Friday, October 12, 2012

My #1 Piece of Advice for Anyone Wondering How to Be Frugal

My upcoming maternity leave looms large in our lives - more so now that it's looking like I won't have as much freelance writing and editing work as I thought. Hire me!! Consequently, we're in serious penny pinching mode at the moment. Not that we're particularly spendy in the boom times. If we were, there would be more to cut and we'd probably be able to manage on the mister's salaried income and my freelance income. But alas, that only worked for the six or so years that I had work rolling in steadily and our investments were doing well.

(Now we're supposedly still accruing dividends on said investments but I have my doubts as to whether we'll see that - or our principle - ever again. Yuck.)

For the moment we're mostly limiting spending to essentials, with the occasional lolly for P., fresh flowers for me, and beer for the mister. Unexpected expenses have come up (new faucet) and some are still pending (four new tires), but we're handling it. How? Some possible purchases have been put on hold, like a dance bag for P. and a specialty 'no tears' hairbrush for P. and, well, other non-necessities that would mostly have been for P. Recent freelance income has all gone to savings, with some being earmarked especially for tires. And I've been selling things here and there, like P.'s old Quinny Buzz and Quinny Zapp strollers and various fancier things that were just taking up space in the basement.

That's our household idea of how to be frugal, though I understand YMMV. Things I haven't done and probably never will include making my own laundry soap, becoming a junk furniture reseller, clipping coupons (mostly because they're never for anything we actually buy), using specialty driving techniques to conserve fuel, eating brick ramen for lunch every day, or learning to live without coffee. My goal is to live well while saving a little money for things like maternity leave and retirement and college for P. and for the soon-to-be out H.

Frugality, though? Isn't always fun, even if you're not cutting out little bits of paper offering $1 off Hamburger Helper. I sometimes have to say no to invitations from mom friends, for instance. So how do we keep it up? I can't speak for the mister, but personally I think frugality is easier when you think in terms of this or that.

To give you one example of how my this-or-that approach to frugality works, recently I found the perfect nursery rocker for the baby's future room. The colors were right, the quality was right, and it was for sale locally for $150. Sounds like a great deal - so can you believe I didn't jump on it? I'll admit, it wasn't easy to click past the listing, but $150 is a big trip to the grocery store for us, and my maternity leave will be unpaid. Personally, I'd rather have one more easy, no-worries food shopping trip during my time off work than a nearly new, color-coordinated nursery rocker - especially considering when we have a perfectly good faux Eames rocking chair in the living room that's comfy and even light enough to move from room to room.

Now sometimes the this is money and the that is time. Like when I decided to cut ties - amicably, of course - with a certain business blogging client. Yep, I gave up income and still believe I made a frugal choice (note: that was before I lost some volume work but still). The contract wasn't bringing in very much money and it was eating up my precious weekend time... time I could not only be spending with my family, but also spending on Mom Meet Mom, frugal home management, and my hobbies.

Frugality. It's all about compromise, I guess. But some things? Non-negotiable unless we find ourselves in dire straights.

Like this:

how to be frugal

What are your non-negotiable, non-necessary expenses, even when you're trying to save??


  1. Seriously, a lady at the grocery store last week asked us if we were on WIC. And I thought..I wish! Is that terrible? We cut back on all sorts of things. Or just do without. When we have occasional "date" nights, we use gift certificates and try hard to stay within the limit. Things that are non-negotiable unnecessary...uh..I guess the internet. It feels necessary though. My cell phone when we could have a $10 pay-as-you-go phone. Beer for the mister and sparkling water for me, though I've gone without when necessary.

  2. Now that Ive gotten a handle on my craft spending I find food is my biggest regular money sink. I DETEST grocery shopping so given the choice I can spend a surprising amount on ordered-in lunch at work and at my weekly game night. I do cut back on that when necessary though.

    I guess my smart phone is my one real non negotiable expense at this point.

    Unless my cats count, (and given all the expensive testing of late I guess I'd say so) then them too.

  3. I get tighter with every baby so now that we are up to #3 I guess you could say I keep finding things we can live without! I recently discovered "just between friends", a large consignment sale that travels to major cities throughout the year. It's set up so you can bring your gently used baby gear for sale and buy what you need. I got almost all of Sam's 4T wardrobe this way! Good luck with your scrimping!


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