Being a beginner at anything new can seem daunting, even simple frugal living for beginners will seem hard and possibly very different from what you are used to.
I say ‘seem hard’ because it’s not really, not once you know how and that is exactly what you and I are talking about. How you can be living a frugal life and enjoying it.
Let’s start at the beginning though.
You are new to being frugal and you probably have been overspending for a long time.
You need help to change your lifestyle and develop your frugal mindset.
You have heard enough about frugal living to think it could be the answer to your spendy lifestyle but you have no idea how to get started.
And you think you are going to have to cut back massively and go without, which doesn’t sound enticing does it?
In fact you have tried cutting back before and failed and you hated that feeling, right?
Frugal living for beginners, or the seasoned frugalista is not about doing without. You can definitely live happily AND frugally.
I will show you what to do first so you don’t fail whilst dipping your toes into frugal living and show you how to build your frugal muscles.
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The Frugal Lifestyle
You need to know straight off that there is no one size fits all. How you do frugal will be different to how I do it and how your neighbor does it.
Because it’s not a cookie cutter approach. It’s more a mindset and you apply the parts that mean the most to you, to your life.
You might have a decent income but have massive debt. Whereas your neighbor might have 5 kids and only one income.
You can both be learning about frugal living for beginners and embrace the frugal lifestyle but it will look and feel very different.
Wikipedia explains frugal as thus:
Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.
To me the frugal lifestyle simply means being smart with your money. Ensuring your money has purpose and is not wasted on things you do not need, only want (temporarily).
Your frugal life is about making the right spending decisions for you so you can afford the things you want and be happy about the things you don’t have.
Frugal Living For Beginners – What Can It Do For You?
Perhaps the question should be what can frugal living NOT do for you? Because when you are living a frugal life and enjoying it you cannot think of anything you are missing out on.
There are going to be things you won’t do that perhaps you used to, but once you have moved past the frugal living for beginners stage you won’t be interested in those things.
Not to the point where you miss them.
To me it’s simple; frugal living helps you embrace a full life, one where you are not getting into debt, worrying about money or are surrounded by stuff that you bought on credit.
Frugal living will help you:
- Pay off debts
- Plan for your future
- Stop worrying about money and sleep easy at night
- Enjoy a more simple, rewarding lifestyle
- Stop asking why am I poor?
- Save money towards things you truly value
- Appreciate the things and people in your life
- Know the difference between frugal and cheap
Frugal Living Vs Cheap Living
When you are just starting to learn about thrifty living and frugality you can get caught up in the popular confusion of frugal vs cheap.
When you are frugal you have a purpose for being so.
It could be you have debt to pay off or you have long term financial goals you are determined to achieve. Saving money at any cost is not being frugal, it’s being cheap.
Being cheap is about saving money no matter what. No matter the impact on other people, no matter the impact on the environment, indeed often its no matter the impact on yourself.
So many cheap people seem to cut their noses off to spite their faces. i.e. they will focus on being cheap at the expense of their own enjoyment.
No going out for a meal with their friends, ever. No warm fluffy feeling when they buy a present for a friend, because they just wouldn’t buy that present.
All in the name of saving money.
My advice? Don’t be cheap, be frugal and love it.
How To Be Frugal Without Being Cheap
- Be really clear about your goals
- Understand what you are doing and why
- Be aware of how your decisions could impact others
- Take steps to minimize your impact on others by tweaking frugal decisions
- Save money for the right reason
- Don’t penny pinch for pinching’s sake
- Don’t be frugal at the expense of others
Frugal Living For Beginners, 9 Easy Ways You Can Get Started
Here you are right at the beginning of your frugal journey, what can you do today, this week that will set you on the right course?
First things first, if you make a mistake, know that it is not a mistake only a learning experience.
Thomas Edison (inventor of the lightbulb) said:
“I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that did not work”
These 9 actions will get you started and help you make a difference to your money situation this week.
1. Have Goals
I loves me a goal. And I want you too. Goals give you something to aim for, without them you can wander aimlessly along, spending money you don’t have.
Start with goals that you feel you can achieve in the next week and month. The focus is on achievable.
Many people start with cutting their grocery budget. If you usually spend $200 on groceries every week, please don’t set a goal of just $100.
Cut yourself some slack.
Set a goal of say 10% less than you usually spend. Once you have achieved that, set a new goal of 10% less again (e.g. 20% down).
Lock these achievements in by achieving each week and move on to a further goal. Within 6 months you could easily achieve that $100 grocery budget.
As you are starting out please don’t set yourself too many goals. Focus on 2 or 3 that will make a difference right now.
Next month you can focus on other goals.
2. Start Small
Too many of us reach a crisis point and think the only way to survive is to go big. But when you go big with changes you run a huge risk of failing and going back to your old ways.
I’m not a lover of the term ‘baby steps’ but it fits what I am trying to say here. Start small with your changes.
We are talking about lifestyle changes, changes that you and I hope you make on a permanent basis. Money saving swaps are a great way to start small, you’re buying a similar product, just cheaper.
When you’ve been living life a certain way, many of your spending habits are just that, habits.
And we all know how hard habits can be to break or change.
3. Pace And Reward Yourself
It’s all too easy to make a few changes, see success then jump feet first into making all the changes you think you need to make.
You may well need to make those changes but you are not running the 100m sprint, it’s more of a walking marathon. I love this saying:
“Less haste, more speed”
Don’t be hasty in making too many changes, you will achieve more by pacing yourself, being successful in some of your new spending and frugal habits.
When you achieve your small goals make sure you reward yourself. I’m not talking a slap up meal at a swanky restaurant. That’s not a treat when it derails your budget and your spending plans.
Rewards can take many forms and don’t even need to cost money.
