A frugal life doesn’t have to be a boring life. Many people believe that by being frugal with your finances, you are depriving yourself of the pleasures of life.
But that could not be further from the truth. Smart money management doesn’t necessarily mean denying yourself, it means making wise choices about how you spend your money so you can live within your means. In fact, a frugal life can be filled with many riches, including time spent with friends, fun hobbies, valuable learning opportunities, exciting experiences and much more.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that frugal living can actually improve your quality of life, as well as some tips on how to budget your money.
Focus on Experiences, Not Things
So many frugal living tips focus on the things you’re cutting out, rather than what’s gained. But the truth is, frugal living can help you become happier, because you’ll shift your focus from material things to the things that really matter in life, like friends, family and enjoying nature and hobbies. These are what give our life meaning, rather than the stuff we buy.
Stop worrying about what people think
When you let go of the need to “keep up with the Joneses” you’ll feel a lot less stress. Who cares what brand of jeans you wear or what type of car you drive? Instead, enjoy the activities that make you happy.
Live within your means
Spending less than you earn gives you more freedom with your finances, so that you can pay off debt, save or invest. The less you spend, the less you need to earn – which takes a lot of pressure off and gives you more flexibility.
Do You Really Need a Car?
Could you perform your commute and your day-to-day errands using public transport, walking or cycling? (For most people who live in urban centres, the answer is yes.) If so, consider ditching the car. Even if you rent a car for the day on the odd occasion you really need one, you’ll spend less on a yearly basis than owning and maintaining your own vehicle. Not to mention you will be much more active and healthy – just one more way living on a budget can improve your quality of life!
To buy or to rent?
Many people believe that buying a home is always the best investment, but that’s not necessarily true. Depending on the situation, the state of the housing market, the interest you pay on a mortgage, as well as the maintenance and cost of insurance, buying can be costlier than renting. It some cases you can rent, invest the difference and end up ahead in the long term. Here’s a handy calculator to help you decide whether it’s better to rent or buy.
Track your finances
The saying goes “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.” When you track your spending and savings, you’ll be able to see what you are spending money on and look for areas where you can cut back. You can also watch your savings accounts grow, which is a wonderful feeling and will keep you motivated on your frugal journey. (Here are some recommendations for great personal finance tracking apps.)
Always seek out used products
Before you buy something new, check to see if someone you know has a used one. It’s better for the environment and for your bank balance. (If you can’t find used and need to buy a new one, seek out discount shopping vouchers so you can save on your purchase.)
Imagine having a minimalist wardrobe, with a few basic pieces that you spice up with fun accessories. You won’t need to buy as many clothes and you’ll save a lot of stress when deciding what to wear in the morning.
The 30-day rule
If you really want something, write it down. If you still want to buy it 30 days later, then it’s probably worth buying. (You’ll find that with most items, you won’t care about them 30 days later.) it’s one of the best ways to save money, if you’ve got the discipline…
Splurge only on your absolute favourites
Being frugal doesn’t mean completely denying yourself treats. Instead, choose only the things you love the most and spend a little extra on them. When you treat yourself selectively, you’ll appreciate it so much more.
Food & Home
Learn to Cook
Not only is cooking your own meals healthier, but it’s also much more economical than eating in restaurants, ordering takeaway or buying pre-prepared meals from the supermarket. (Plus, it can be a lot of fun to experiment in the kitchen!)
Meal planning is a great way to avoid those expensive impulse buys that happen when you wander around the supermarket while hungry (or the urge to order takeaway). Save money on food by buying all your groceries on the weekend, making a week’s worth of meals and keeping them in the freezer for easy reheating. It’ll save on lunches for work, too.
Use Gift Cards, Vouchers and Coupons
You’d be amazed by how much you can save by combining coupons, promo codes, discount gift vouchers and other offers for your local supermarkets. There are even apps out there that you can use to earn cashback on the items you purchase. Skint Dad has a very comprehensive guide to using coupons, vouchers and other money-saving strategies. Tip – Most supermarkets offer a generous online shopping discount when you use their delivery service the first time.
Entertainment & Holidays
It’s About People
Having fun on a budget becomes immediately easier when you shift your focus from, “what do I want to do?” to “Who do I want to spend time with?” Often, it’s the people you care about who make moments memorable, not where you are or what you are doing. If you enjoy someone’s company, sitting in the living room for a chat with tea and biscuits can be just as fun as any expensive day out.
Find Free Things to Do
Seek out entertainment that doesn’t cost a thing, like going for a nature hike, playing card games or visiting a free museum. Being frugal doesn’t have to be boring or restrictive – there are so many fun and entertaining things you can do that are cheap or free.
Get a Hobby
When you spend less, you’ll need to work less – so you’ll have more free time to enjoy yourself. Here’s a list of 50 low-cost hobbies that you can get into which will enrich your life and won’t cost a lot.
Join the Library
With so many free books, films and even video games to enjoy – you’d be crazy not to tap into this fantastic resource. It’s worth hours of entertainment and it doesn’t cost a thing (as long as you return your items by the due date!)
Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to miss out on travel. From last minute holidays to overnight trains to hostels, there are many ways that you can book a cheap holiday and see the world for less. Check out our cheap travel tips here.
The most important thing to remember is that being frugal is personal – you can choose to adjust your spending to your needs and create your own unique approach. It’s all about designing a frugal life that suits you and makes you happy. Have you got a top tip on how to live frugally? Share it with the Zeek community by telling us all about it in the comments.