I have a confession. You might think I’m an avid ‘money saver,’ because I’m constantly blogging about a healthy financial life, but in reality- I’m not! At times I tend to be fairly frugal, but my true colors come out in the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue.
So this week I’ve challenged myself to take on a more frugal lifestyle. (It’s worth a try, right?) Money, the quest to earn it, and the struggle to keep it has taken over our lives, but if I’m able to find the paths that don’t require much money (or none at all,) I feel that I’ve ‘won the battle.’
I’ve tried a lot of cheap living tips, but most of them don’t work for me. Through trial and error, I’ve found five frugal lifestyle changes that have actually helped me to save money, here they are:
I’ve reduced convenient foods. Frozen foods, anything that comes in a bag (I’m looking at you, Doritos,) and other junk food … anything that’s packaged and prepared for our convenience is not only more expensive than something you could cook yourself, but most likely unhealthy- packed with preservatives and the infamous ‘natural flavors.’ It’s hard to beat the convenience of these goods, so I won’t be eliminating them completely, rather, I will reduce the consumption- and I suggest you do the same!
I’ve been using the library. I usually buy 1 book a month, and if you figure that 1 book (hard cover) costs roughly $15-$20, that can add up to almost $240 a year! So instead of buying books, you’ll see me at the library checking them out for free. And depending on your area, your library will most likely carry a great selection of DVDs and audio books. Who needs cable, right?
I’ve saved gas. And there are so many ways to do this- but I don’t think that most of us realize it. For example, a few times a week I will visit the convenient store on my block. Not only should I abstain from thoughtless convenient store purchases, but I SHOULDN’T be driving when I could be walking. Turning this 2 minute drive into a 15 minute round-trip walk is one of the best decisions I could make for my wallet AND my waist.
In addition, I no longer go home on my lunch break. Yes- I’m very lucky that my office is only a 3 mile drive from my house. But it really adds up- 3 miles to the office in the morning, plus 3 miles back home for lunch, plus 3 miles back to the office and then the 3 miles back home…12 miles! And if I do that every day, I will have turned my 6 mile round trip commute into a 12 mile round trip commute- doubling my gas expenditure for the entire year. Of course there will be the odd time that I need to go home on my lunch break, but just the fact that I’m not doing it every day will ensure that I save a pretty penny.
I’ve been brown bagging it at work. Not only have I saved money from not driving home and back on my lunch break, but I’ve been bringing leftovers and snacks to work instead of utilizing the vending machine or the slew of fast food choices nearby. If you figure that eating out can cost roughly $10-$15 per meal on lunch, a brown-bagged lunch costs between $1-$3. If you save $11-$12 every weekday, every week of the year, you get about $3,000. Now if that doesn’t inspire you to bring your own lunch to work, I don’t know what will!
I’ve been planning ahead. It’s easy to say, but not so easy to implement. I’ve been making it a habit to think ahead to things that are coming up in my life. For example, if I know that I will be meeting friends or family at a restaurant for dinner on Saturday, I’ll refrain from eating out this week, since I will have that ‘luxury’ on Saturday. Or if I know that I need to make a trip to the grocery store Tuesday at 6pm, I won’t pick up some overpriced bread and milk at the convenient store the morning beforehand. It’s simple no-brainer decisions like this that can curtail your spending and save you a good chunk of money.