There really are so many ways to save money. When it seems as though you couldn’t possibly trim another extra from your budget, it may be time to start examining some of the things that you consider necessities.
True necessities and levels of frugality will vary from family to family, so just consider this list a jumping-off point to reevaluating some of those things in your life. When you decide to cut even little things from your life, it is amazing how quickly all that spare change can add up.
1. Eating out and ordering in. This really is a great “necessity” to cut when you are trying to live frugally. It’s pretty painless and the savings add up quickly, especially if you eat out once a week or more.
2. Buying a daily cup of coffee. For the price of a small cup of coffee at any of the major chains, you could make at least 12 cups at home. Instead, invest in a thermal mug or thermos and take coffee from home when you head out the door.
3. Convenience meals. If time is an issue when it comes to cooking, look for less costly alternatives. For example, spend a few days stocking your freezer with homemade meals. They’ll be ready to reheat for those days when you just don’t have time to cook.
4. New books. If you love to read, take advantage of your local library. If there are certain books you just love and need to add to your collection, look for them at used book stores, library sales, or one of the many websites that sell used books. You can usually find a book in great condition for just a fraction of the cost.
5. Name brand personal care items. The primary ingredients of most shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics etc. are virtually the same whether you buy top-of-the-line or generic. Experiment with lower-priced products to see if they’ll work for you. Most of the time you won’t even notice a difference. If you do, you can always switch back to the old brand.
6. Cable or satellite television. Consider how much t.v. you watch and which channels you really watch most often. Look into alternatives and see if some of your favorite shows from cable stations may be free to watch online through websites like Hulu. If you truly cannot cancel the service altogether, see if you can at least scale back to a less-expensive programming package.
7. Phone services. If you have both a cell phone and a home phone, look over your bills and see if it would make sense to cancel one service or the other. Cell phone package options have become so varied and reasonable that home phone service is becoming obsolete. However, if you do not make long distance calls and rarely use your cell phone, perhaps staying with a home phone and just a pre-paid cell phone for emergencies would be the smarter way to go. And again, just like in #6, if you really cannot get rid of either one entirely, examine your plans and see if there is a way to cut back.
8. Video rentals. Whether you have a membership in an online video service or you rent from a storefront, look for more cost-effective options. Most libraries have a wonderful movie selection and the rentals are either free or nearly free. And again, take advantage of the online options like Hulu.
9. Health club memberships. First of all, decide if you visit your health club often enough to justify the expense. If not, cancel the membership right away. If you do find it justified, see if there are other exercise options available that would give you equal benefits. Videotapes, walking outside or even through the mall, self-designed cardio programs, even investing in a piece of your own exercise equipment may all be better options.
10. Professional haircuts. If you get your hair cut at an expensive salon, try a less-expensive chain and see if you are pleased with the results. To save even more, see if you or your spouse could handle some of the hair-cutting duties yourselves, even if just for your children.
11. Dry cleaning. With a little research, you can learn some wonderful D.I.Y. alternatives to dry cleaning. You’ll quickly realize that most clothes really do not require professional dry cleaning.
12. Air conditioning. During the warmer months, don’t instantly turn on your air conditioning as soon as it reaches a certain temperature outside. Instead, see if your family will be comfortable with the windows open and fans blowing. On really hot days, only open the windows for a while in the morning, then close them and shut all blinds or curtains. It’s worth experimenting.
13. Name-brand laundry or dish-washing detergent. Try the less expensive or generic brands and see if you are happy with the results. If you’re happy with the cleanliness of the items but miss the scent of more expensive brands, research alternatives, such as using a tiny drop of essential oil.
14. Brand new ink cartridges. There are so many options nowadays when it comes to printer ink. Check around and find a local store that will refill your cartridges for you for a fraction of the cost. Many even offer a discount if you bring in your old cartridges. To save even more, look into purchasing a do-it-yourself refill kit.
15. “Instant” foods. Convenience always comes at a cost, and you can often recreate the convenience in your own kitchen. For example, you can make your own packets of instant oatmeal with quick oats, some brown sugar and cinnamon, a food processor or blender, and plastic baggies.
16. Several different pairs of shoes. Instead of purchasing 20 different styles of shoes, even at discounted prices, consider investing in only two or three high-quality, versatile and functional pairs of shoes. You may spend more initially, but the savings will quickly add up over time.Not to mention, your feet, legs and back will thank you!
17. Manicures and/or pedicures. You can easily give yourself a manicure or pedicure at home for next to nothing. If you’re not good at doing your own nails, see if a friend or family-member can do them for you. If you view these services as a time of pampering for yourself, see if a less-costly afternoon at a coffeehouse or some other alternative might fulfill that need.
18. Mailing your bills. This is a small one, but every little bit helps! If you are still paying for stamps to mail your bills every month, switch over to online billing with every company that offers it as a free service.
19. Electronic educational toys. We all want to help our children learn, but learning can happen just as easily with a picture book or some flashcards and a little bit of time as it can with the latest electronic gadget out there. That’s not to say that educational toys don’t have a place in our homes. Just be selective and don’t feel the need to get the newest thing on the market all the time.
20. Snack foods. If you cannot do away with purchased snacks altogether, decide on only 2 or 3 favorite snack foods for the whole family and purchase just those. Fill-in with homemade snacks or other options.
21. In-style clothing. Opt for timeless pieces that are well made and avoid the latest trends. If you really feel the need to stick with current fashions, choose just one piece per season.
22. Baby items. The amount of baby items available on the market today is mind-boggling. You really do not need most of them. Pay attention to what you purchase and really use and see where you can cut back.
23. An overabundance of extracurricular activities. Choose just one or two (if any) well-loved and enriching classes for your child. Then look for no-cost options or create your own where none are available.
24. Cleaning gadgets. Out of all the cleaning gadgets on the market, the ones that really get the job done are elbow grease and a good cleaning solution. Skip the swiffers, automatic shower cleaners and similar products. Instead, choose a good multi-purpose cleaner (or even better, make you own with baking soda or vinegar) and clean with your own hands. Your hard work will pay off quickly.
25. Vending machine/convenience store purchases. If you buy a snack or pop from one of these places on a daily basis, consider purchasing a pack or case of your favorites. You’ll typically be able to purchase these items for less than half-price when purchased this way as opposed to the single-serving option.
A frugal lifestyle isn’t about doing without – it’s about shifting priorities. Where can you shift priorities or reevaluate what is truly necessary? I hope this list has spurred you to reconsider some of your habits.