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Being frugal, conscious spenders a great way to avoid debt and build wealth, but it isn’t always easy. Being frugal means having a good sense of the things you really need, getting the best price for them (while balancing real value), and not spending money on all those things you don’t need. A roof over your head, food to eat, and good toilet paper? Needs! Fidget spinners and luxury cars? You should probably pass.
While my husband and I are good savers, we aren’t always the most frugal family out there. So, to help us get some new ideas, I reached out to some top money-saving personal finance bloggers to hear their top ways to flex their frugal muscles.
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How to be frugal, while not being cheap
When I reached out to my blogging peers, I asked them a simple question. Is there something you do to save money that you feel like most families aren’t willing to do or don’t think to do? Here are their answers!
Buying clothes at thrift shops
We buy almost all of our clothes from thrift shops. Ms. Blue Ribbon gets nearly new brand name jeans for pennies on the dollar. I regret not tracking how much we save. Though the savings add up fast when a kids shirt is about $2.50 at the thrift store and $15+ at your department store.
– Budget on a Stick
I’ve never bought clothes at a thrift shop, but I’m willing to bet Budget on a Stick has saved hundreds with this tip. I tend to go the route of only shopping clearance sales with discount gift cards to stack savings, and only buying things I need, but this is a next level savings method! With how quickly Fuss Fish goes through clothes, I may have to check it out!
Giving kids an allowance
We have started to give the kids an allowance which actually saves us money! Now they can pick what they want and we get to say ‘No’ guilt-free.
Plus, it teaches them money-management skills (well the older one anyway :))
– Working Optional
I love, love, love this. It is so important to teach money management skills early (did you know many money habits are set by age 7!) and allowance gives parents a free pass from the “gimmes”. I can’t wait until Fuss Fish is old enough to have his first allowance!
If managing a cash allowance seems overwhelming or like a burden, be sure to check out FamZoo. It is my absolute favorite app for giving kids personal control over their allowance and budget in an increasingly digital age, while still giving parents the ability to have complete oversight via their smartphone.
Choosing simple over flashy
We eat the same 7 meals every week. Tuesday is always hamburgers for instance. Saves time making a grocery list (always the same), and also we don’t need to buy every ingredient every week – cha-ching.
– CY Innovations
Ah ha! There are other people in the world who would happily eat the same things over and over! As a picky eater and poor meal planner, I’ll have to float this idea by my husband. He wants to keep more variety in our meals so Fuss Fish doesn’t become a picky eater, but it often means we overspend on food.
For instance, our meal plans are currently dictated by Google docs. We have a saved file of easy, meatless meals that we try to incorporate once or twice a week, a few staple items, and then rotate different things in that are kept on our Recipes board on Pinterest. We keep the weekly plan on Google docs (when we remember) so we know what meats need to come out of the freezer when. Plus, Daddy Fish is a big user of Ibotta and the weekly Wegmans circular to make sure we are utilizing items that are on sale. When we keep up with it, it works great. But Chris’s method sounds way, way easier!
Taking the extra step to save
I’ve been rotating our internet provider and switching the account holder to keep promotional pricing. The 2 companies here (RCN and Comcast) use compatible modems, so I can have internet set up under the new provider or account in a day or two with my current equipment that I bought. This usually saves around $20-30 per month on service plus $10+ per month for using our own equipment, and right now we’re on a 155mb plan for $35 on RCN.
I know a lot of people will call and threaten to cancel to try to keep promo pricing, but for me, it’s a lot less of a hassle to just go thru with it and switch service to not deal with the run-around.
I hate dealing with cable companies and internet providers, which is probably why they keep taking so much of my money. Despite arguing on the phone with Verizon for over an hour after we cut our cable, I couldn’t get them to drop our internet connection to the current promotional price. I guess I should have just bit the bullet and switched providers!
Sometimes the secret to saving money and getting the best price is just being willing to give up a bit of convenience. No, it doesn’t make sense to drive all around town looking for the best price on gas, but it is worth it to click through Ebates for a small cash rebate before an online order or take 30 minutes to price shop recurring services like internet or car insurance.
