Frugal Living: The A-Z Of Saving Money

The following is an excerpt from one of the chapters I wrote in the book, “The A-Z of Saving Money“. We’ve reduced the price to ONLY $4.99, down from $15. Definitely worth the read, and stocked full of insanely practical tips for saving money now! Check it out, and let me know what you think :)

When you hear the word “frugal”, what images come to mind? Is it a cheapskate arguing over the coupon code at the grocery store register? Is it the couple who goes to Olive Garden and eats unlimited breadsticks and water for a free meal? Or maybe it’s your parents who told you “no” about 3,678,000 times when you asked if they could buy you something?

Whatever images come to mind, the word “frugal” always seems like a party killer. I mean, no one RSVPs to the “most epic frugal party of all time!” It just doesn’t conjure up any excitement. Let’s talk about what frugal living actually is, and if you read through to the very end, you might find yourself getting a little bit more excited about this whole “frugal living” idea.

Frugal Living is a Mindset

Frugal, by definition, is being thrifty and characterized by avoidance of waste. It starts with a realization that our resources are finite, including our money, so we should manage them in the most effective ways possible. That, and most people feel that they don’t have enough money as it is, so we might as well figure out a way to get the most out of every dollar. That’s where frugal living comes in.

When you’re living frugally, you see the world through a different lens. Every monetary decision that is made also comes with a premise of “how can I save more money on this?” You view shopping trips, vacations, cars, decorating, and anything you spend money on as a potential deal. When you are living frugally, you ask yourself these questions:

Is this a need or a want?

There are two kinds of purchases in this world; buying something you need, and buying something you want. If you break all of your purchases down to this most simple level, you can learn a LOT about your spending habits. You can see how much money you spend on your needs vs. your wants, and you can see where your current priorities actually lie.

An example of this would be when you are out shopping, you should have a list of what you need before you enter the store. My wife (the shopping expert in our family) writes down a list for several stores before even leaving the house, knowing that she will spend less money and less time at each location with a plan for the purchases. That list is usually full of needs, sprinkled with a few wants, but ALL within budget. All stores place banners and ads and shiny new labels on the products that they want you to buy. Some of them look very attractive, and heck, we’re always down to try something new. But the “frugal living” part of her brain kicks in and says, “yo, whatchu lookin’ at? Do you really need a brand new can-opener with a built in TV and radio? Yeah, I thought so. Let’s keep it movin’ and get to the good stuff!” She’s already got a list of what she needs at the store, so those impulsive wants don’t tempt her anymore.

Another example is when you’re shopping at the mall. Now, I have a rule of thumb: everything down the center aisle of ANY mall is a want. Always. But how many of us have walked away with a ridiculous new bedazzled cell phone cover or a tiny flying helicopter that breaks within 2 minutes of bringing it home?

The mall is designed to rope you into impulsive buys and plays every trick in the book to have you forget your budget and toss out your hard-earned cash at buy 5 get 1 free puppy calendars. But when you head there with a list of your needs (sprinkled with a few wants) and your budget, you can successfully avoid all the traps and snares of America’s favorite addiction.

Can something else do the job of this thing I am about to purchase?

When your mind is set on frugal living, you start to see your “stuff” a bit differently. You start looking at every item in your house and ask “what else can you do?” My awesome wife prefers not to buy single-purpose household items. That means almost anything we bring into the house can serve AT LEAST two functions. I think it’s a great guide to have in place, and not only does it reduce clutter, but it saves us tons of money in the long run. That, and she also happens to be awesome at making everything look good as well!

When you’re out and about, shopping for an item to fill a need, first ask yourself if you have anything that you already own that can perform the function you’re looking for. When a need arises, your first thought should not be “what can I buy to solve my problem”, but instead, “what do I have that can take care of this for me?” You’d be surprised to find out how many times you already own something that can take care of your need, save you cash and save a trip to the store.

I recommend taking a mental inventory of your household items and asking yourself what else you can do with your things. Here are some great examples:

1. You need some organization for your ornaments. Instead of buying something new, you can use eggs cartons or Dixie cups glued to cardboard for ornament storage.

2. You need transportation to work. Instead of buying a new car, you can ride a bike, or carpool with a nearby co-worker, or ride the bus.

3. Use old glass jars from peanut butter, pickles, etc. for food storage instead of going out and buying a new Tupperware set. Heck, old jars are good for pretty much everything, décor and non-food storage too! Spray paint the lids to all match and you have a cohesive storage solution for practically free.

4. I strongly recommend getting a account for inspiration, as there are thousands of DIY projects featured that use common household items.

Can I get this cheaper somewhere else?

Once you’ve decided that you need to purchase something, you usually check the budget first, and then head out the door to go get it. Before you buy that item, I would ask yourself “can I find this cheaper somewhere else?” This question is a great way to stop you from needlessly overspending. There are some great places you can go to find sweet deals, and I would always check those places first.


To read more amazing money-saving tips from me and others, check out the book HERE

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  1. I think to many frugal and cheap go hand and hand. Not sure why but its like saying you want to save and have a better financial backing is not understood. We as a society seem to feel entitled to everything. Instead of saving we buy expensive cars and homes yet complain about paying back student loans. I just ask to I really need it or just want it. if its just a want most time I pass.
    Thomas @ Your Daily Finance recently posted..Net Worth Talks Saving for CollegeMy Profile

    • Wants rule the airwaves in advertising and it really does get people into an entitlement mindset. Consumerism is rampant, and chasing happiness through stuff never seems to end. Frugality can help combat that, but contentment is the true key. Thanks for the comment :)

  2. How has the book been doing? Hopefully the new price will entice some new buyers since it is 67% off!
    Lance at Money Life and More recently posted..Best 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards of Summer 2013My Profile

  3. I’ve found a helpful tip for me is to consider how long I need to work to earn the money I’m about to spend. It puts things nicely into perspective.

    Good luck with the book sale, I hope it drives a lot more purchases!
    Alex @ Searching for Happy recently posted..Cupcake WednesdayMy Profile

    • Hah, that’s great. Reminds me of a quote from Mr. Money Mustache about cable. Something like “the average American works an entire year of their life to watch cable.” Kinda makes you want to cut out all the needless crap, doesn’t it?

  4. I love this quote, “we might as well figure out a way to get the most out of every dollar.” That’s the truth. Our money is finite and so is time. Figuring out the best way to use every dollar to add value in life. That’s how I approach spending. What value does this add? Does it free up more time to do the things I enjoy? Can I get this cheaper? Do I need it? Do I need it now?
    The Phroogal Jason recently posted..Index Contact FormMy Profile

    • Great questions to ask, Jason. And very true, time and money pass through our lives so quickly, they need to be stewarded with great care!

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