Simple Steps for Living Frugally


Canned tuna is an excellent source of protein.

You can get a pound of pasta for a dollar.

The first step to living frugally is that it’s not just money you’re trying to save. It’s time. The phrase “time is money” applies far more to the poor than the rich, even though the rich make more money per hour. For those of us trying to live frugally, time is not so much money as it is survival. That’s why, when you’re purchasing food, looking for a place to rent, or considering a new job, you have to consider time as well as money. “Oh, hell! I’ll just buy that $10 sandwich. I’m late for work!” If you run out of time, you waste money to compensate.

* * *

These are the sorts of thoughts you need to be having if you’re going to live frugally for the long term. The real first step to living frugally is not to exhaust yourself with your attempts to live frugally. You are a human being and you can’t forget basic human needs. These are:

1) Sleep
2) Food (and water)
3) Warmth
4) Companionship
5) Retreat
6) There are others…you need to think of them yourself!

Ultimately, living frugally is about living in such a way that all of your needs are met. Oftentimes, the only reason we buy buy buy beyond our means, beyond our needs, is to fulfill some need that we aren’t aware that we have. For instance: do you really need that 52-inch plasma TV that you’ll be paying off for the next five years? The answer is: no. But you do need a way to escape or retreat from an insane, absolutely unsatisfactory modern existence filled with stress and dreams deferred and all the rest. Is there a more financially sound way to feed those needs? Or is there a way to change your life such that said need for escape isn’t quite as intense?

To live frugally, it would be a good idea not to act on all of your “buy” impulses, nor to immediately squelch all of your “buy” impulses. Instead, ask yourself, “so, why is it that I want this thing that I know I can’t afford? And how can I meet that need for much less money?” Frugal living is honest living; never stop being honest with yourself, and you won’t feel the need to splurge beyond your means. Tuna is an excellent source of protein. You can buy a pound of pasta for a dollar. And voila, instant dinner for three!

I suppose these aren’t exactly “simple steps.” I apologize for the misleading title. To conclude, here are four “slightly less simple steps” for you to ponder in your attempts to live more frugally.

1) Realize that you live in a society that wants you to spend all of your money. If you’re going on autopilot, trying to catch up with the Joneses, and not actually thinking about what you want, what you need, and who you are, the society will beat you every time. Living frugally is, essentially, a revolutionary act.

2) Cook food! But try to cook things that don’t take a long time, because, as mentioned before, time is money. Cook in bulk, and don’t be afraid of leftovers.

3) Every time you spend money, think, “is there a way I can get this for less money or for free?” If the answer is no, then think, “do I really need this?” Think it at the parking meter, think it at the coffee shop, think it while renting a movie, think it while paying the bills. It’s a difficult thought to think, but you don’t have to act on it immediately. Just get in the habit and frugality will find its way to your wallet.

4) Tip generously! What I mean is, give of yourself to the people that support and sustain you, even when you’re struggling. This may seem to go against the notion of frugality, but it doesn’t really. Living frugally is about meeting your needs, and all human beings have an innate need to give. If we don’t give, we can’t possibly receive. If you support your support system with your love, they will come back to support you when you’re down. That is ultimately what frugality is all about – making sure that you stay supported when you’re down.

This post was written by

jason – who has written posts on Budget Clowns.
Father of three and married to a lovely women. Always looking for ways to save money, and invest it properly for my children's future.

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