Lately I have become very excited to find that ‘frugal living’ is a hot trend; not just a polite term for someone who is poor or cheap. Frugal, thrifty, savvy…these are adjectives which I proudly wear as badges of honor.
For practical reasons, being frugal helped during the Quarantine of 2020. This may be the same for others or it may mean adopting a more minimalist approach to life, living off of a meager income, or wanting to save up for a big purchase.
No matter the reason, ‘living frugal’ is awesome, rewarding and easier than you think. Today I want to share with you my Fave Five Frugal Living Tips. All five of these strategies will help save you money, help you learn to love life with ‘less’, and jumpstart your creativity and passion for all things frugal.
1. DO IT YOURSELF (DIY)
This first tip on the list is probably my favorite. I will be the first one to admit that I am not the most crafty person in the world. I enjoy attempting DIY projects but my skills are adequate, not phenomenal. However, DIY doesn’t require you to be an expert. As long as you have an open mind, a willingness to learn while making mistakes, and patience, you can begin to save a lot of money by completing many projects and tasks yourself.
So many household products can be made instead of store-bought: baby wipes, laundry detergent, air fresheners, multi-purpose cleaning spray, soap, and cloth napkins just to name a few. When you DIY, you cut down on cost because you aren’t paying for labor and shipping. You are also able to go natural with your cleaners and soaps because you are in control of all the ingredients.
Another aspect of DIY is fixing your own minor household issues. Mending clothes with small holes and tears, cleaning your gutters, de-clogging your drains, and re-painting faded paint are all simple projects that don’t take a lot of training to manage.
Fixing minor issues not only saves your wallet but also infuses a sense of pride in the handwork you put in to fixing a problem. Learning and accomplishing a task, no matter how small, is a victory to be celebrated.
2) Ditch Paper Products
I will confess that this is a hard one for our family. We continue to slowly transition from our former ways of paper product insanity. My kids are still young enough that I clean up several messes a day, especially at meal time or during ‘craft hour.’ Multiple napkins and paper towels fill up our trashcans on a weekly basis.
When I finally sat down and tabulated up the cost of purchasing paper towels and napkins for an entire year I was blown away. The surprising and whopping total came out to be 254 dollars per year.
Yikes! For a one-income family like us, $254 is a lot of money. So how do we change that up?
Substituting cloth napkins for paper ones saves on cost as washing and drying the napkins is negligible compared to the cost of buying paper products. Instead of using paper towels, dish rags serve to achieve the same end goal: cleaning up a mess.
Forgo using paper plates when you eat meals. Yes, this does mean washing dishes but you will also save shelling out a minimum of $120 per year on paper plates (for a family of four). Use dish washing as a chore to teach older children responsibility or a time for you to relax and enjoy the quiet of your own thoughts.
3) Meal Plan
I cannot stress enough how helpful meal planning is for plumping up your wallet. The average fast food meal ends up costing around $8 per meal (depending on where you live). If you buy lunch out on a regular basis then you could be spending roughly $40 per week, and that is just for one person. If takeout is a dinner staple, the monthly cost of food for one person rises to well over the 300 dollar mark. Add in feeding your family and the cost skyrockets.
What could you do with an extra $300 per month?
Although not a new concept, meal prepping has become all the rage over the last couple of years. You can use meal planning to help avoid the ugly cost of regularly eating outside the home. Meal prepping enables you to plan ahead for the week (or month), what you will be eating throughout the day.
By having a designated dinner meal, the temptation to grab takeout diminishes. There is no arguing about what to cook for dinner because it is already planned out. Work all week? You can use the weekend to prepare fabulous lunches packed in a stylish lunch box. Another added benefit to meal planning-you control what goes in your meals because you are buying all the ingredients.
If you are new to meal planning, there is no right or wrong way to do it. It takes some upfront work to figure out what method makes sense for you but, once you create the habit of weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly planning, meal planning becomes as easy as calling for takeout.
