How Having a Thrifty Lifestyle Can Open Up Your Spending Possibilities
Everybody has their weakness, their kryptonite. Things you can’t go without, things that you will spend fat amounts of money on. Yet there may be things that you could totally go without if you tried. Things that you don’t even register, such as paying for bottled water, plus gas, a coke with lunch, high-end face cream, etc.
What if you gave these things up? Now you’ll be giving them up for a good reason. Because you’re saving up for your dream vacation, a kitchen remodel, a new crafting table with so oh so many compartments to organize! Yup, you’re saving to splurge! Below are some of the things that I have stopped buying by embracing frugal living, all so that I could save up to focus on my family’s priorities! Here’s how you too can save $8,904 a year by embracing frugalism!
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What is frugalism?
The official definition of frugalism is = Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent, or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time, or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness, or extravagance.
While I’m on board with most of that definition, I want to argue that “avoiding waste, lavishness, or extravagance” is a bit much. I would say “unnecessary lavishness, or extravagance”. And since we are each individuals that will mean something different to each of us.
What you think is unnecessary, others may think it’s mandatory. That’s fine. That being said, I am going to go at the topic of thrifty living from my viewpoint, and how it fits into my family’s lifestyle.
Frugal vs cheap, what’s the difference?
There is a fine line between being mindfully frugal and just being plain cheap. No one wants to be known a being cheap right? Yet, I think that being mindfully frugal takes a fair amount of work, effort, and dedication. Frugal is defined as “sparing or economical with regard to money or food”. Nerdwallet goes on to say “Frugal living isn’t about being stingy; it’s about being resourceful. It’s about finding ways to save where you can – whether via coupons, freebies, or DIY hacks – so you can focus your money and attention on the things you value” (source).
While being “cheap” is more about not spending money, and buying potentially low quality goods to save money. (no it’s not about couponing either). I will admit that I am cheap with some of my spending. I don’t want to spend a lot on something that we will soon dispose of. AND I don’t want to spend money on something that we may use only once. If that’s the case, I’d rather do without it.
While on the other hand, I will happily spend money on items that we will use often that are of high quality. For example, a great set of cooking pans. I use these pans all the time and they are amazing! Plus, the biggest benefit is that cooking with them is 100% safe (PFOA free). I wanted something that was nonstick but still safe (no teflon), as we use them to cook at least twice a day. But, they aren’t inexpensive.
I think that’s the main difference between being frugal vs cheap, I am selective on where I splurge and happily save a dollar here to spend an extra dollar where it matters.
Then what is thrifty living?
Having a thrifty lifestyle takes a slightly different spin on being frugal, where you are focused on being resourceful with what you have or finding what you need without spending money.
For me, being a frugal person is about practicing willpower and doing proper planning, so I’m not left with only one option (hello pizza delivery!) Sure, I’d love to eat out more, and buy whatever I want at Target, but I like having a full emergency fund more. I like filling my vacation sinking fund much more!
It’s about intentional living and intentional spending, that’s spending your money where it matters most to you, and cutting back your spending on what doesn’t matter that much.
Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!
Boyd K. Packer
Then what’s a frugal minimalist?
Oh wow, all these terms kind of piggyback off of each other, overlap, and kinda sound the same. So what the heck is a frugal minimalist lifestyle? Well, that’s me, at least I’m trying to be more of one. A frugal minimalist is someone who doesn’t want a lot of “stuff”, or clutter. I am not into consumerism for the sake of mindless consumption.
I like very bare and clean countertops, I like an empty garage, without boxes overflowing, I love my minimalist capsule wardrobe, and I say “no thanks” to offers of “Hey, do you want this XYZ”. (No, I absolutely don’t want it!)
Honestly, having too many things just stresses me out. When you bring something into my house, then it becomes something for me to clean, organize or keep up. It’s adding to my already overwhelmed workload and maxed-out brain. I know that this may sound ungrateful, and I don’t intend for it to come off that way.
I have a hard time articulating this as I really want family members to respect this boundary, but I don’t want to alienate or offend them either. Honestly, for birthdays or holidays, I just want to spend time with you, and be present in that moment. I want to raise my daughter in a way where she doesn’t equate love with getting a gift. I want happiness to come from simply spending time with each other. Does that make sense? I hope so.
