Ten Frugal Tips for Simple Living
Say Hello to Living Simple
There are some who will read the title of this article and read no further. They simply are not interested in living frugally and to them I say, “more power to you.” I understand that this is not for everyone. I understand that lifestyles are learned behavior, and that there are those out there who are quite comfortable and have no desire to learn a new behavior that will take them out of their comfort zone.
I also understand that those in the top 1% certainly have no desire to live frugally. Wealth, and all that it can purchase, is intoxicating, and asking someone like Bill Gates to downsize his mansion is a fool’s mission.
However, there are millions upon millions of people (the lower 99%) who can benefit from these suggestions and could definitely benefit from living simple. Frugal living does not have to be about living in misery. It is entirely possible to live happily with fewer possessions. This author has been doing it now for six years, and in reality, most of my life has been about frugal living. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression, and the lessons they learned were naturally passed down to me. For that I am grateful!
Of course, they wanted the best for their son, and of course, they wanted me to have a better life than they had; however, they did not define “better” as having more money. Their primary concern was that I learn to be happy in life and that I grow up with a set of principles that would carry me through the trials and tribulations that would most certainly arise as I traveled my path.
So here I am now, a happy and contented man, who does not need the trappings of life to validate my self-worth. I have found happiness without an abundance of possessions and I am embracing a frugal lifestyle. You can too!
Why Go Frugal?
This is a valid question, especially in today’s world where everything seemingly revolves around possessions. For my way of thinking, there are four main reasons to adopt this lifestyle:
1. Frugality allows you to spend less than you earn
2. Frugality means you can earn less because you spend less
3. Frugality allows you time to enjoy life and appreciate those things that have no price tag.
4. Frugality simplifies life; it de-clutters your physical world and thus de-clutters your emotional world.
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” Henry David Thoreau
What follows are ten tips to help you achieve what I believe to be a wonderfully simple lifestyle.
1. Live in a Smaller House
This is the difference between what you want and what you need. If you were to seriously de-clutter and get rid of unneeded items, you would be amazed by how little room you need to live. I have lived comfortably in 500 square feet. When I was a single parent we lived in a home with 1000 square feet.
Living in a smaller home means less furniture, less house payment, fewer property taxes, fewer utilities, and less upkeep. Do you really need all of that space, or do you just want it?
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2. Buy Used First
Obviously, used costs less, unless, of course, we are talking about antiques or collectibles. When I needed a new printer for my freelance writing business, I put out the word among my friends. Turned out one of my friends had an extra one and he just gave it to me for cost.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have such friends, check craigslist.org or go to garage sales or thrift shops. About the only thing I won’t buy used is underwear. Even I have my limits regarding frugality.
3. Eat out Less
Yes, this is a sacrilege to a fast food society, but stop and think about the nickels and dimes spent during a year on those quick trips to McDonald's or Starbucks. The average American spends close to $3000 per year eating out.
This writer grew up on fast food. I love a juicy burger and some greasy fries, and I love the fact that I can have it all for $5 and I don’t have to cook. However, if I do that twice a week, I have wasted $520 on just fast food. I also loved having a mocha each morning. Four dollars per day times 365 days . . . $1460 per year. I now have two mochas per week; still an extravagance but one I feel I deserve for working hard for forty-five years.
4. Eliminate Half Your Wardrobe and Replace As Needed With Used Clothes
This step helps de-clutter the house and greatly reduces shopping costs in the future. How many pairs of shoes do you own? The average American woman owns 19 pairs of shoes; over 15% own more than 30 pairs. Please! Why does someone need that many shoes? Take half of them to a charity drop-off and do not replace them. If you want an incentive, it is tax-deductible. A win-win situation if ever there was one.
Over half of your clothes are only worn once a year! Get rid of them! Give to charity, save more on taxes, and if you have to replace any, go to a secondhand store to do so. The last coat I bought was a North Face heavy fleece and I bought it at Goodwill for $7. Get rid of the status-symbol thinking and start thinking frugally.
