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Spend money on what you want and learn how to be frugal with your other expenses. It will take some effort, but it’s worth it. Find out how our frugal living habits help us get more out of our money.
What Is Frugal Living?
The term “frugal living” sometimes gets a bad reputation. Even Merriam-Webster claims that “those who are frugal are unwilling to (lavishly) enjoy the fruits of their labors.” But the word frugal is derived from the Latin word frux, meaning fruit or value and is related to the Latin word for enjoy, frui. Being frugal really has to do with enjoying the things you value.
You may be imagining clipping coupons and bargain hunting when you think of frugal living habits, but it’s much more than that. Frugal living means being mindful of how you spend your money with the goal of maximizing your enjoyment. It means evaluating your priorities and spending less money on things that matter less to you.
How You Can Live A Frugal Lifestyle
Think about your priorities in life. Do you really want to save for a car you’ve been wanting to buy? Are you saving money to put yourself through school or pay off student loans? Consider not only your financial goals, but also what makes you happy. What are you really passionate about? Do you value going on trips and taking adventures above buying stuff? Living frugally will enable you to spend money on what makes you happy and get you closer to your financial goals.
If you’re unsure of how you are spending your money, then you should take a good look at all of your expenses for the past couple months. Read our article, 5 Steps To Create A Monthly Budget, to learn how to categorize your expenses and to download a free budgeting spreadsheet to get you started.
Our Frugal Living Habits
For us, we are both passionate about cars/racing and traveling. This doesn’t mean that we only spend money on these things, but we rather put our money toward them and save money elsewhere. We have a few frugal living habits that help us save money on things like food, cable, insurance, electricity and credit card interest that allow us to spend more of our money where we want to.
1. We Cut Cable
One of the biggest ways that we save on a monthly basis is by cutting cable. For us, it isn’t worth it to pay for it so instead we only pay for internet. Of course we mooch off family for streaming services and access to networks via apps, but it just doesn’t make sense for us to pay $50-100+ each month for something that we can live without. Especially since you can find almost any show online these days.
2. We Always Pay Our Credit Cards On Time & In Full
Credit card interest is something that we avoid at all costs. This is important not only because we are mindful of our credit scores, but even more so because we want to save money on interest. We treat credit cards like they are due in full each month and that saves us hundreds to thousands of dollars in interest each year. We also only use cash back credit cards so we actually get money back each month for our usual spending. Credit card companies really don’t make money on us!
Check out our credit card guide to find a card suited to your credit and to learn more about managing your credit.
3. We Are Very Mindful of Our Grocery Shopping
Food is our biggest variable expense each month so we do our best to cut costs. We both enjoy food (eating it more than cooking it) but we find many ways to save on our food expenses. We do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, a discount supermarket, and buy the majority of our food and other household items off brand rather than brand name. For the few items we just can’t stand off brand, we buy them at the store with the cheapest price, like Walmart, or buy them when they go on sale.
4. We Shop Around For Insurance & Bundle
Car insurance and homeowner’s insurance have one important thing in common: they are expensive. We want to fully protect our cars and house, but we also want to save money. So we shop around for car insurance and find the most affordable company without sacrificing coverage. We also research additional ways to save, such as a discount for lowering our yearly mileage. But, the biggest way we save on insurance is from bundling. One of us pays a little more for car insurance than at a previous company, but we save about $500 on home insurance each year just from insuring our house and car with the same company.
5. We Try To Conserve Electricity
This is for both environmental and financial reasons. We live in sunny south Florida so the summers are HOT, which means we spend a lot on air conditioning. But we use a programmable thermostat to have a set schedule to make it cooler at night and warmer during the day. We also can raise the temperature when no one, including our dog, is home. For us, these frugal living habits make a big difference in our electricity bill. We have a hand-me-down Nest Thermostat, but this Honeywell Programmable Thermostat is under $20 and has a 4 star rating with over 1,750 reviews.
When we bought our house we replaced all of the fluorescent lights with LEDs to save electricity and money on replacement light bulbs. Although these lights use less electricity, we are still very good at turning off the lights when we leave a room.
6. We Comparison Shop & Check Reviews For Big Ticket Items
To us, frugal living doesn’t mean we never spend a lot of money on something. For instance, we bought a new TV with a stand alone sound system a couple years ago and we did a lot of research first. We compared prices from store to store and checked online reviews to ensure we would get our money’s worth. It’s amazing how the same product can have a big price difference depending on the store, you just have to check online before you shop. On top of that, once we decide on the specific product we look for coupons using Google. You’d be surprised how many products and stores post coupon codes, you just have to look! All of these frugal living habits saved us a couple hundred dollars on this entertainment set and many other things.
7. We Cook Most of Our Meals & Get Creative
By we cook, I mean that I cook most of our meals, and this helps us cut our spending on food in a few ways. It really saves A LOT of money to limit eating out and instead buy ingredients and cook most meals from home. There’s also a big difference in cost between cooking from scratch and cooking with partially prepared (processed) foods. Don’t get me wrong – we still buy frozen chicken tenders for those times when nothing else sounds good.
But I do try to cook most meals from scratch and because time and effort are always the biggest factor in cooking, I rely on useful tools. I used to cook most meals in a slow cooker, like this one, and after receiving an Instant Pot as a gift I now use that for both slow cooking and pressure cooking. Either way all I have to do is chop ingredients and toss them in and let the cooker do its magic.
I really do my best to never waste food so I have to get creative sometimes. Last weekend I made a breakfast casserole with potatoes, eggs, tomatoes and ground turkey – all of which were going to expire if they weren’t used soon. I try to plan meals around the foods that we have and having an organized cupboard really helps with this.
8. We Switch Internet Plans To Get Annual Promotions
Despite not paying for cable or streaming services, fast internet is really important to us. And that can be really expensive. A really great way around paying $75+ a month for fast internet is taking advantage of yearly promotions. This was easy for us when we moved around a lot in apartments, but after living in our house for over a year our internet bill was going to go up from $30 a month to $53 and that was for base internet. With one of us working from home and using multiple devices together at night sometimes, we wanted faster internet but didn’t want to pay top dollar. So after spending some time on it, I was able to get another year-long promotion that quadrupled our speed for only $40 a month without switching providers.
It takes some effort to do this every year, but it’s totally worth it for us. I set a yearly recurring calendar reminder a few weeks before the promotion expires so I can do it again next year.
Prioritize Your Wants To Create Your Own Frugal Living Habits
You may have noticed that we haven’t talked about clothes shopping or some other common “wants” and that’s because we buy stuff we need and we prioritize our wants. That’s what frugal living is all about and that’s why it’s different for each person.
We also learn about saving money from our experiences, you can read more about some expenses we recently cut in our article, Post-Pandemic Savings: Expenses We Easily Learned To Live Without.
Developing frugal living habits does not mean you have to sacrifice the things you enjoy – in fact it’s the complete opposite. Instead, you find ways to save on everything that matters less to you. Some of the things we save money on may be important to you, so find ways to save on other expenses. Get creative and do some research. It takes effort to live frugally, but it’s all worth it when you’re able to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming of, pay off your debt or do whatever it is that you truly value.
Sometimes you have to spend a little money to save a lot over the long-term, to find inexpensive ways to do this check out our article, 9 Products Under $20 That Will Save You Money.
Do you have some frugal living habits that we didn’t mention? We would love to hear about them – let us know in the comments below.
Financial freedom begins with good habits.Rebecca & Tiago, theloadedpig.com