I admire people who embrace frugal living. I am good at budgeting and saving, but I also like to purchase items that aren’t exactly necessary and buy things that last. My husband is more frugal than I am. Sometimes the kids even call him “Scrooge,” insinuating he can be miserly. You can be frugal without being stingy. Here are 10 tips to save money without making yourself miserable.
- Set a budget and save for an item, even if it is something that seems extravagant, like designer jeans or a new fancy blender. You’ll enjoy your purchase even more if you know you can truly afford it.
- Comparison shop for higher-priced items. Frugal people do research before purchasing. Your favorite store might not always have the best price. Watch for seasonal sales and be patient. Make sure your money stretches as far as it can.
- Know when to spend. If you’ve saved all year to take a family vacation, but then eat peanut butter and worry about money the whole time, you might not enjoy yourself. If need a new coat, spend enough to get one that fits well and will last several years. There are times when paying more will add value.
- Ask yourself three questions before buying something: Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I want it enough to pay for it? If you can answer yes to all three, you can feel confident in your purchase.
- Compromise. If the kids want to go out to ice cream, but you’d like to save money, go to the grocery store instead. Making your own sundaes is cheaper and can be more fun. If you’re creative, you don’t always have to say no.
- Remember the value of family experiences and memories. Sometimes it’s hard for frugal people to pay for hotel rooms and meals out when they are used to pinching pennies. If you have to travel for a family reunion, enjoy the time spent reconnecting and being together; don’t worry about the money side of things. You can't put a price on time together.
- Pause and think. If you’re unsure about buying an item, leave it on the shelf. You can always return and get it in a few days. If it’s the last item of its kind or size, ask the store to hold it for you. Impulse buys can be avoided if you curb impulsive behavior.
- Keep track of your receipts. This action helps you keep track of spending and return unneeded items, or things that aren’t going to work for you, like clothes that don't fit. I sometimes set aside things I’m not sure I need or want so I can easily return them.
- Eat a small snack before you eat out. It’s fun to splurge on a meal out every once in a while. If you have a hard time spending money on food, eat a small snack before you go, and then choose your entrée wisely. Many dishes are large enough to split between two people. I sometimes order a salad and an appetizer, which gives me variety without being too expensive.
- Be honest with your children. Parents can come across as stingy when they are just trying to be frugal. I like to be honest with my children, responding with, “That’s not in the budget this month,” when they ask for something extra. If we eat out as a family, we might say, “Everyone’s drinking water,” up front, thus avoiding saying no to specialty drinks at the restaurant.
Money is a part of life, but it doesn’t need to dictate happiness. Living within your means and learning how to budget will give you financial freedom. Saving and spending are both important. Embrace frugal living without being stingy by making wise decisions about money.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.