10 habits for frugal living
If you missed my thrifty tip on how to feed a plastic pig, go here. As regular ThinkingShift readers know, I’ve been anti-The Brands for over a year now. I have bought no global designer brands since early 2008. No Gucci. No Louis Vuitton. No Armani. Nada. And now I’ve discovered thrift shops and have made up my mind to source next summer’s wardrobe through St Vinnie’s. And I’ve been following some cost-cutting measures, not the least of which was to give Foxtel the flick (pay TV). I used to like watching old movies on Foxtel but decided to flick it to be more frugal. And frugal doesn’t mean miserly or stingy; it just means choosing wisely what to spend your hard earned dollars on. So to my Top 10 personal tips to save money – and they’re all glaringly obvious. It’s just that in our materialistic world, we have forgotten how to live a simple life.
- Establish a savings pattern. I have always tried to save 10% or more of my salary. Doesn’t matter how little – nominate a certain part of your salary to be transferred automatically into a savings account. Think of it as an emergency fund and don’t touch it. Deposit your “pig money” into this account. Don’t use this account to pay bills; forget it exists.
- Cast a stern eye over your spending. I HATE drawing up budgets so what I do instead is nominate something that I think is frivolous and give it the toss. So I was drinking one cafe latte a day at an average cost of AU $2.50. I decided to go for a whole month without my latte and I saved approximately $12.50 a week (I only drink coffee whilst at work x 5 days) and that added up to $50.00. I was actually shocked because $50.00 a month equals $600.00 a year I hand over to people to make a liquid I could really do without. What I saved that month, I fed the pig with. I will occasionally have a latte if meeting friends for lunch or going out but largely I’ve tossed the $2.50 a day splurge. This month, I have nominated lunches. A concerted effort will be made to take to work left-overs from dinner the night before. Or I will track down the best value lunch I can find if I have to buy it.
- Credit cards. Get them out of your wallet, cut them to shreds and dance around the plastic pieces. I had a Diners Club card. I gradually reduced my spending and so each month, I ended up with not having to pay them. But then I looked at the yearly fee for the privilege of being with them (and this is the credit card company that charges you “liquidated damages” if you make a late payment). I decided I didn’t need the luxury of credit cards with high interest rates, so cancelled my account. If you have credit card debt, then you should aim to reduce it as much as possible. Use the pig money at the end of each month if you have to and reduce that debt. Until you are credit card free, leave your credit card at home. I remember a discussion with my father when I first applied for a credit card – he was appalled, saying that when he was growing up there were no credit cards so why don’t I just use cash. And if no cash, then there’s no purchase. Try to live like someone in the 1940s before credit came along – pay cash or lay-by it.
- Consider your wardrobe. Due to globalisation, our clothes are more often than not made in China. They are affordable but let’s face it, they don’t usually last beyond a season. I remember my mother had dresses from the 1940s that she tarted up in the 70s – had them restyled – but the fabric and craftsmanship of the clothes and handbags she had stood the test of time. I’m a firm believer in buying top quality over cheap stuff. I think a well-made Italian handbag is going to last over a cheap import. Same with shoes. For work, you just need the basics – for girls that’s a couple of black trousers (my favourite); a grey or other monotone skirt; a few blouses and tops – and then you mix them up and accessorise. And I think if you go for good quality, which may cost more in the short-term, in the long run you are saving dollars. Buy the good quality stuff at sales – amazing what you can pick up. Guys: a couple of good quality suits and some different coloured or patterned shirts and ties. Keep it minimal and classy. Don’t buy the latest trend item because next season it’s no longer a trend. Haunt the thrift and second-hand shops. The plush red coat I am sporting this winter is from the 1970s and cost $40.00 at a second-hand shop. Made in Australia to boot!
