The average family in America is really struggling to stay afloat financially right now. Before 2020, we enjoyed gas prices of $2.00 per gallon or less. Today, there are places in the U.S. where gasoline was nearly $8.00 per gallon a few months ago. A vehicle that once cost $80 to fill now costs $150 or more. Some people can barely afford to commute back and forth from work. In times like this, it pays (no pun intended, but who doesn’t love a good pun?) to find ways to save money. Becoming frugal means learning how to use resources and funds sparingly.
Becoming frugal doesn’t mean that you must stingy, tightfisted with money or cheap. It simply means that you learn to cut back on wasteful spending and find ways to get the most for your money. There are three habits that will help you achieve this goal, if you practice them consistently.
Becoming frugal means learning to be aware of spending patterns
What was the total cost of the last three purchases you made? If you can’t answer this question, you might not be monitoring your spending patterns closely enough. Becoming frugal means keeping careful track of where your money goes. Many people are spending far more than they realize. For instance, someone who stops at a deluxe coffee shop three to five times per week on the way to work might be spending anywhere from $12 to $20 on their cups of brew. If you do the math, you can see how this seemingly harmful pleasure quickly racks up spending. $20 per week is $80 per month, which is close to $1,000 per year.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with buying coffee that you enjoy, if bills are going unpaid, that $1,000 would no doubt come in handy. Becoming frugal means that you must start keeping closer track of how and where you’re spending money. That way, you can begin to cut back, if needed. And, here’s a great idea: What if you were to still set the coffee money aside each day, then at the end of the year, use the $1,000 toward the principal on your mortgage or credit card balance? Now, that’s frugal!
If you’re going to spend, then buy quality items and services
Sometimes, it might “feel” more frugal to purchase whatever item requires the least amount of cash up front. Depending on the product in question, however, this isn’t always the best habit. For instance, you might be able to purchase a dishwasher for less than $300 (on some planet, somewhere) but how long will it last? And, how well will it work? While you might need more cash up front to buy a better quality appliance, in the long run, quality is what you’re after. It’s where you get the best return on your investment.
Always make quality a central focus when becoming frugal is the goal. This might seem like a paradox, at first. (How can spending more money mean that you are learning to be sparing with finances?) It’s an issue that you must consider with each product or service you buy. The goal is to spend the least amount of money necessary in exchange for the highest level of quality possible.
Becoming frugal means bargain shopping, which requires patience
When you want to get the most for you money, it’s helpful to hunt for bargains. Consider this: You might spend $35 for a product online. However, that same product might be for sale for $15 less at a store that is 10 minutes from you house, which you pass every day on your way to work. By the time you pay shipping and handling costs for an online purchase, you might be looking at a $45 expenditure when you could have purchased the same item for $20 locally.
Patience is a virtue when becoming frugal is the goal. Shop around and keep watch for sales. Don’t just buy the first product you find. Compare prices and deals online and in person, then be as sparing as possible in making a purchase.
A recap to help you remember three habits of frugality
Let’s take a look at the three habits mentioned in this post one more time, which can help you learn to be frugal in a failing economy:
- Be aware of your spending patterns.
- Always try to get the best quality for the least amount of money.
- Be patient and hunt for bargains.
Sometimes, people think they’re getting a bargain when they’re really not. For instance, if you purchase an item with a coupon that offers 20% off at the register, it seems like a great deal. However, if it’s an item you never use and are just buying because of the good price, then you’re losing out. You’re spending money on a product you wouldn’t otherwise buy or use. It’s fine to use coupons as part of your bargain hunting plan. Just be sure you only use coupons for products you regularly purchase or a luxury item you’ve been wanting to have but can’t normally afford. You can also “get a bargain” by doing without certain things or learning to do certain things yourself, rather than paying someone else to do them.
Becoming frugal takes time and effort, but it’s worth it!