Advice for Everyone to Save and Live More Frugally!
Frugal Living #1. Always tithe with a cheerful heart
Honor the Lord God with a portion of every amount you earn and do so with a cheerful heart. This is placed at number 1 in the list because it’s important to acknowledge where ALL your provision comes from in the first place. It is God who shares His bounty with you and who gives you the power to gain wealth (Deut. 8:18). Show that you honor Him and are obedient to Him by being consistent in your giving. You may not be able to afford a full 1/10th of your gross income as your tithe amount but give of your time, material wealth and money the amount you can give and do so unbegrudgingly. It is better to give a smaller amount cheerfully and not go into debt or miss paying a bill; this kind of mismanagement of God’s blessings on you does not honor Him. But do give consistently with a happy heart, being right with the Lord.
Frugal Living #2. Get completely out of debt
All debt is slavery of a kind, and it’s your debtor who controls you because of the debt. Too much debt shows poor money management and is the leading cause of divorce in America. It is the cause of untold human misery and the impetus for much sin. Getting out of debt means taking personal responsibility for your debts and devising a plan to pay them all off. Dave Ramsey has popularized the use of the Debt Snowball technique in paying down your debts (start with the smallest ones first that accrue the highest interest rate(s) and/or penalty fees). Once you pay those off, roll over that amount and begin paying off the next debts. Getting out of debt may mean you take a second job or earn extra income on the side in order to pay down your debt.
But you must first commit to doing whatever is necessary to get yourself out of debt. Educate yourself on how to manage your money better so you never go back into debt again. Money mastery is part of growing up and being an adult; by taking responsibility and going through the process of paying off all your debts, you practice money self-discipline. Once you are debt-free, commit to staying debt-free and learn better money management with an eye towards financial freedom.
Frugal Living #3. Save for a rainy day
Accidents and emergencies happen and they usually happen at the worst time! Most Americans are not prepared for these eventualities and do not have an emergency fund for things like job loss, major car or appliance repairs, home-related repairs, medical bills, and/or helping others with immediate needs. In fact, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means they are one financial disaster away from massive financial stress or worse – homelessness. Without a cushion of cash to use for such emergencies, one will quickly go into debt and “rob Peter to pay Paul” creating a domino effect that ripples throughout all future earnings. Therefore, it is prudent to always save for these eventual certainties. Get into the habit of setting aside the largest amount you can reasonably afford into your regular savings. Even if that amount can only be $10 a week, set it aside for an emergency fund.
It may be prudent to earn extra income just to save for this purpose. Practice money self-discipline and do not touch your rainy day fund unless you have a real emergency. Don’t rob from yourself! Financial experts suggest one should have at minimum at least $1000 in an emergency fund, while others suggest saving 6 months to a full year’s worth of earnings. Start by setting smaller goals of saving $100, then $250, $500, $1000 and eventually, one year’s net income.
Frugal Living #4. Learn practical skills
In our modern culture, we are used to hiring others to repair our vital possessions such as our homes, automobiles and major appliances. In our Grandparent’s and Great- Grandparent’s day, this would have been nearly unthinkable. Most able-bodied men during the Great Depression knew how to fix cars, repair household plumbing, and even build their own homes. While it is not always possible to do major repairs, one should endeavor to learn a host of smaller, practical skills that can save you tons of money.
For example, learn how to do a basic oil change and tune-up instead of paying others to do it. Also, learn to make simple sewing repairs by hand and on a sewing machine. Cooking from scratch is one of the ways you can truly lower your grocery bills and eat healthier. The American diet is too full of prepared foods that cost way too much and are of dubious nutrition. It doesn’t take much time or effort to prepare foods from scratch and store them ahead of time for your weekly meals. If all you do is learn to bake your own bread, this alone can save you more than $150 or more a year! Compare the cost of home-made bread (usually pennies) to the store bought $2 – $5 a loaf.