Essentially, you want to have a paper or electronic spread sheet which contains breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for an entire week or month. I like to suggest having two weeks of meals then repeat those two weeks instead of creating four weeks of different meals.
However, this is your plan so put on your own touches. If you like a lot of variety then go for the four weeks with no repeats. If you want to simplify, repeat weeks. Another time and money saver is to use a grocery app to plan out all the ingredients for your meals. That way, when you head to the store or want to order groceries, you have everything you need and you do not have to waste time or gas making additional trips to the grocery store.
While groceries do cost money, you can slash that 300 per-person per-month cost by half when using meal planning strategies.
4) Date Night Challenge
Let’s be honest. Date nights can cost a pretty penny, especially if you have young children. Between the cost of babysitting and the higher prices at restaurants and movie theaters, the original dinner and a movie date can cost a couple over $100. Going to a play or sporting event? The cost for decent seats tacks on more moolah. Taking time out as a couple is integral to a healthy relationship. Yet, if the hit to your wallet stresses you out, date nights may become nonexistent. That’s why I love frugal tip 4: Date Night Challenge.
During a date night challenge, you are dared to come up with some unique and amazing dates which cost $40 or less. If you are worried about childcare, try family or swapping childcare with a friend. Your friend will babysit for you one night and then when your friend goes on a date, you babysit for her.
This challenge takes some creativity and thinking outside the box but is a lot of fun. Here is a list of a few of my favorite ideas to get you started:
Picnic at the park, then stargazing while cuddling under a blanket.
Make dinner at home then watch a movie you already own.
Have dessert and game night. Monopoly deals can be sweet or sexy.
See a movie but bring in your own snacks.
Window Shop strolling hand-in-hand.
Go to a restaurant and split a meal.
Go to karaoke, line dancing, or listen to live music at a bar.
Visit a museum
Sip hot chocolate and drive around the neighborhood looking at lights during the holiday season.
Write each other poems and drink coffee at a hometown cafe.
Take a dance lesson (first time is usually free).
Recreate your first date (in the home or at the original location).
Binge on Nextflix while cuddling.
Volunteer together then treat yourself to dessert
Where can your creativity take you? With infinite possibilities, challenge yourself to a frugal and fun date night this month!
5) Reuse When Possible
My last, but not least, fave five frugal living tip is reuse whenever possible. Dryer sheets, ziplock bags, jars, egg cartons, and plastic soap dispensers are just a few of the plethora of household items you can reuse.
Dryer sheets can last for two loads and ziplock bags can be washed and reused until they wear out. Egg cartons can be reused to hold small objects such as jewelry or as a paint tray for children’s crafts. Save money by buying the big refill jugs of hand soap and refilling empty dispensers. Another handy trick I found was saving my rubber bands and twisty ties from bread bags. These can be reused until they fall apart.
Another fun item to repurpose is a peanut butter jar. If you are a peanut butter-aholic like I was in my pre-baby years, then you probably go through a dozen jars a year. Instead of throwing them away, try cleaning them out and reusing them. Peanut butter jars make great piggy banks, vases for fresh cut flowers, and storage containers for small items such as buttons, pompoms or paperclips.
Reusing clothing is also a money saver, especially for big families. Older siblings can pass down jackets, shirts, and pants if still in useable condition. Although clothing may go out of style, children second grade and younger do not pay much attention to the latest trends. Old clothes that don’t fit can be altered or cut up to create rags, reusable napkins, denim purses, or doll clothes.
Reusing what you can will save you money and help out the environment because there is less waste. Take a few moments to figure out three new items you can reuse this month.
Congratulate yourself whenever you make steps toward a fun and frugal lifestyle. Try all five tips this month or spread them out over a few weeks time. Here at Real Life, Real Well, we hope that you will be inspired to explore and discover your own frugal living favorites. Give your wallet some love and try the Frugal Five today.