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Do you have frugality in your life?

23 January 2013

Since the New Year has started, I keep thinking about how to push the Collier house to live more frugally. But what is frugality? For starters, it is a real word. Sort of makes me think of theatricality although totally unrelated (that is for you fellow gLee watchers out there!). 

But what does it take to live a frugal lifestyle? How do you stick to frugal living without feeling deprived of any "splurges" or impulsive purchases? And what benefit can frugal living have on your life? Although concrete conceptually, frugal living is relative to your lifestyle. If you are still paying full price for meals, clothing, grocery items, greeting cards, gifts and activities then you are probably not living frugally despite living within your means.

I interpret living with frugality as being a state where you are maximizing your intake while decreasing your monies out. In other words, it is getting more than you pay for. This can be achieved through a variety of means such as budgeting, cutting back on frivolous purchases, using a cash-only method, brewing your own coffee and bringing your lunch during the week to slash to-go dining. I've realized that it is the culmination of many slight adjustments to our daily lives which really pay off in the end.

How do we start paying less for stuff? This can be achieved through "deal scouting." Deal scouting takes time but with dedication can prove to be incredibly fruitful. Comparison shopping together with couponing is a great start to deal scouting. In my introduction to Collier couponing, I discussed how each week or biweekly I take a look at 5 different store ads in the Sunday paper or on their websites. I write down each item that we use in our home that is on sale or that I can integrate into a meal plan for the week categorized by store. The purpose of writing down the prices for each item on sale that I am interested in is to price compare between stores as well as compare prices to items not on sale while I'm at the grocery store.

Stores like Walmart and Publix honor price matching so it is worth doing your homework before filling up your cart but make sure to bring the store circulars in with you as evidence! Layering store sales, store coupons and manufacturers coupons is the end goal. Stock up on products on sale or during a Buy One Get One (BOGO) event. Let me be straight with you here. I started couponing two years ago and have learned a lot about our personal needs and how to achieve those with couponing. I'm not an extreme couponer. I've never purchased two carts of food for a penny. But what I can reliably do is reduce our grocery bill by half and to us, that is substantial. Our grocery budget is on average less than 6% of our monthly income so it pays to be aggressive when it comes to purchases. Be diligent about searching for coupons before purchasing online or going out to eat. Use websites like where you can find discount codes and coupons while you are shopping online or before you head out to eat. And regarding saving on activities consider sites like Groupon, AmazonLocal and Living Social or seek out free events in your city (check your city's events calendar). You can't beat free!

With all of the grocery savings, plan your lunches and dinners or spend an afternoon cooking, pre-packaging and freezing meals to ensure that all of your grocery items get used before spoiling as well as voiding the "convenience factor" of purchasing your lunch outside of the home. Packing your own lunch can save you upwards of $1,820 per year (calculated based upon the average lunch cost of $7). Brewing your own coffee by investing in a coffee machine for work or going in with coworkers on a unit can also maximize those savings which can be saved for an annual vacation or put towards your nest egg.

Is it "ok" to eat out or grab coffee with friends? Sure! It is totally up to you! As a metaphor, financial health is very similar to physical health in that indulging in a treat every once and a while is probably not harmful but it is the daily neglect and lack of attention that gets us into trouble. If you can't comfortably live without a weekly latte or coffee date with friends then give yourself a reasonable cash allowance each week. Say you allow yourself $10 each week to spend on whatever you choose. If you want to save it for a big splurge, do. If you want to spend, spend without consequences. Keep it reasonable.

Frugality is much more than a lifestyle choice of being cheap or a penny-pincher. It is also is not just for families and married people. All individual can benefit from understanding the fundamentals of frugal living. I think awareness of frugal living should begin in middle or high school when kids first start to gain an appreciation for money. As a sophomore in high school, I got my first job outside of chores and helping my grandparents and if I knew now what I knew then, I'd be thoughtful about meaningless purchases of turtle statues and plastic key chains with quirky sayings from Claire's which ended up in the trash before I finished high school. I would have put into practice the "earn half, save half" idea to build a hefty savings by my 20's. But you can't fix the past. You can only act in the present and plan for the future.

I'd love to hear the creative ways that you have put frugality into practice in your lives.

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