How to live a frugal life.

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I was reading my Complete Tightwad Gazette this evening. It’s part of my three-part plan for next year’s goals. I only have three goals for next year; the top goal and challenge is losing 50 lbs. I’m very committed to this as I am feeling tired and weak in my body and I have too much fat on this little frame of mine. The next goal is a no-spend year. I always look sideways shiftely when I speak of this because I’m not super sure it can be done. I need to do some planning for it. I am sure that we will have to be very hardcore about frugality as we are moving and the mortgage is somewhat larger. The next goal is to have fun in life. Lots of fun with the boys, the husband, the house, the gardens, the dogs, the new children, old friends, new friends…fun, fun, fun. Play, play, play. Write, write, write.

So I was reading the success stories that start at the back of the book starting on page 909 for those of you that ran to get your Tightwad bibles when I mentioned it. I was reading the letters with all the list of successes and life transformations that came from practicing the craft of frugality. It got me to thinkin’. I have a long list and would love to share it with you all to inspire us for the year 2020 when supposedly things might…or might not hit the fan with the economy or/and the housing market.

This is what we do to be frugal:

  • Eat and drink and snack almost completely from home.
  • Cook mostly from scratch.
  • Buy in bulk from the co-op to afford huge amounts of organics.
  • Buy all the furniture, rugs, paintings, books, wardrobes for the whole family, kitchen tools, candles, and gifts, bedding and bathroom linens from thrift stores like Goodwill, Save More, and Hospice Thrift.
  • we never turn down hand-me-downs and have a round oak table and chairs, kitchen towels, art, a great vacuum, big and funky green lamp and years of clothes for the boys because of it.
  • We have reusable everything; cloth menstrual pads, cloth napkins, cloth diapers for the foster babies, knit dishcloths, cloth mops, cloth dust rags and cleaning rags, reusable straws, vacuums that don’t require bags, cloth towels. I never buy bags or paper towels or napkins.
  • We have a stovetop percolator and stovetop Italian espresso maker so we never need coffee filters and with the stovetop pots and my handheld milk frother I can make any fabulous latte, espresso, or mocha drink at home for nickels instead of $5 increments.
  • Purchase make up and hair dye from dollar store or Grocery Outlet.
  • Stock up on toiletries from Target when I get my Target card from earned points on my bank card.
  • Found a sturdy and nice mini crib of Craigslist for free.
  • Two huge truckloads of mulch, free, off Craigslist.
  • Piles of beautiful red bricks and many bags of cement and paint drop cloths free that were being thrown away at the gas station after some work had been done.
  • Free sink and cupboard for the bathroom that just had one little crack in the back that couldn’t be seen.
  • Husband installing the sink in the bathroom successfully…free.
  • Husband fixing car windows that wouldn’t roll up with a $26 gadget off Amazon. Saved $500 or more in repairs.
  • Installed solar and now enjoy small energy bills.
  • Purchased a Berkey water filter and never buy water.
  • Purchased and use two Presto Heat Dishes and keep the rooms we live and play in very warm and keep the gas bills low.
  • Eat mostly vegetarian and plant-based.
  • Learned to make soy milk. It cost $2.99 to $3.99 at the store for half a gallon. I can make a whole gallon for $1.50, and all organic.
  • Learned to make faux meats with flour or/and tofu. A steak is $7 or much more if organic. Gluten steak is $1. Of course, it is an acquired taste.
  • Purchased a fixer-upper for $130k in Northern California during the second housing market frenzy. We have a tiny mortgage.
  • Tore out the lawns and put in huge kitchen gardens and grow lots of organic food.
  • Learned to can and preserve food. Canned almost 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce for winter and we have a huge basket of butternut squash. This is only the beginning.
  • My kitchen is our bakery. We make all our own bread, biscuits, muffins.
  • We homeschool and get curriculum and outside classes paid by the school.
  • Love the Dollar Tree for Christmas stocking stuffers, class supplies, art supplies, makeup, some kitchen gadgets.
  • Save all my bags to reuse.
  • Save most jars and repurpose.
  • Make our own compost for free and amazing garden soil.
  • Free horse manure from the stables a few miles away for an incredible garden.
  • Get stacks and piles of books every week from the library.
  • Watch movies free on Vudu and other free sites.
  • Have an antenna for the bedroom TV and love my old sitcoms. We have no cable and I got rid of Netflix and Prime recently.
  • Make laundry soap, cleaning supplies…even shampoo sometimes.
  • Keep pantry stocked and keep stocking and building it.
  • Go for hikes, walks, parks…free. Ended our health club membership recently.
  • Bought a second fixer-upper in our dream town and area recently…well, still in the escrow process.
  • Will use the first house as a rental for future income.

