Photo Via The Painted Arrow
"I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them."
-John Stuart Mills
I don't know if it's my higher self nudging me to let go of a certain material way of living and create a simpler life or if it's my practical side wanting to save money. Either way, I've felt a yearning to live a more frugal life. I guess "frugal" is a relative term. One person's frugality is another's indulgence. But we all know when we are overstepping (overspending) and when we are living in alignment with our life, or means.
To me, being frugal means being smart with my money and being smart with my life. Our ego tells us that the more stuff we have the better off we are, but the truth is the more stuff we have the less likely we are to be of healthy mind and spirit, and body. There is a reason that enlightened people didn't have a lot of stuff. Mother Theresa owned a bible and a sweater. I doubt the Dalai Lama spends money needlessly. There is something beautiful and right about living a life of simplicity and balance. Regardless of whether you want to be more frugal to save for a house, pay off debt, create a six month emergency savings account, retire early, or whether you want the spiritual discipline of detaching from the material world of consumerism, I've got 25 tips to help you meet that goal.
For the past 10 months, I've incorporated living more frugally into my family's life by doing each of these 25 things. And believe it or not, our lives have actually become more fun and interesting because of them!
1. Cupboard challenge / Eat in
Every now and then I'll make up some crazy meal and serve it to my husband as I shrug and say, "Cupboard challenge." And he gets it. He actually loves cupboard challenge. The challenge is to get creative and use what's in your cupboard. Each week before we go to the grocery store, we assess the cupboard and plan meals around items we already have. It's just good worldly karma, as well. 40% of the food produced in the United States is thrown away! That is one of the saddest statistics I've ever heard, and I refuse to be a part of it in my own home. The cupboard challenge also involves eating out less. We limit eating out to twice a month.
2. Sell your old stuff on ebay or Craigslist (and donate the rest)
I've sold all of my old electronics--iPhone, computer, iPod, nano, hotspot--and a few of my more expensive designer pieces of clothing to the tune of over $2,000.00. I've also sold a bunch of old furniture on Craigslist that we didn't need when we moved. It feels good seeing my old stuff go to a new home.
3. Buy your new stuff on ebay or Craigslist
If you want to make a purchase, try ebay first. It almost always has the exact or comparable thing at a cheaper price.
4. Rent out extra space
Do you have a garage or room or office space you aren't using? I realized that I never use my office on the weekends or in the evenings. And it's a lovely office, just going to waste sitting there more hours than it is being used. I listed it on Craigslist to rent out during those off hours and found the perfect girl (a therapist who wants to build a private practice on weekends and evenings because she works for a nonprofit during the weekdays). Win-win.
5. Wait for movies to become available on Netflix or iTunes
I love going to the movies, but they are expensive in LA. I don't have a problem paying 9.00 for a movie when I'm in Kansas visiting my parents, but I gulp at the 15.00 rate here in LA, plus parking. For that reason, we wait for most movies to be available for rental. Now when we see a movie, maybe 3 times a year, we know we have to pick good ones! And it becomes more of a treat (date night) for us too, like eating out only twice a month. When you do it less, it becomes more special.
6. Dilute your drinks with water
My husband got me doing this. If we buy a bottle of juice or tea or such, we then dilute it in the glass with half water. The drink lasts much longer and is healthier to boot.
7. Make your dog's food
Most commercial dog food is unhealthy. Animals need fresh food, not processed foods. No wonder so many dogs are getting cancer, diseases, hip dysplasia and allergies. It's insane. Not only is it more economical to make your dog's food, but Fido will be much healthier because of it. I wrote a post five years ago on this subject with a recipe of the stew I make for my dog. If you like, check it out
8. Shop off-season
I pretty much always buy off-season, and I don't think I look that far behind the trends. For me, getting my clothes at 75% off is worth not being on the cutting edge of fashion.
9. Limit yourself to two new pieces of clothing a season
Okay, if you just have to have the new sneaker-gladiator sandals that are about to be all the rage this summer, go ahead, but limit yourself to only one more new piece per season.
10. Eat healthy, save on medical expenses
90% of doctor visits are either stress related or food related. Meaning, you create health or sickness by what you think and what you eat. I often hear that it's expensive to eat healthfully or organic or vegan, but it's way cheaper than medical bills down the line. Cut back on meat, or better yet cut it out of your diet. It's expensive. Meat is ultimately a rich person's diet. Poorer countries around the world eat very little meat. And interestingly, have less incidents of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Also, cut back, or better yet quit, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. They are costly habits, in more ways than one.
11. Lower stress, save on medical expenses
Meditate, pray, do self-hypnosis, a forgiveness exercise or another mindful technique that allows for quiet time and reflection each day. If only for 10 minutes. As mentioned in the above tip, it could save you not only money, but your life.
