Living in the United States today is not without its challenges, financially speaking. In an article dated March 9, 2008 Reuters reported that the average price for gas is $3.20 per gallon and it is intended to rise over the next month.
Equally disturbing, the U.S. Department of Labor reported 63,000 jobs were cut in February 2008 alone.
Words like “recession,” “deficit,” “stimulus package” and even “economic crisis” have people wondering what the economical condition of this country will be like weeks, months and years down the road.
What can we do as consumers during these troubled economic times?
Essentially, we have to do more with less. In other words, we have to be frugal and smarter with our spending. Living a frugal life is somewhat subjective because people are very set in their lifestyles. So, frugal to one person making $70,000 could be quite different than someone making minimum wage. However, the overall mindset is the same. We need to examine our lifestyles and make meaningful changes which start with determining monthly expenses and setting a budget to adhere to.
After determining your budget, check out these suggestions to help get you started living a more frugal lifestyle:
1.) Buy used items instead of new ones. Use a site like www.UZAP.com which offers free listings to do just this.
2.) Borrow a book from the library instead of buying a new one.
3.) Swap videos with friends for movie nights.
4.) Accept hand-me-downs and likewise, pass them on.
5.) Consider do-it-yourself projects instead of hiring out, such as washing your own car.
6.) Make the next birthday card you give instead of buying one.
7.) Coupons, coupons, coupons! Collect them and use them.
8.) Plan your weekly meals around what is on sale at the grocery store and stick to your plan.
9.) Go to yard sales for cheap finds and to buy items cheaply and re-sell them on sites like UZAP.com.
10.) Purge old things you don’t use/wear anymore and either sell them or donate them. Others will benefit from this and you will too, either financially or by feeling good that you helped someone in need.
11.) Ask yourself if you really need to purchase brand names or if you can accept buying generic labels.
12.) Buy in bulk and save. Freeze bulk foods like meats and veggies that you won’t eat that week.
13.) Eat at home as much as possible. Taking a family of four out for dinner even once a week could cost the same as eating at home for four or more nights. Get the kids involved in planning and preparing the meal to make it more exciting for everyone. Apply this strategy to your job and brown bag it there too.
14.) Schedule a leftover meal night each week.
15.) No one says you have to stop exercising, but do you really need a membership at a fitness center? For what you probably pay in monthly fees, you can buy bands, balance disks or stability balls and work out in your own home.
16.) Plan ahead and do all of your errands in the same area all at once. Especially with the rising gas prices, don’t take two trips to the same place two days in a row if you can avoid it.
17.) Re-consider your modes of transportation. Can you walk the distance to perform an errand? Maybe you can make it part of your exercise routine and knock out an errand and a workout at the same time. What about public transportation? It might be cheaper to commute this way than to drive your own vehicle.
18.) Replace your expensive forms of entertainment with forms that don’t cost a lot of money. How about a game board night with friends, a potluck supper or a play date at the park?
19.) Get involved with your community to network and learn other ways to live on a dime.
20.) Cut back on spending! Watch your monthly budget and stick to it.
I already know what you’re thinking…being frugal takes time! Who has the time for all these things? As mentioned before, it is subjective. The more things you can take on yourself and borrow, trade or buy used, the more money you will keep in your pocket for the rising gas prices and beyond. Consider spending time performing these tasks (making a birthday card, performing a do-it-yourself project, etc.) in the presence of others. Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone and spend quality time with your children/loved ones while performing these things. And you will be teaching them a valuable lesson too.