We live in a society where everything is always becoming new and improved, arriving to our doorstep faster, easier to use, and simpler to understand. We have Amazon Prime so that our order arrives with free shipping in 2 days. We pay for subscription services like HelloFresh or Blue Apron that prepare meals with the exact ingredients needed to cook them. We have thousands of choices of content that we can stream for entertainment through Netflix and Hulu. We can have someone else shop for our groceries and deliver them through Google Express. DoorDash delivers meals to your desk, and Uber provides car rides to wherever you need to go.
Many of these services are amazing and add significant value to our lives. They can increase our productivity and efficiency, while saving us a lot of hassle. However, there are times where we need to choose wisely in what services we use routinely for a couple reasons. First, the more often we outsource simple tasks, the more reliant we become on these services. Also, the cost for these types of services tends to add up quickly.
Frugal living challenges the conventional way of thinking and is a whole different mindset. Rather than simply throwing money at a problem to make it go away, there’s an entirely new thought process.
Living a frugal lifestyle consists of paying for value rather than convenience. While a cheap person doesn’t like spending any money at all, a frugal person looks for the most “bang for their buck.” This often means putting in some additional effort, rather than paying for the most convenient option available.
For example, going out to eat for lunch would seem to be more convenient since you don’t have to spend the extra time at home making a lunch to bring with you, but it is certainly not the most frugal way of eating. The $10 you’re spending will add up every day you decide to take the route of convenience rather than the option that gives you the most value for your money.
I recently went through this process when my car needed an oil change. I have a Honda, and the Owner’s manual details when an oil change is necessary. The most convenient way would have been to take my car into the Honda dealership near my house, pay whatever they charged, wait for the car and then be on my way. However, paying for this convenience would have cost me significantly more money.
Instead, I did some research about my various options. I looked up other places that do oil changes, called the various mechanics for pricing and narrowed down my choice based on this information. I also researched which type of oil my car needed and asked the mechanics how much they could reduce the price if I brought in my own oil. The price of an oil change was only half as expensive by bringing in my own oil.
Long story short, I ended up getting my oil changed at Jiffy Lube for $37, brought in my own oil which cost $26 at Walmart, and used a $10 off coupon that I found on DealsPlus for a total cost of $53. Honda would have charged me $90, and Jiffy Lube would’ve charged me $80 if I hadn’t brought in my own oil and used a coupon. (Note: This was for a synthetic oil change in California, so the price is higher than most other places would be).
The point that this example illustrates is that by simply having a more frugal mindset instead of going with the option that appeared most convenient, I was able to save almost $40. It took me a few minutes of research, a few phone calls, and a quick trip to the store to pick up some of my own oil.
That effort was definitely worth saving the additional money, and now the next time I get an oil change I’ll be able to make the frugal decision immediately. $40 may not seem like much, but the more you train your mindset to think more frugally, the more these type of savings will add up. It involves caring about saving money and finding the most value possible, along with taking some time to compare prices and research the best option.
When making a purchase, make sure that it’s not just an impulse buy. Carefully consider whether it will be adding value to your life in the long term, rather than just being a purchase for the sake of convenience. Ideally, all your purchases should have a purpose and should improve your quality of life as much as possible.
One way to begin to have a more frugal mindset is to build new skills whenever possible. Most of us, when we’re confronted with a challenge or with something needing to get done, will seek out the assistance of a professional. Whether that be for an oil change, cooking, plumbing, getting our haircut, etc.
To shift your mindset in a way that promotes more frugal living is to stop outsourcing as many tasks as possible. Instead of paying someone else to do it for you, build the necessary skills so that you’re able to do it on your own. I would have saved even more money if I had changed my car’s oil on my own, rather than taking it to a mechanic.
Learning these new skills leads to spending less money long term, makes you a more well rounded person, and also gives you a sense of accomplishment. You’ll be surprised, as soon as you try this for one skill, you’ll be encouraged to continue to try and learn even more.
Try new things that you’ve never done before. You almost certainly won’t be an expert on your first try, but that’s ok. It’s ok to struggle and it’s ok to fail. Pick yourself back up and keep trying, you’ll be learning all throughout the process. The more you practice something and the more you learn about it, the more talented you’ll become at that skill.
Like money, your time is a limited and valuable resource. When deciding whether to spend the extra money for convenience, consider how much time and effort you’d truly be saving. In both the oil change and bringing lunch from home examples, small choices led to significant savings. They required slightly more time and effort, but were worth it to save the money.
That won’t always be the case, sometimes it’s worth it to spend the extra money, so be sure to evaluate each decision individually. If my car’s engine exploded, there’s no way it would be worth the time and energy to fix it, I’d much rather trust an expert to fix the problem for me. Identify what you’re most skilled at and spend the majority of your time on making those skills even more refined.
Additionally, some people make the mistakes of spending large amounts of time for relatively small savings. Focus on shrinking your biggest expenses such as housing, food, and transportation costs, rather than saving pennies here and there. You can also cut down on one recurring bill, such as cutting the cable cord or negotiating a cheaper rate for your car insurance. The best part about these types of savings is that this one action becomes a way of saving money every single month and it often doesn’t take up very much of your time.
The best frugal techniques are the ones that are quick and ongoing. Sometimes they’ll have an upfront cost, but they pay off in the long run. For example, buy ingredients that are on sale in bulk, and use them to make large batches of meals all at once for your lunches for the entire week. This involves the cost of buying in bulk, and an hour of prep time, but then you have a full week of lunches for a much lower cost.
Changing your mindset and making these small choices end up saving you money over and over again, and they don’t waste your valuable time in the process.
When you begin to try and live a more frugal lifestyle, the biggest key is spending less than you earn. One of the best ways to put this into practice is to cut down your expenses wherever possible. By having a new mindset and seeking out the various options, doing some research, and building new skills you’ll end up saving a lot of money in the process. Rather than paying for convenience and outsourcing everything that needs to get done, you’ll become a more well rounded individual and be able to live a much more frugal life.
Which of these strategies do you incorporate in your life to be more frugal?