Minimalism has given me back so much time (from not cleaning and organizing all the time), it’s given me space to breathe and be, and it’s given me peace. Now when I put it that way, it sounds pretty awesome huh!
Here are the things that I save money on so that I can splurge on those high priorities for my family!
4 ways to save money with frugalism
Everyone’s spending habits are different, yet these are four easy areas that I have found to cut costs and save money.
I never buy bottled water. Being in Oregon, we are pretty lucky in that our water tastes just fine coming from the tap. Or maybe I’m only used to it, so this is how I think water should taste. Who knows ? If we go on vacation, sometimes I will purchase water if I am out sightseeing if the tap water tastes just too “off”.
In our local Target, a Dasani 16.9oz 6pk costs $3.49. Many healthcare organizations say you should aim for eight, 8oz glasses of water a day, so that is almost four bottles a day. $3.49/6 bottles = $.58 a bottle.
$.58 x 4 bottles a day = $2.32 a day x 365 days = $846.80 a year on water! Yikes!
I may also be a bit stubborn on this one, as I HATE paying for things when I know if I just practice a little bit of patience that I can get it for free. So buying bottled water while window shopping seems like a waste. I’ll wait an hour and get some for free at home, thank-you-very-much. Having patience has been a cultivated skill that has helped me with coupon stacking, see it in action as #8 in this post about how to save money at the grocery store!
Expensive face cream
Now, I know many women swear by their $68 for 1oz face cream, it works miracles! And if that is your jam, then cool. That’s what is kind of fun about being frugal, is that it’s so individual. What is totally worth the price to one person, maybe something that another would never spend their money on. That’s totally fine! Everybody is different, as long as you are mindfully spending that money, and you have decided that it is “worth it” to you then great! As long as you’ve accounted for it in your budget and aren’t shorting another important category (i.e. car insurance) then cool.
For myself, I am one of those people that cannot tell any difference with my skin’s tone, texture, etc. from a $68 bottle or an $8.99 bottle. It looks the same to me no matter what products I try (and I’ve tried a lot of spendy ones!).
I actually have no idea how fast you’d go through an ounce of face lotion, so I’m guessing. According to Allure magazine, one of the best face lotions of 2020 is Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream 1.7oz for $68. Let’s say you use one every three months, that’s $272 a year!
In the past year, I have purchased maybe four clothing items. I have been trying really hard to pare down my closet, and not ramp it up. I bought a yoga top, yoga pants, and two replacements – a plain white short sleeve, and a plain white long sleeve top. Maybe all together $170 (the yoga top was spendy).
UPDATE: since writing this I have recently made the change to having a minimalist capsule wardrobe, which is so amazing! I have about only 20% of the number of pieces that I used to have, but I am so much happier about my choices! Getting dressed takes much less time, and I am happier about how I look (as I’m not trying on 12 different outfits because “nothing looks good”).
Back in my younger years, I would go shopping regularly, buying a lot of things that I didn’t need. Luckily for me, I was not only a compulsive buyer but also a dreaded regular returner as well. You see, I’d get home and feel bad about how much money I spent and think of how I didn’t really need the shoes that I bought. So a few days later, I’d return about 75% of what I bought.
I can’t even begin to guess how much money I spent on clothes, but it was a lot. Let’s be conservative and say that I spent $100 a month. So $1,030 a year saved.
One of my major money mistakes was in buying a brand new car when I was young. Yup, I bought a brand new 2003 V6 Volkswagon Passat. I think I maybe spent $25K on it. BUT my saving grace is that 16 years and 210,000 miles later I am still driving that car! Oh, my car has issues, it has some dents, the glove box doesn’t open, the trunk won’t open with the switch anymore (I have to open it with the key manually). And I don’t care. Sure I’d like a nicer car, but I am not willing to spend a lot of money on a severely depreciating asset right now.
Lendingtree.com estimates that in 2021 the average car payment was $563 a month, an all-time high in the past six years!
$563 x 12 months = $6,756 saved
- bottled water $846
- fancy face lotion $272
- clothes $1,030
- car payment $6,756
Other small things that we do is that we don’t buy books, we always go to the library. My regular job lets me bring home ugly produce that is perfectly fine to eat, but just not so cute. We hardly use subscriptions (we have Amazon Prime, and Netflix). Finding lots of small but really easy ways to cut back add up to significant savings!
