My husband and I live a frugal lifestyle, and we do so by choice. We don’t put much value into material possessions, and instead we focus on the more fulfilling things in life. I’m routinely amazed that more people don’t make the choice to live more simple, yet more satisfying lives by not worrying about what the Joneses are up to.
Happiness can’t be found by acquiring more stuff. Even as a frugal household, I feel like we have far more than we need, and I can’t imagine wanting for anything more than I already possess. If you’re lucky enough to have been born into a country of immense wealth and abundance, it’s so easy to live well without blowing your income. And yet, so few of us can handle cutting back and consuming less.
But it’s entirely possible, even easy to cut back on spending in order to save more. Need some proof? Here’s a glimpse at how we manage to live well while spending less:
We Just Don’t Care About Stuff
I’m really not sure how to put it any more simply than that. Bottom line, material possessions just don’t rank very high on the “what’s really important in life” list for us. 99% of the time, I have no desire to spend my hard-earned money on stuff that doesn’t get me any closer to my goals in life. I will buy books, high-quality clothing that will last for years so I won’t have to buy more to replace it, and delicious food. But beyond that.. I can’t think of a single thing (beyond my necessary bills, of course) I’d spend my money on right now.
We Have Hobbies that are Healthy and Frugal
We’re avid runners who love the outdoors. Running is an extremely low-cost sport. All you really need is a decent pair of running shoes, which will cost you about $100.
Running has saved us an incredible amount of money. It’s been the cure for emotional- or boredom-induced spending and it provides us with an awesome way to spend an afternoon or weekend. To supplement our running, we bike when the weather’s nice and we swim in the summer (okay, my husband does, and I try. I don’t have a great stroke but I do thrash around in the water pretty spectacularly). We also go backpacking and hiking whenever we get the chance to do so.
Healthy Lifestyle = Minimal Health Costs
Because we love being outside and we keep physically active, it means we stay pretty healthy. I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctor beyond a routine yearly checkup. Since we’re not spending money at the doctor or on prescriptions, our health insurance can be quite basic. Our coverage only costs us $80 per month (and includes a simple life insurance policy, as well).
Eating right helps keep us on track here, as well. We focus on whole foods and skip food products. And our grocery bills are always less when we buy real food and skip the processed stuff and junk like soda.
We Seek Out Low-Cost Alternatives
One of the easiest ways to get frugal is to simply make a switch from an expensive choice to a cheaper option. For example, you could cut your cable and grab Netflix for $7.99 per month instead. Supplement what’s available through that service by making a one-time purchase on an antenna and see if the shows you love are available for free online (the Colbert Report streams for free on both Colbert Nation and Comedy Central). Same goes for movies. Quit getting ripped off at a theater every weekend and rent a DVD from RedBox for a couple bucks.
Or let’s say you love having meals and drinks out. That’s fine, but why not consider cutting back? It’s not like you’re going to be deprived if you eat out a bit less – especially when you consider that’s more money in your pocket that can be saved and invested. We still eat out; we just don’t eat out multiple times in a week. We brew our own coffee instead of paying for the pleasure of having some college hipster spell our names wrong on our paper cups. We go out for dinner or drinks, not both. Whichever one we’re skipping on having out, we’ll enjoy at home.
Apply this line of thinking to all your expenses. You don’t have to be ballin’ 100% of the time, and you can handle doing some things yourself if it’ll save some money. Ease back a little or find a lower-cost way of doing things.
We Live Well on Less Because We Prioritize Our Spending
I believe this is the key to living frugally and living well on less. We understand what our values are, what our goals are, and what our priorities are. For us, becoming financially independent, continuing to grow as individuals, never ceasing to learn, and experiencing new things are our top priorities.
Within this framework, spending decisions become simple and easy. Will replacing our used cars with new, fancy vehicles complete with car payments get us any closer to any of the above? Nope – keeping our older cars it is. Will furnishing our home with all-new pieces straight from Pottery Barn do it? Nope – our hand me downs will work just fine. Will traveling to one new place a year or trying a new restaurant every month get us there? Yes! These are opportunities to experience new things, learn something interesting, and (in the case of travel more than food) grow as people.
If you’re still not sure where to start, consider what is truly important to you. Can’t decide? Think about your spending in a new way: stop seeing it as exchanging money, and start thinking about it in terms of time. If you make $20 an hour, and you want a $20 shirt, that’s one hour of work that you’re handing over to get that 1 shirt. Is it really worth it? Couldn’t your money – your time – be spent in more meaningful, fulfilling ways?
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How do you live well on less? Any tricks you learned to switch from a mindlessly consuming stuff and blowing money to becoming a thoughtful saver who wants for less?