Most people who are leading a frugal life will have the usual things down pat, for example, cutting any subscriptions that aren’t necessities, eating at home, paying attention to their power/utility usage, joining the library instead of buying books or DVDs, and getting the best deals on internet and phone services. This is usually referred to living within your means.
But for someone like me, I needed to do more than live within my means, considering my means weren’t much to start with, having two kids and one income coming into the family. So, as I contemplated how I could go further in my frugal ways, I thought about the days we really struggled financially when I left a marriage full of financial, emotional and physical abuse.
Think poor, and I mean po!
I started to realise the difference in my spending habits when I “had money” compared to when I didn’t. I tend to be more flippant with that money. For example, I’d easily convince myself that I deserve to buy myself a coffee today or I need a new phone, laptop, furniture, kettle, rubbish bin – anything that was looking worse for wear or lacked the latest technology would be fair game to be replaced. Absolutely no respect for money at all.
But when money had been tight I would never upgrade anything, because I simply couldn’t. Things stayed with me until they completely died on me, and then I considered whether it was worth fixing. There was no income, so there was no temptation to compulsively buy or be flippant with money, because there is no money!
So, now that I am lucky enough to have a steady income, I keep in mind those hard times when I simply couldn’t spend. There was no money in my pocket and no matter how much I “needed” something, I couldn’t purchase a thing if I wanted to continue to eat and not become evicted.
Even though I can afford to upgrade a few things, I keep my “poor person” mentally, e.g., I had my last phone for five years before I got a new one, and that was only because it died on me. My friends all bought smartphones while I still had my old, dumb Nokia. If I had a dollar for each time I was “teased” because of my old Nokia, I would be a billionaire by now. I have only now bought myself a smartphone because my study, dumb Nokia gave up on me. I bought the second cheapest smartphone and it does a fine job. Even though I can afford to buy a slightly more appealing brand within my budget I continue to buy lower priced brands.
A huge amount of homes are robbed by people known to the victim. Yeah, I know. Horrible. Well, no one is going to rob me, I often joke, because I don’t have ‘money signs’ splattered throughout my home, I drive an old sedan and wear a lot of hand me down clothes and anything of value is kept in private areas of my home.
Don’t take your kids, cards or excessive cash with you when shopping
Ensure you write a shopping list and bring only the amount of cash needed to purchase these items. This will stop you spending more than you need and smash impulse buying. Shopping without the kids stops distractions and additional spending. I notice I give in to my kids asking/begging for things when I have pangs of guilt over one thing or another, being a single mum on a budget.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
You could probably put aside some percentage of your income (before the cheeky chain store marketing tricks and impulse buying sucks you in). You can’t get sucked in if you don’t have the money. Take away that temptation and change your mind set by making your money disappear before you have a chance to spend it, so you think you have less money that you really have.
Have a percentage of your income automatically transferred into a separate savings account. Even if it’s just $10 every pay check. I have a bank account which has a savings account attached, so with one account I can have a savings section and an everyday section. It will be even more helpful if this savings section or account you set up, is done in a way that you are not able to access this money without a bit of effort, and when checking your bank balance you only see the money that is available to you, not the saved money.
I also, when I have spare cash built up or receive some kind of extra money, I hide this somewhere safe in my home and then I literally forget that I have hidden it. This is handy when it comes to impulse buys . . . If I do remember I have money in the house I still need to find it, so by the time I find the money I usually come to my senses and decide it’s not worth spending and I can make do without.
If you don’t see the money or don’t have the money readily available, you are forced to live without.
Don’t ever throw something out without pausing to think if it can be reused or recycled.
The internet is a great way to find ways to reuse everyday household products/packaging instead of buying, for example, gardening items. You can grow seedlings out of empty egg cartons empty milk bottles can be used as mini greenhouses.
Sandwich bags have become a very popular way to carry lunches to work and school. A lot of people throw these plastic bags out in the bin after one use. I have had friends totally weirded out by the fact that I reuse these bags. I have literally had a friend say to me, “Who does that?”. My response? “Well, me!”. I didn’t think it was that weird.
Old sandwich bags can also be used to store and keep sorted cables and rechargers, etc. This makes it so much easier to sort through that box of cords and stops them from getting tangled up. I’m sure if you continue researching you will find many ways to reuse those nifty bags. I also use them as ice packs – fill it half way with water and seal it very well. They are also great instead of wasting money on disposable wipes. Just wet a face wash/cloth or similar, wring it out and place in a zip bag. When needed, it’s ready to go. You’ll be cleaning up your baby as well as the planet.
There are many sites on the internet that will show you ways to reuse and recycle everyday items. Think about the items you normally fill your bins with and have a quick search online for ways to reuse them.
Don’t ever spend money on things that cardboard boxes could do just as good a job.
