How I live a frugal life
There's a lot of things you can do, to uphold a frugal lifestyle. Most of these actions are well within reach and easy to do, others are a bit more difficult. I found an interesting list on "The Simple Dollar". But the goal of this post is to give you a list of the actions that I do, so you can follow the progress in my lifestyle change a bit. And it might inspire others to come up with their own ideas.
This list will not be complete, because I will only list the actions that I currently do. I can (and will) do more and when I do, I'll expand this list and let you know about it.
The list only deals with spending less, not with earning more. Earning more, has nothing to do with living a frugal life.
Things I do to live a frugal life
1. Transportation - Car: I only have one car
I need a car for work, so I need to keep this one. But I only have one. For me, this is obvious. I don't understand why anyone would need more than one car, but apparently some people own more cars. You should find one as cheap in gas usage, tax and insurance as possible, for your familie size.
Ideally, you should strive to live without a car. But in modern society, that might not be possible for everyone. And those that need a car, aren't always lucky enough to get a company car. So buy a decent, used one and keep it small and cheap.
2. Transportation - Car: Gas
Gas is expensive. Make sure the gas usage on your car is low enough. You can take this into account when you buy a car. But the most important thing is your driving style. Fast accelerations cost money. Does it really matter if you get there a couple of minutes earlier? Ever thought about leaving earlier to get there on time?
Another solution can be a tank card from a company. My company pays for my gas, so that's taken care of. The downside is, that your car will wear down easier, because such jobs require you to visit clients often.
3. House - rent/buy
If you rent, make sure the rent is low enough. If you buy, buy as small as possible. I'm currently still living with my parents, so rent is cheap for me.
I'm currently looking for a house though, and I'm looking for a small one.
4. General - Equipment
Buy everything in quality material and take care of it. This way, it will last longer. I stopped buying cheap stuff. It is frugal, if you only buy exactly what you truely need and nothing more.
5. Food & drinks - Eat out less
An obvious one. Making your own meals is a lot cheaper and can be just as delicious. I never eat out. My meals are included in the rent (an advantage of living with your parents).
6. Food & drinks - Less bar visits
Drinking beers at the bar, costs more. Me and my friends don't go out a lot and we don't go to fancy clubs, so the costs are minimal enough. Not going to bars at all, the theoretically ideal frugal way, is a little bit anti-social and makes it difficult to meet girls. But there is a difference between spending $50/month on drinks vs. $50/week.
7. Food & drinks - Bring your lunch to work
I see delicious meals being eaten at work, every day. But I consider it a luxury and never give into it. I always bring my own lunch.
8. Clothing - Adopt a minimalist wardrobe
From now on, I'm following the clothing advice from Jacob at ERE. Black, blue and gray, all the colors you need.
9. Clothing - Buy cheap
You should buy good clothes, but buy them in discount. I buy what I absolutely need, nothing more. If I buy, it's either in january (bargain season) or in september (I think... at least it's in the other bargain season). And also in Spain on the market, some stuff I need is cheap there.
10. General - Impulse buying
Buying on impulse is a bad thing. You'll buy stuff you don't really need. I've become immune to impulse buying since I started decluttering. Always think: "Do I really need this?" or "Can I solve this problem without buying something?".
11. General - Shopping
It's good to shop only when you need something, e.g. like grocery shopping. But if you only go to shops whenever you need something, you don't know what store has what items. Interesting bargains can be found, when shopping. I combine it with necessary shopping. If you need new clothes, get them. After you got them, look around for other things. You'll not be tempted to buy other things easily, because the clothes are already costing you money and you don't want to spend any more (if you're frugal, that is).
12. Entertainment - Music
If you like listening to music, youtube has many free songs. So does the internet. You could also make your own music with lmms.
You could also learn to play instruments. The internet and youtube are loaded with free music lessons. And if buy an irish whistle, for example, it'll only cost you around $10.
13. Entertainment - TV
I sometimes watch TV with my brother and my parents, but that's more of a social thing. I couldn't care less about TV itself and I'll never buy one myself.
The TV costs money, the cable subscription costs money and there's too much commercials on TV to actually enjoy TV shows anyway.
14. Entertainment - Reading
Free books are at the library. I read e-books and blogs on the computer. It doesn't cost me anything.
15. Entertainment - General
Always try to find free entertainment. The internet is full of free games, you can play cards with friends, you can take walks in nature, go for a swim in the ocean, ... use your imagination.
16. Health - Sport
Do cheap sports that require almost no gear or go jog (or find another free method to excercise). Sporting keeps you healthy. It avoids medical bills in the long run.
17. Health - Health care
I get health insurance via work. It's cheaper that way. If you have to get it yourself, try to get it as cheap as possible (while still covering the obvious health problems).
18. Transportation - Bike
I bought a bike. I use it for short distance errands. It saves on gas (althoug my gas is paid for by the company).
19. Transportation - Walk
Really short distances I do on foot. It's free and healthy.
20. Equipment - Decluttering
Decluttering makes it possible to live in a smaller house. Less stuff to have = less stuff that can break = less stuff to replace when broken.
I'm still decluttering, but I've come a long way since the first time I started.
