Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I Learned to Live Frugally Under Protest

“I think the key indicator for wealth is not good grades, work ethic, or IQ. I believe it's relationships. Ask yourself two questions: How many people do I know, and how much ransom money could I get for each one?”
― Jarod Kintz

Money is a tool.  It's an AWESOME tool and I wish I had gobs and gobs of it.  If I did, though, I'd probably give it all away anyway and then I would have to start again from scratch.  It's probably best that I just deal with what I have.

As a single parent, I have to be cautious and careful with my cash flow.  This is in stark contrast to my natural personality.  I am something of a free spirit and, for a while, after my divorce, I continued to live in my free spirit style and found myself with some nasty ol' debt.  I got serious then and changed my spendthrift ways.  I got rid of my debt and started living COMPLETELY within my means.  There is nothing that makes you feel MORE POOR than living within your means, let me tell you.  I don't spend more than I have...ever.  I'm thinking about buying a car...and part of me is thinking about saving all the money to buy it and paying cash.  (That is gonna take a while...but it's on my mind as a goal right now.  Of course, my current car MAY fall apart before I get there...but...)

I've cut my household expenses significantly over the last couple of years and, quite honestly, am still very happy.  I'm just spending less money and living JUST AS HAPPILY.  WHO KNEW??

Here are some things I've done to begin living frugally:

  1. I cut the cable cord.  I was spending close to $200 per month for cable, tv and phone.  I decided it was ridiculous to spend that kind of money for something I don't even really like all that much, so I found a deal with another company and currently spend $63 per month for internet and phone.  I spend another $16 for Netflix and HuluPlus so we have MOST of the shows we always watched without the expense.  AND, most of what we watch is in HD...I didn't have HD cable.  I don't miss cable and I REALLY don't miss the cable bill.
  2. I started clipping coupons.  I use coupons all the time.  I use them for lunches/dinners out.  I use them when I do online shopping.  It's pretty easy to search for "LandsEnd promo code" before you check out.  Often I end up saving anywhere from 10-25% online JUST by searching for a promo code before I check out.  In the grocery store, I take advantage of stores that offer double coupons.  Locally, Harris Teeter doubles everything up to $0.99.  Every now and then, they offer super double coupons which means they double everything up to $2.00.  Yesterday, I bought deodorant priced at $4.99 for $0.99.  I cut 71% off my grocery bill on that shopping trip by buying things on sale that I had big coupons for.  A friend of mine buys 5 or more Sunday papers every week JUST for the coupons.  She saves RIDICULOUS amounts at the grocery store.
  3. I shop for reduced price meats.  Grocery stores slash meat prices significantly if they're getting close to the expiration date.  In the early evening, my local Harris Teeter starts marking prices down.  I buy meats often at 50% or more off, take them home and freeze them for later use.  
  4. I shop at discount stores.  ALDI is my favorite grocery store for low prices.  I can get a three-pack of red and yellow peppers for around $2.00.  They are $2.50 each when they're on SALE at the grocery store.  I'm easing into the ALDI brands.  You can buy your "traditional" brands there on occasion but most everything is the ALDI brand.  And it's GOOD.  I usually end up spending25-50% less at ALDI than shopping even at WalMart.  
  5. I buy store brands.  Frosted Mini Wheats are almost $4.00 per box.  Sometimes you can get a coupon or get them for 2 for $4.  But if you need mini wheats and they're not on sale, you can buy the store brand for about half the cost.  AND, usually the store brands are made by the same company but you're not saddled with paying for the marketing costs.  Sometimes I get stuck on a name brand, like Bounty paper towels or Tide, so I buy them when they're on sale with a coupon.  
  6. I shop at consignment sales or at gently used clothing stores.  My kids need clothes all the time.  I often find their clothes at a local consignment store or I use coupons and sales at places like Old Navy, Gap and (now) Aeropostale.  I go to Goodwill and see what's on the racks. I rarely spend more than $10 for a piece of clothing for the kids.  I hate shopping for myself but when I do, I often use TJ Maxx, Marshall's or Ross where I can find brands I like at about half the cost...or more.
  7. We go to $1.50 movies or to the drive-in.  I used to spend $40 or more almost every weekend taking the kids to movies.  We LOVE movies at my house.  Now, it's a treat to go to the "regular" movie theater and we only do it when there is something new out that we HAVE to see.  Now, we can wait a little while and see movies at the $1.50 theater.  Including popcorn and drinks, I spend about $20.  That's 50% less than I used to spend.  OR, in the summer we go to the drive-in.  I bring pizza and drinks in and we only pay $6 for Thing 1 and I and $3 for Thing 2.  For TWO movies.  And it's super fun.  
  8. We use Redbox.  Redbox texts coupons to my phone or I Google promo codes when I rent from Redbox online.  So I usually get our family movies for less than $1 or sometimes free.  
  9. When traveling, I often use Hotwire.  Whenever we travel, I check hotel prices on Hotwire.  Sometimes I have gotten 4 star hotels for less than $60 per night.  The only snafu is that you can't see the hotel name or the exact location until after you've bought it.  You can only see the star rating.  I'm pretty flexible and I view it as a surprise...but a lot of people can't handle not knowing the brand name.  The up side is that my kids get to travel in style and I don't have to shell out $200 per night.
I've cut costs.  But I haven't cut the fun.  Because it's all about fun, right?  I could still live even MORE frugally than I do if I put more time and energy into it.  I approach the whole thing as a fun kind of puzzle:  How can I do this and STILL save money? 

How do YOU save money for your family?  Or are you a spendthrift and proud of it?  :)

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