I recently wrote about “Why” of frugality. Today I’ll get back to the “How.” Here’s 10 practical tips inspired by the book Your Money or Your Life and from my own experiences. Decide which tips might work best for you. With a little practice, these can become a way of life.
10 Ways to Save Money
1. Stop trying to impress people.
“Other people are probably so busy trying to impress you that they will, at best, not notice your efforts. At worst, they will resent you for one-upping them,” writes Vicki Robin. It’s more about inflating the ego than meeting real needs. Do we really need more clothes or more pairs of shoes or can we get by with what we have? Do you think you need status symbols to fit in at your job? Chances are your boss didn’t hire you based on the car you drove to the interview. Chances are that most of the pressure you feel to look a certain way or demonstrate a certain amount of wealth are imagined. I personally don’t choose my friends based on what they wear or the trends they follow. Assume your friends are people of character and won’t abandon you if you start wearing the same things over and over.
2. Don’t go shopping.
Realize that shopping “just for fun” is filling other needs. I’m definitely guilty of this. I do it a lot less now that I have two small children, but sometimes me and the kids like to get out of the house so we’ll go to the store. I try to be honest and at least acknowledge it for what it is – a need other than material belongings. We avoid the store whenever possible, opting instead for the park, friend’s house, or the library. We keep a running list of the things we truly need on the fridge. When the list gets urgent enough, we go to that store and we buy only those things. We try to derive as much enjoyment as possible out of shopping for our “needs” that there’s no desire left to browse for “wants.”
3. Live within your means.
This simply means spend less than you make. Pay off debt quickly. Wait till you have the cash to buy something, forcing yourself to wait. Understand delayed gratification. Just because you qualify for a loan doesn’t mean you can “afford” the item. Make a plan to pay off your existing debts if you have them, and then resist the urge to take out more loans. Josh and I use credit cards for almost everything, since we discovered how to utilize reward point programs. We are careful to pay the balance off every month. If you’re prone to fall in over your head with credit cards, the risk outweighs the benefits – stick with cash and debit only.
4. Take care of what you have.
I try to be a good steward of everything that’s under my care. This includes our bodies as well as our homes and possessions. Take good preventive care. Be healthy and treat your body with the same care that you do your most prized possessions. Around the house, we try to stay on top of repairing broken things promptly. When we update something on the house we try to get the most efficient and cost-effective version possible in order to save resources in the long run.
5. Wear it out.
Don’t simply upgrade for the sake of upgrading. Kill it before you replace it. Many of us don’t actually wear out / use things up before we buy a new one. And then we don’t get rid of the old one “because it’s still perfectly good.” At that point, not only have we bought something we didn’t need, but we’ve added clutter to our lives. For instance, I waited until our blender completely stopped working to buy a new one. I wear my favorite clothes and shoes for years until they are beyond repair before getting a replacement. What I don’t like enough to wear out completely, I give away so someone else can use it up.
6. Do it yourself.
Insource everything you can. Learn how to do common things like sew buttons, cut hair, and bake. No amount of cutting coupons or searching for deals will payoff as much as doing it yourself. It all comes down to whether or not we’re willing to try something. Don’t be afraid to learn new skills. YouTube makes it easy to learn just about anything. The satisfaction that follows after a simple home repair is thrilling! Be realistic, of course, and don’t try anything too dangerous. Gradually increase the size of your projects as you grow comfortable. Consult friends and experts if you’re lucky enough to know some. If you do have to pay someone to do something for you, pay attention and ask questions.
7. Anticipate your needs.
This eliminates paying extra for last-minute convenience as well as impulse buying. Plan ahead, know when you will run out of something so you can get it for the best price before it’s gone. Plan for leftovers rather than fast food on busy days. Plan to make coffee at home rather than buying it out. Also anticipate your weaknesses. If you find yourself spending money on the same things day after day, find a solution or a replacement habit. The savings for replaced habits aren’t just one-time savings – they are compounded every time you don’t do the thing.
8. Research before you buy.
Don’t buy things just because they’re cheap. (Resist those Black Friday doorbusters and bargain bins at IKEA.) A bargain isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it. A bargain also isn’t a bargain if it is poorly made and breaks quickly. I personally hate researching purchases, but it’s so helpful for pricy items. I researched kitchen faucets for months before choosing ours. Read reviews online, go to stores that carry the item, and wait for sales. Get the best quality you can afford because it’s more expensive to replace things multiple times due to lack of quality. For instance, we once bought a cheap plastic replacement handle for our dryer and it broke again within a few months. The second time we went for a stainless steel version.
9. Buy it for less.
Most new items depreciate immediately. Even if they have resale value it’s nothing compared to what they sold for in the store. Keep this in mind and buy second-hand as much as possible, either online, at thrift stores, swaps, or garage sales. Know how much the new item goes for in case the seller is asking too much. Sometimes Goodwill charges more for a new in box appliance than Craigslist. Ask around if you need an item that might be sitting in your friends’ or family’s basements. If you can buy / swap it from a friend, it’s a win / win /win: they gain space, you gain an item you needed, and it saves all those would-be-wasted resources!
10. Meet your needs differently.
There’s often multiple ways to meet a need. Get creative and branch out. If you shop to prevent feeling lonely or bored, try a run in the neighborhood or meeting with a friend instead. If you need a break in routine, try a stay-cation instead of a vacation and see if it helps. When spending, stop telling yourself “I deserve the best.” The best isn’t treating yourself to this or that, the best is building a fulfilling life with your expenditures matching your life’s purpose.
Only when you cut back and live within your means will you have the excess to give and invest in things that truly matter to you. You might find, like we have, that frugality will become a new default. It doesn’t mean you’re depriving yourself and not enjoying the world – frugality can actually free us to enjoy the world in more meaningful ways.