I feel like I’m missing many items here. Frugality and simple, sustainable living works. Because of our simple life, we have money. We are now in the process of getting our second home and for a family living on, what is considered by most, a small income, this is pretty amazing. But that is where you see the payoff.  So when people laugh at your watered down dish soap and plastic bags that have been reused so many times they are scratched up. When they make comments like, “looks like it may be time for a new car there Frank.” or “Try living a little there Martha!” When they look at your PB and J with contempt or gasp at your “tacky” thrifting and ask, “Isn’t everything so dirty there?” Just try and humor them. Be patient. Some are slow to get it. However, when they see you retire early or stay home after the first child is born and never return to the rat race, or they see you purchase another house and land…then they might come to you and ask, “So, how do you do it?”


27 thoughts on “How to live a frugal life.

  1. Hi, there, Kate – I enjoyed your roundup of frugal tips very much 🙂 By way of saying thank you, I will give you our household’s most recent frugal change: we stopped using shampoo and conditioner. All we do is scrub our scalp thoroughly with our nails: no fuss, no cost, and no plastic! (Full disclosure, no kids at home and one of us is almost bald – but the other has a glorious head of long hair!) Best to you, Abe

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can also make your own shampoo or use Ivory soap which is very inexpensive, no perfumes or dyes, can be used for body, making laundry soap, used as shampoo…very cost effective stuff. Kinda need to wash that hair now and then.😊


  2. Kate I am doing a no spend year also! Have you read a year of less? Excellent read/listen – I am working on an approved shopping list of things I will allow myself to purchase in 2020 so that I don’t lose it and throw in the towel. I am also doing a minimalism challenge at the same time of giving/selling 2,020 items this year – it should prove to be fabulous 2020!!


  3. Hi Kate
    I have been reading your blogs for a while now, plus I have bought most of your books. I simply love reading them and always look forward to the next one. We do most of what you do but come the new year we really have to be as frugal as possible!!! We will only be living on $1800 a month ( social security ) we have areal low mortgage ($508 a month) and no debt, just a few utilities…
    we live in Eastern Kentucky up in the hills ( we just moved) so the nearest stores are an hour away !! We have 2 horses, a chihuahua, 2 kitty’s and next year will be getting chickens..we have 9 acres. Enough on me, once again keep writing those books & blogs and thank you for your inspiring frugal tips. Good luck on your new home and keep us informed on your adventures!


      1. Yes,
        We already have a big garden plot getting ready for next year. We also have a good length clothesline & we have walnut trees on the property and some grapevines.


      1. I may join you for the no spend year! My true problem is following many fashion influencers on YouTube. I’ve bought quite a bit of clothes while following them😬 The worst is that I bought a ton of sweaters and it’s been in the 70s all winter here! That’s why I love you, Kate. You don’t push any products! In fact, you are my inspiration to get back on track ♥️


      2. I had an issue with Amazon…ordering monthly. I get it. I’m trying to figure out my wardrobe but I love the thrift store so if a piece doesn’t work out you just redonate and only lost $5 tops.


