Frugal Living Defined
With prices rising higher every month and wages remaining stagnant (if you are fortunate enough to have a job), more people are yearning to learn about frugal living every day. Because I’ve heard some people deny the frugal lifestyle as one of deprivation and suffering I thought I would set the record straight with a basic definition of frugal living.
Before I get started, let me assure you that frugal living is NOT all about depriving yourself, sacrificing the things you enjoy, or suffering to save a few cents. Frugal living, in a nutshell, is all about living smarter so you are able to live the life of your dreams. Frugal living is a way to remove yourself from the consumer treadmill where you are never able to get ahead, and are happy if you can just maintain your current lifestyle.
It took me just over 3 years to pay off $60,000 in debt and once that was paid off just over 1 year to save $25,000 and make my dream of moving to Thailand a reality. It hasn’t solved all my problems, but it has certainly made life less complicated and stressful.
So that’s frugal life in a nutshell. Read on if you want to learn the (simple) details.
Frugal Living = Smart Money Management
I’m not implying that you aren’t smart with your money. Ask yourself this though…do you know how much money you make each month, how much you have in the bank and investment accounts, and how much you spend each month? If you answered yes to all 3 questions congratulations! You’re already well on your way to a frugal lifestyle. Knowing where your money comes from and where it goes helps you make informed decisions regarding your money, rather than simply following your impulses and whims.
If you answered no to any of the questions, don’t despair. Fixing this is as easy as creating a budget that realistically reflects your income and spending habits. Follow your budget and you will know exactly what you can and cannot afford.
If you have debts (credit cards, student loans, car loans, personal loans, mortgage, etc) this will also help you make better plans for extinguishing your debts, another cornerstone of frugal living. Frugal people don’t waste money on interest payments to greedy banks. More about this later.
Finally, you will see how your savings and investments stack up. You do want to retire someday right? Frugal living can help make that a reality, sometimes sooner than you ever believed possible.
Frugal Living = Smart Spending
Knowing all about your money is a great first step. Now you want to make sure that you spend the precious commodity wisely. You only get so much money each month, so don’t waste it! You wouldn’t spend $100,000 if you could spend just $75,000 would you? Well, put that same mindset to ALL of your spending. You might be amazed at how much you can save in the long run.
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of extreme coupon clippers who save over 100% on their grocery trips. That’s a bit extreme for my taste, but according to Coolsavings.com the average coupon user saves 12% annually by using coupons. If you spend $500 a month on groceries that translates to $720 a year in savings.
Coupons aren’t the only smart way to conserve your money either. Sales are rampant everywhere you look. There are very few things that you can’t get at a 10-50% discount if you are willing to wait a bit. Why pay top dollar when a little bit of patience can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.
It doesn’t stop at sales either. Choose generic brands when shopping, buy used instead of new, shop around for insurance, cable, cell service, and pretty much everything you spend money on and you are likely to find savings you might never have known exist. That’s frugal spending. Finding (or waiting for) the best deals rather than simply throwing your money at companies.
Frugal Living = Creativity
When you choose a frugal lifestyle you will be challenged to become more creative. You will find ways to do without some things (at least temporarily). You will find ways to repurpose things rather than simply tossing them into the trash. You will learn how to do things for yourself rather than paying others to do them for you. Conversely, you will also learn when it is a wiser decision to pay someone else for certain tasks.
You probably aren’t thinking creatively about ways to save money now, but once you get started you will see things all around you just begging to be repurposed or fixed rather than trashed.
Your creativity can also range in the other direction, or how to increase your income. There are hundreds of side hustles, earning opportunities and small businesses that you can undertake to boost your income. Plus, once you get started you may find that doing these things are more fun than simply letting your time pass by as you sit transfixed by the television.
Frugal Living = Debt Elimination
As I mentioned earlier, debt elimination and living debt free is a cornerstone of the frugal lifestyle. There is no room to be throwing away money of high interest credit cards and personal loans when you are trying to live frugally.
If your goal is to live frugally the first step you should take is to eliminate debts if you have them. At the very least, you should attempt to roll your debts over to a lower interest alternative if that’s possible. That doesn’t mean rolling the balance on one credit card onto another lower interest card and then charging up the balance on the first card again, that is the opposite of frugal!
Depending on how much debt you have, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a month and thousands over the course of a year. According to Transunion, the average American has $4996 in credit card debt. Currently the average interest rate for fixed rate cards is 13.33 percent, meaning that $4996 would cost a whopping $10,334 over nearly 21 years if you simply paid 2% of the balance each month or $20 (whichever was higher). Pretty depressing huh?
That is exactly why you NEED to pay off your debts as quickly as possible. Once they are paid off avoid debt like the plague and pay cash for everything and you’ll be well into the frugal lifestyle.
Why Live a Frugal Life?
So, living a frugal life is all about managing your money, spending less, creative use of resources and eliminating or avoiding debt. How can these four things improve your life?
Simple. Living a frugal life gives you the type of freedom you’ll never enjoy as long as you are a slave to your money. Frugal living puts you in control of the money. Once you pay off those debts and control your money properly you will be able to do all kinds of things. Retire early? No problem. Pay for your child’s education? Easy. Travel the world? Enjoy.
Frugal living can make these and all sorts of other positive things happen.
Once you are living a frugal life, you get to choose what is important to you and then make it happen. You don’t need to live on rice and noodles, deprive yourself of entertainment, or sell all your stuff (though some do). Just learn how to manage your money, eliminate debt, and control your spending and you will soon be in a better position financially than ever before in your life.
And once that happens it’s up to you what you want to do with your new found freedom.