I really think that being frugal transcends saving money and can work well in all aspects of your life. To be truly frugal it helps to stand back, take a look at yourself and cut the fat every now and then. By this I mean just getting rid of everything you don’t use or need… There may be a few creature comforts you want and that’s fine but they should still be put under some serious scrutiny.
You have probably read a lot about cutting back your finances so I won’t over-indulge in reiterating tips here but I feel it needs some mention at least. After all most of us begin our career as a frugalist to save some cash.
Start by sitting down with a pen, a few highlighters, paper and your financial statements and budgets.
On your budgets and bank / credit card statements highlight using different colors to show if an outgoing is essential or extra. Essentials include rent/ mortgage, health insurance etc etc.
Write every “non-essential extra” on a piece of paper. When done writing with your list, be honest with your self and cross out everything from this list that will not be absolutely missed. This could be things like a subscription to a magazine you never finish reading an over the top cable package or morning coffee (I know everyone always uses this example!). Get rid of them… If recurring cancel the bills, if they are things you do then stop doing them.
For the non essentials you have kept you now need to assess each one. Look at them and see if they can be cut back in anyway. For example for your cell phone bill (this should be in non-essentials ) check that you are not paying for any extras you don’t use.
Now the fat is cut on that stuff you need to tackle the things you marked as essential. This is difficult but you may be surprised at how much cash is being wasted. For example you may be able to merge utilities for a cheaper monthly payment. You may be able to find a cheaper insurance quote for your health and car and you may be able to walk/cycle for one part of your daily travel expenses. Cutting coupons can be beneficial too. Those Macy’s coupons can come in handy around the holidays should you draw your boss’ name in the office grab bag.
Around the Home
Pretty much the same principle applies here. List everything you can see in your home. This may take a while so you can do it detailed, room by room, or you can start with a general list. Obviously things like a frying pan are essential. But what about that ice cream maker and the instant bread machine! If you don’t use them then start using them or put them on the ‘get rid’ list. The kitchen is an easy room to start for this but you will likely find something in every room. Even in the living room you may have a chair that is never used or a table that just gets in the way. Unless it has genuine sentimental value, get rid of it! Less clutter and more freedom from objects will make you feel richer in many ways.
Take a look at your workspace. I am sure it’s a mess and full of post-its, random papers and nick nacks that you think make getting through the day easier….. Trust me they don’t, and this goes for home workers too. Either organise or get rid of all un-needed stuff. The minute I organised my work space, work became more productive. Use this process for digital desktop too. Think of files on your computer like a real desktop, file them or get rid of them (obviously do a back-up first!).
Now work also entails a work life and there is plenty of fat to cut here! If your time is flexible in any way then you may want to replace your irregular breaks and office chats with more regulated breaks and routes round the office. Only turn on skip and messenger tools at certain times of the day (You may benefit from limiting your hours on certain sites). Your random 20-30min breaks here and there can be replaced with 15min breaks every 2 hours where you have a quick chat, grab a tea/coffee but are ridged with time…. You will likely find so much more work being done and if you work on flexible hours you may be able to actually leave early every now and then! I’m not suggesting you lose your social life at work, just organise it and make better use of everything.
I love eating, I REALLY love eating. But I am careful about not wasting money on food I don’t like that much. I realised I was buying too much candy, I would eat it really quickly and not really benefit from the enjoyment of eating it… It was more like a habit. This is the kind of thing that needs trimming. Create a food diary and strike off everything that is not essential, cut back your meals in size by around 10% (you won’t notice the difference really) and once you have the diet of a Tibetan monk regulated it’s time to start bringing extra’s back in for pleasure, not just for the sake of eating. I must admit I am still not perfect in this area but am writing about an ideal here
I have hardly begun to cover all the areas that the fat can be cut in but it’s a start in some major areas. My fat cutting has taken a few slow years but it could have been done much quicker. I feel lighter in many ways and I think my more frugal mindset has helped me save stress and cash in the long run.
Abit More About Getting Rid of Objects
In the work and home areas you may end up with a bunch of objects that you need to get rid of. Throwing them in the trash can isn’t really a good option and you need to sensibly dispose of this stuff even if you don’t have the willpower to deal with it.
Firstly any items that can should be listed for sale. Ebay and Craigslist are both excellent choices but you could post in your local classifieds or notes in a local shop too. If you are getting rid of clothes you may even be able to sell some of them to reuse clothes stores such as they great Plato’s Closet chain.
For items that don’t sell you can try freecycle or asking friends and family if they need them. For example an old ratty chair may be perfect for a local furniture maker or even for someone just starting a home. You can also donate them to places like Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
Finally you will be left with some stuff that you can’t even give away. It’s likely more than 90% of this can be recycled! If you have a serious amount of scrap metal and paper you may be able to sell if but most people don’t have this amount (some old electronics may contain some valuable metals so it’s worth investigating this stuff). I urge you to recycle these objects even if you have to go out of your way… You will feel much better for it.
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