10 Frugal Tips You Haven’t Already Heard
If you’re a regular reader of my posts or Wise Bread in general, you already have a pretty good education on how to live a frugal lifestyle — the basics, if you will. Now it’s time for the advanced course. That’s why I’ve dug deep into my bank of frugal knowledge to pull out these money-saving nuggets. Peep the gems below and start saving savvier than ever before. (See also: 25 Frugal Changes You Can Make Today)
1. Put Something Back Every Time You Shop
This tip is especially good to remember at the supermarket — save money and guilt by putting back that bag of chips — but it can work wherever you’re shopping. If you find yourself with an arm full of new shirts and pants at your favorite store, give one of them back to the associate at checkout. When you’re at Target, just say no to at least one of the things in your cart that you definitely don’t need. You can even institute this rule when you’re Christmas shopping — one of those presents is probably for yourself; put it back, and wait to see what Santa has in store for you.
2. Treat Frugal Living Like Staying Healthy
Exercise and eating right is an uphill battle for me, but it’s one that I’m committed to fighting. When I fall off the wagon, I don't give up my hopes of rock-hard abs, throbbing biceps, and bouncing pecs. Rather, I get back in the gym and work a little harder. Treat living frugally the same way. There will be times when you give in to temptation. It’s OK. Just try not to make it a habit, and try to make up for your mistake somehow.
3. Look at Your Credit Reports Annually
Many of us only look at our credit reports when we’re prompted to — applying for a new apartment or making a big purchase — but you should stay up to date on your financial status regardless. We’re all entitled to one free report per year, and you should take advantage of it. It’s beneficial to know where you stand, so you know what you can qualify for when it comes time to make those big purchases. It’s also a good practice so you can be sure that your identity hasn’t been compromised in any way.
4. Calculate the Cost Per Wear Before Buying New Clothes
The theory goes that you should divide the price of the clothing item by the amount of times you plan to wear the piece to find the cost per wear (CPW). The general consensus seems to suggest that the cost per wear should be around $3. You can get that lower, of course, by buying cheaper clothes (or finding better deals at least) and wearing them more often.
5. Institute a Self-Audit Every Three Months
Evaluating your budget every 12 months is problematic because you could have cut out unnecessary items 10 months ago, resulting in an extra 10 months worth of savings. To keep yourself on the right track more consistently, schedule a self-audit every three months. See where you’re at with regards to your income, your savings, and how much you’re spending, and make moves to eliminate expenses you don’t need. This a good time to set goals, too; it’s been proven that shorter-term goals are easier to achieve than long-term goals.
6. Establish a Frugal Buddy System
I mentioned earlier than keeping to a frugal lifestyle is like living a physically healthy lifestyle — it’s hard, it takes work, and sometimes you’ll fail at it. But you’ll have a much better chance of success if you have a frugal buddy on whom to rely. This person (preferably someone with the same frugal goals as you) will be the shoulder you need to lean on in times of weakness. They’re the friend who will tell you that you don’t need that cashmere sweater. And they’ll be the one who sits at home with you on a frugal Friday night watching TV movies while all your other friends are out eating and drinking their paychecks away.
7. Less Is More — Sometimes Much More (Than You Need)
So many self-proclaimed frugalists fall into this trap (myself included) — just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you should buy whatever the coupon is for. Coupons save you money on things you need, sure, but they’re a marketing gimmick first and foremost to get you to purchase the manufacturer’s product. You’re not saving any money if you’re buying something you don’t need, even if it’s at a steep discount. Before using that coupon, ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" If the answer is no, do not buy it. Remember that those purchases that you think are super deals add up over the course of a year. When you don’t use the item, it’s wasted money no matter how little it cost.
8. Eliminate Most Disposable Products From Your Life
This will not be easy by any means — we love convenience, but we also have to pay for convenience. If you want to save a sizeable chunk of change, make it a rule to stay away from most products that cannot be cleaned and reused many times. This includes paper and plastic plates and dinnerware, paper towels, sponges, and many other kitchen, bathroom, and around-the-house items that make our lives easier because we can throw them away.
9. Start a 30-Day No-Buy List to Curb Impulse Buys
I can’t say that I always stick to this tip, but I do try my best. The concept is simple — when you’re browsing online or even in person and come across something that you just have to have, stop for a minute, breathe, and pull out your list. Add the item to the list, and let it sit there for 30 days. If you still want it after 30 days, buy it (you should use that 30 day grace period to save up for it), but chances are — and this is the nature of impulse buys — you won’t want it anymore when day 30 comes to pass.
10. Active Living Is Cheaper Living
The more time you spend working on your health and fitness, the less time you’ll have to shop, go out to eat, hit the bar, go to the movies, and otherwise spend, spend, spend. There’s no downside to this method of frugal living either; not only will you be healthier with a better body to show for it, but your savings account should enjoy an influx of funds. Staying active doesn’t have to cost a dime — you can workout outside or at home (invite your frugal buddy over and make it a team effort) — and contrary to popular belief, eating healthier doesn’t have to be expensive. Many people will disagree with that, but I’m living proof. Before I started planning out a weekly meal calendar with healthy recipes, buying my groceries online, and sticking strictly to my list of ingredients, I was spending almost twice as much at the grocery store, going through every aisle, and putting in my cart my list items plus a few extras. Give it a try, and let me know how you fare.
Do you have a frugal tip that you think most of us haven’t heard of? I’d love to learn about it. Let me know in the comments below.