook from scratch a lot more now than I did in our poorest days simply because it just tastes better.
I buy laundry detergent and cleaners because I just got tired of making my own and we can afford it now but I only buy a couple cleaners: one is Fabuloso and a jug last years and is all purpose. It actually winds up being cheaper. The laundry detergent is simply because I got tired of grating soap and I have a used washer that sucks and I needed an intense detergent (I’m sure that is just an excuse I tell myself).
I go on more shopping sprees these days…at the thrift store. Most of my boy’s toys and all our clothes are a thrift store item or hand me downs or gifts. We have a big TV in the living room. It was given to us and is 20 years old. It is 35 inches and weighs the same as a car engine. I refuse to get rid of it because it was free and works fine. All my furniture was either my mothers or found at Goodwill or a yard sale. I have a couple pieces we purchased new and I look at those pieces and know that I could have saved thousands and done so much better at a yard sale or thrift store. Couches and mattresses are two items…and shoes that I DO buy new. You can’t throw a couch or mattress in the washer for a hot and soapy wash. Shoes will mess up your feet and back if molded already with someone else’s foot. This took me time to learn.
We don’t have a date night and Sizzler is as fancy as we have gotten. We have little children and it’s not worth it. I’d rather put the $50 toward 4 days worth of groceries. I have started going to the movies again after 5 years of settling for Netflix. I LOVE the theater and that hideous butter oil they put on theater popcorn. I allow that luxury for myself at least once a month now. But I don’t get my hair or nails done. I don’t go to salons. I’d rather spend that money on movie tickets.
I get all my books from the library and if I really love a book and want it in my library I order a used copy on Amazon.
I do really cheapo stuff like water down my dish soap and add new coffee grounds to yesterday’s grounds in the coffee pot to save on filters and use less coffee grounds. I use washable dish rags and mop clothes. I haven’t purchased a sponge or mop in years. I do buy diapers. I wish, wish I could do cloth and I tried for a few months. I’m not proud of that failure to go green. I would if I had to.
We live in a tiny house but we take trips to the coast and Marin to stay with friends. When we do travel and vacation we stay with family and friends. We purposely choose to vacation at friends/family. First of all, what is vacationing if not with those you love? And it’s almost free. We pack a cooler and basket with groceries and we don’t buy food on the road. When we stay with family/friends we sometimes cook for them to take the burden off. We also choose free activities like the beach for the day, local parks, walks, and thrifting.
I am a housewife and I would like to remain in that position forever. I have found ways to make money at home. Once I built an adorable little daycare and that paid the bills for a bit when Bali was out of work. Now I write books and make a little extra. But it is my frugal decisions that keep me as housewife CEO.