Other vital, practical skills you should learn include basic first aid, growing your own vegetables and simple home repairs. Once you have mastered these, move on to more advanced practical skills such as gardening, food preservation, making clothes, quilting, repairing small appliances, shoe repair, leather craft, upholstery and restoring old furniture. Many of the more advanced practical skills start as hobbies and may end up helping you earn extra income or be a full-time career.
Frugal Living #5. Use it up, wear it out, make do
Too many of us simply throw things away when they break down or have outlived what we consider their usefulness. We tend to throw things away and buy new for convenience alone. This attitude has turned us into a profligate people. Did you ever think that it is this mentality that has really ushered in the era of poorly made cheaper goods?
If we took the time to repair a toaster, we would demonstrate to manufacturers that we value quality instead of simply buying the cheapest made item. When your blue jeans are wearing out at the knees, patch them. Let your children wear the hand-me-down clothes from their older siblings (and those clothes bought on sale or at a thrift store). Children should only be clothed in thrift store clothes anyway; they should be encouraged to be out playing in their clothes so hard, they wear out sooner!
Frugal Living #6. Look for it first at a thrift store or garage sale
Americans spend far too much money on things like sporting goods, tools and hobby equipment they quickly grow tired of. While this habit makes Retailers very happy, one can usually find all the equipment at thrift stores or garage sales. For example, why are you paying for new camping equipment if you rarely go camping? Buy used equipment first to see if you even like an activity.
Additionally, there are hundreds of items used around the average household that can be found at thrift stores or garage sales. Why spend several hundred dollars for that chef-quality saucepan, when you can buy an entire set of Revere Ware for a fraction of the price at a thrift store? Getting into the habit of looking for these items first at thrift stores and garage sales, can literally save you thousands of dollars that can be used for more important purchases, help you get out of debt and beef up your rainy day fund.
Frugal Living #7. Plant a garden
Learning to grow your own food is in itself, a very rewarding activity and one young people should be encouraged to pursue. The benefits of learning this skill are manifold, including ensuring the quality of your own food (not cultivating GMO’d plants or using toxic chemicals on them). Additionally, with the cost of food going higher each year and real wages not keeping up, learning to grow most of your own food can literally be a life-saver.
Just ask the people in Venezuela if this isn’t true! When Venezuela’s Socialist government-managed economy collapsed, the grocery stores quickly emptied and fresh deliveries of groceries became erratic. Soon people began to starve because they had not prepared and put any food away in their home larders. Dogs, cats and birds began disappearing from neighborhoods because they were being eaten as food. During the emerging crisis, the government finally issued seeds to citizens and asked them to plant gardens and grow food.
But learning to garden is not as easy as simply planting a few seeds. It is important to begin, yes, but it’s equally as important, to begin with, some knowledge of what you are doing. Go to the library and check out books about basic gardening; take a beginner’s gardening course from your local County Agriculture Extension. There are many questions you need to be able to answer: Do you know which USDA Gardening Zone you live in? Will you be growing your seeds to seedlings and then transplanting them outside or will you buy seedlings from a garden center? Will you be growing your garden in your own dirt in the ground or in containers? Educate yourself on the best soil composition to grow each type of food plant. You need to know how deep to plant a seed because not all plants are the same. You need to know when to start to grow your seedlings outdoors so your plants won’t freeze. You need to know about the most common pests that will try to devour your plants and how to deal with them. You need to know how much to water your plants so you don’t over-water them.
These are just a few important details to master and they are each critical to your success as a gardener. Keep a gardening journal each year you grow a garden; this will help you recall what you did and to judge the result so you can improve. Once you master these skills and begin to improve your harvests over time, you will become proficient at growing your own food.
RELATED: Gardening Link Bomb
Frugal Living #8. Preserve the harvest
Equally important to learning to grow your own food is learning how to preserve what you grow. Some people prefer to learn how to can vegetables they purchase from a local Farmer’s Market, and many proficient gardeners will supplement their home food stores this way. There are several methods to preserve food, including dehydrating meats, fruits, and vegetables.
