It's a familiar story, and it usually ends like this, 'I just don't know where it all went!'
Get this: 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements. That's the number that digital experts estimate most Americans are exposed to - per day!
Astonishing, isn't it? Such unrelenting commercial bombardment is exerting a powerful effect - one that convinces us that consumption is the key to a meaningful life. But this cannot be further from the truth.
Through frugal living and only spending on what matters to you, you can live a better, more meaningful, and balanced life for less!
Can I be totally honest with you? For a good while, I thought that being frugal meant being cheap. I thought it meant clipping coupons for a couple of hours to save $5 worth of groceries.
Don't even try to deny it - you've thought it too, at least to some extent. Haven't you?
But now I know better. I understand the intentionality and mindfulness behind frugal living. Frugal people aren't cheap stakes pinching every penny. What they are is intentional with their money.
And they're resourceful. Oh, so resourceful this bunch! They make smart buying decisions by only purchasing what makes them happy, and they get the most bang for their buck while doing this.
Let's take an example. Warren Buffett bought his 5 bedroom house, which he still lives in, for $31,500 in 1958 - that’s $250,000 in today’s dollars. It makes up 0.001% of his total wealth.
Do you see where we're going with this?
Of all the people in the world (quite literally), if Warren got himself a McMansion, heck if he got himself 10 of those, no one would raise an eyebrow. I mean, the guy is a billionaire!
But Warren was quoted saying, "I'm happy there. I'd move if I thought I'd be happier someplace else."
So here we go. Let's dive into what frugal living means, discuss some of its benefits, and find out how you can start to live a frugal life today through these life-changing tips.
Frugal living is about being intentional with your money (oh, did I mention that twice already? Well, that's just how important it is).
Ok, but what does this mean. Like really?
What this means is that you are self-aware about what makes you happy and dedicate your hard-earned money toward that while reducing the money that goes to other things that aren't as important to you.
These days, too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like. Turns out there's a psychological aspect to this social pressure.
But more about that later.
The good news is, with frugality, the choice is yours. You decide where to pull back on spending and where to spend more on things that make you happy!
When you realize that you value that summer vacation that you're planning for more than eating out the second time this week, you'll eat at home and dedicate that extra money toward your summer vacation goal. Perhaps you'll go further and even cancel the unnecessary TV cable subscription which you don't even use, or create a grocery list so that the next time you go grocery shopping, you avoid impulse buying.
For a lot of people, money is a safety net, not a tool to be used to change their lives. Frugal living is about enjoying more with less. As you become more aware of what is most important to you, you will spend less on what isn't thereby saving yourself money and financial stress.
You decide what matters most to you as opposed to living by the grace of what today's culture says you shouldn't or shouldn't do.
Turns out a great benefit to being intentional and resourceful with your money is extra savings. Who wouldn't want that?
Look: It doesn’t matter if you’re living pay-check to pay-check or earning a six-figure salary. If you want financial security, you'll need to understand where your money is going.
I'm going to take a leap of faith here and guess that you've heard of a budget. But unlike what you might have heard, budgeting isn’t about restricting yourself.
Budgeting is quite simply a plan for how you will use your money both now and in the future so it gives you the freedom to spend money on the things you love.
See, a lot of us don't track our spending, so it is difficult for us to understand our cash flow. This is a recipe for disaster because we often tend to think that we're spending far less than we actually are.
Think about it: What better way is there to know how you interact with your money, let alone know whether you're being frugal?
Money can be very sneaky. Have you noticed? It can easily find a purpose if one is not set for it. It is very difficult to be responsible with your money and frugal if you're not working toward set goals such as retirement savings, an emergency fund, or downpayment of a house.
Now, get this: You are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. Writing helps you visualize your future, prioritize, and understand the impact that your actions now can have on your future.
Frugal people have goals to which they direct their money. What are your money goals? Have you written them down?
Related: How to set SMART financial goals
You just wrapped up work, you're tired and hungry. You open the fridge and it's staring right back at you. What do you do? No way you're gonna spend a whole hour whopping up something - you're way too hungry to do that. What's more, you've been working your butt off all day, surely you deserve better than that! So you're gonna do what you always do in this situation - hit up UberEats.
We've all been there, we don't even need to picture the darn thing. I just described your last Thursday night, didn't I?
If that's you, you're not alone. Many of us spend a lot of money on eating out and take out, it's no wonder you come across stories such as this couple that spent $30,000 eating out in one year alone!
And you'd be wrong to think that they're the exception.
According to a recent study, nearly half of American millennials are spending more on food than they are saving for their futures.
So how do we curb this? (The subtitle might have given it away) Yes, you got it - Meal planning!
Meal planning can help you be more intentional with what you eat and how you spend on food. It incredibly stretches your food budget as you're less likely to impulse buy food last minute.
Healthy eating? Check! Less impulse buying? Check! More time and money saved? Check! Less kitchen waste? Check!
Ok, really, what more could you want?
Sure, it does take a healthy dose of intentionality and effort to make it happen, but don't all good things in life? What's more, like anything else, the more you get in the habit of meal planning, the more effortless it will become, and the more savings for you.
Ever wondered why apples are dirt cheap in the fall then suddenly they cost an arm and a leg in the winter?
What am I saying, of course, you have! And you likely know why that is too.
Fruits and veggies are much cheaper (and hello, much tastier!) when they're in season. So, why not take advantage of that?
Buying used things was previously frowned upon, but it's becoming more mainstream now.
And for good reason! The benefits of second-hand shopping can no longer be ignored. Saving money, sustainability, purchasing great quality items for cheap, and supporting causes are just a few of them.
From clothes and books to bicycles and furniture, thrift stores can often be a treasure trove!
