by Maurie Backman | Jan. 19, 2021
Here's how to live well -- on less.
Frugal living gets a bad rap. Often, when we think of living below our means, we picture skipping life's little luxuries and being miserable. But a frugal lifestyle doesn't have to mean a deprived lifestyle. In fact, I've managed to whittle down my spending and boost my savings by making a few simple but meaningful choices. Here are a few you may want to consider for the current year.
A couple of years ago, I joined a small gym with evening classes I enjoyed. But it quickly became obvious I wasn't going to make all those classes, and since I was on a month-to-month contract, I canceled early on.
There's nothing wrong with paying for a gym or other service if you're going to make good use of it. But if that's not the case, unload any expense that isn't serving you well -- whether it's a fitness center you've stopped going to, a streaming service you barely watch, or subscription box whose contents largely go untouched.
I love trying different cuisines, and on busy weeks, it's nice not to have to cook. But ordering takeout is far more expensive than buying groceries and cooking, so it's something I now try to do sparingly. If you're willing to put in the time, you can save a lot of money by cooking instead of paying restaurants a premium.
These days, I plan my meals in advance and make grocery lists I stick to. It not only helps my family avoid food waste, it also helps me keep things interesting. If we have chili one week, I schedule a different type of chili a few weeks out, but make different things in between. Having that variety makes us feel like we're not missing out by cooking the bulk of our food at home.
Sometimes, it costs money to do the things you enjoy. For example, I love attending live concerts, but most of the time, there's a ticket to buy. I've found that if I spend a little time seeking out free entertainment, I can cut my costs substantially without subjecting myself or my family to boredom.
If you hope to cut back on spending, figure out what free entertainment is available, whether it means taking advantage of your local library, parks, or museums (some offer free admission, or free entry for younger kids). Also, use the internet to your advantage. Find no-cost online classes you enjoy, or look for educational content for your kids that keeps them busy and learning simultaneously.
Sometimes, a little effort results in a lot less spending. If you're in the habit of hiring a house cleaner, paying for lawn mowing, or having your dog groomed, try doing those things yourself. You may find that you're able to cut your costs substantially just by putting in the time.
Of course, there may be some tasks you have to outsource, and that's okay. I, for example, will not clean my gutters, because the idea of perching high up on a ladder is enough to make me shake. But while vacuuming isn't my favorite pastime, I can't claim that it's scary. Doing that myself instead of paying a house cleaner is something that can free up lots of room in my budget.
Living frugally doesn't have to mean cutting out every luxury or convenience you enjoy. Rather, it means spending more mindfully and making choices about where your money goes. If your goal is to live more frugally this year, start with these simple moves and see how you fare. You may be surprised how easy it is to bank a little extra money each month.
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