Whether in good times or bad, a frugal lifestyle has many benefits that accrue to the follower that commits to getting value for his money and avoiding wasteful spending habits based on the latest consumer-driven trend. Conservation is perhaps a more inviting term for expense control, but it is never too early or too late to begin saving for the future by reserving your disposable income for absolute necessities and prioritizing your future expenditures for special items that you value.
A frugal lifestyle, however, requires time, planning, and commitment. It is not about being cheap and depriving oneself of an occasional pleasure that does require an outlay of cash. To begin with, you must understand where your existing spending priorities lie, as determined by your past patterns. This effort only happens with a detailed analysis of payments over a period of at least six months – a year is better. Credit and debit card payments must be sorted to an appropriate category, as well as check amounts and any outlays for cash. Automobile and housing expenses will be straightforward, but food and entertainment expenses need to be separated since discretionary items are where the waste can easily occur.
From your analysis, you will now be able to set a “floor” for monthly necessities, and then determine priorities for the remaining disposable income after taxes. Savings will be the first item, but everything after that will require a decision on your part as to when and how much you are prepared to allocate to a discretionary activity. Some habits may be hard to break, but the following “tips” can also help in the process:
Automobiles: All large purchase items require extra attention, whether an automobile, appliance, or living quarters. Take the time to shop for quality that lasts and is easy to maintain, and then hold onto that car for more than four or five years. The true savings materialize after you have paid off your loan, and try to do that quickly;
Negotiate: Whether for large or smaller items, salesmen today are more open than ever to discuss a discount if that will make the deal, especially for cash. Comparison shop beforehand. Preparation is key, and laziness in this area means real money out of your pocket in the long run. Be sure to let him know that you have other options, and be prepared to walk if he will not budge. He will come and get you if he wants to close the sale;
Brand Name Goods: Brand names do not necessarily denote the quality that was once assumed with the trademark. Many companies have sacrificed quality during recent cost-cutting exercises, and competition has created many other options that may be better, even if their advertising does not flood the airwaves. Brand management starts with broad awareness campaigns, and if you like paying for the company’s ads on television instead of for the end product, then be my guest;
Buy Only What You Need: Many items exist today as “must haves”, but do you really need the latest electronic gadget on the market or the service that keeps you on top of your credit score every five minutes? Living frugally need not mean living cheaply if you choose only things that you truly need and buy quality that will last. If you tend to get caught up in the latest craze or consumer fad, ask yourself why?
A frugal lifestyle is about learning to spend less on necessities, but it is also about enjoying a richer life.