10 Steps To Frugal Freedom

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

-Henry David Thoreau

I like being frugal. In fact, I always say if I won a million dollars I would plunk it in the bank and keep living exactly the way I do. I’m happy to live the way I do and I really feel that I have everything in life I could want. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world.

There are two ways of becoming rich: working or saving. I choose the latter. It’s much more relaxing, and I actually enjoy the challenge of being as good with my money as I can. Here are some of the things I do or have done, which can help you save money. None of them are going to put a thousand dollars in your pocket this month, but over the course of your life, they can add up to great savings. And I can tell you quite frankly, I don’t feel like I’m missing out by doing (or not doing) any of these things.

1) Shower out

Hot water is expensive. Okay, I don’t know how much it costs. But I know it costs something. Add that up over your lifetime, and I’m sure it’s a good chunk of change.

I am a member of the YMCA (which just happens to be right across the street from where I currently live). I’m on a plan with another family member. Today I walked across the street and took a shower there (no I didn’t work out…). It was good for me to get out of the house for half an hour, since I tend to spend much of my time at home, plus I can take a longer/hotter shower than I normally would now that I pay for hot water.

I’m grateful to have the time and freedom of schedule to do that (although today is Saturday, so anyone could have done it with me, just in a separate stall).

If you belong to a gym with a shower, try scheduling your showers for when you’re there. Or just use the facility as much as you can. You’re already paying for hot water use in your gym membership, so you may as well use it!

2) Eat in

This one’s pretty simple. I actually prefer eating in to going out. This is for a few reasons.

First of all, I like being in control of what I put in my body. I would rather just make the dish myself than sit there and rail off instructions to an annoyed server.

Second of all, I’m usually just as happy with the food I make at home. And even if I’m not, at least I didn’t pay very much for it.

I know, there is some amazing food to be had at restaurants. I live in a town with quite a few nice ones, and I do certainly enjoy it when I go out and get a great meal. But I’m a pretty simple person, and I really like the salads I make at home (in fact, they’re usually better than anything I’ve had out) and I’m one of those gross people who will eat beans and hot sauce out of a can and call it a night. Most times, it just seems like a lot of hubbub to go out just to get something to eat when I’ve got a kitchen full of food at home.

Also, I prefer fruits, vegetables, and simple things that are usually way marked up if they come from a menu. I’ve always enjoyed preparing my own fruit, so it’s never occurred to me that it would be worth paying someone to do it for me. If I wanted lobster, it’s a lot less expensive to get a fresh one from the store and boil it myself. And there’s not a lot involved to melting a pat of butter. Why would I pay more just to eat it at a place whose silverware probably isn’t as clean as mine? Oh right, they’ve got those cool bibs…

Third, I don’t really like having someone serve me. This is just a weird quirk of mine, I know. I just don’t get off on it the way some people do. And also, I totally don’t mind refilling my own water. I do it a thousand times a day at home! As for bars, I never mind mixing my own drink (I’ve been known to out do myself here and again).

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with liking “good service” but that’s just not me. Unless someone pees in my food (in front of me) I’m okay with whatever they’re doing. They have a kind of tough job, and I’m lucky enough to be sitting at a table ordering nice food. I’m not gonna nit pick.

I understand that people like to go for the experience and the atmosphere and to celebrate things. Nothing wrong with it, but in terms of health and finances, it’s usually a better bet to eat at home. I would save a lot of money by doing this, but I’ve been doing it (or not doing it) for so long, it’s not something I factor in as a living expense. However, if you are someone who goes out often and you cut back in this area, you’re going to be rolling in the dough (and probably in your lose-fitting pants).

3) Bike

I ride my bike everywhere I can. This is rather self-explanatory. I consider it a huge luxury to be able to do most of my travel via bike. I must say, it makes the trip way more fun than driving. I listen to music and sometimes even sing. This creates a win-win for me as well as the people whose car windows are down.

4) No Makeup

I didn’t stop wearing makeup because of the expense. And I do still wear it occasionally. But over the course of an average woman’s lifetime, she spends a lot of money on this stuff (don’t ask me for numbers, but I’m sure Google has them).

I used to wear make up every single day. Not only wasn’t it great for my skin, it was like an emotional trap and I got to the point where I wasn’t sure if I could go without it. Now I feel great wearing less or no make up, and wearing it less often. I’ve actually found more pleasure in it now that I have given myself the freedom to decide whether I want to put it on each day. This is just a simple shift in mind set, but it will by default save money in the long run, too.

Note: I don’t recommend you cheap out on the make up you do buy, because what you put on your face and skin is important. Just make sure to do the research because sometimes all you’re paying forty extra dollars for is nicer packaging. And there are some great deals in drugstores. Sometimes even the pros use those really inexpensive brand name things. Usually, it’s a specific product or two per company. This is an area it can pay to read up on, since makeup is by nature a continued expense which adds up over time.