21. Extra - Gifts
When buying gifts, you can always get something bigger and spend more. Draw a line and stick to it. For everybody you know the same price, close friends and familie get a slightly higher price. This makes choosing and buying gifts easier too.
22. Extra - Smoking
Smoking eats away your hard earned money. I don't smoke.
23. Food & drinks - Alcohol
Drinking alcohol costs money. The problem is, that I like the taste of a nice cold beer. My solution is to try only to drink in the weekend. And when I drink, I try not to drink huge amounts, unless on special occasions. But this category has room for improvement.
A good idea is to let people know you like alcohol. This way, it can become a birthday present. And if you drink in moderation, those donated bottles can last long.
24. Food & drinks - Sweets
I don't eat a lot of sweets, except for some potato chips. But that's mostly because it goes well with the beer. It's best to buy a huge pack of several individually packed small baggies of potato chips. This way, you can eat some chips, without having to open a big bag. It makes you eat less, so in the long run, you save money. Ideally, you wouldn't eat them, but they are tasty.
Any improvements in moderation of alcohol intake, will also affect this category in a positive way.
25. Food & drinks - Water
Water is still cheap and it's healthy too. I drink a lot of water. In fact, I only drink 3 beverages: milk, alcohol and water.
26. Entertainment - Staying home
Make your living area a nice one. One you like spending time in. It'll make it possible to stay at home more, where entertainment is free or cheap.
Gardening can be a pleasant way to spent time. And when your gardening skills increase, your garden becomes a great place to spend time. I just have one room to take care off right now, so I do my best to make it as comfortable as possible.
27. Extra - Credit cards
It's extra, you don't need to use it. Go get cash from the bank and use that. You won't be spending money without seeing it disappear, which helps you control your spending.
I always pay cash.
28. Extra - Subscriptions
Anything that wants you to pay in parts, is a bad thing in my opinion. The only exceptions are the things you need, like water, elektricity, gas and internet. Magazines are out of the question. I had a computer magazine, but I cancelled it. You'll gather a lot of them, while reading less than half of them completely. And most information can be found for free online.
29. Entertainment - Hobbies
Do free hobbies or inexpensive ones. It can be related to the gardening, sports or other activities I mentioned before.
I do 2 martial arts, which costs me 400 euro/year. For 2 martial arts, that's not much.
But I could stick to 1 martial art, that would cut the cost in half. I'm just not sure wether that's worth it, because doing those 2 martial arts is healthy and it improves me. Never cut back on anything that improves you.
I also play free computer games, I learn Spanish and Japanese online (also free) and I make my own honeywine (cheap delicious alcohol... a solution to one of my problems).
30. General - DIY
Make stuff as a form of entertainment. I make weapons and train with them. It's because of my martial arts interest. It might be an activity of questionable legality, but it's very cheap and gives you many hours of entertainment (in both the creation as the use).
You should also fix everything that's broken, instead of calling someone to do it. If you take the time, put in some effort or ask someone for help, you can improve your DIY skills and save a lot of money. Money that doesn't have to be paid to either a craftsman or a new item to replace the broken one.
31. General - Stop paying interest
Interest is something that should always be collected, never paid. I have no debt. And if I get a mortgage, I'll do my best to keep it as low as possible, so I can pay it off as fast as possible.
32. Food & drinks - Reduce convenience foods
They make a lot of easy to cook food, microwave meals, etc. They are not healthy and not as delicious as the real thing. I still live with my parents, so food is taken care of, but I'll always prefere the real thing above the fast foods.
33. Travel - Total cost
Go on a camping, in stead of a hotel. Ignore places that are too touristic. They give you a false image of the real culture anyway. I usually go camping. Camping is awesome. I also like to look for local bars in the back streets, away from tourists. And I like to visit small villages, most would not even consider visiting.
I use a cell phone with a prepaid card. I recharge it with 15 euro about twice a year, sometimes even less. I don't like cell phones. I'd go without one if it wasn't cheaper than a standard telephone subscription. But it's mostly so people can call me, I hardly make calls myself (to the annoyance of friends and family, perhaps...).
35. General - Haircut
Cut your own hair, it saves a lot of money. I have a buzz cut. It's $50 for a buzzer and it'll last long enough to earn it's money back in ten-fold.
36. General - Take care of your belongings
It can be related to the DIY, but not necessarily. Use your appliances with care, clean them occasionally, ... It will make it last longer. I handle most of my belongings with care and I give the inside of my computer the occassional dust-cleaning. If only I would take more care of my car... a point I can still improve on.
37. Transportation - Distance
Find work close to your home. It saves on gas. Again, my gas is paid for right now, but my job is close to my town anyway. Besides, it lowers the wear on the car.
38. Clothing - Cleaning
If you wash clothes less, they last longer. My mother washes my clothes, so there's nothing I can do about that. But I will keep it in mind for when I need to do it myself.
39. Clothing - Drying
Clothes last longer when sun-dried. My mother does this.
40. General - Love
I have no girlfriend at the moment, so I'm in the ideal frugal situation. But if you do fall in love, it can only work out if the partner is frugal too or at least open to the idea.
The list contains 40 items, on 2010-06-24.