If you want to make a New Years' resolution to live more frugally, here are five frugal living ideas for achieving that goal!
For many people, serving in the military does not mean living a luxurious lifestyle with lots of money. Even though we like to buy expensive cars (on high-interest credit), guns, and other fun toys, the economic reality is that the average Marine typically makes less than $50,000 (taxable income) per year. Recruits start at $20,000 per year, although there are perks such as housing, meals, and government healthcare, which add up to a decent salary!
If you have a family to support while you're in the military and you don't want to spend every penny you have, you'll probably need to live frugally. There's often a bad connotation to that word as if “frugal” means “poor quality of life.” That is not true at all. Living a frugal lifestyle means that you place more of an emphasis on a future filled with hope rather than a present filled with instant gratification. You can live frugally, have fun, and save responsibly.
The Key Frugal Living Idea: Know Your Finances Exceptionally Well
The most important aspect of frugal living is that you need to know your finances inside-and-out. There's a saying that you cannot track what you don't measure. Large companies follow their money meticulously. They have metrics that detect if this product is making money or losing money. They have research panels designed to determine where to invest more money and where to pull money out. Every penny is tracked and accounted for in some extensive software system.
You need to think like a company. Think of yourself as “Family Corporation.” What money do you have coming in (your salary, at least)? Where is that money going? Once you start tracking your pennies, you might find out that your spending habits are different than you thought. Those “cheap” nights out might be running you $100+ per week, or you might find that you're spending a lot more on utilities than you thought you were.
Track your expenses and measure them. Only once you measure them will you be able to look for ways to reduce your costs.
Look At Your Little Expenses
A lot of people look for ways to be frugal by seeing what significant expenses they can cut. However, unless you're going around regularly buying crazy expensive items, the reality is that most people find frugality by lowering or cutting out the small expenses.
Some frugal living ideas for doing this include cutting down on restaurant meals, cutting down on boutique coffee shops (those $5 lattes add up fast), and reducing alcohol consumption (or, at the very least, not going to expensive bars to drink). If you unnecessarily spend just $30 per day, which is very doable if you eat out or drink at a bar a lot, then you're potentially wasting close to $1,000 per month. Even cutting $5 or $10 per day's worth of expenses adds up fast!
Consider Buying Used
Everything new is expensive. Modern cars are pricey, the latest clothes are costly, and new technology is incredibly overpriced. Look at used sections before buying new things. Goodwill and other thrift stores often sell clothing, books, and other items at steep discounts.
Buying used does not mean buying something that is terrible quality. Instead, it just means you're not overpaying for it. A used shirt, for example, doesn't magically lose its utility even though it might be $2 at Goodwill instead of $20 at The Gap.
Take the time to investigate stores that sell used items at discounts as opposed to going to all the stores that sell everything new at retail!
Spend More Nights At Home
If you go out of the house a lot, you know that it costs a lot of money. Moreover, if your social circle goes out a lot (for drinks, movies, eating, etc.), then you are almost guaranteed to spend a lot of money that you shouldn't. Peer pressure for spending can be remarkably intense and stealthy. It's easy to think that you “should” be able to afford something because someone else can. Many assistants to wealthy people talk about how hard it is to spend significant amounts of money for their boss and then shift to a mindset for their personal life that they don't have that kind of cash. Levels of spending are very socially-driven.
Consider activities around the house as frugal living ideas. Try board games with friends instead of expensive restaurants. Instead of going out to movies, why not sit at home and watch them via Netflix? Spending more time at home means you get to spend time with family and keep money in your bank account!
Use Coupons Both In-store And Online
You've probably heard of the term “extreme couponing.” People who partake in this activity clip coupons almost as an obsession. Some people claim to be able to save as much as 80-90% off the retail price for groceries and other household essentials with these techniques.
You don't need to “extreme coupon,” but you should try and use coupons where you can. There are apps for when you shop online that give you 5% or so cashback just for using the app. Grocery stores often have coupons to save a dollar or two for some items. Stores also have loyalty clubs that give discounts just for being a member (some of these clubs even provide discounts on gas as a bonus).
Take advantage of these discounts. You don't need to take advantage of every single dollar off, but if you can keep a few coupons in your wallet, why not do so? Even if you just save $10 a week at the grocery store, you'll have an extra $520 per year for minimal effort!
WikiBuy is a great way to save money with online purchases!
The Little Things Add Up
When people look for frugal living tips, they often don't know what to expect. Most people don't feel like they are regularly overspending. They maybe grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks, go to work, head out for lunch, have a couple of drinks and dinner with friends, and head back home. While it might not sound extravagant, doing that every day can add $1,000 or so of unnecessary expenses every month.
Frugal living does not mean you give up fun. Playing a board game and drinking with friends at home can be just as much fun (or even more fun) than heading out for $5 beers at the local bar. Watching a movie on Netflix at home in your comfy clothes can be so much more relaxing than going to a movie theater.
There's also satisfaction in knowing that you're having fun and saving money at the same time. It's not fun going out with friends, getting a $50 bill, and wondering how you're going to pay for it. It's not fun adding to a credit card balance that is already costing you a fortune each month. Living as a frugal person feels peaceful and relaxing.
You and your family can live on a military salary and grow your wealth if you take to heart these frugal living tips!
Big Frugal Living Ideas
I decided to change it up a bit with this post, and talk about basic frugal living ideas that I generally don't discuss. The big things add up too, but I have already touched on a lot of these in my house hacking and military millionaire articles.