Another method is dry canning, which preserves dry foods only, such as flour, grains, cereals, crackers, etc. This method uses sterilized canning jars, lids and a special sealer cap that allows you to use a vacuum sealer to suck the air out of the jar, thus preserving the contents.
Another common method is the water bath canning method. This method is best for many garden vegetables and orchard fruits. Once the sterilized jars are full of what you wish to preserve, you seal them with sterilized lids and place them in a pot of hot water. This “water bath” helps kill any lingering bacteria inside your jars, preserving the contents. Pressure cooker canning is also recommended for food preservation, especially meats, cheeses, and butter. Learning to preserve food can be a major component of saving money on your grocery bills.
Frugal Living #9. Buy in bulk
It’s not always possible to buy in large amounts, but if you get control over your finances and master your money, it is prudent to buy bulk quantities of your most-used household items, especially when these items go on sale. For example, if you learn to bake your own bread, it would be wise to buy flour when it goes on sale and buy several bags which can be stored in the freezer until you need it. You should do the same with fresh meats when they go on sale (BTW – it is a good idea to have a stand-alone freezer just for this purpose).
Stock up on canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, coffee and tea and basics like flour, sugar, honey, powdered milk, baking powder, and baking soda. But don’t stop there! Stock up on items such as toilet paper, toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, deodorant, laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, etc. Keep track of how much of these items you use every month and determine to store a year’s worth.
Start small and build up your stores as you go. Once you reach this goal, simply rotate through your storage goods and replace only what you use. This will decrease your grocery bill dramatically! If you manage your money well, you will be able to afford to buy in bulk, save money against future price increases and build up your own food and dry goods larder. Doing this will give you peace of mind in being prepared should an emergency happen, such as loss of income. Many newly unemployed people can barely cover their rent with their Unemployment Insurance check. How much easier it would be if you already have stored a year’s worth of food and commonly-used toiletries! Buying in bulk saves your pocketbook from future price increases and prepares you for any emergency. If you can get several friends or family members to buy in bulk with you, you can negotiate a large discount from the supplier. This is another great way to make your money go further.
Frugal Living #10. Pay ahead on bills
This is the final item on the list because, while not absolutely necessary to do, it is one of those things that can pay you dividends should you find yourself in an emergency situation. Paying ahead on bills is something one should do only after one gets caught up with bills and retires all debts. Once you are out of debt and have saved at least the minimum suggested rainy day fund ($2000) you may consider paying ahead on your bills.
The best bill to pay ahead on, of course, is your mortgage. If you buy a house, it is important that you pay off your mortgage as soon as possible. The reason for this is to save on the interest charges and fees. One common approach to this is to pay bi-monthly and have the second payment go towards paying down the principle amount, which lessens the interest amount, saving homeowners thousands of dollars. Owning your dwelling as quickly as possible will also free up that monthly payment to go towards anything else you need. Since it is typically the largest monthly outlay in people’s budgets, paying off your home mortgage early can literally help you become financially free!
So if you own a house, pay ahead on the mortgage first. Then consider paying ahead on the utilities. Even an extra $10 or $20 a month on your electric, gas, and Internet bills can help you greatly, especially if you lose your income for any reason. Try to pay ahead and stay ahead at least 2-6 months. Every month you are ahead on the utility bills will also garner you a break should you ever need one when negotiating with a utility company. Who do you think they would be more willing to work with on a payment plan, but the person who has a history of always paying their bill on time plus paying ahead on their bill?
I hope you can see how implementing these Ten Commandments of Frugal Living will help you not only learn to master your money, but also learn to live life with less stress around your personal finances and help “pay the way” towards financial freedom.
Also See: The Frugal Living Page on Prepper Website
About the Author – PJ Graves is a freelance writer who likes to squeeze a penny till it cries. She can be found wandering garage sales and thrift stores on weekends, vying for the cherished “Discount Diva” award.
This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.
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