My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for our anniversary, birthdays or holidays. Started this 3-4 years ago and it easily saves us $800-1000 per year. We make each other cards or something else creative, spend extra time together doing something fun or tackling a project together. Experiences over things.
– Life Zemplified
This is so sweet. Over the past year or two, my husband and I have found it increasingly difficult to buy each other gifts. We are just content with the things we have! It might be time to institute Life Zemplified’s policy and just do homemade cards and spend time together. I know since having Fuss Fish, date nights have become all the more meaningful. Dinner and a movie or a hike just the two of us sounds pretty perfect!
Reducing housing costs
We host on AirBnB the entire 1st floor of our 3-story townhouse. We rarely run into our 1st-floor guests since they have their own amenities and we’re separated by an entire middle floor.
Last year we decided to rent out our 3rd-floor bedroom upstairs for below market value, just for wary overnight travelers, as an experiment. That means our guests will be sharing the same hallway, living room and bathroom as us. It’s definitely a different level of privacy compared to the first floor.
We haven’t had any issues yet and thankfully we have more good memories than bad memories. The 3rd-floor bedroom brings in an additional $1,000 a month.
– The Frugal Gene
So, so many props to Lily of The Frugal Gene! Her AirBnB stories and successes are so fun to read about and hosting guests in her own home is an awesome way to meet new people and reduce housing costs. This definitely checks the box of doing something to save money most people aren’t willing to do! I know renting our guest bedroom to strangers, which is next to Fuss Fish’s room, would be out of the question in our house.
While you may not have the guts to follow in Lily’s footsteps, her AirBnB strategy raises an important point about housing costs. Why do so many of us have extra room in our homes in the first place? In most cases, it is cheaper to put our relatives and friends up at a nearby hotel when they’re in town than paying for the overhead of extra rooms all year round.
When my husband and I were looking for homes, we looked at numerous on Zillow that we both said were too small. We talked about our childhood homes with the basement playrooms and guest room for family. It wasn’t until we looked up our old homes that we realized they were both way, way smaller than we thought. Bedrooms have gotten bigger, nooks and sitting rooms more numerous, and our expectations of normal have increased. Being frugal with housing costs may mean turning your extra rooms into passive income like Lily, but it could also mean simply choosing to live happily in a smaller, more cost-effective home.
Drive an old car
Drive an old car with 100,000+ miles. The temptation to upgrade is always there but as long as the current car keeps on running then I’m gonna stick with it. It’s gets good mileage, is reasonably safe and should last another 100,000 miles if I treat it well.
– Money By Dad
Impressive mileage, Derek! We plan to drive both our cars until they die, knowing that they are both safe, well maintained, and get decent gas mileage. The longer you own your car, the less depreciation is killing your annual cost of ownership. Plus, who wants to deal with car salesmen?
Baking our own bread
While Daddy Fish and I may not be frugal masters like the people above, I have to mention our favorite money saving trick. A few years ago, Daddy Fish bought me a breadmaker for Christmas and we have since started making all our own bread. This probably saves us, at most, a little over $200 a year, but it also has the benefit of tasting better and being healthier!
Our breadmaker makes a 2-pound loaf and a standard sandwich bread costs us ~$2.87 per loaf (using bulk organic flour and other ingredients). Alternatively, a 1.5-pound organic loaf at Wegmans typically costs $5. At one loaf a week, that is ~$110 a year. We also use it for specialty bread to bring to potlucks – pumpernickel bread and dill dip is always a crowd pleaser! – as well as dough for french bread, rolls, cinnamon buns, and more!
If you want to try your hand at bread making, we use the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso. It is a little more expensive than other breadmakers on the market (for a good lower cost option, try the Cuisinart), but we get great results every time and the pan remains non-stick after dozens and dozens of uses!
Being highly frugal means being thoughtful about your spending!
Most people view being frugal as living a life of deprivation. I think this isn’t the case at all! Being frugal means taking the time to think through your expenses and spending money on what really matters to you. Don’t take any cost as a given and think creatively about how you could get the things you need for a great value.
Do you consider your family to be frugal? What is your favorite way to save on important expenses? Drop a note in the comments so we can all hear new techniques!
This post was proofread by Grammarly.