I am fairly frugal (though not always), but sometimes I take it too far: I have T-shirts with holes in them, I never buy new clothes, we’re shopping for a new couch because our current one has holes in it, and I ran my current pair of running shoes until the soles fell off.
However, I have gradually learned to be frugal in many ways that I would recommend to others. I don’t think you should have holes in your couch, and you should definitely replace your running shoes more often than I do, but there are many ways to cut back on spending and live a more frugal lifestyle.
Why live frugally? First, because it allows you to spend less than you earn, and use the difference to pay off debt, save or invest. Or all three. Second, because the less you spend, the less you need to earn. And that means you can choose to work less, or work more but retire early. Or take mini retirements. You have more options with a frugal lifestyle.
I know what I’m going to hear in the comments, because it’s been done repeatedly with my other frugal articles: I have no life. This is boring. I might as well live in a box. You have to enjoy life sometimes.
All of which you might believe, but I believe I do have a life. A great one. One where I spend time with my family, where I have conversations and read and get outside and do things that are fun and exercise and focus on what’s important and spend my free time the way I want. This is a good life. Read this article for more.
So, if you’d like some tips on frugal living, here are just a few, from a cheapskate. I should note that I do most, but not all, of these tips.
- Go with one car. Many families have two or more cars. Besides your house, your car is probably your most expensive item. If you can do with one, you should. My wife and I both work, and we have six kids, and yet we have learned to manage with one car.
- Go with a smaller house. Just because you can afford a larger house, doesn’t mean you should live in one. Live in as small a house as you can and still be comfortable. I don’t mean you should live in a one-room apartment with a family of four … you know what I mean. You can save thousands a year with a smaller house. Many times, if you get rid of a lot of clutter, you don’t need a large house.
- Go with a smaller car. Again, you can save thousands by going with a smaller car. A car instead of an SUV, for example, is a big savings. Be comfortable, but don’t overdo it. You’ll save a lot on gas this way too.
- Rent rather than own. This will probably spark a huge debate, as it always does. The thing is, just don’t assume that buying is the better investment. If you calculate the interest you pay on a mortgage, the cost of insurance and maintenance, buying is often much more costly than renting … and if you rent, save money, and then invest the difference, you can actually end up well ahead in the long run. Now, it’s not a given, so do a comparison, factoring in all expenses. Here’s a more in-depth article.
- Look for used first. If you need something — I mean really need it, not just want it — see if someone you know has one that they don’t use or need anymore. Send out an email to family or friends, or just ask around. You might be surprised. I was about to buy a printer, and then found out my mom just bought a laser printer and didn’t need her old inkjet … saving me close to 100 smackeroos. If no one you know owns one, try freecycle.org or craigslist.org. Then look to buy used, at garage sales or thrift shops. You can find a bargain if you look around.