Frugal Tips

living on the cheap – 13 savings tips that work for me

There are a lot of money saving tips on the internet and I doubt I’ve come up with anything new.  I know I very rarely read any new ones, and I read a lot of tip lists!  So following is a list of the tips that work for me.

The reasons they work for me, are that I support myself, and have no human dependents (I have very expensive rats that need a lot of veterinary care, hence having to be a major tight-ass so I don’t end up in financial trouble over the very regular $300 and upwards bills).  The tips for families and couples don’t always translate for one person with a small fridge-freezer, and who can’t afford to shop in bulk and have nowhere to store it anyway.  I also shouldn’t menu plan for a whole week, because by the end of the week I don’t want what I planned for and bought, and so I will simply buy or find something else to eat.  This can lead to waste, but more often it leads to extra expense that could have been avoided.  It’s taken a lot of trial and error over the years to find what works for myself and my personality, and here they are.

  1. Shop for one person, every 1-2 days and buy only exactly what is needed for 1-2 days.  This requires some forethought regarding meals.
  2. Keep a running list of everything you need, and before you shop, move today’s necessities over to a list and shop with that.  With weekly shops we tend to buy what we’re about to run out of, or food we have run out of but may not use again for another month (gravy powder, corn flour etc), so if you don’t need it and it’s not strictly a staple, don’t spend the dollars to buy it until you do need it.
  3. Every week make a soup (and if you like, a cake or biscuits), so that no matter what, whether you’re lazy or broke, there is something in the kitchen that can be heated up and in the belly within 3 minutes.
  4. Use less of everything.  It seems too obvious to include, but I’m not even really talking about food.  We get into the habit of squeezing too much toothpaste out of the tube, squirting out more shampoo and conditioner than we need, and rolling the toilet paper off the roll like a ticker tape parade.  Drastically reduce how much of everything you use, because you don’t actually need to envelope a toothbrush with paste, less is usually more, and that shiz can be expensive.
  5. Use cash.  Having a budget is obviously frugality 101 and not in need of inclusion, but once you have that budget, it’s far easier to stick to if you can eyeball your cash each week/fortnight/month and be under no illusions that you can spend more than the amount allotted.  It’s psychologically harder to break an actual fifty dollar note than it is to wack an invisible $37.95 on your debit card.
  6. Regardless of how often you get paid, split your budgeted grocery and spending money up into weekly payments to yourself.  It’s far easier psychologically to know that you only have $2.35 left until you pay yourself again or shop with on Thursday (or whatever day suits you), than it is not to have budgeted weekly, consequently spent more than you intended, and now that $2.35 has to last you another week and a half or more.  The envelope system helps with this style of saving/spending.
  7. Save into envelopes.  A system that has worked probably better than most other systems for me – and best when I was just learning to stop my damaging spend-thrift behaviours – was to label envelopes the same as every column in my budget (petrol, food, vet, utilities, car registration etc), draw out the cash needed each pay day, and put the budgeted amount into these envelopes.  If you can have an envelope for savings as well all the better!  To actually see that money increase each pay day is a reward and an incentive in itself.  Particularly if you’re new to frugality or saving, or seriously broke, this system will help you a lot.
  8. If you are going to grocery shop weekly, put the shop off by a day each week.  If you shop on Monday this week, then next week you will shop on Tuesday, the following week on Wednesday, and after that on Thursday etc.  After seven weeks you will end up with last week’s budgeted grocery cash and this week’s in your hot little hands.  Voila!  You’ve saved a whole week’s worth of grocery money simply by stretching your food one extra day a week.  You can of course go hardcore, which I’ve done before and skip more days when you can, and you’ll save faster.  This is one of the easiest ways to save that I have found.
  9. Have a sealed money box in the house for all your silver, and an accessible money box for your gold.  At the end of each week, empty all the change out of your purse/wallet into your money boxes.  A financial guru would probably tell you that you shouldn’t be able to get into money boxes, it’s a disincentive to save, but mate, if we’re broke or something pops up unaccounted for, we need to get into the gold money box.  It’s less stressful, and we need to make frugality and saving as stress free as possible, especially when it’s an absolute necessity.  The money in the silver tin will still be a welcome $50 or even $500 at the end of the year.  I usually cash mine at the bank in November, ready for Christmas.
  10. Buy frozen fruit, and peel and freeze bananas when they’re on special.  It works out cheaper than fresh a lot of the time, and in times when you simply can’t afford too much fresh produce (it can be very expensive here in Australia) you can forego the fruit because you know you can make a smoothie to avoid scurvy.  Plus it’s fancier fruit than we buy fresh.  If we’re on a budget it may be the old apples, bananas, pears and oranges we have to buy over and over and over and over and over again.  I’d rather have a mango and berry smoothie!
  11. If you see your regularly purchased grocery items on a really amazing special, buy them, even if it means you overspend your budget – but only if you can (sometimes there’s just not the money in the bank/envelope to spend).  Half price specials on items you always consume are worth splurging on, if you can call that splurging.  It stocks up your supplies and you can buy double!  Only stock up as much as is reasonable for you and/or your family though.  If you’re penniless, then buying two instead of one is still a wonderful saving, you don’t have to buy eight or more of an item to have taken advantage of a special and done yourself a favour.  Don’t fall into the spending trap, it might be on special but it’s still spending.
  12. Use a grocery purse/wallet.  Every week, put your budgeted grocery cash into a separate purse and use it only for groceries.  If all your cash is in your every day wallet, it becomes a lot easier to lose track, or justify using some grocery money for an eyebrow wax or beer because you’ve spent all your spending money.  Split it up, you have what you have, what you don’t spend you can save, so don’t spend more than is budgeted for in each category.
  13. Allocate yourself spending money.  I’ve been so broke before when I was unemployed that there was literally no money for my utility bills or spending.  If you’re in that position, it’s all a juggle and a stress and I empathise.  If you’re not in that position though, budget yourself a reasonable and not extravagant amount of spending money.  Believing all the money that is left after you’ve budgeted for bills is yours to spend is not frugal or financially smart.  Spend some but save some, just know what you have to spend and then spend it mindfully, planning ahead when you have to.

There are of course many more thoroughly excellent tips that we’ve all heard a million times before.  These are the main ones I’ve found really helpful, and it pays to remember that although many websites and blogs evangelically encourage buying in bulk and meal prepping in bulk, that’s simply not the best way to be frugal for a lot of people who live alone.

What are your favourite frugal tips?