Frugal Living For Beginners

Brewing coffee at home can save a lot of money in the long run.

It’s hard to make changes. Believe me, I know. It takes a lot of effort to change. When you’re used to doing things one way, you can just move through life on autopilot without thinking much about what you’re doing.

But when you’re trying to change a habit, you have to actually think about what you’re doing. You’re in unfamiliar waters, and it’s not comfortable.

That’s why I suggest you change one small thing at a time if you’re trying to pick up some frugal habits. Don’t try to change everything at once. Here’s a list of 5 things to get you started on living a more frugal life. Pick one and work on it. Once you have that one down, pick another. Before you know it, you’ll be in the habit of looking for new ways to live a more frugally.

1. Cook From Scratch

These days we pay a lot for convenience. We pay not only with money, but with our health, too. Picking up an extra value meal at McDonald’s is not only more expensive than making your own burger, but it’s probably a lot more calories, too.

By making things from scratch, you put in a little extra time, but you will be healthier, and your wallet will be happier, too. Prepare ahead for busy nights by making double portions of some dinners and freeze the extras. When you’re tired or short on time, you can eat your homemade frozen dinner.

2. Plan Ahead With Lists

I like to keep a list of the clothing sizes of my husband and children in my purse. Then when I’m shopping and there’s a clearance sale, or I’m at a garage sale, I know what to look for. I also like to keep a list of current clothing needs, items that I need for the house, and books I’d like to read.

It’s also good to keep a running “needs” list on the refrigerator. Train your family to write things on the list as the need arises. You then have the freedom to find the best deals on your family’s needed items. There’s nothing worse than coming home from a trip to Target to hear your husband say, “Hon, I need some razor blades.”

3. Consolidate Trips Into Town

Instead of running to the grocery store one day, soccer practice the next, and the bank another day, try to plan your driving trips. Run errands before or after soccer practice. If you work outside the home, run your errands on your way home from work, or all at once on a Saturday.

Consolidating trips into town serves two purposes. First, it cuts down on gas, which we all know is expensive these days. Second, when you’re running lots of errands in succession, you tend to run through each errand quickly, rather than stopping to browse in a store. This will prevent those expensive impulse purchases.

4. Carry Your Own Water With You

Bottled water is expensive. Stopping at the drivethrough for a soda is expensive and bad for your health. I recently bought some stainless steel water bottles for our family, since even the hard plastics are now believed to be bad for your health. When I’m heading out, I just fill up my water bottle and go.

If you prefer the taste of bottled water, Gibble recently wrote about buying a reverse osmosis filter. In the long run it saves money and it’s better for the environment than plastic water bottles.

5. Make Your Own Coffee

In recent years it’s become trendy to stop at Starbucks for a cup of java in the morning. In our area, there seem to be coffee stands on every corner. At $3.50 a pop, my morning mocha quickly became an expensive habit. Fattening, too.

These days I brew my own coffee at home. Instead of buying the cheap Folgers coffee that I used to buy, I spend a little extra money on some good, organic coffee beans. Even at $8.99 a pound, it’s still a lot less expensive than buying coffee from Starbucks every morning.

What other small changes can frugal newbies make to become more accustomed to frugal living?

Photo by powerbooktrance.



Author

By , on May 22, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{32 Comments}

  1. rk:

    this is a great article. One of the lost arts of frugality I’ve recently picked up is using a small pressure cooker to cook meals instead of buying convenience foods. You can steam potatoes in five or ten minutes, and make beans and soups in twenty. It’s frequently faster than my microwave (and the food tastes far better), uses very little electricity, and saves me the cost of expensive convenience foods without taking up all my time. I use it nearly every day. On top of that, the cooker was given to me by a friend who never used it. Also, I’ve recently learned a method of baking no-knead bread that only takes me about five or ten minutes to prepare, at a cost of about $1 per loaf, as opposed to the $4.25 per loaf in the store that’s filled with sugar and preservatives. Bread is actually much easier to make (after a small amount of education and trial and error) than I would have guessed. I also have stopped going to coffee shops, and instead make my own coffee and carry it with me in a thermos; this also gives me the added bonus of having coffee that stays hot for hours, instead of getting cold the moment I leave the shop.

  2. PhilSavior:

    I’ve saved a lot of bucks when calling 1-800-411-SAVE rather than using GOOG-411. 411 SAVE is for free and the live operators are very accomodating and pleasant unlike automated system. Now that’s convenience.

  3. fitwallet:

    Check out Whole Foods or (even better) Trader Joe’s for CHEAP, great coffee. TJ’s sells the big cans for $8.99 unground. Since our household goes through a can every 2 weeks or so, this saves us a ton of money. I make a big pot every morning and fill my thermos :)

  4. kevin_g2975:

    wow i learned so much!

    here’s my tip to help save money on phone bills. i found out about a new and FREE directory assistance service, 1-800-411-SAVE. you can call the number from any phone and it works just like regular 411 without the costs!

    hope this helps you too :D

  5. Kylie:

    I love all the tips:) I live alone in a small town about 25 miles from a “real” supermarket…my car has 130,000 miles on it and I try to live frugually. We have a bus to go to the “real supermarket” once a month. It’s $5.00 and I feel is cheaper then driving. I mainly cook at home. I can’t say I cook from scratch always but am going to try to do more of it. I love using my crock pot and now have another thanks to the local thrift shop. One little tip I will share is – when I bake in the summer I turn my overhead fan on high and it keeps the heat from the kitchen. It’s kind of noisy though….smiles. Getting my lawn mowed and windows caulked and other simple maint. are my problem areas. I have to find someone to pay to do those things and it’s not easy to find help. Even the young people here in town don’t seem to want to earn extra $$$. Somehow I always manage though. I will keep watching this board and trying to learn new and better ways:)

  6. a:

    I think those tips are a great start! One of the above posts time=money, there is cooking from scatch and cooking from scratch. You are right in the time vs money factor. You need to find the right balance for your family. If it helps to buy a jar of sauce for a quick bolgna so be it, but that is a lot cheaper to do than eat out. I think that is what the list is trying to do to make you think about alternatives, also making you conscicously look at what you are spending and how you can change it.

  7. I don’t drink coffee, but I’m a tea addict.

    We’ve saved quite a bit of money by buying a $2 box of tea bags and brewing our own pitchers of iced tea instead of shelling out $1.50 for one 20 oz. bottle at the convenience store.

    One box of tea bags will create a lot of pitchers.

    It’s so easy too.

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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

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