According to several dictionaries, frugal means making wise use of resources. If I took advantage of every free deal that comes along, I would get nothing else done. Yet, many frugal websites promote free deals as frugal living. I also read a lot about things that are completely overwhelming to me in my particular life situation. Examples include: making my own laundry detergent, grinding grain at home, and collecting tons of free samples.
I would like to offer a different opinion. I think frugal means making the best possible use of the resources God has given you.
I chose to work full-time. I chose to be married to a man who will probably work a shift opposite mine most of our working lives. I have had to learn how to make the best possible use of my time, how to be super organized, and how to manage life with a toddler by myself the majority of the time. Otherwise, things quickly fall apart.
This is what frugal means to me. This may seem completely oversimplified, but I know that there have to be other people like me who are completely overwhelmed by the extremity of other tips that are out there.
1) Be a good steward of what God has entrusted to me. Tithe. Give. Be Generous to Others.
When my attitude about giving is not right, it shows in every area of our finances. Everything I have received is a gift from God himself. I am not entitled to any of it, He has entrusted it to me.
2) Stick to a budget.
Budgeting is basically planning ahead and thinking about how much you are going to spend on what. There are several methods you can use for reference. Find one that works for you. Our method is kind of a hybrid of several different methods.
3) Don't waste.
Letting food go bad is money down the drain. Not using all of a cleaning product is money down the drain. Using more water than you need to is money down the drain. Do you see a theme here?
4) Stockpile and know what and how much you have in your stockpile.
I buy meat in bulk, cut it the way I want and freeze it in portions I will use. I stock up on frequently used dry and canned goods at Aldi. I stock up on favorite items when they are on sale at the stuff mart or grocery store. Many times I am able to combine coupons with a sale and walk out with a really good deal. Stockpiling limits the number of errands I have to run each week and that saved time is precious to me.
5) Continuously look for ways to save money.
Two examples. One, the interest rate on our home was higher than both of us wanted. We checked into refinancing and were able to get a rate two percentage points lower than before. That lowered our mortgage payment by $150/month and we'll also be paying out less in interest over the life of the loan. We practice the principle of doubling what you pay on the principle so we will stay more than minimum payment, but a lower interest rate is still awesome.
Two, we us propane for heat because that's what our city uses for gas. The five previous years we have lived in this house we just went with the company we inherited. Last year, propane when sky high and our heating bill tripled each month. I learned a valuable lesson, call around and find the best rate. If I had done that last year, I would have saved us .50/gallon. That would have meant we would have paid $1,000 less than we did over the course of the year. A hard lesson, but an important one.
6) Use your time wisely.
No need to go into detail here. Time is a resource and wasted time is a wasted resource.
7) Plan ahead.
My husband and I sit down together three times a month (every time a paycheck comes in) and talk about how that paycheck will be used. We talk about big things that we have coming up, a birthday, a wedding, a registration fee, etc. We save a little each month for big expenses like car registrations, unexpected medical bills, Christmas, and repairs.
8) Don't buy what you don't need.
Before I buy anything, I ask myself if I really need it before putting it in the cart and before checking out at the register. I put a lot of things back. I used to have this terrible habit of shopping to make myself feel better emotionally. I didn't think a $30-$40/week tripto the mall was that big of a deal. Note to self: the yearly figure is about $2,000. Consequently, I had a lot of credit card debt.
9) Shop sales.
I only buy clothes for my family when they are on sale. I have purchased several items of clothing for my toddler age son cheaper new than if I had bought them at a thrift store. I hardly ever pay full price for anything.
10) Avoid debt.
This has been a very difficult lesson for us. We are up to our eye balls in debt: credit card balance, adoption loan, and two student loans. We have learned a hard lesson, but are working our way toward being debt free. Every month when I sit down to pay bills I am physically pained by how much goes out in payments on debt. We will teach our children differently.