What we do splurge on
Okay, here’s the fun part! Since we do such a good job saving our money, through everyday frugal living that means we can allocate those dollars to what we as a family feel is important! We are then able to set aside this money through sinking funds, which works great for us! A frugal life doesn’t have to mean a life of deprivation, a frugal life gives you choices!
We also already save 20% of our gross income into our retirement accounts, and we don’t have any debt other than our mortgage. So I am comfortable splurging on things that we decide are important as we are still being responsible with our money and pursuing early retirement and financial independence.
This is our most prized splurge! When we go on vacation, we go big! BUT we plan strategically! This past year we spent two weeks at Walt Disney World (yes, some of you will think that’s crazy, and that’s okay). But we have mindfully planned and saved for this for a long time. We also make sure that we are smart with the money that we spend there as well.
We did put it all on a credit card, Disney Chase Visa gets you 2% cashback. Also, at retail places and a majority of restaurants, they give you an immediate 10% off at the register. Then when we got home, we paid off the credit card in full, with the money from our sinking fund. We then use the money earned from the 2% cash back to pay for our annual maintenance fees for our Disney Vacation Club contract.
If you aren’t familiar with DVC, it’s Disney’s version of a timeshare, yet tweaked a little bit. The cost of the contract has already been paid for by prior trips, so we basically paid next to nothing for our resort room. If you’re curious about DVC, The DIS is one of my favorite places to get all the current info, and has very active forums! They also have a great podcast, The DIS Unplugged with quite a few episodes specifically about DVC.
My husband has been in the military for 20 years, and as an eligible service member, he gets great discounted rates on park tickets. We bought a 5-day park hopper plus pass for $307 each for my husband and me (my daughter was free because she wasn’t three yet, her birthday was just a few weeks away). A regular price for that ticket option is $513 per person. Wowwza! $206 saved per person!
Each year we set goals for our vacation time, it’s important to us. We build lasting memories during these vacations! We relax, we enjoy good food and see our daughter get all cute meeting Mary Poppins. Totally worth it! Our goal is to go to a Disney Park every two years, as we do want to travel to other places.
Don’t worry, I’m not a total Scrooge with activities at home! There are lots of things that are worthwhile spending money on for my little one. Like swimming lessons, driving adventures to places. But I also look for inexpensive ways to entertain my child too! It’s all in the planning! Here’s I’ve rounded up 30 ways to keep our little’s happy & having fun!
I am normally a frugal person if you haven’t guessed by now. But I knew that I could save a lot more by doing a money-saving challenge. You see I wanted a standup paddleboard (my new favorite thing to do), but I was having a hard time justifying the $500 price tag. So I saved specifically for this big splurge, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard doing a no-spend month, but it was absolutely worth it!
Mama, you need a vacation!
I have also been saving for a solo vacation. I am naturally a very introverted person, and I need my alone time. Some of you may get this, while some of you crave the energy and fun that comes from being with lots of family & friends. This is another example of how we are all different. I have been saving money for a solo trip, and this past fall I saw a trip come up that is tip-top on my bucket list. A yoga retreat in Greece in July of 2019. I am SO EXCITED!
Greece has been one of the places that I have always wanted to go to, and the idea of a yoga retreat sounds so peaceful and rejuvenating. I’m really trying to focus on my health and making wellness a priority so the stars aligned! It’s hosted by Ambuja Yoga and its seven nights on the Greek Island of Lefkas. It is at the breathtaking Urania Villas, with twice daily yoga, almost all meals included, a couple of bodywork sessions, and a sailing excursion! If you do book a retreat, be sure to grab the discount code below!
Ambuja Yoga has some other amazing yoga retreats on the books; they will also be in Portugal, as well as Southern California, and in Oregon.
At the end of the day
It is essential to focus your spending on what is truly important to you. I want to remind you how we are all individuals, and what is important to one person will not be as important to another. No judgment.
If you practice mindful spending & living frugally you learn what is and what isn’t worth it to you. Then you can save money and build a good-sized sinking fund to then splurge on what your family really wants and needs! The simple life can be filled with happiness and intentionality. Your mindset just needs to shift from seeing frugalism as being a life of deprivation to that of a life of possibilities and freedom.
Related articles to frugalism:
- Living by Your Personal Core Values
- How to Set Unstoppable Goals
- My (Mostly) Successful No Spend Month – how I saved a ton of money!