Rewarding yourself for small achievements helps you focus on what you want to achieve.
4. Learn To Say No
Only you spends your money.
So if you are overspending and need to stop then I’m afraid to say it sits firmly at your door. When you are used to spending too much, it can be very hard to stop spending money and start saving.
Never feel bad about saying no, if it’s what needs to happen to help you start living a frugal life and enjoying it then say no and be proud to do so.
Other ways to help you say no is to set money challenges for yourself. These posts will help you get started:
5. Know What You Are Spending
I am sure you sort of know how much you are spending. After all, you know how much you earn and roughly what you owe on credit cards.
But having a deeper knowledge of not only how much you are spending but on WHAT makes life so much easier.
It’s what you are spending your hard earned money on that will help you to live more frugally.
One of the easiest ways to know what you are spending your money on is to note down everything you spend.
You can use an excel spreadsheet, a budgeting app like Mint or YNAB or a plain piece of paper.
Personally I use a very basic spreadsheet and focus on my main categories.
Categories You May Want To Track
- House stuff
I find it easier to track my spending by noting down what I spend regularly.
If I wait for 2 weeks before updating my spreadsheet I can guarantee that not only will I miss off a few things, it doesn’t help me focus on being more careful about my spending habits.
Whereas when I keep my spreadsheet update weekly or more often not only is it more accurate, it helps me keep a good, frugal mindset.
Being as accurate as possible helps you to identify where your problem areas are.
You can start today by going back over your bank and credit card statements for the past month to see where your money was spent.
You could pinpoint your spending problem right now with this little exercise. Which will then allow you to take the next step below.
6. Address Your Worst Spending Issue
When your finances are a mess where do you start?
No matter how keen you are, when you start out on the frugal living for beginners journey you can’t do everything all at once, you will fail.
I can’t tell you how many times I tried to focus on achieving every line of my new, improved (badly made) budget. Needless to say I failed more times than I succeeded.
It wasn’t until I decided to focus on my worst problems that I turned a corner. We all have a problem area when it comes to our money.
It could be your grocery budget, it could be costly entertainment costs or it could be clothes shopping.
What I have found, as others have, is that if you focus on your problem area and make changes, you will notice an improvement in the other areas as well.
My worst spending area has always been grocery shopping. I just love a bargain and I justified my overspending every month on the basis that it was food, it was cheap and we would use it eventually. So not a waste.
But that mindset trickled out into other areas of spending. It’s for the kids, it’s for work. They are called excuses and we do it to ourselves constantly.
You probably know what your worst spending area is without even looking at your credit card statements.
If you don’t, or are in denial, then use the step above to understanding what you are spending and identify it that way.
Then set yourself a goal to reduce that spending – remember baby steps though.
7. Tackle Your Food Budget
I think everyone has wriggle room in their food budget. If you really don’t then frugal living for beginners is absolutely not what you need to be reading!
There are so many ways to reduce your grocery budget. You can:
- Drop down a brand
- Reduce the amount of protein you buy
- Use cheaper cuts of meat
- Have more meatless meals
- Shop at discount stores
- Shop from your cupboard
- Focus on cheap and easy meals
- Reduce how often you go shopping
- Meal plan
- Shop with a list
And so the list can go on and on. I can’t tell you how much your grocery budget should be because it is completely dependent on where you live and what stores you have access to.
What you will want to figure out, is how you can cut your grocery budget. Aim for a 10% cut. If you achieve that 2 months running, drop it by another 5 or 10%.
These posts will help:
8. Don’t Spend For Fun
Fun doesn’t have to cost any money at all. If you are used to paying other people to entertain you then you could save a good chunk of money quite quickly.
I remember I used to go shopping for fun. Spending money is fun, until you get your credit card bill and don’t know how to pay it.
It’s very easy to spend $50 – $100 in a couple of hours when you have a night out at the movies with a meal. But you could have almost the same experience at home for just a few dollars or even free.
Grab a free movie or buy an old DVD at a thrift store and make something easy and delicious at home.
Other free activities could be:
- use your library for free books and activities
- have friends round for supper
- have a traditional games night
- activities in your community
9. Be On The Same Page As Your Partner
If you are part of a couple then being on the same page as your partner is one of the best frugal living tips I can give you.
Being a frugal couple means you are both working towards common goals together. There is power in joining forces and being a team.
Often couples find that one is more spendy than the other, this is fine when the money is there. Not so fine when you are racking up debt.
And it can be hard to get your other half to see the light just because you suddenly have.
When you are a couple with very differing money habits then it can cause no end of problems. Resentment of the other persons spending habits (whether you are the spender or saver).
Secrecy over money to avoid confrontation. A feeling of ‘if you can’t beat them, you might as well join then’ – which doesn’t help your finances one iota.
Being part of a frugal couple is worth fighting for and supporting your other half in seeing the benefits of getting on the same page.
Have a read of these posts about couple finances:
Start Your Frugal Living For Beginners Journey Today
Today is the day. No need to wait until tomorrow. No need to wait until you are paid. You don’t need to buy anything to start your frugal journey.
These 9 simple actions will make a difference to your money today:
- Write down 3 goals you are going to achieve this week and this month
- Make sure they are small and achievable goals
- Pace yourself and have a reward when goals are achieved
- Learn to say no to unnecessary things
- Start tracking what you spend each day, week and month
- Set a goal to tackle your worst spending problem, today
- Attack your grocery budget – there is money to be saved
- Don’t spend for fun
- Get on the same page as your partner
Once you have tackled these frugal living for beginner steps why not take the next step and sign up for my free email course?
Kickstart your fabulously frugal life delves further into what you can do to save money by embracing the frugal lifestyle