The Beginner’s Guide to Frugal Habits

Money. Whether you fear it, want it, or have a complicated relationship- it is part of our daily lives. No matter how many figures may be in your bank account, managing the money you do have is important. There are many simple tricks and habits you can utilize in the little things to make a big difference in your monthly budget and spending.

I have always loved a good deal. From the time I was a little girl, the thrill of a bargain has been something that leaves me smiling and feeling satisfied. Now, as a mama at home with a busy 1 year old, saving money is even more important to me. These savings allow me to continue to be home with my son while also paying off my hubby’s school loans. Let me show you the ways you too can make small changes in your daily life to free up your financial burdens. Stewarding things well is something I’m passionate about, and I hope this valuable mindset rubs off on you too!

What is Frugality?

According to Webster, frugality is “careful management of material resources and especially money; thrift.” Being frugal is about using your resources wisely and intentionally. It’s about being a steward of what you’ve been given, realizing it is all a gift that’s been given to you. Your job is to use it well.

Here are some common misconceptions about being frugal:

It’s too hard and time-consuming

Spending all day clipping coupons is not something I’m interested in. I don’t even WANT to take time to clip coupons. But, I do want to save money! Frugality is a lot more than clipping coupons. It’s about lifestyle habits, mindsets, and small changes. You don’t need to be a coupon clipper! Thank goodness!

Being frugal = being frumpy

Both words sound similar perhaps, but being frumpy is related more with appearances. It means looking unattractive or being dull. Being frugal is a sort of mindset having to do with making economical, or thrifty, choices. Making smart choices about how you spend your money does not mean you are dull, why my dear, you are rather quite bright 😉

Being frugal = being a tightwad

This stereotype of being “frugal” could bring to mind a person who does not give or spend money on anything other than the bare necessities. Some people err on the side of holding their money so tightly, it’s hard to spend on anything except essentials. Remember, there are always life experiences and stories behind why we are the way we are. However, a frugal life often enables you to give MORE than you might ever before. Why? Because you have a plan for your money and you also know how to save in the little things, and that ends with you having extra in your wallet, to be used in other ways or to give!

I want to have fun with my money

Being frugal may seem to be all about avoiding spending and being stingy. But it’s not. Living with frugal habits does not mean you have to stop having fun or never go on a vacation or stop going to your favorite restaurant and doing other fun things. Frugality is about being intentional with the money you do have-making it go farther. This allows you with more money to have fun with if that’s how you chose to spend it.

How to Get Started

Here is what you’ll need :

  • A supportive community and/or an accountability friend on the journey (that can be your spouse, family member, or even me!). Just like it “takes a village” to raise kids, it takes more than just you to create and keep the habits you want.
  • a journal or type of blank writing form of your choice
  • an open mind
  • a willingness to let go of what other people think (hands-down, this is the hardest one for me!)

Does this sound fairly simple? I hope so. I also hope that even if you are a little hesitant, you’ll try out this frugal living stuff with me. I’d love to have you come along in my journey of creating and sustaining intentionality, simple living, and frugality in the home and life.

Tips for Success in Living Frugally

Let go of what other people think

We live in a social media-driven world where comparison of our lowest lows to others’ best (and carefully edited) moments is the norm. As a recovering, and sometimes relapsing, people-pleaser myself, ending the comparison game and drive to please is the first real step to living the life that you have right now with purpose.

Dream and reflect

Where do you want to be 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, and 10 years from now? What do you hope your day-to-day life looks like? How will you be spending your time? Where do you want to be living? What kinds of things will your money be spent on? After this brainstorm, write down some achievable goals for yourself in your journal. Set small ones (for the next week, for the next month) and larger ones (2 year plan, 5 year plan, etc).

Here is an example of a small goal. I used to spend around $350 a month on groceries for our family of three. My goal was to lower it to be under $300. Some action steps I took included making more meatless meals, reducing my food waste by meal planning, and limiting my grocery trips to being (at most) once a week. Fifty dollars a month doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it does add up over the months. Plus, the mindsets and habits I learned from achieving this goal motivate me to cut spending in other places.

Understand your “wants” versus your “needs”

When you think about your dreams and goals, think about how you need to live to get there. Do you really need that Starbucks every morning on your commute? Or that Target run when you just “need” one more cute decorating something? (Yes, I see you mama). Maybe there are ways you can cut down on these things or substitute something simpler or cheaper instead (i.e.-making coffee at home, budgeting your personal spending per month). Talking this over with your community or accountability partner may be very helpful in the process too!

Give yourself grace

Your progress and process will be exhilarating some days and discouraging other days. You’re allowed to have bad days. It’s okay. We ALL do. Whether or not our Facebook timeline or Instagram collages reflect these low days- they happen to all of us. And these bad days are part of life. We learn and grow because of them. I find that playing music, having a few minutes for personal devotional time, and listening to an encouraging podcast are all ways to help encourage my heart on the hard days.

Be honest with yourself

Don’t just talk or write about your ideals and goals. Be honest in your reflection of where you are at right now. What do you struggle with? Where do you want to improve?