5. Stop Impulse Buying
We all do it! We walk through a shopping mall and something catches our eye, and so we buy it. We had no intention of buying it when we entered the mall, but some inner urge triggered our shopping impulse and now we own it. Kiosks at the shopping malls thrive on impulse buying, and we Americans feed the economy on a regular basis because we can’t seem to curb this unintentional buying habit.
Shopping online is every bit as dangerous to the pocketbook. eBay, Amazon, craigslist, they are all there to lure us out of our good intentions and into further debt. And we fall for it time and time again. If you want to save some big bucks, stop impulse buying.
6. Buy in Bulk
I have to tell you, I hate Costco, the warehouse giant. I get around all of those people and I start breaking out in hives. Not really, but you get the point. However, the deals there are incredible, and I’m all about saving money. If I have to buy fifty rolls of toilet paper to save fifty cents a roll, then I’m doing it. It’s not like I won’t use it, right?
One added bonus to shopping at Costco or other large, bulk stores: if you get there at the right time of day, they are giving out free samples. You can literally save money on lunch by eating for free while saving money on necessity items. How cool is that?
7. Get Rid of Your Television
I’m sorry, but television is unnecessary! Save on the expense of cable and save about nine years, on average, of your life. Plus, watching less tv means you will be more active, which means better health, which means fewer trips to the expensive doctor.
I know, it seems unimaginable, but it is possible to be happy without television. This writer has not owned one for six years. Time saved is used to read, visit with loved ones, go for walks, and in general just to enjoy life. Money saved on cable is money I don’t have to earn in the future.
Statistics on Television Use in America
How often do Americans watch television? Read these rather startling stats on America's number one pastime.
8. Go to the Library
This is coming from an author. Books are expensive! Owning books is unnecessary. Join your local library and get unlimited books for free. That is one sweet deal that keeps on giving.
Better yet, take all of your old books and sell them online or have a garage sale. Now we’re talking! Clean out your house, take all your old CDs, DVDs, and books, and make some extra cash. Now you have a savings account for emergencies, or a vacation, or whatever. Do you see how this frugal lifestyle thing works?
9. Walk More Often
What does gasoline cost nowadays? $4 per gallon? It fluctuates for sure, but one thing that is certain is it won’t be dropping down to the $2.50 per gallon we all dream of. Those days are long gone. Start walking more. If possible, for that trip to the grocery store for a loaf of bread, walk it!
If you live somewhere that makes it impossible to walk to the store, then make sure you coordinate your errands so that you only make one trip. It’s amazing how much gas is wasted each week on needless trips. Start charting your car trips and then plan a way that saves on gas. The added bonus is that you are saving on wear and tear to your vehicle.
10. Drink More Water
Yes, drink more water! You are already paying for it; you might as well drink it! Stop buying soda and flavored waters at the grocery store. Do you want some flavor with that water? Grow your own peppermint or spearmint and put a sprig in your water.
Remember, what do you need vs what do you want? That’s the question any frugal person will ask every time. You do not need soda; you do, however, need water. Pretty simple really!
Take a Minute to Participate in This Poll, Please
Can you see yourself living frugally?
More to Come
Oh, there is so much more, but that’s all we have time for in this installment. Never fear, we will have ten more tips for you next week. I’m loaded with them and I want to share with all of you. It is my hope that once you start on this road you will begin to see the benefits of this frugal way of thinking, and then you will embrace it as I have.
Repeat after me: Less is more!
Or, as Henry David would say: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
Questions & Answers
What about vacations? Can they be frugal?
Good luck doing a vacation frugally...camping?Helpful 15
I can live frugally...however my wife of 20 years was born with a silver spoon and a mom who is all about money and more...what can I do to let my wife know that "less is more"?
It's pretty hard to change a person with that kind of upbringing, I would think. If it's really an issue it sounds like you two need to sit down and work it out. If it's not really an issue, and you can afford her extravagance, then I say there really isn't a problem. Bottom line: how far do you want to push this matter?Helpful 10