The challenge many of us face these days is how to make the most of the limited resources we have. There is no magic formula, no seminars to attend—yet this challenge can be met and overcome. An analysis of your everyday spending habits and a commitment to make small changes can result in remarkable savings. This is developing a frugal mindset. Remember—take care of the small changes and the big ones can take care of themselves.
- pay attention to heating and cooling systems
- conserve electricity
- prepare home-cooked meals
- bring a lunch from home
- keep your car well-maintained for a longer life
- shop when hungry
- take unnecessary trips around town
- purchase warranties on small items
- be quick to throw away
- deprive yourself
More than half of all energy consumption is from heating and cooling our homes, according to the US Department of Energy. Pay special attention to air leaks around doors and windows because your hard earned money is literally going out the window. Weatherstripping is relatively inexpensive and simple to apply. Results can be immediate in energy savings and comfort. Use programmable thermostats that keep day and night settings at consistent levels, clean furnaces once a year, dress in layers, uncover vents, use oven in winter, and add a humidifier/dehumidifier to the furnace. Then start noticing the savings!
Lights aren’t the only thing that consumes electricity. It’s amazing the equipment, how the electronics and appliances in our homes and offices consume electricity. Start by turning off lights when not in a room, use energy-efficient light bulbs, use timers and dimmers, unplug chargers from the wall once electronics are charged, and let the daylight shine in to brighten your space.
It is wonderful to have washers and dryers for dishes and clothes. They are time savers, no doubt. Plan to use them more efficiently by purchasing those that have an ENERGY STAR label, use energy-saving settings, run full loads, let dishes air dry, remove accumulated dryer lint, and clean dryer vents.
Plan meals first before shopping to avoid buying more than what’s needed. Double the recipes, and freeze the extra. Keep ovens clean, and use a CrockPot™ or a microwave when it makes sense. These not only save time, but energy as well. Buying seasonally-available and local produce will give you more bang for your buck, too. Most of the time they are less-expensive, and you have a varied and more nutritious diet over the year. Finally, don’t forget to use coupons and take advantage of special offers.
Brown bagging is not only for kids. There are ways to bring lunch from home that are very attractive. There are colorful containers (if you need them) that are microwaveable, sandwich sized, and spill-proof. Imagine a nice hot lunch that costs pennies as opposed to spending $7 each working day.
Now, let’s talk about our daily cup of java. Frequenting the local coffee shop can set you back about $5 a day. Bring in a one-cup coffee maker to the office and brew your own. Combining your purchased lunch and coffee costs you $12 a day in this example, at $60 a week, about $240 a month, and $2880 a year. Think of what can you do with $2880!
A car is an important lifeline to the outside world. We need it for work, shopping, carpooling the kids, and recreation. We want to get in the car and go. That means a safe and reliable means of transportation, so maintaining your car should be a no brainer. Simple things like keeping tires inflated properly, getting tune ups regularly, promptly taking care of problems, and keeping to speed limits could extend the life of an automobile. This way, there’s little-to-no need to purchase a new car every three or four years.
Think how wonderful it would be to make that last payment and keep that car another three to four years. Now, pay yourself by putting the usual car payment in the bank for the next 3-4 years. Then pay cash for your next car. How would it feel to have no more car payments for life?
Everything looks and smells good when you’re hungry. Supermarkets make your shopping experience so enticing. You can smell the freshly baked bread and cakes? You want them. The tasty free samples throughout the store? You want them. Is it because you did not eat yet? Probably.
Smell is one of our five senses. It has been with us since the beginning of time. We learned to smell and taste things before eating them. If it smelled or tasted bad, we did not eat it. Today’s marketing has used technology to take advantage of our sensory perceptions. Scientific studies have determined which aromas affect certain emotions. Pine relates to cleanliness, florals to romance, and freshly-baked bread makes you hungry.
Efficiency is a major factor in developing a frugal mindset. We should practice it in every area of our lives. Traveling is one of those times where we can reduce mileage—thus saving gas and repairs. Make a list of all the places you frequent. This might include shopping, carpooling the kids to school, children’s games and practices, playdates, doctor visits, dentist visits, dry cleaners, pharmacy, or hair/nail salon.
You would be surprised at how many errands you make. Imagine how much gas is used every time you go from home to the supermarket. Why not make one trip and make several errands that are close by? Use a planner to schedule appointments. Plan your routes. Make appointments that are not only close in time, but geographically as well. This technique can be used regardless of your transportation choice.
Think of warranties as insurance. Insurance is meant for those events that are catastrophic and would be difficult to pay for out of pocket. Would you pay insurance on a car that has no cash value? Probable not. Would you insure costume jewelry? Probably not. Would you insure your year old car? Absolutely. Similar reasoning applies to warrantees.
Ask yourself if can you afford to replace the item right now. If yes, do not pay extra for the warranty. Big ticket items make warranties worth it. Some examples are major appliances, equipment, furniture, certain electronics, and heating/cooling systems.
Our society is a throw away society. By this I mean that we get bored with stuff, and want the latest. Did you ever think where all this stuff goes? Do you think that you could reuse, recycle, or extend the life of an item? We can help our environment by the less we throw away to landfill, or oceans.
There is just a finite amount of wood for paper manufacturing. Use recycled paper, use both sides of paper when you can, use newspaper for packing, read newspapers and magazines online, use cloth bags at the supermarket, or borrow books from libraries. Donate items you no longer want to charities. Somebody else can use them and it extends the life of the item. Frequent flea markets and garage sales. You would be surprised at the recycled/reused gems you find.
Developing a frugal mindset can be challenging. It takes time to become aware of your habits, and time to change those habits into automatic responses. Start with small steps, and don’t cut everything you know and love about your routine off at the knees. Gradual change will reap lasting healthy habits and benefits. And reward yourself as you achieve each step. If there is no reward, there is a tendency to quit. Aim for a long-term accumulation of wealth and give yourself simple rewards as you achieve these goals: an hour of quiet time to read a magazine or take a hot bath, a cup of coffee with a friend, a round of golf or a tennis match with a friend, or a movie night at home. These are positive reinforcements of a job well done. Keep it up.
Let’s take the frugal mindset challenge to reduce everyday expenses. Take the time to determine where there are holes in your budget. Eliminate them or replace them with less expensive alternatives. Get the entire family involved. Declare a reward upon achieving set goals. But most of all, make it fun so it can be a long-term strategy to accumulating wealth.