- Become reaquainted with your local library or second-hand bookshop. Earlier this year, I held my first garage sale to get rid of some clutter and earn some cash. I was amazed at what people will buy but what really got me was watching a book dealer swoop into the sale and rush off with over 150 soft and hard cover books. These books I had bought over the years at various book shops and I hate to think what the total cost was. But let’s say each book was an average of $25.00, so 150 books would have cost me $3750 and the book dealer picked them all up for $300 ($2.00 each on average). So I lost $3450! Okay many of those books were great reads but mostly they were sitting lonely on the book shelf, gathering dust. So I promptly decided not to buy a new book again if I could help it and once a month I go along to a second-hand bookhsop where I can buy great books for $2.00-6.00 each. Many of these books are old and so I’ve discovered a real love for writers from the 1940s and 50s. I can take any of the books back and exchange them for others.
- 5-day rule: we are all tempted by the bright lights and advertising of retail shops and that leads to impulse buying. There is so much choice out there, it’s hard I know. So what I try to do is stay well away from department stores during my lunch hour and I take a stroll instead. But if you spot an item you simply (think) you must have, follow the 5-day rule my father taught me. Say to the shop assistant who is pressuring you to buy it “I’m going to think about it”, walk away and if 5 days later, you still want it, then go and look again. But…ask yourself: do I really need it? is it going to change my life? will it help my family? can I do without it? I’ll bet that after 5 days, the passion you had for that object has died away.
- Save power. My dad used to drive me nuts when I was young. He’d always say “turn off the light” if I came out of a room and he’d remind me to turn off all the electricity sockets, even if appliances weren’t plugged in (apparently, if the socket switch is on, even if no appliance is plugged in, you waste electricity and money). So turn off any lights in a room you’re not occupying. No need to light up your house like a Christmas tree. Switch to energy efficient light bulbs. Avoid using a clothes dryer. Use cold water in your washing machine. Power down your computers at night. Switch energy providers (we went with Origin Energy as they were cheaper). I use this guide for ideas. And a really good idea is have one night a week where you watch no television, don’t surf the internet, don’t use email: just sit and talk (in a room with candles is even better, ambience!).
- Frugal exercise: you don’t have to splash out exorbitant money on gym membership. In fact, cancel your gym membership and follow these frugal exercise tips. There is no better exercise than walking IMHO. I have always walked. I get off my train one station stop earlier than I need to just so I can walk. I go up the 70 steps at the train station rather than take the escalator. If you need weights, get a couple of heavy cans of dog food and lift those! My father was in the Air Force and to this day I still follow the 5BX exercise programme that pilots during WWII went through. All free. Go here. Some health experts might say these exercises are outdated but I’ve followed them for years and am still around. And to get you in a really good mood – and this is good on the weekend – get out your old Michael Jackson music and dance around and celebrate his life because dancing is also great exercise. Do whatever you can because exercise keeps you healthy and healthy saves money on medicines and doctors.
- Around the house: fire your cleaner because cleaning is good exercise and you’ll save the dollars. Wash out and reuse zip lock bags. If you have a coffee machine, instead of throwing out used coffee grounds, leave half in the filter, then add half of the freshly ground coffee for a second pot. Same with teabags, reuse them. Don’t waste money buying cleaning and gardening products because there are at least 131 different uses for vinegar and many ways to use baking soda. Shop once a week (saves fuel), bulk buy and bulk cook. Learn how to make tasty soups that can be stored in the freezer – soup is a healthy, cheap meal. Start a herb garden or vege patch.
- Beauty and hygiene: baby oil is a great, cheap-eye makeup remover. Save on soap by taking the leftover bits, wetting the new bar and sticking them together. Baking soda actually makes a good toothpaste. Add a bit of water to a nearly used bottle of shampoo, shake it up and you’ll get more hair washes (you can do this with conditioner too). You can use cornstarch instead of talcum powder and cornstarch is also good as a foot powder. Almond oil makes a great moisturiser as well as a deep conditioning treatment for the hair. Smack natural honey on your face for a really great treatment.
I have many more tips so will do future posts. Leave a comment if you found any of this useful and share with us your own tips for frugal living!