I don’t know about you, but I have trouble spending money on something that I’m going to throw rubbish into. So, instead of buying rubbish bins, I waltz into a liquor store and ask for a couple of empty boxes. These boxes are a perfect size for under the sink bins as grocery store plastic bags fit nicely as a liner. Have one for recycled items and another for rubbish. When they get dirty, no need for washing. Just place them in the council recycle bin. This has become so handy in our house that we now have one in every room. They come in many different widths so it is easy to find one that fits in almost any area of your home.
I always keep a look out for sturdy, good quality boxes that I can use to store kids toys, sports equipment and to keep on hand for the next house move. No last-minute scurrying around for boxes and forced purchases of moving boxes.
We also use these boxes to build a fort and play other games. Simple, free and fun. Kids will keep themselves entertained for hours with a room full of boxes. We have built walls and skated through them, had fort wars, tested our skills at making towers . . . lots of things to do with boxes!
When I acquire a delivery parcel at home or at work, whether big or small, I keep the box. Flatten them out so they are easy to store, and reuse them for storage or gift giving. I also enjoy making my own wrapping and cards. That way I can spend more money on the actual gift.
Boxes are also a gift from heaven if you have small pets like hamsters, rats and mice. They love to snuggle in tight spaces where they can hide themselves and their treats. No need to buy hammocks or hide-away huts anymore!
Hide the good stuff from your kids!
Hear me out before you conclude that I’m a mean mummy! If you don’t or can’t make your own school snack foods or treats, you will know how expensive it is to continue to buy these products every week, or in some cases, more regularly than that. When I used to make the mistake of doing a bulk shop on Fridays and not hiding the good stuff, half of it would disappear before I get to pack my first lunch box on the Monday. The money I spent intending to go towards my precious punks lunch boxes has all been eaten during the weekend! Okay I am exaggerating a bit, but it still requires an extra trip to the shops on Monday to ensure we have enough lunch box foods to last the week.
The added bonus, is that the kids are then forced to put some effort into what they are going to eat and they can’t take the lazy/unhealthy way out and in the process, make better nutritional choices. Take away the temptation and you take away the problem. Just don’t tell your kids you are hiding the snacks and treats, otherwise they will hunt high and low for them!
Start growing your own medicine and beauty products
I would have wasted so much money by now if it wasn’t for my humble little balcony garden. Not only is growing a garden a great way to save money on food but it’s also great for medicinal use. My Aloe Vera plant is my best friend. They are resilient and versatile. My little garden is lucky enough to be able to catch the rain when it falls. When it hasn’t rained in a while, the only water I use on my plants is the water that is left in water bottles. My kids normally come home with some water in their bottles or they leave half drank water bottles lying around the house for me to find. Before I clean out their bottles I pour the remaining water on my plants. This seems to be enough to keep them thriving, without wasting more water.
Aloe Vera is good for lots of uses and you will find many good ideas for its use online. I use it to relieve and heal burns, sunburn, bruises and rashes. I also use it when I run out of face wash and use it instead of eye creams – if it’s good enough for Cleopatra then it’s good enough for me. Aloe Vera is also touted as being beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics. Search online and you will be surprised at the versatility of this awesome gift from Mother Nature.
Stop buying paper towels and tissues.
I must admit, my weakness when it comes to sustainable living is kitchen paper towels and tissues. I could easily go through a roll of kitchen paper in a couple of days. Now I realise the error in my ways, and I have cut my addiction to kitchen paper significantly. I can go months without using paper towels now.
I (discretely) keep a roll of toilet paper in the kitchen and use it for most of the things I would have used paper towels for. If I need to clean up a spill or dry pots or containers, out comes the toilet paper. If I need to clean my monitor I will use toilet paper. I can only think of one way I can’t use the toilet paper in the same way I used paper towels, and that’s when cooking chips and other fried items. However, instead of bringing out the paper towels I now use a clean, dry tea towel, which is washable.
I also use toilet paper instead of tissues now, unless there is a full-blown flu in the house, then we splurge on tissues. But instead of buying the super soft aloe vera enriched tissues, I enrich my own tissues with my home made aloe vera lotion. I also dab my nose with aloe vera to keep it from irritating and drying out.
Take advantage of programs made for people like you!
Are you living in a low income bracket? There may be programs that are easily and readily available for you to use. Visit your local library, ring your local council, go to your local unemployment office, visit your local community centre, search the internet for programs you can take part of.
Food banks are popping up everywhere. Find one near you and this can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year on its own. In Australia, we have The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia and Uniting Care who will give you anything from food to gift vouchers if you meet their criteria.
If you are unemployed and looking for work, there are charities that will help dress you with the appropriate clothes for the job you are interviewing for. Most women leave with 3 or 4 different outfits to get you through your first week of work.
I will be placing links to the above organisations on my website soon. I hope this little list of ways to live beneath your means has helped you in some way, and I will be posting more uber frugal tips soon, as well as a list of organisations that can help you keep on financial track.
Thanks for reading!
Peace, love and happiness xo