Here is an example. When I write goals, I notoriously write big ones that require a high amount of effort and often remain unachievable because I get so overwhelmed by them. At the end of 2019, I wrote down some ideas for financial goals for 2020. One of them was cutting out “eating out” entirely. Perhaps a great goal for some families, my husband shared with me that realistically this isn’t workable for the WHOLE year for our family. So, we re-worked that goal to include a few months of the year where we will not eat out at all, and then set a realistic (although still small) budget for the months where we may eat out. We still are saving money in 2020 on eating out, but it’s in smaller steps that are realistic, instead of overwhelming.

Sharing your thoughts with your support group or your accountability person will help you write realistic goals that are workable for you in your specific situation. (Write them in the comments below and we can learn with each other!)

Have a “less is more” mindset

It’s very trendy right now to talk about minimalism and reducing your lifestyle to only the bare essentials. No matter your opinion on this mindset, there’s things to be learned about it. This idea of living simply and be okay with less “stuff” is certainly freeing.

As you work towards healthy financial habits, you may consider a frugal minimalist mindset.

It allows you with more room to be creative and to spend more time doing the things you value and less time taking care of the stuff that’s supposed to make you happy. In theory, it sounds great! I am learning right alongside you about what this looks like practically, but I’ve been encouraged by the ways a more “less is more” mindset has helped create my son’s nursery.

Common Questions About Frugal Habits

How can I save money on food and groceries?

Don’t roll your eyes okay? Meal planning really works! This concept was something that hit home for me about a year and a half ago when my husband and I moved. Transitioning to working from outside the home to working from home before our son was born left me with a little more time and a drive to reduce our monthly living expenses. This was when I began experimenting with this habit. Meal planning helps you plan how you go about grocery shopping and it also reduces food waste, leaving you with savings as well.

For further reading, learn about decluttering your kitchen and optimizing the gadgets you do use to save money and time.

How do I manage my personal spending?

“I always feel guilty when I spend money on myself” or maybe you air on the side of….

“I tend to overspend on myself”

Either way you lean, it is important to have a plan of how much you are okay with spending on personal wants throughout each month. And, spending a little on yourself is an okay thing. There are days when a drive-through coffee feels like a cup of sunshine after a long morning/night/afternoon/any time of day with littles.

Please remember, this is a personal decision, not a magic number. Think about the goals you have and talk with your significant other, if you have one, to set this number. It may be wise to connect about this at the beginning of each month when you look ahead to what is coming up and adjust accordingly.

How can my partner and I work together in our finances?

“My spouse/significant other and I are different in how we view and spend money”

I understand. My husband and I are right there with you! I can speak about this with his full permission and blessing because we often talk about how thankful we are for our differences-they balance us out (but are really challenging sometimes too).

Have you heard of Dave Ramsey? He does a phenomenal job of walking through marital/relationship strife around money. We took his Financial Peace University class as an engaged couple and as newlyweds. You may not agree with everything he says, but the strategies he shares with working through money conflict with your spouse and recognizing your differences is outstanding. Take the class for the life skills you’ll learn, if not for anything else.

How can I avoid spending money on all the kid stuff/baby gear available these days?

“I don’t want to have a home overflowing with stuff we don’t need or use!”

This is actually a question that I have because as a first time mom, I want to revisit and reassess the “stuff” of my own family as we change and grow. As a former kindergarten and 2nd grade teacher, I can say with confidence, kids do better in environments with less clutter and busyness.

Want to hear from other moms in the trenches but what you actually don’t need for caring for your littles? Read about the baby things you think you need-but don’t.

Children do well with a few choices rather than a million.

What does this look like in everyday life? I think it comes down to instilling values of stewardship, contentment, and gratitude with our children. It also entails being intentional with how we create and maintain our homes. While I am far from an expert on this topic, it’s one I plan to learn and share more about. You can see what we did to simplify our nursery here.

Could my family afford for me to stay at home with our kids?

Read this disclaimer first please: I know this question could get some feisty responses from many different mamas on the spectrums of life-working outside the home, working part time outside the home, working inside the home, and you know what? We are ALL working. And you ALL are wonderful mamas. This decision of where you “work” during the day is such a personal one to your own family and situation. Please hear my heart friend and don’t write me off because of this. Your voice is welcomed here wherever you are.

I want to share what worked for our family. We cut corners and are working to create habits that allow me to work part time from home, make progress on our student loan, and stay at home with our son. Mama, if staying at home with your little one/s is something you dream about but can’t imagine being a reality for your situation, I want to help you in the process of making it happen. It’s possible!

Is it really legit and sustainable to work from home as a stay at home mom?

Short answer: Yes, it is. Is it easy? No. Does it always go according to the plan? No. It is an amazing option for this age we live in of internet connections and ever-changing technology? Yes, absolutely. Let me teach you tips for working from home-what I’ve learned so far from both my own experience and from other moms who work from home too.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Frugal Habits

In conclusion, please remember this:

You can hold your life, including your money, time, and talents, in two ways: open or closed. Tightly clenched shut with fear or a need for control; or, open and ready. Hands that are ready to receive and give back all it is you have been given. Open hands are better stewards than tightly clenched hands. Frugal and wise women are better with open hands than closed ones.

Most of my life, I have viewed my money with tightly clenched fists. I am working towards having open hands while also wisely stewarding the money my family does have and making plans to meet our goals. Where are you at in your relationship with money, friend? What about your perspective on the lifestyle you currently have? What goals do you have for yourself? Please share below, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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