People who want to pay off debt and save money can benefit from frugal living on a budget and it does not require an entire lifestyle change. By finding alternatives to current expensive habits, you can enjoy life while watching your debts decrease and your savings increase.
Getting Started on Your Budget
Get started on the path to a frugal lifestyle by coming up with a budget system that works for you and your family. Even people who make six figure incomes can end up in financial ruin if they do not have a workable budget. Creating a budget is simple:
- Total your net monthly income after taxes.
- Subtract your fixed monthly costs from this amount.
- Allocate the remaining funds amongst your monthly variable expenses.
The key is to develop a household budget and then stick to it. While every family is different in terms of income sources, debt payments and savings goals, a budget worksheet helps families identify, organize, and list income sources, monthly living expenses, secured debt and unsecured debt.
Make Frugal Substitutions
After determining a personalized budget, use your imagination and some creativity to find ways to live within your means. Extreme money saving stereotypes may scare people away from accepting frugal ideas for living on a budget. Remember, making less expensive substitutions and finding creative ways to save money can help you stick to your budget without making drastic lifestyle changes.
Use these tips, tricks and hints to find activities and ideas for incorporating frugality into your daily routine without having to adopt an entirely new lifestyle.
Grocery bills and food costs are the first place many families look to save money. Reducing or eliminating restaurant meals, buying food items in bulk and on sale, clipping coupons and preparing meals from scratch are excellent ways to live frugally without sacrificing good eating.
Beauty and Skincare
Save money by exchanging services (perhaps yard work or babysitting) with a hairstylist friend for a haircut. Pick up hair care products at the local dollar store or buy generic brands. Clip coupons to find "buy one, get one free" makeup essentials. Learn how to give yourself a manicure and pedicure, and read up on how to make a face mask out of fruits, milk and honey. Finally, if you want to splurge on spa beauty treatments, designate a jar and save "found" money to treat yourself from time to time. "Found" money can be anything you want, from birthday or holiday gifts to dryer change.
Everyone on a budget knows that living frugally involves purchasing items second-hand, whether from eBay or consignment stores. This can be a difficult adjustment if you are used to buying clothes new off the rack. Ease into it by looking for consignment shops in upscale neighborhoods and going to yard sales in high-end housing developments. Another idea is to arrange a swap meet with your friends. Have everyone bring clothes that they no longer wear. Group items by size or type (or both) and let everyone take turns trying things on.
Living frugally doesn't mean you must sacrifice all the fun in your life. Find inexpensive ways to continue expensive hobbies. Movie lovers can always find cheap rentals instead of going to the cinema. Online movie rental companies such as Netflix offer low-cost options for newly released to DVD movies, and can save the gas money you would spend going to the video store. An even cheaper option is borrowing free DVDs from the local library. Invite friends and rotate homes to make it a social event. Trade off having one couple babysit if your circle includes children.
Research free entertainment options in your community. Check newspapers and television stations for community events such as free concerts, parades, and festivals. Make a habit of looking for something new to do several times a month.
If you enjoy traveling, substitute exploring local destinations for global travel. Instead of flying overseas or across the country, become a tourist in your local city and state. From county fairs to art museums, you can usually find local attractions to fit any budget.
Owning and operating one or more vehicles can be an expensive endeavor for many families. Save money on gas, maintenance and insurance by selling a second family vehicle if possible. Explore the option of taking public transportation, carpooling or using alternate forms of getting around locally such as walking or bicycling.
Give up your gym membership or personal trainer and replace them with inexpensive or free forms of exercise. Two of the best cheap exercises are walking or jogging. Biking and hiking are other options for getting in some fun exercise. Use canned goods or old milk jugs filled with water as hand weights for home exercise and look for a free online workout program.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to Save Money
Waste reduction begins by limiting food and other household purchases to just what your family needs. This reduces the amount of food scraps that go to waste. Reusing some items and recycling others is another great money saver that shouldn't require large lifestyle adjustments. Use these tips and tricks to reduce waste and increase monthly savings:
- Wash and reuse plastic sandwich and freezer bags
- Use hand towels instead of paper towels
- Shut off lights when you leave the room
- Shower every other day to save on water and electricity bills
- Wear clothing at least twice before washing it
- Limit the use of TV, computers, and gaming devices to one hour a day
- Brew your coffee and make your lunch at home before going to work to save on expensive lunches
Small Changes Mean Big Budget Savings
By changing the way you think about your current expensive interests, you can almost always find easy ways to save money. You do not have to adopt an entirely new lifestyle in order to use frugal ideas for living on a budget.
If you are in extreme debt or financial crisis consider speaking to a qualified financial advisor and making a larger lifestyle change.