A family member recently forwarded me an interesting article, knowing my interest in all things frugal. The article appeared in Yahoo! Finance and was entitled, What My Little Indulgences Really Cost.
My response to most of these types of “ways to save” articles is to immediately find myself disagreeing with the author’s chosen categories to cut. No, not the gym membership! Or, is a latte a day really going to kill your budget?
However, in this case, I thought the author made a few important points in line with my way of thinking, and living, frugally. For instance, the excerpt below is a hot topic in the Frugal household: dining out.
Whether we are debating eating dinner out or staying in, or my daily challenge to brown bag a lunch rather than hit the drive-thru, food expense is a budget buster in our family. I suspect that is true in most families these days thanks to our compressed schedules and ever-rising food inflation.
Here’s what Shauna had to say on the subject of eating out:
With a family of five, I don’t always feel like cooking. On those nights, Taco Bell or McDonald’s comes in handy. Even when I indulged a few times a week, I wasn’t spending boatloads of money. I’d buy the multipack of tacos or chicken nuggets, designed to feed five on a budget. However, shelling out $20 twice a week meant I was spending $2,080 a year. How did I fix it? When I cooked, I would make and freeze a couple of extra meals for those nights when I didn’t feel like cooking.
A perfect example of someone making a relatively small shift in their way of doing things to produce a frugal outcome.
Not all shifts produce giant returns like choosing to stay home rather than eat out. Hanging a load of towels and jeans on a drying rack, or even better, on a clothesline outside, might only save you a couple bucks in energy costs over running the dryer. But it’s the cumulative savings that add up.
Staying in for dinner, line-drying heavy clothes, drinking water instead of soda, and yes, even skipping the daily latte (I prefer to make things like this a once-a-week treat rather than eliminating them altogether), all add up to big savings over time. But do these cost-saving measures come at a cost as well.
The Costs of Being Ultra-Frugal
Declining lunch invitations all the time might cause you to miss opportunities to network with coworkers (read the book Never Eat Alone for more thoughts on the subject).
Habitually skipping a few indulgences may cause you to binge on them at some point and blow more than you’ve saved by being ultra-disciplined. For instance, consider the over-used diet analogy. Those trying to lose weight are often encouraged to have a small piece of cake occasionally, because depriving yourself for too long breeds internal resentment, and at some point you’re defenses will weaken and you’ll down half a cake in one sitting.
Living frugal is about making small course corrections over time that eventually add up.
- Check out books at the library and only buy those you know you’ll want to refer back to in the future.
- Skip the weekly trip to the movie theater and instead make it a once-a-month treat for your family.
- Bring your lunch to work four days a week, then splurge a little and eat out with your team on Fridays.
- Schedule a “date night” out every couple weeks to give yourselves a break from the cooking/cleaning routine, but consider splitting a meal to reduce costs.
- Avoid debt, and associated interest, by saving cash for large purchases. You’ll appreciate them more after waiting a few months and debt-free ownership usually leads to more happiness with the product over time.
Those are just a few things our family has been trying to do to move towards a more frugal existence.
What are some small course corrections you’ve been making to live more frugally?