For some of us frugality is a choice; we live below our means precisely so that we can save for the future and retire earlier.
For others, however, it’s a necessity; without being frugal there simply isn’t enough money to survive.
Whatever your own circumstances might be, if you want (or need) to learn how to become more frugal there are a number of effective strategies you can employ…
Frugality is in many ways similar to joining the gym.
Some people are happy to float in, do a little gentle running on a treadmill and then go home.
Other people, however, want to come in and lift twice their body weight before having breakfast each morning.
Whichever option you choose, however, its likely to be uncomfortable to begin with. There’ll be some soreness. But stick with it and you’ll find that discomfort will ease.
You’ll get used to it – and will even start to improve your results.
Soon enough you’re considering running a marathon.
So it is with frugality.
Before you start, therefore, there are two important points to appreciate:
1) Frugality is tough first of all. It feels alien and uncomfortable, but it gets easier and easier over time. Be willing to go through that initial “soreness” in order to get into your stride and soon enough you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
2) You need to decide, based on your own unique personality, whether you’re better to “go hard” (like the weight lifter) or go light (like the runner). Here are the pros and cons of each…
The person who goes hard puts everything they’ve got into frugality. It’s like a challange to them. They’re full of energy and passion and they’re going to do everything possible to reduce their expenses.
This person goes through every recent transaction on their bank statement, looking for ways to reduce or eliminate each one. They’re willing to walk most places, live on beans and rice and put on another sweater instead of turning on the heating.
Going hard like this from the outset is tough; it requires vast amounts of self discipline not to fall off the band wagon.
You’ll need to be fully committed to making lasting changes to your spending habits. That said, its this person who almost instantly shrinks their spending considerably and starts to feel the difference.
Even by the end of their first month their bank account is starting to look healthier and they’re feeling more relaxed about money.
Going light is the opposite mentality; a slow, gradual approach to frugality. It allows you to consider how you’ll save money in a controlled and methodical way, without going too crazy.
For many people this gentle introduction works well. You’ll feel less discomfort and over time, as you get used to your new frugal lifestyle, you’ll probably find ever more ways to save.
The downside to easing in gently is that it takes far longer to get noticeable results. Those little cuts here and there might not make a huge initial difference to your bank account.
So what’s best? The answer, of course, is “that depends”.
It depends on your personality. There is no right or wrong answer – only you can decide whether you want to go full on from the outset (and reap the immediate benefits) or whether you’d rather dip your toe in the water initially and grow from there.
Either way, there are a number of “easy wins” that will help you to become more frugal in everyday life…
6 Simple Tricks To Become More Frugal
This whole blog is, in essence, about how to become frugal so the logical conclusion is that there are loads of ways to save money. However some techniques are far more effective than others. For anyone looking to start down the path to frugality, here are my tips to get you started as swiftly as possible:
Check Your Utility Bills
From household utility bills to the costs of insurance, many of us keep on paying for years on end, never considering whether there might be a cheaper option. In many cases there are considerable savings to be had; and all it takes is a little time and a few phone calls.
So grab your last few bills, things like:
- Cell phone tariff
- Cable TV
- Car insurance
- Household insurance
Then once you can see for certain what you’re paying, use one of the many price-comparison sites to look for a better deal.
You might not succeed on every single bill, but in the space of a few hours you could well turn up a number of potential savings which can be implemented by either changing your tariff or moving suppliers.
Get on the phone immediately and start making those changes.
Cook Basic Meals
We spend a vast amount of food on groceries each month, so any way you can save money on your grocery shopping will benefit you. One of the easiest ways to start is by going back to basics with your cooking. For example:
- Reduce your meat intake (and stay away from expensive cuts)
- Eat more cheap carbs – such as pasta, rice and potatoes
- Grow your own vegetables
- Stop drinking alcohol
- Take bagged lunches to work rather than buying lunch out
- Stop eating out in restaurants
- Keep an eye on “Use by” dates to reduce the food you throw away
- Consider buying frozen or canned vegetables, rather than fresh, as they have a much longer shelf life
- Make your own pasta sauces and so on from scratch – much cheaper and just as tasty
Pay Off Debt
The problem with debt isn’t just the fact that the money has to be repaid, but the fact that you’re also paying interest on that money. The longer it takes you to pay back, the more it’ll cost you overall.
To be more frugal, therefore, make paying off your debt a priority. Start with those debts that have the highest interest rates and then when they’re paid off “roll over” your payments to the one with the next highest interest. Doing this ensures you’re paying as little interest as possible to clear your debt.
Give Up Impulse Spending
One major situation which causes financial problems is impulse spending – just buying something on the spur of the moment. Done occasionally, its unlikely to be too much of a problem, but it’s when it becomes a habit that risk sets in.
The problem with impulse spending is that you haven’t budgeted for it. This can not only make getting to pay-day a struggle, but many impulse spenders also don’t realize just how much money they’re really frittering away each month.
So make yourself a promise; no more impulse spending. Before you go shopping make a plan and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did.
Apply Sound Psychological Principles
Becoming more frugal is as much about psychology as it is about strategies to save money. Quite simply if your mindset is wrong then you’re going to struggle with reducing your spending pretty quickly.
There are a range of techniques that you can apply to live more frugally, for example:
Compare spending with work hours – It’s all too easy to see a product on promotion and to assume you should therefore buy it.
One technique I’ve used successfully is to consider not the monetary cost – but how many hours I’d have to work for that item. When I realize that I’m going to have to exchange the equivalent of 15 hours at work for that item, suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so tempting.
Consider the future benefits of saving money – Saving money is tough first of all; why avoid buying that thing you like just to put the money in your bank account? How does this really benefit you?
This is a question you need to be able to answer. You need to understand your why, and what the future benefit is going to be. Are you saving for a house? Do you want to buy a car, or a vacation?
Put some plans in place so that every time you don’t spend money there’s a reason to feel good about.
Explore how much pleasure belongings truly bring you – Many of us love to shop and buy new items, but the reality is that this “glow” we get from buying nice new things rarely sticks around for long. Soon enough that new item of clothing is stuck at the back of the closet with all the others.
Consciously considering just how much pleasure buying new items really brings you can effectively drive home the point that “retail therapy” is really quite a short-lived and ineffective way to get a buzz.
As a final point, don’t accept any bills, charges or spending without question. Every time you spend money, take the time to consider how you might manage to spend less.
- Could you buy store own-brands rather than branded goods?
- Could you buy in bulk to get a better deal?
- Could you eliminate a cost altogether?
If you want to learn how to be more frugal this willingness to challenge everything should become a core part of your budgeting process.