Frugal Living 101 — A Few Rules To Live By

by Ramona Creel

A Few Rules For Living Frugally

Living frugally is not about going without. If there's something fun that Matt and I want to do, we do it — we just find a way to do it less expensively.  Of course, we take advantage of sales and discounts and coupons, but we've also made a shift in how we think about spending — convenience purchases are rarely convenient enough to offset the increased cost, and we've found that we can make our money go a lot farther (allowing us to fit in more fun) when we enjoy simple pleasures. Most importantly, we're willing to forgo some other less-necessary purchase to make sure we have the money for our true priorities. If you're interested in reducing your own spending, then you might want to study our “five commandments” for living more frugally:

  • be clear about your priorities (it's hard to know when to spend money and when to refrain when you haven't thought about your long-term financial goals — are you trying to retire early? by what age? — is your goal to eliminate your debt so that you can shift to a part-time job doing something you really love, rather than working 80 hours a week for “the man” just to pay the bills? — are you trying to leave a sizable chunk of cash to your heirs or a favorite charity? — do you want to reduce the clutter you bring into your home? or cut down on your environmental footprint? — remind yourself of this goal every time you consider a purchase, then ask if that expense is going to move you closer to or farther away from that end result — that will always help you make the right spending decision)
  • ask yourself if you really need it (so many of our purchases are made out of habit, while functioning on auto-pilot — that soda at the gas station, the cup of coffee on the way to work, having a newspaper you rarely read delivered every day, eating at restaurants three or four times a week just so you can get out of the office, picking up the latest movie release each Tuesday just because it's on sale — the same is also true for big purchases — are you buying the newest computer or TV or car because you really need it? or are you simply a slave to the endless pressure to upgrade? — most importantly, are these purchases actually enhancing your quality of life, or simply draining your cash and keeping you from being able to afford that trip to Hawaii, get rid of your debt, or change jobs?)
  • then look for a way to do it cheaper (you may not be ready to completely give up these “luxuries,” and you don't have to — but you can find a way to make them more affordable — buy a case of sodas from your local warehouse club and keep a cooler-full in the car, so you can have a carbonated caffeinated treat whenever you want, without having to pay double or triple the price at the gas station — buy your favorite ground Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee, make it at home, and take it with you in a travel cup for pennies on the dollar — cancel your newspaper subscription and check out the day's stories online for free — carry leftovers with you to work, but plan a picnic outdoors with friends or co-workers during your lunch hour, rather than eating in the break room — you might want to Netflix that movie first, to make sure it's DVD-worthy before buying it — and if you can be just a bit patient, you know the price on that computer, TV, or car is going to drop after the newness wears off — you can still have it if you really want it, but always try to get the biggest bang for your buck!)
  • think twice before hiring someone else (when you need work done, is your knee-jerk response to hire someone else? — is it because the task requires tools/skills you don't have, or is it just because you don't feel you have the time to tackle the job yourself? — we bring in plumbers to unclog our drains, auto mechanics to change a tire, and lawn care people to cut the grass, but it's a vicious cycle — we hire people because we don't have the time to do the job ourselves, because we're working so many hours to pay the bills for having people do these things for us — try tackling a few of these tasks yourself, enjoy the sense of accomplishment, then spend the time and money you've saved on your true priorities!)
  • ask if the convenience is worth the cost (so much of what kills us financially in this society is paying extra for “convenience” — you automatically shell out more for one-hour photo processing, fast-food meals, rush delivery, disposable everything, pre-packaged microwavable foods, and single-serving-size groceries — are we so pressed for time that we can't wait a day or two for our pictures? that we can't simply replace a razor blade rather than replacing the whole thing? or put a lasagna in the oven? or divide a big container of yogurt into smaller Tupperware containers? — is it worth it to pay two or three or five times more for the convenience? — not when I could be out traveling instead!)

© Ramona Creel, all rights reserved. Ramona Creel is a modern Renaissance woman and guru of simplicity -- traveling the country as a full-time RVer, sharing her story of radically downsizing, and inspiring others to regain control of their own lives. As a Professional Organizer and Accountability Coach, Ramona will help you create the time and space to focus on your true priorities -- clearing away the clutter other obstacles and standing in the way of that life you've always wanted to be living. As a Professional Photographer, Ramona captures powerful images of places and people as she travels. And as a travel writer, social commentator, and blogger, she shares her experiences and insights about the world as we know it. You can see all these sides of Ramona -- read her articles, browse through her photographs, and even hire her to help get your life in order -- at www.RamonaCreel.com. And be sure to follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.