Often times you might think being frugal or financially savvy has to come with the knowledge of investing or managing your money in a high profile way. Either that, or you might assume being frugal is all about cutting every little expense to the point of misery. It’s truly neither of those experiences as we’ve learned from our path to a frugal lifestyle.
Being frugal is, yes, about money and your management of incoming vs. outgoing, but it’s also about quality vs. quantity, and a whole host of other personal choices. Here are four ways to be frugal without being directly related to your income or your expenses:
1. Learn to Cook
When Chris and I first were out on our own, in our very first home, neither of us knew how to cook very well. Chris was so good at it, it landed him on Rachel Ray as the Substitution Guy! While I was a bit more improved and could make average meals from boxes or cans, I wasn’t the experimental chef I am today.
On our road to frugal living, we both learned how to cook. We watched America’s Test Kitchen together, after we got rid of cable six years ago (more on that later), and we started to learn about the specifics of home cooking. I found an interest in fresh fruits and vegetables, even often times venturing out to a local farm or one year we joined a CSA. Chris became a pizza dough expert.
With the plethora of YouTube chefs (and zillions of websites with recipes) out there, it’s easy to recreate your favorite restaurant meal at home. I recently decided to try my hand at empanadas, after seeing an episode of America’s Worst Cooks, realizing it was so much easier than I thought.
From there, we haven’t been to our favorite Mexican restaurant in months! I just whip up some homemade goods when we’re in the mood. It saves us quite a bit, but it also makes for enjoyable time spent together with each other, and definitely with our three year old; you’ll come to know him as “Monkey”.
2. Learn Simple Home and Auto Repairs
I’ll never forget the first time, back in 2006, we needed to do something in our old townhouse. We bought a fan for our second bedroom, but we had no electricity running to the ceiling to hang it and the wall switch was connected to the wall outlet. Chris thought we should call in a professional, he never did any of this before. I called my Dad; we didn’t have a dollar extra for a pro at the time.
My Dad always did home repairs and was a pretty darn good auto mechanic as well. He spent his life fixing things and there wasn’t anything he was afraid to attempt. My Dad came over, taught Chris how to hang the fan and run the electric. From there, Chris was excited to accomplish more around the house.
Chris has now renovated 5 bathrooms (ours and family’s), 2 full kitchens down to the studs for our second one, built a billion different things around the house and has run plumbing, electrical, and gas lines. In addition, I’ve pushed him toward learning more about auto repair from my brother, who recently taught him how to change the brakes on both of our cars; saving us $500 easily in the process.
When we come across something new we want to renovate, build, or change, we first scour the internet (and our previous experiences) for the how-to. Our most recent major renovation to gut and redo our entire kitchen cost us $5,000 including the appliances. I drew up the plans and managed the project and budget, while Chris did the hard work.
Without starting to learn how to do for ourselves so many years ago, we definitely would not have the home we have today and would probably be much further in debt. There are repairs we choose not to attempt, like installing water heaters or furnaces (yet? maybe?) for major important items we do call in a professional.
3. Learn a New Skill
This goes along with the previous two points, but I wanted to take a moment to separate cooking and home improvement from learning personal skills. Those other items sometimes are necessary, because who can live off of takeout forever if you’re on a budget? And sometimes you have to know home repair, even if in a pinch to fix an emergency, right?
There are tons of personal skills you can learn that can save you a bit, but also provide so much more. I recently learned how to crochet in the past month and found I truly enjoy it!
My Mom has crocheted amazing blankets and scarves since I was a wee little gal. I always wanted to learn, but she was left-handed, and neither of us had the patience to get through the process. I tried about 3 times in my life to truly learn, but then gave up shortly there after. Meh, being a teenager (ha!). A few weeks ago, I finally learned from a colleague and bam! it all connected.
Not only is this new skill something that I enjoy and find stress relieving, but I can now create anything I want!
It goes hand in hand with being frugal. For example, I’ve always wanted a slouchy crocheted hat for the winter. Every time I took a peek on Etsy for one, they were in the $30-40 range. When I made one this week myself, it cost a whopping $3.50. I bought pretty fancy yarn on sale with a coupon and took two days to make this (about 3-4 hours). I ripped it out 3 times to start over, but that’s because I’m still learning. If I was further in my skill-set, in one afternoon I could’ve whipped myself up a hat and been on my way.
If I so choose to, I could start making items to bring in more money on the side as well. Frugal win!
Other skills you might to start or improve would be:
- jewelry making
- photography (I do this, too!)
- baking or cake decorating
- candle making
- soap making
Many of these skills save us money, provide a productive and positive use of our time, and also open up entirely new worlds for our personal and professional growth. With my new found skill, I may now be able to create items to support my newborn photography business with specialty options for my clients that normally would either be quite expensive or just not an option I’d be able to offer.
4. Minimize Your Stuff
Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you?
When we were overloaded in our townhouse with stuff, we did everything we could not to lose that stuff. I didn’t sleep at night sometimes worried about my stuff. Would someone rob us? Would I lose something? What if it was all gone?! Oh no, not our stuff!
When we hit a rough patch that kicked off our super frugal lifestyle back in 2009ish, we got rid of a TON of stuff. We sold items on Craigslist, we traded in all of our DVDs and books to Amazon for shopping credit, and we started fresh with a downsized lifestyle. By getting rid of tons of stuff, when we moved in 2013 to stay with my Mom for a few months, we were able to fit our entire life in a small shed in her backyard until we found our forever home. With all that stuff we would’ve had to clear out in the 6-week quick closing we had or rent a storage unit.
We still fight today to try to keep it downsized, as our home has become full of “stuff” from two children. I reserve our attic only for child clothing to be passed down and holiday decorations. We don’t store anything else in our house. I can’t imagine ever spending our hard earned money on a storage facility to store more stuff.
Donate it. Write it off. Give it away to friends or family.
When I clean out, I usually put all of the items in a box in the garage and setup a donation pickup once a month. If I feel the urge to take something out of the box, I have a month to notice if we need it or not. Most times, I am happy to see it go. If it’s in great condition and we know someone who might like it, we’ll give it to them, or we’ll look to sell it online.
If you know me, you know I am not attached to my stuff as much anymore. It’s all things. What matters are the people around us. The time we have to spend together and what we’re doing with that time. The last thing I want to do is continual have to manage and clean up my stuff.
Less stuff = less space needed = less money spent on accumulating and storing stuff
Lastly, my favorite: George Carlin on “Stuff”.