So the next time you walk by that Savers store that you always see on your way home, pop in for a minute and have a look around. It won't cost you a thing, and who knows, you might even like what you see.
Saves time; Saves money; Gives control and peace of mind; More refreshing and inviting; More appreciation.
If you're wondering what all the above have in common, they're just but some of the benefits of decluttering your home.
If you don't need it anymore, don't like it anymore, doesn't fit, hun, it's got to go!
Try to sell what you can on one of the many marketplaces like Facebook marketplace or eBay, or donate.
Once you declutter, try to keep it that way. Try to rid yourself of the habit of getting stuff that you don't need. As you continue down this road, you will become more and more aware of your spending habits and appreciate your space, consequently curbing your spending where unnecessary.
End result? A neater house, plus more savings. Heck yea!
Being frugal is about prioritizing what is important to you. If your future finances fall under that category, then you should consider paying yourself first.
If you have been around the personal finance realm for some time, you might have heard the phrase ‘pay yourself first’ being tossed around.
Paying yourself is a pillar of personal finance that if practiced consistently over time, can lead to incredible financial health.
It is all about prioritizing your savings to safeguard your financial future as opposed to prioritizing all your spending then saving what is left over. It nurtures a sense of self-discipline that will focus your efforts on your financial goals and propel you through the stages of financial freedom to financial abundance.
Related: Why You Should Pay Yourself First
Automating finances is one of the best money-managing practices.
So what's the secret?
Automating finances takes away emotions (and oh, there can be so many emotions when it comes to money) so it is easy to incorporate into your current financial strategy.
And get this: Automating your finances is particularly effective when working towards a savings goal, managing recurring bills and in your debt payoff strategy. This has to be one of my favorite ways to save towards a financial goal!
If you have debt, you're not alone. The average debt balance in the U.S. in 2020 was a whopping $92,727!
Simply put, debt can be a major liability for your finances. If you are in debt, a budget can help you plan a debt payoff strategy, without which you might find yourself in constant financial struggle.
Even if you are thinking about saving and investing, you need to ensure that you are in good shape before you start. If you have a credit card debt, with the average credit card interest currently at 16.12%, the debt will likely drain your resources because no investment will consistently outperform such a high APR.
These days, there is so much information, you can learn how to do most things on the web.
No, I'm not talking about doing electrical work in your house - let's leave some things to the experts - but learning how to DIY some projects such as repainting your fence or making that cup of milk latte at home will save you some good money over time.
Heck, you might even find some cool hobbies.
Being frugal is about saving money, but it is also about avoiding incurring extra costs.
Personal finance experts disagree on a lot of things, but an emergency fund is one thing that they all get behind. And for good reason. Having an emergency fund is the backbone of any financial plan.
It can prevent you from having to rely on high-cost solutions such as credit cards in case of an emergency. It is especially crucial to have a financial buffer if you are already in debt to avoid even more debt.
Sadly, financial emergencies come up all the time. In fact, within the last year, 28% of American households experienced a financial emergency.
Despite this fact, nearly 4 in 10 American households would not be able to cover a $1,000 emergency.
No. Don't do it! Don't be part of this statistic. Build up your emergency fund.
Not once, but twice I have reduced the cost of my internet simply by asking for a discount.
You too can save money by negotiating better prices with your monthly service providers and more. Do some quick research on what competitors are offering then call up your car insurance provider, cable and cell phone providers, and more.
And that's not all. Have you negotiated your salary lately?
If you haven't, consider it because no one else will do it for you. Adulting is such a mixed bag, isn't it? On the one hand, you can have ice cream at midnight if you want, but on the other hand, you have to negotiate your salary.
Here's the deal. Early career moves and salary negotiations are very important. For the average person, income growth happens before the age of 35. After that, most people see almost no growth in income.
Astonishing, isn’t it?
Well, you'd be interested to know that this trend doesn’t apply to the top 10% of earners. The highest earners see sustained increases in their income over time.
But that's a story for another time.
So what’s the takeaway here for now? Ask for that raise sooner. Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate.
News flash: Research shows that spending time outside has some incredible health benefits.
Unfortunately, the average American spends 90% of their time indoors!
Aside from the clear health benefits, spending time outside can be a great source of fun without breaking the bank. From hiking and hitting up the beach, to outdoor picnics and barbecues, spending time outdoors is a great way to save money.
Challenge yourself to have fun for free.
Continuously surrounded by people who think they can never save? Well, then you are very likely to start thinking the same way.
Do your friends go shopping every weekend and have to buy the latest trends? You're likely to gradually do the same.
Whether you admit it not, relationships have a strong impact on your financial life. There's actually a psychological aspect to this social pressure.
The herd instinct - this is what some psychologists call it. Basically, our brains are designed to help us fit in.
This is why when you go out for drinks with your friends, you stay on for an additional drink and another one even after you hit your spending cap for the night.
Naturally, the reverse is also true. If you surround yourself with the right people you will experience positive social pressure. This is why it is very effective to have people who help keep you accountable.
A recent study found that when people shared their goals and progress in small groups, their savings rate nearly doubled.
That’s right - a 100% increase in savings rate simply from being held accountable.
Now, hold your horses! Before you go on saying that I said to ditch your spendy friends, let me clarify that this is not what I'm saying. I mean, what kind of friend would you be anyways if you did, am I right?
I'm simply saying that it might help to be aware of your spending when around friends, and to try to find an accountability partner - a friend, significant other, financial planner - who can help you recognize when you're not being frugal as per your budget.
So, what do you think? If any of these frugal living tips struck a cord, try to get started with that one. Hopefully, as you continue to practice more frugal living tips, you will notice a change in your life and bank account too.
It's a familiar story, and it usually ends like this, 'I just don't know where it all went!'