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Frugal Living Tips

Simple beauty - Fall tree colors in Maine

I love rainy Saturday mornings for the forced reflection they provide.  I got up this morning and started the coffee and just had a pull to write an article about frugal living tips.  Most of my readers know that our family’s journey began some years ago and with only small steps.  Today we still have a long way to go, but we have had some big wins financially that have given us more freedom.

Last night I was watching some episodes of extreme couponers on Netflix and wow, that was pretty intense.  In fact it made me think of why people do not take the first steps to being debt free and simplifying their life.  We watch these shows about people who take things to the extreme and think it is pretty impressive, but I could never do that.  Reading minimalists blogs, I feel the same way about living in a 250 square foot home.  The point to remember is there is a happy medium, the spot where it is not only attainable, but sustainable for a typical house.

I am going to cover 5 frugal living tips below, that are not the marathon of 26.2 miles, but they will be a tough 5k run that you still need to train for.  Living simply is not an easy for everyone and it does take discipline and commitment.  Remember by taking small steps you can make big changes, which free up your time and eliminates stress.

  1. Cell phone ($1,200 – $1,800/year) – How many calls do you “really” need to make during the day?  Do not lie to yourself about how self important you are, because this happens to the best of us.  I see people with the phone permanently attached to their heads.  If you need the phone for work, then get work to pay for your phone.  Cell phones have become a very high monthly bill for most families who provide phones for each member of the family.  Doing your monthly family budget will point this out quickly.  The easy solution for cell phones is to pick up one or two Trak phones and let family members take them out of the house.  The parents can have one phone and the kids can have another.
  2. Cars/Trucks ($5,700/year) – Car payments and comprehensive insurance are very big monthly expenses for most families.  The benefits of buying a used car or truck can remove a large stress from your budget each month.  Millionaires only average just over $20k on the purchase price of a vehicle.  How come people who make less than 100,000 per year also try and match the millionaires?
  3. Cable ($1,200 – $1,800/year) – Remember the days when you could get cable each month for just $20 per month to see all the channels?  Those days are definitely way behind us with typical cable bills going well over $100 per month now.  There is a great way to save monthly that involves asking the cable company for just their extremely basic cable package.  In some cases you can get the 13 main channels for under $10 per month.
  4. Coupons ($2,080 –  $2,600/year) – How can you argue with saving money on your groceries.  Did you realize the families who most use coupons are the wealthy?  Yes, they know how to save money and they work every angle available to them.  Learn from the people who make a lot of money and cut those coupons.  Brand loyal?  Get over it and save the money instead.  Would you rather have your favorite brand or get rid of that work stress in your life?  Easy question with an easy answer.
  5. Bring your lunch ($1,300 – $2,080/year) – I watch folks every day come to work and then go buy lunch or visit the vending machines.  If you use coupons and get cans of soup for under $1 or buy a full box of granola bars, etc… you lunches will be very inexpensive.  However if you are like the people I see daily who run to the store and say, “well it was cheap and only $5 or $8 for my lunch”.  If you bag lunch it, you may only pay $1-2 for your lunch.

I was pretty tough in my descriptions, but if you want to save and eliminate stress in your life, then you need to make changes.  Looking at the average savings above you would need an extra $11,480 – $13,980 per year in spending money just to pay for these 5 things.  That does not include maintenance or the gas to drive to the store or any fancy equipment since you have full cable etc…  The car payment is also just the national average, so some may be paying a bit more and others a little less.  By couponing and not being brand loyal you could also actually see much higher savings depending on your discipline.

So with all those extra expenses from just those 5 items, how much do you need to make under the current tax law?  Let’s just take an average of 35% for state and federal taxes on your income.  We know that it can be slightly more than that or slightly less if you are fortunate enough to live in one of those states with no state taxes or sales taxes.  Essentially you need to make from $17,662 – $21,508 per year just to cover not doing the 5 things I listed above.  As always, it is a question of what you want out of life and if you want simplicity and less stress here are 5 easy items to tackle.

How bad do you want it?

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