12. Find activities that don't cost money
We invested in hiking shoes so that we could do an activity that didn't cost us anything: hike. We've been hiking a number of times and our investment is paying off--not only have we had fun exploring new trails, but we are getting in shape as well.
13. Get rid of unnecessary cable channels
As much as I loved Real Time with Bill Maher, I cancelled our premium cable channels. Now I just watch clips online. It's good enough.
14. Cancel magazine subscriptions
Wasting paper, wasting trees, wasting money. Buy a magazine only on a special occasion, like a vacation. Otherwise, they're a nuisance really. How many magazines do you have stacked up to read right now?
15. Cut and color your own hair
Sorry, David (one of my closest friends and my hair stylist of 20 years) I'll be back for a touch up at some point, but for now I'm your worst nightmare: I'm adding highlights on my own and Brad (my husband) is cutting it. Girls, I understand if this tip is laughable.
16. Grow your own food
The start-up can be costly up front (like the hiking boots) but the payoff will be cheaper in the end. I am growing lemons, limes, basil and eggplant--all in pots. We also have an orange and grapefruit tree and tomato plant that we pick from regularly. There's really no good reason not to be growing some of your own food, unless you live in a dungeon. And if you do live in a dungeon, then the second best thing to growing your own food is purchasing it at your local farmer's market.
17. Move somewhere cheaper
Either downsize--like from a two bedroom to a one bedroom--or move to a cheaper part of town. We did both ten months ago and love the living results! (Hence, the selling of extra furniture on Craigslist.) We moved from West Hollywood to the Valley (Sherman Oaks/Studio City area) and no longer pay for street parking (Yes, you pay to park in front of your house in LA!), and we also pay 100.00 less a month in rent (but also have less room). However, the quality of our lives has increased 100 fold. We traded location and space size for a sunroom and swimming pool, and found more peace as a result. Plus, with the peaceful, quiet neighborhood and swimming pool, I no longer feel the need to escape LA every other weekend to the mountains or the desert to find some costly rest and relaxation. Now I just go to my backyard.
18. Pay bills online
Save stamps and paper and trees by signing up for online bill pay. But make sure that you will not get charged for this service.
19. Don't buy clothes that have to be dry-cleaned
I stopped doing this a long time ago. The clothes that I do still have that say "dry clean only," I hand wash in cold water. I am adverse to the idea of those dry-cleaning toxic chemicals on my skin. What goes onto your skin goes into your blood stream.
20. Make your own household cleaning products
Vinegar, good ol' cheap vinegar, is key here. It cleans just about anything. Plus, you don't want those toxic chemicals in traditional house cleaning products in your home. If you use toxic chemicals on the floor and have children or pets, it gets on their paws and then they lick them--kids and pets!--and that's super unhealthy. These products are unseen dangers that have a cumulative effect. Instead, use hydrogen peroxide on mold, and here is a recipe for your new all-purpose cleaner: Mix 1/2 c. vinegar and 1/4 c. baking soda into 1/2 gallon of water.
21. Use up products you already have
Cut open your toothpaste tube when you would normally throw it away and you'll find another few days worth of toothpaste. It adds up! Instead of buying one more lipgloss, use the ones you have even if the color is slightly off.
22. Make your own gifts
Besides making my own household cleaning products, I also make my own body oil to replace commercial lotions. (I'll post my recipe in a later post.) And now I give away my oils to friends and family members as gifts. I really enjoy giving and receiving homemade gifts. It's a special and intimate gesture.
23. Turn down the thermostat at night
We sleep in flannel sheets with a flannel duvet and turn down the thermostat to 62* at night. The hardwood floor is freezing on your tootsies for the middle-of-the-night bathroom run, but nothing beats jumping back in to a cozy warm bed. Except maybe a lower monthly gas bill.
24. Turn off the lights
Growing up, I never understood why my dad yelled when we left the lights on. Now I get it. Not only does it cost money (tick, tick, tick with each passing minute it's money down the drain) but it's as bad as not recycling--wasted energy.
25. Travel by car
One reason I want to save money and live more frugally is because we bought a new car. So the deal was that if we buy a new car we can't take all those vacations we used to. Fly to Aspen to ski for the weekend, of course! Fly to San Francisco just because, sure! Now we say no to those things and look at a roadmap and plan our next adventure, by car. It's amazing what is waiting to be discovered within your own 200 mile radius. And if you can travel by bike for an adventure, even better.
Start your journey of frugality with what you can easily do and continue to challenge yourself. You'll be richer monetarily and spiritually. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "We make ourselves rich by making our wants few."
Happy rich frugal simple living!