With the economy in the state it is, all of us have felt the strain of living an affluent life and know innately that we should be saving money, but it is hard to know where to begin. Frugality can be difficult even in the best of times, and it is even more difficult when times are tough and every expense seems extravagant. That being said, there is no reason you cannot be frugal and still live a happy, comfortable life. It is one thing to say “I need to save,” but actually doing so takes planning and determination. Being determined to live thriftily might be the most important aspect, but having an idea of where to start doesn’t hurt. While you will need to tailor a savings plan around your own lifestyle, these tips are a great place to start.
Get Rid of Your Debt
Eliminating debt will seem obvious to most people, but you may be surprised at how many people try to save money while deep in debt. While it is possible, any debt will just incur interest which will cost you money in the long run. So, if you have debt, ditch it. Try to consolidate all of your loans, so that you only have one interest rate to pay, and then pay it off as fast as you reasonably can.
For the same reason, get rid of your credit cards. These plastic temptresses can be useful, especially if you pay it off every month, but there are hazards. If you ever miss a payment, then you incur late fees and high interest which will quickly build up. It can also prove too tempting to buy items which are out of your budget range when you have a credit card.
Downsize Your Home
For many Americans, the idea of downsizing your home will seem positively un-American. The American Dream has become owning a huge home which may have been affordable 10 years ago, but sadly many homes are worth less than what is owed and far over budget. So downsizing is a necessary and beneficial evil. It is not necessary to live in a one room shack, just a smaller yet still comfortable house instead of a McMansion. Also, keep in mind that it is better to find something that you can pay off relatively quickly to avoid a lifetime of monthly payments.
Use One Fuel Efficient Car
Since the advent of the modern automobile, it has been customary for adults to have their own car. With the exception of large cities, in the typical household each adult will have a car, even if it is just so they can run errands. However, unless your household needs multiple cars for unavoidably long commutes, it will be necessary to get rid of the extra cars in order to live more frugally. The ideal situation for a thrifty household would be one fuel efficient car which is low on miles and fully paid off. A good used car may also be a good choice, but remember that you want to avoid costly maintenance.
Never Skip the Doctor
It is appalling how many think it is a good idea to skip a doctor or dentist appointment in the name of saving money. Sure, you may save money in the short term, but you always have to think of the long-term cost. If you skip your dentist appointment tomorrow, you may not learn about a developing cavity, which will then grow destroying your teeth. And now, instead of a relatively cheap check-up you are looking at several very expensive appointments to repair the damage you allowed to happen. To save money, stay healthy and attend all regular check-ups.
Cook at Home
It is simple; going out to a restaurant is expensive. And if it is cheap then the food is probably not tasty or healthy, so why bother. Cooking at home is cheaper, and allows you to use a better quality of ingredients while still saving money. Plus, it will probably taste better anyways.
Find Free Entertainment
There is an old episode of the PBS show Author, where the cast sings a ditty about how, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” That still rings true today; public libraries are a mecca for anyone who is looking for frugal entertainment options. Your local library will have access to almost any book or magazine you could desire and most will have new release DVDS available for free. Also, look out for other free entertainment such as community theater or town festivals.
Limit Your Vices
In this instance vices refers coffee, soda, cigarettes, alcohol, bubblegum, or anything else that you habitually use. Habits such as these can not only be bad for your health, but they are also horrible for your wallet. Just consider the cost of coffee. Priced modestly, if you figure one cup of coffee cost you around two dollars, then a two cup a day habit is going to cost you around 60 dollars every month. Just think about what you could be doing with that amount of money if you just reduced your habit a little.
Stay Determined and Have a Goal
When you begin saving money it is going to be easy to get distracted, make mistakes and maybe even feel like it hopeless to even try to be thrifty. Eventually you will make money saving decisions without a second though but at first you will probably need to constantly remind yourself why you are striving to be frugal. This is why it is important to have some sort of goal. The goal can be anything, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you really want it and are willing to work at it, a goal will help you stay on course until living frugally is second nature.