Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Frugal Living is Fun!

It really is, but you have to have the right attitude. As it almost becomes a necessity to watch all your dollars and cents, living a purposeful frugal life keeps the stress to a minimum. Spending your money carefully and frugally doesn't always mean giving up life's daily pleasures. You could put away your savings to splurge on a family vacation, for more weekend getaways, or dinner out with the family on Friday nights. Remember, stretching your budget is smart. It is an attitude. Embrace it and start planning that trip to your favorite vacation spot!

1. Analyze those utilities.
Check your house for ways to cut energy costs. Fix leaky windows, add more insulation in the attic, switch out light bulbs with new compact florescent bulbs when they die. Fix leaky faucets, turn down the water heater, etc. Your energy suppliers will have surprisingly wonderful ideas to help you cut costs. Some have rebates on energy saving upgrades, different billing options from averaging to Time of Use discounts. Ask and find what they have for you and your family.

2. Negotiate with phone companies.
You can cut your phone costs with packages, but don't get sold on more than you need. What good is 250 channels if you only watch three of them? Check with competitors and negotiate those rates. You can usually keep the rate you have when they hike their rates with a little negotiation. Take good notes so you can call them back if they fail to come through on a promise.

3. Pay off debt
I know, I know, everyone says that. Really you should try to avoid it to begin with, but if you pay off the credit card each month, or stop using it when you have a balance, you will bring those balances down quickly. Eliminate the highest interest debt first. Pay as much as you can each month. When its gone use that money to eliminate the next one. Then, start a budget for those things you want and need. By putting away money now, you will have the money when your 10 year old car dies and you need a new one. Pay cash for it and start saving for another one. Putting a little toward each wish item makes a lot more sense than paying some huge credit company for 20 years for the television you couldn't wait to buy.

4. Homemade is less money.
Pack your lunch, watch for coupons on restaurant.com, use a rewards card(that is paid off) to earn gift cards to your favorite place to eat. Eating out can be the biggest expense in a home if you are not careful. Plan ahead and use your crockpot. Double up recipes and freeze the other meal for another night. Even those hot coffees on the way to work can add up. Try getting a nice travel mug and taking your own. If you spent a little more on a good ground coffee at home, it would save you tons of money over getting a drive-thru java each day.

5. Coupon
Yes, coupons. You can save a lot of money clipping them and using them wisely. I typically save over 50% on my shopping and try to stay around 75%. This type of shopping is not going to be a weekly event but as sales present themselves. We work with what is in the house. This makes meal planning easier and keeps impulse buying down as well. I will explain this system on my blog as I have opportunities.

6. Save.
When you start cutting costs and saving money, put that money away. Don't spend it on the first thing that strikes your fancy. Make goals with your family. Short term and long term. Let the kids participate too. Take the spare change you have at the end of the day and start a vacation jar. When its full, cash it in and make a deposit toward your family vacation goal. Apply whatever you can save in other ways and make life better. My initial coupon savings got us a deep freeze. Then I could stock up on freezer items that were on sale and not be limited in purchasing because I was out of space. Now the savings gets us through a difficult financial crisis with the economy, but it was our Friday night out money. We got to eat out, together every friday night with what I was saving and we were putting money away for vacation with it too. Set your priorities and make it a family goal. You'd be surprised what you can do!

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