5) Hang your clothes

I hang my clothes out on the line to dry whenever possible. Leo and my sister will tell you (when they get their own blogs) that I’m kind of obsessed with doing their laundry whenever I can, so that I can hang their clothes out as well. I swear, the sunshine is good for your clothes, a natural disinfectant. Where I live in New York, we only have a few nice months of weather where we can do this, and I’m currently taking full advantage. It’s actually sort of fun. It’s more natural and less harsh on your clothes. Apparently all the heat and tumbling of a dryer can really wear them out.

A corollary to this is that I only do laundry when it’s a full load (my housemates often do not follow this rule 😉 ). I also re-wear my clothes until they’re actually dirty. You’ll very rarely find me wearing it once and throwing it in the wash. I have a rotating pile of clothes that I intend to re-wear before they are officially considered dirty. This isn’t something I force myself to do or take to extremes, I just don’t think a shirt is dirty because you wore it once around the house.

Oh, we also don’t use laundry sheets. They’re just more chemicals to come into contact with your skin, and our clothes always smell just fine. I’ve considered making my own laundry detergent, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

6) Don’t buy trash bags

I just use the grocery bags from the store and smaller garbage cans. They’re the perfect size, and I’ve never bought a garbage bag in my life. I also buy food with minimal packaging, so I don’t have a lot of trash to deal with.

7) Steal soap!

Do you have any idea how long bar soap lasts? I like it because it just feels more natural to me, but I’m not really that picky about soap. I just use whatever’s around. But one thing I noticed is that people will use it once or twice while staying in a hotel room, and then leave it. I guess that makes sense; if you want to waste money.

You’re always going to have to keep soap around the house, so you may as well throw it in a plastic bag and take it back home. It will last you forever. In fact, if you do any amount of traveling, you may never have to spend another dime on soap again!

8) Light up your night

I use them instead of turning real lights on as much as I can at night. I keep one in the upstairs bathroom and one in the hall. I got them at the dollar store for…You guessed it, a dollar each.

9) Don’t have cable

Most people I know don’t have nearly enough time or lethargy to watch all the Cable TV they pay for. I personally don’t have enough boredom in my life to watch any cable TV at all (okay, yes my mom makes me watch Bachelor with her on Monday nights, but that’s how we bond, so I take one for the team). I know there are some good and educational TV shows on (there, Dad, happy?) but most of them you can find on Netflix. Or Youtube.

As far as Cable TV goes, I think it’s a total waste. I think having internet is necessary, and I think Netflix is a way better option in terms of getting movies than any of the premium Cable packages. So many things can be found for free online now, and obviously you can get all of your news that way, as well.

I love movies, but it’s actually pretty rare when I have simultaneously the time, energy, and inclination to stay awake for an entire one. When I do feel the need for a movie, I grab it for free from my local library or stream it online. (Yes I still have the password to my dad’s Netflix account…But I rarely use it)

One word of advice: it’s always easier to start off with a lower Cable package and work your way up, if needed. If you do it backwards, it will be the most difficult customer service experience you’ve ever experienced 🙂 Good luck!

10) Buy sales

Grocery shopping is the only shopping I really do anymore. At the grocery store, I pretty much stick to buying on sale.

While I’m there, I spend time to comparing unit prices, looking for deals, and determining the best places to shop for each item. I very rarely buy an item at full price, unless I absolutely need it (and I can’t remember the last time that happened). This is my quirky way of naturally rotating the foods in my diet. It mixes things up and I’m still saving money. Eventually you learn where to get the best deal and it becomes a lot easier.

I shop online for some specialty items, because I can usually get a better deal online than at the local health food store, but again, I usually take the time to compare before buying.

A note on clothes shopping:

When I used to buy clothes, I only bought them on sale. I learned when I was young that I could spend full price on a shirt, and walk back into the store a week later, only to see it had been reduced by half of what I paid. It was then I vowed to never get taken for a ride by corporate clothing stores again! 😉

Up until I stopped shopping, my favorite place to go was a consignment store in town. You could get something like a $400+ like new shearling coat for $70. There was always something new. You never knew what you would find. Most of the clothes were way nicer than what any of the local retail stores could offer. In fact, there were so many great deals and finds, I could hardly control myself. I spent a full year being their most loyal customer and then I realized it was time to stop (packing and moving a few times in as many years will do that to you).

Clothes aren’t the best investment, because they don’t hold their value (hence the great deals at consignment). A tip: only buy something that you know you will wear. Like, out of the store. Don’t buy things just to save for a future time that may never come. It’s more fun to shop for the current event, or wait until you’ve reached your goal weight before adding the dream wardrobe to your closet. If you only buy as you need and will wear immediately, you will more greatly appreciate what you have, while saving money.

Money is best saved in small increments over time. That way, you hardly notice you’re doing it, but your financial statements will. Sure, it might take a little more time and effort up front perhaps to learn to think this way. But I can promise you, practice makes it second nature. And anyway, you spend plenty of your precious time at a job making that money, so why not preserve something hard-won as best you can?

Save money for the fun things in life; don’t get taken for a ride by consumerism and the things we’ve been led to believe we need. I know this may blow your mind, but my life has been pretty awesome without trash bags.