This may seem like a very simplistic post at first, but understanding what frugality is and getting my thoughts in line with frugality was a big key to helping me make good savings. There are a lot of people trumpeting the praises of couponers and so-called sales as the key to keeping your costs under control. There is some validity to that, but cutting costs is achieved by thinking through your purchases and expenses before they even happen.
To me, key aspects of frugality include a day to day evaluation of what we use by these standards:
1. Do I really need this?
This is a big one to me. We assume we need many things that we really can do without. Do we need to buy seventeen different cleansers to clean our house, or is there one or two that can be used for everything? Do I really need this (usually disposable) item, or is there something I can buy that can have many uses instead? If I put in a little elbow grease, can I do without this?
Some things we choose to do without in my house: paper towels (we use rags), paper napkins (we use cloth homemade napkins), ziploc bags (I use plastic, washable containers), snack packs (I buy cheap fold-top bags and portion myself).
2. Can I make this last longer?
There are some things that you just can't do without, or you really don't want to have to do without. I get it! There are some things I choose to buy because the convenience factor is important enough for me to spend the money...say for, dishwasher detergent. It's pricey, much more so than regular sink washing detergent, but it's oh, so much more helpful to use a dishwasher.
Every family needs to evaluate what is important and decide where to spend the bucks. There's no one answer for every family, because every family functions differently and has different needs. When you find something that's important enough to you to spend on, see if you can make it last longer. Do you really need to fill the entire detergent dispenser to clean your dishes? Do you use too much laundry soap? Check the labels on things and experiment a little. You may find that it'll last much longer, thus you won't have to buy as much per year.
3. Remember that every cent counts.
We all know the famous adage "A penny saved is a penny earned." Changing your thinking about the small things across the board can really make the savings add up. I've found that when I begin to think "It's only ten cents more, let's get that one" as opposed to "This is ten cents less, let's get this", I gradually see an increase in our costs. Granted, there are times when it's worth it to spend the extra ten cents, but many times it really doesn't matter.
The cents really do add up! Let's say you save ten cents on five separate items at the grocery store. Whoopee...that's only a fifty cents. That's two dollars per month...twenty-four dollars per year. That may not seem like a lot, but it is savings that your family doesn't even miss. You'd miss that money a lot more if you skipped a date with your spouse to save money, or couldn't take two of your kids to the zoo that year.
4. Frugality is a choice.
You can be frugal with your resources, no matter what they are. Someone who makes $200,000 per year can choose to blindly spend or evaluate every purchase, the same as someone who makes $20,000. When you take the time to look at your expenses and evaluate the necessity or frequency of them...for groceries, for entertainment, for car/home maintenance, for gift-giving, you're taking huge strides toward frugality. We Americans tend to be very wasteful and envious. Just because someone on HGTV has something doesn't mean we really need it, too. Let's not judge people by what they have or how much they spend, but on the person that they really are. Blind spenders are unwise, and often selfish. Even with unlimited resources, money can often be put to much better use. There are people and charities that really need things. If you are lucky enough to not have to be frugal, you can still choose to be frugal, so you can leave something for your kids or others who have needs. Some of the most frugal people I know are people who have what I would consider lots of money at their disposal. They just have the self-control to not spend it all.
Think it through...everyone has room for growth in this area...even me! One thing I've learned is that frugality is a conscious daily decision, but it's also growing experience. It doesn't happen overnight, but all your efforts help toward your goal.