I get a lot of questions about frugal lifestyles. Some are positive, some are very very negative. There are people who simply do not understand how anyone could voluntarily choose frugality. If you have money, you should spend it. Sure you should save some of it, but they feel they need the house, the cars, the big screen, the clothes, and can’t understand why others wouldn’t choose the same. I started to write about it, and realized I have way too much to say on the topic! So I decided to create a series about it. Hopefully this series will shine some light on this new age of frugality and why it really isn’t such a crazy choice!
Making Frugality a Habit
So we’ve gone over what frugality is and we’ve gone over why I think frugal living is becoming a more desirable way of living for so many. It all sounds great to you, but where to start? How to make frugality a habit? Maybe you are so far behind on your bills right now, that simply cutting up the credit cards and clipping coupons is absolutely unrealistic. You can’t start living within your means because you’ve lived so far out of your means for so long now. Recognizing that you are living above your means is the first step to change. Now how do you stop? How do you start living a frugal life and saving where you can so you can spend where you want when you can barely pay your bills?
Or maybe, you aren’t in financial trouble. You are just sick of spending without thought. You have too much stuff, and you want to simplify your life. You’ve realized that there is nothing you can purchase to find happiness, love or easier living. Frugal living sounds good to you because you’ve tried the other way and it wasn’t working out. Where do you start?
As with anything, the first step towards frugal living for anyone is working it into your life little by little. Drastic changes rarely stick around, so you’ll need to ease into this way of living until it is second nature.
Baby Steps to a Frugal Lifestyle
I’ve compiled a list of ten easy to start steps for everyone. No matter where you are in your current financial situation, you can start by implementing one or more of these suggestions. Don’t ignore the bigger issues of your financial predicament though. I don’t claim to give out financial advice. In fact, I never will. I still make mistakes, and I am not a financial expert by any means. These tips will help you simplify your financial life, leading you to more financial freedom. They aren’t a get out of bankruptcy free card though. Pay attention to your obligations and work your way into this frugal lifestyle.
Here are 10 baby steps to start living a life of frugality:
- I hate to state the obvious, but stop spending. If it’s not a “need” don’t buy it. This might cause you reevaluate what you consider a need and what you consider a want. (is your favorite $75 makeup a need? I don’t know, for you it might be. You need to figure this out and set guidelines) Now eventually you can work your wants in, but clearly defining your guidelines of what is a want and what is a need will be necessary to live and maintain a frugal lifestyle. It will also teach you self discipline.
- Start practicing delayed gratification. If you don’t need it right now, wait a bit and see if you can live without it. If not, than you know that it’s something you are going to need to work into your budget as a need.
- Which leads to the next baby step, try to get the best possible deals on all of your needs. This might mean stocking up when the price is hot. It might mean clipping coupons or scouring the internet (or just hopping by Family Friendly Frugality!) to find coupon codes.
- Start paying attention to prices. What is the best price you’ve ever seen on chicken? How often does that price happen in your area? Can you buy enough when the price is low, to last you until it drops again? Observe and record pricing trends in your area and try to stock up when prices are low. This enables you to decide how much you are willing to pay for a product, it’s actually very empowering!
- If you aren’t already, put yourself on a budget. A budget is a way of setting expectations of ourselves financially. Zero based budgets (as endorsed by Dave Ramsey) give every dollar a name and a place. This can be so helpful for determining your needs from your wants. When you see it all written out, what is not necessary becomes glaringly obvious!
- Speaking of Mr Dave Ramsey…start educating yourself. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey, you might not be. That’s okay. Find money saving books that appeal to you. Visit money saving blogs (like this one! Or check out my blogroll, some great blogs on there!), frugal living forums, coupon sites, etc. Immerse yourself into the culture of frugal living. Get support and encouragement from like minded people and learn along the way.
- Pick up some new hobbies, DIY style. Do your hobbies consist of spending $50 on date night at the movies? While that’s okay for an every once in a while treat, it can wreak havoc on a budget. Do you go out to eat every single night (I LOVE to go out to eat, I struggle most with this one!)? Learn to cook from scratch. Find cheaper date night options. Is bowling with your family a weekly event? Maybe you can go to a park with a picnic? Stop outsourcing your fun and start saving some money by using what is around you to entertain yourself and your family!
- Plan Plan Plan. This kind of goes hand in hand with making a budget (and delayed gratification for that matter), but it deserves it’s own baby step. Start making plans for the things you want and big purchases you need. Put aside a bit each month for birthdays, holidays, replacement appliances, etc. As you start finding more room in your budget, start designating savings for purchases that aren’t necessarily a need, but you want to buy guilt free. You’ll eventually come to the point in your frugal living where nothing you want is off limits to you if you plan for it!
- Communicate with your significant other when it comes to finance. Keep the dialog open and don’t hide things from each other. Make your finances a family affair. This doesn’t mean to involve your children in the day to day, but don’t keep them in the dark either. Use words like: budget, savings,need vs want, etc.Now be careful not to burden or scare them. They don’t need to know that you are having trouble making ends meet. Just let them see you discuss and plan, don’t make money out to be some “adult only” topic. Kids need to learn how to handle money too. Pass down a legacy of smart financial planning to your children. It’s one of the best gifts you can pay forward to them. (you can read more about teaching kids about money here)
- Use frugality as your excuse to get a bit crazy and unorthodox! You might notice others around you won’t understand what you are doing. They’ll think you are strange for shunning the normal conveniences and the buy now pay later lifestyle that they themselves see as normal. Be abnormal. For instance, we rent our home. Many people we know think we are crazy for still renting. It works for us right now. It is the best strategic financial decision for us during this season of our lives. It opens us up to criticism and speculation, but we don’t care. We know we are progressing right along our intended path and building up to where we want to be!
A Little More Everyday
You won’t work this list into your life overnight. You might not even get there in a year. That’s okay, just keep working towards it. You’ll notice as you start incorporating these steps into your life, they simply make sense. Slowly your other financial burdens will lessen and you’ll find that it’s okay to live on less. In fact, you might actually realize you can live more on less. Do a little more everyday, and you’ll be on your way to making a frugality a habit in no time.
Making Frugality a Habit