Frugal living requires skills and ways of looking at things that help you take advantage of the money-saving opportunities in life. The truly frugal person makes these into habits. Six of these habits are outlined below. These are techniques that can be learned in a matter of a day or two, and made into new habits a few weeks. Then they will save money for you for the rest of your life.
1. Frugal living requires a knowledge of values. How can you get a great deal on a car if you don’t know what a great deal is. Get in the habit of educating yourself on prices, especially before you’re ready to buy anything that costs a lot. It takes a few hours of looking at listings for sale, for example, to know what homes are selling for in an area, but this is knowledge that can save you thousands.
2. Learn from other people. Most of us know someone who always gets the best deal on cars, boats, homes, or even groceries. Why not ask him or her how they do it! One person will tell you that the cheapest coffee in town is $3 per cup, while another will say 50 cents. Ask the latter about coffee shops. People near you are living a good life on half of what you make. Investigate that. See how others do things, and you’ll know your options.
3. Frugal living means always looking for alternatives. You might have just as much fun taking a discount trip to Mexico as you would going to Jamaica. Maybe you happen to enjoy pizza more than fine French dining. If so, why not skip the expensive restaurant and call Dominoes. This isn’t about sacrificing, but about getting even more of what you really enjoy by paying less for cheaper alternatives that work just as well.
4. Pay cash. What happens when everything you buy costs an additional 20% because of the interest you pay over the years? You can’t buy as much! Everything is cheaper when paid for in cash instead of credit. If you want that new patio set, divide the price by the number of weeks you can wait to get it. Set aside that much each week, and buy it for cash when you have the money. Not only do you save on interest, but you’ll often get a better price when you pay cash.
5. Learn to do the math. Did you really save $400 on that car if it costs you $500 more in gas each year? Did you know that some stores are cashing in on shopper’s assumptions that larger is cheaper? It’s true. That gallon of pickles might actually cost more than four quart jars. Make it a habit to do the math if you want to save money.
6. Tell people what you need. Mention it in conversations. Many people get free or cheap things, just because they talk. For example, a neighbor wanted to upgrade her living room debt, and was thrilled that I would take her three-month-old couch off her hands for $30. I sure am glad that I mentioned I was looking for one. You need to make this little trick a part of your frugal living habits.