Frugal Living: New Ways to Save

By Mike Peterson
In December 24, 2013

Ever get the feeling that there aren’t any new ideas out there when it comes to frugal living and budgeting?  Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy reading and writing about just about everything finance-related – but sometimes I feel like I’ve heard every tip out there. 

Every savings and frugal living blog (mine included!) will tell you that things like shopping with a grocery list can help you save money, and that cutting out extra expenses like cable TV and a landline phone are good ways to trim your monthly bills.  And those are great tips for folks looking for a way to start cutting spending. 

But what if you’ve already done those things? 

If you’re looking for some outside-the-box savings ideas, look no further.  This month, I decided to compile a list of some of the more interesting frugal living tips I’ve come across. 

  1. Use coupons with caution.  I know, it sounds counter-intuitive – coupons are supposed to help you save, right?  But the problem with coupons is that, in some cases, they can lead to overspending.  Think about this:  How many times have you purchased something you didn’t need just because you had a coupon? Of course, if you have a coupon for something you need and were planning to buy anyway, go for it.  And if you really want to save money, check for generic versions or less expensive substitutes first.  In many cases, the generic version will be cheaper – even if you have a coupon for the brand-name product.

 

And, as a side note: I recommend avoiding those “group coupon” Internet sites.  In almost every case, you’ll end up spending money to save money – and that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

  1. Check your credit report once a year.  Okay, so this one isn’t new, exactly.  But I can’t over-state the value of monitoring your credit – especially as part of a frugal lifestyle.  Even if you don’t have debt, it’s important to know what’s on your credit report – and who put it there. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year from the major credit bureaus.  To find out how to get your free credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

  1. Review – and adjust – your budget more than once a year.  I’ve written countless articles – like this one and this one — about the importance of having a budget.  But creating a budget is only half the battle.  To ensure that your budget is working, you have to review it – and review it often.  I’d suggest doing this every two to four months – that way, you’ll be sure to catch any major changes in your spending patterns before they get out of hand. 

 

  1. Before you check out, take one thing out of your shopping basket.  Here’s something you should try the next time you go to the grocery store or to a big-box store like Target or Walmart:  Just before you head to the checkout, review the items in your basket and pick one item to put back.  Choose something that you don’t really need and that you’re pretty sure you can live without.  If you do that every time you shop, you’ll probably be surprised by how much you save. 

 

Prefer shopping online?  You can do this exercise with your virtual shopping cart, too!  Just delete one item before you hit the “check out” button.

  1. Curb impulse buys with a self-imposed “waiting period.”  If you tend to spend too much money on “wants” and impulse buys, a waiting period can be a useful tool.  Here’s how it works: First, decide on an appropriate waiting period.  Your waiting period can be one month, three weeks, 15 days — whatever feels right to you.  After that, any time you want to buy something that isn’t a “need,” simply wait it out.  If you still want the item after your designated waiting period is over, go ahead and buy it.  If you find that your interest has waned, congratulate yourself on not blowing money on something you didn’t want that badly anyway.

 

Want another great way to curb impulse purchases? Check out this awesome “Personal Purchase Flowchart” – it’s a super-helpful way to make buying decisions.

  1. Find a frugal friend.  Being frugal is a little like being on a diet or committing to an exercise program – it’s not always easy, and in most cases, you’re working hard to break old, not-so-great habits and replace them with newer, healthier ones.  Friends can be a great resource for situations like this.  Like-minded friends can help you stay focused on your financial goals – and they’ll never pressure you to spend money or “keep up” with their latest purchases.

So, there you have it:  six unique tips for living frugally.  Enjoy! 

Mike Peterson

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.