I am a walking contradiction since I promote budgeting and frugality yet seem to live just as fabulous of a life as the next girl. Sure, I live in a fairly nice home and have nice clothes, yet that is all surface level stuff. I have a confession to make – on the inside, I’m a cheap, frugal minimalist who just looks expensive on the outside.
When I tell folks we saved $85,300 last year and have a goal to save $95,100 this year, I get skeptical looks. Most people either think I make way more than I actually do or they think I am lying. How is it, that I have nice bags, still go out the eat with friends, not look like a hobo and save so much? What kind of strange magic is this?
The magic is not so special after all. Instead, it’s really simple habits that I have developed and crafted into a lifestyle. My frugal lifestyle habits don’t seem like much if each were to be practiced by itself but because this is my way of life, all of them done together, save me a lot of money. Here they are in no particular order:
- I don’t go to the hairdresser– I do my own hair care at home. I only go to the hairdresser when I need a trim or cut which happens about 1x a year.
- I don’t get my nails done on a regular basis– I get pedicures at the nail salon about 1x a month in the spring and summer. In the winter, I do at home pedicures (ok, I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t do anything in the winter).
- I don’t buy makeup– I just never got into buying a lot of cosmetics. I have the basics; mascara, concealer, foundation and eyeliner, so I keep things very simple and economical.
- I don’t buy clothes or shoes unless necessary– I rarely buy clothes and shoes because I have a lot of things in my closet that I rotate. Luckily, my husband doesn’t shop much either. We also keep a simplistic approach when it comes to clothing for our kids. Since we have two boys born in the same month, 2 years a part, many of the clothes my older son wears gets handed down to the baby.
- If I do buy clothes I shop at budget friendly stores– I usually shop at stores like Forever21 and H&M for cute work outfits and casual outfits. While the quality can be a hit or miss depending on what you buy, the clothing I get from these stores actually hold up well.
- I contribute the maximum amount possible to pre-tax retirement accounts– I have my pre-tax retirement contributions set to the maximum so my savings come off the top before I even see my income. I make my expenses work with what’s left. If something can’t be done with the left over expenses, I cut it. Savings & investing first, everything else comes later.
- I don’t buy bags or jewelry– I bought the nice bags and jewelry in my 20’s before I knew what I was doing with money. I have many of those items today and still wear them when I am feeling fancy.
- I shop my closet for the expensive stuff– More in line with the point above, I don’t need to buy expensive or name brand stuff now because I bought enough of it in my 20’s. So when you see me with a nice bag or pair of shoes, just know I’ve had them forever.
- I don’t have an expensive gym membership– I used to do crossfit which ran me about $150 a month for unlimited classes. I stopped crossfit after having my first son. Now I go to the gym at my job, which is only $20 a month.
- I rarely ever buy lunch at work. I usually make chicken or tuna sandwiches for lunch.
- I don’t buy breakfast either– I usually make a smoothie or egg sandwich for breakfast before I go to work in the morning.
- I cook large meals on Sundays– I try to cook multiple meals on Sunday that serve as our dinner meals in the week.
- I don’t fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation– Whenever I get a raise, I save the increase. I don’t increase my expenses with the increase in my income.
- I don’t have a costly coffee habit– I enjoy coffee here and there but I don’t have a special affinity for it. I get free coffee at work and usually just buy the Trader Joe’s instant coffee for my fix on the weekends.
- I don’t have a cellphone– Ok, I have a cellphone but it is also my work cellphone. Instead of paying extra for my own personal plan, I just use my work cellphone paid for by my company. Also, my husband switched from AT&T to the budget carrier Cricket so we only pay $55 a month for his cell phone bill.
- I use credit card points for traveling– I use my credit card points to travel for free.
- I take advantage of free events or discounted kids events– The library is one of my favorite place for free children’s events. I also constantly check the local mommy blogs for other free kids activities and events.
- I always check the restaurant bill– I always double-check the bill at a restaurant to make sure we were not overcharged. I can’t tell you the countless times I caught a mistake by a well-meaning server.
- I don’t go into Target or any other stores just to browse– I just know I will end up spending money if I go into a store so I just avoid them all together.
- We drive economical cars– At one point, my husband and I both had “luxury” vehicles that took “luxury” gas (premium gas). Now we have both switched to more economical cars and own them in full, so we don’t have an expensive monthly car note.
- We subsidize childcare with live in help– We have live-in childcare help. She has her own private living space with a separate entrance, kitchen, bathroom, etc. While we still pay her a weekly salary, we are able to help subsidize her salary with free room & board.
So, there’s my list of how we are able to save so much of our income. While the list is a good starting point, we still have some inefficiencies in our budget. Here’s the low-down on that too:
- We go out to eat at restaurants and pay relatively a lot per meal– My husband and I are suckers for going out to eat and enjoying a drink with our meal. As you know anytime you add alcohol to an already high-priced NYC restaurant bill, the cost sky-rockets. I would like to see our monthly restaurant bill come down a bit. I hate when we pay a lot for a meal were not completely satisfied with. If we are going to spend a lot of money on going out to eat, it should be something we truly enjoy.
- I don’t go shopping with a grocery list– My good friend Shay always has a grocery list when she shops and is amazed that I don’t shop with one. I always end up spending a little more than I need to. I’m not sure why I haven’t started shopping with a list. It’s one of the things I am working on making a habit.
- We don’t coupon– We don’t buy things according to what’s on sale or with coupons. We just buy what we need when the time comes. I know we would be able to save a lot of money by planning ahead and shopping the deals.
- My commuting expenses are extremely high– My commuting costs are insane. I drive 100 miles to work round trip and pay almost $300 in tolls and $250 in gas per month. Ideally, I would work closer but that is not in the cards yet.
- I love mojitos & wine– and the markup on liquor at a bar and restaurant is insane but it’s something my husband and I responsibly enjoy.
- We pay too much for cable– I would love to cut or just cancel our cable bill but it’s going to take my husband a bit more convincing.
- It’s not just me– I have a husband who has his own mind, wants and goals. I can’t force my way of being cheap and frugal on him. In our house, it isn’t my way or the highway. Luckily, he isn’t naturally a spender, so we generally are on the same page but he is not as frugal as I am.
So there’s the big secret on how we are able to save so much and keep our expenses low. Some of the frugal inefficiencies I mentioned above also double as the things that bring joy to my life, such as my husband and mojitos. But there are still some areas that I can improve on in order to hit our financial goals sooner.
Do you do any frugal things on my list or struggle with the same frugal inefficiencies? Perhaps you have a frugal tip or habit of your own to share? Please comment below and let’s exchange our frugal war stories.
If you really want to spend less and save more, you need to identify what’s working well for you and what needs improvement. To help you organize your frugal wins and your frugal inefficiencies, download my Free “Frugal Habits” worksheet below.