  4. I always like this time of year because I get to look back at the year to review my wins and fails.
    Also, we have such bounty in our home from the holidays that I cannot imagine wanting for anything. I usually start the year off with a frugal fast month. A year seems like a lot, but you already live it daily and it seems to me that you may only have to tweak a couple habits and be able to be successful at this goal. Best of luck and I look forward to hearing and reading how it will all go. Blessings to you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You and I have such similar goals in the area of living simply and frugality, but I feel like you are doing so much better than me. But that’s what keeps me coming back.
    I started young, I got married at 18 and started a family at 19. I had three kids under 4, (all still homeschooling) and did what most Americans do… Got the big house, nice set of wheels, lived it up for a time, and then realized what idiots we were. After selling two homes we are finally getting set up to build our next home mortgage free. We have purchased and cleared the land, gotten our building permit and all the things necessary to start our project, but we have to wait until the ground is no longer frozen. So we are looking at a spring project, and are saving money as we wait.
    The saving money part has been the challenging part. Suddenly my teenagers need this & that, my husband wants to invest more money into his business, and all sorts of reasons and excuses pop up to spend, spend, spend. We are building a very simple home but one to comfortably fit 5 people. Thankfully, building projects are a gradual thing. But still, even though I have teenagers, I am a young mother and wife, and no one taught my husband or I finances. We do well compared to some, but your constant advice and example as you live your life out before us has truly been the #1 thing that has kept me motivated and helps me focus on the goals. Whenever I need a reminder or a pick me up, I find something encouraging from you and refocus.
    I’ve read all the books, memorized numbers and statistics, sought out financial advice from professionals… but that just got me a head full of information. You are adding the heart to it, the life to it. You are showing me the reasons to press on, telling me I can do it, and encouraging me along the way. The numbers will never matter if there’s no heart and no guidance. I know you hear that you’re helping people almost every day. I know people send you gifts and say thank you. But as we are about to start a brand new year, I want to begin by telling you how truly huge it is that you are doing what you’re doing. I’ve never been able to win in this area. And for my age group, most people think it’s downright freakish. At the end of this coming summer, when I am moving into my freshly built home, The way that people call in to the Dave Ramsey show and shout out, “I’m debt free,” I feel like I will be doing the same to you. “We did it, Kate!”
    When we have finished our task, met our goal, and celebrate… I will be telling you; in some way I will show you, and I will be thanking you. We’re finally winning, we’re finally free… and I am so beyond thankful for you.
    I wish you an amazing 2020, Kate. 🙂


    1. I do get heart felt thank yous and I’m always surprised and delighted that I’m having a positive influence out there. Honestly, I am no professional, hate crunching those numbers so I always round up, and I make mistakes daily. But I love sharing this life as it is safe, cozy and happy and I want everyone to get out of the rat race and join people like you and me. Thank you, it keeps me going and great job on your life and building a home!!


  6. Wow, nothing like huge goals for 2020 ;). I am working on what I want to do for 2020, so thank you for this post, it reminded me to figure this out and commit to change.

    Can’t wait to hear about your new place, and the move! Happy New Year!


  7. Wow! Very inspirational. Congrats on your new place! I downsized to a fixer and have a very low mortgage. I buy most things used or patiently wait for it to go on sale. My parents passed and I inherited some furniture and knick knacks from them and I incorporated those into my decor. Make all my coffee at home. Drive used cars and work at a place that doesn’t require me to pay tolls. Buy company logo’d shirts ($5 to $15) and wear these to work regularly.
    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kate we have lived your life and came out the exact way you want to😉people always said you need this or why are you so frugal!well we retired in our middle 50s we both get a pension and we were very responsible with our money👍But we do live a little now we will be going to Florida in February with our grown children in February💕they are also frugal with there money so they can go!Life is what we make it and it doesn’t cost a thing to enjoy your family make a good meal at home and play a game or watch a free movie as long as your spending time with your loved ones❤️Almost forgot the people that said we were too frugal still are working and most are divorced because of money problems!

    Liked by 1 person

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