Frugal living tips can not only help you save money, but they can also make it easier for you to enjoy the pleasures of life without missing out on the good stuff. Living frugally does not mean you have to live an austere lifestyle. You can have a great standard of living while cutting corners.
Frugal Living and Having Fun
Many people consider frugal living and having fun to be mutually exclusive. However, that could not be further from the truth. Even the frugal person can be frivolous, and probably have more fun doing so than the person for whom fun and entertainment are easy.
My children were little during the age of indoor playgrounds. All of their peers were having their birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese and Discovery Zone. These birthday parties were heinously expensive, and far beyond our budget.
In exchange for the pressure of having to provide an expensive birthday party, I engaged my children in planning their own parties. Sometimes the planning would take months. Instead of paying megabucks for a themed birthday cake, I bought a $25 Wilton kit and took a $30 class. I learned to decorate birthday cakes for the kids and did for years.
I remember the first birthday after my husband got a significant raise. I told my daughter that we could afford to go anywhere she wanted for her birthday. But no, she wanted to plan her party just as we always had. She said all of her friends were jealous of her parties!
We couldn’t afford to go to the movies, either, but, we still had movie nights. I would rent a movie and stop at the movie theater and buy a bucket of buttery popcorn. Then, we would turn the air conditioner on (a splurge, for us) and make it movie theater cold and sit on a quilt on the floor, watching our movie. For about $10, we had a $65 night out.
Frugal Cooking – Create a Weekly Menu
Frugal cooking can be quite a challenge, considering that fresh foods are usually more expensive than junk food. With this in mind, I plan my meals very carefully so as to cut down on waste.
Making a weekly menu helps, as I can plan to use perishables before they expire. My menus are based on our lifestyle. Some of my favorite recipes are one-pot dinners with easy ingredients and. I plan a main course, a fruit/vegetable, and a starch for each dinner. I also try to double the recipe whenever possible to create some freezer-ready meals.
Now, some people are not going to like this part, I hate preparing fresh vegetables.
The problem with fresh fruits and vegetables is that they are a lot of work to clean and prepare for eating, yet they rot so quickly.
I finally decided that it is cheaper to buy the pre-cut broccoli and other veggies or to buy frozen vegetables and canned fruit. Sure, the per-unit expense is more, but they are not wasted.
For more money-saving ideas to plan healthy dinners for the family, read Healthy Meals on a Budget.
Frugal Shopping – Don’t Forget the Dollar Store!
One of the best shopping tips I ever received was from a friend who told me to shop around the edge of the grocery store. All of the crucial foods you need are around the outer edges: produce, meats, dairy, and bread. You can make a brief foray into the aisles to get bathroom tissue. This has saved me tons of money.
You will be amazed at the variety of meals you can cook with just the basics. And, you will be amazed at the money you save. We also went for years without eating potato chips or dry cereal they cost more per pound than a good steak!
Nowadays, the Dollar Store, and different versions of it, are a great place to do your frugal shopping. You can find groceries there, as well as home and decor and small appliances. I spent $18 for a large, non-stick skillet that has lasted as long as the All-Clad skillet I got for Christmas 2 years ago. And believe me, that All-Clad cost far more than $18!
Consignment stores are my favorite place to find seasonal clothes. Children outgrow their clothes quickly, so you can find great items for the kids on consignment. The clothes were not worn enough to get worn out. I even find great clothes for me!
Frugal Travel – Plan Ahead to get the Best Discounts
Frugal travel is one of the most difficult aspects to manage in frugal living. Even the most well-planned staycation gets stale, and you just have to get out of town. Holidays may be especially difficult. Plan a holiday trip ahead of time and get significant discounts on airfare and rental cars.
If your schedule is flexible, you can also save a lot of money by flying on weekdays or taking advantage of last-minute deals. Airlines will often offer deeply discounted prices when the plane isn’t full a few days before the flight. Going into the airport and asking at the counter, they often have unadvertised specials you won’t find online.
You may have noticed that people who have a lot of money often spend money they do not need to spend. I look at it this way: I work way too hard for my money to waste any of it. By booking ahead of time, you can take advantage of sales that disappear as the date closes in.
In addition, you’ll find that family members often will plan around holidays, just because it is cheaper to get together. Our extended families now get together the week before Christmas and have a wonderful time, and save thousands of dollars over the inflated holiday prices.
Frugal Living Tips for Vacations – Staying Local
Another idea embraced by frugal living families is the staycation. Take a week off work, but enjoy your vacation in the comfort of your own home. Often we don’t have the time to explore all the tourist spots in our cities. Check out local parks, zoos, historic buildings, and tours.
If there is a local campground not too far from your house, plan a camping trip with the family. This way you’ll save on accommodations, food, and activities. If you don’t have camping gear, ask around if you can borrow some from a friend or neighbor, they are likely happy to share it with you.
Frugal Decorating – Get Creative
When my kids were little, I became a master of frugal decorating. The kids still remember their favorite Christmas tree. We were BROKE. As in, we had NO presents for the kids, who were 5 and 2 at the time. This meant that we had no presents to put under the tree, which was very depressing.
So, instead of our Christmas tree ornaments, I decorated the tree with the kid’s toys. It was adorable, and the kids played under the tree for weeks, pulling toys off, playing with them, then replacing them wherever they thought looked the best.
Dollar store home decor products look very nice, and a $3 can of spray paint can change the color of just about anything. Decorating on a dime can be fun and easy on the bank account, too.
Summary of Our Frugal Living Tips
From living your everyday life to taking a real vacation, frugal living tips can make everything more affordable and more fun. The key is to plan ahead and get creative. And for even more frugal living tips, don’t miss our article on the 10 best frugal living websites for even more ways to save money in your everyday life.