12 ways I stay frugal

July 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here are 12 things my wife and I do pretty consistently to take control of our money – you know, the tree that doesn’t live on water or soil, but the tree that lives off of your hard work!

1.  My wife cuts my hair

Kid with a mullet

This is my favorite way to stay frugal because I get some quality time with my wife!  Also, I never planned ahead when I got my hair cut before so I had to wait in line, and I hated to have an awkward conversation with someone while they’re cutting my hair!

Let’s be honest though, there is some added “risk” with doing this… especially in the beginning when your spouse may not be a “pro” yet!  My side burns have paid the price a few times…

Total savings:  $200/year + 12 hours of my life

2.  Drink water

Sure, I’ m spending money because I’m already out to eat, but I prevent myself from spending more by drinking water.  In fact, you might be able to save $1,000/year if you transition to drinking water at restaurants!  I’ll stick with a more conservative estimate for myself because we don’t go out to eat a ton.

Total savings: $300/yr

3.  Search for coupons before I buy

Most of my bad purchases are made when I’m rushed because I don’t have the time to research the best option.  This usually happens when I need to buy something right away and can’t wait for it to be shipped (cough, cough, presents maybe..).

However, I’ve saved good money by performing a Google search before buying it.  I’ll usually Google “Company Name” + “Product” + “Coupon” and see what comes up.

Just yesterday I did this with our local pizza joint (Reginelli’s) and found a $2 off coupon.  Woo hoo!  I also do this with success when buying flowers online.

Total savings: $150/yr

4.  Call annually to reduce my cable bill

There’s no secret here, but the hard part is remembering to do it.  Sometimes you don’t even have to threaten to leave, you can just ask the call center rep if there are any existing promotions lower your bill.

My wife really wanted to see the new series “Newsroom” on HBO, but we didn’t have HBO because I’m too cheap.  We have Cox Communications in New Orleans so I called them, and it turns out they’re currently offering free premium movie stations for three months!

Just make sure you make a mental or physical note to remind yourself when the free period is over so you don’t get charged.  I put a meeting reminder on my Outlook email because I definitely don’t want to pay the $45/month when the free period ends!

Total savings: $180/yr

5.  Cook at homeFood market in Peru

Earth shattering money-saving information, I know, but we’ve learned to enjoy cooking in the last couple of years.  We used to see it as hassle with all of the preparation and clean-up afterwards, but we have a nice system now where one of us cooks and the other cleans!  We also cook in bulk in the beginning of the week so we can have some good ‘warm-up’ meals the rest of the week.

Total savings: $1,200/yr

6.  Exercise outside

I use nature for a gym…  well, before I was injured anyway!  I’m a Blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do and trained for ten years under my dad, so I know how to exercise without needing to go to the gym.

My favorite source for outdoor workout inspiration is Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness.  In fact, he just published a post on how to make a mobile gym using a sandbag.

Total savings: $500/yr

7.  Live without car payments

Ever since my breaking point and when I finally paid off my debt, we’ve managed to stay away from car payments.  Our incomes have increased substantially in the last 8 years, but my wife drives the same car she had in college, and I drive the car I bought with cash in 2007.  We currently have combined mileage of 270,000 miles on our two cars, but we haven’t had car payments in 5 years!

Let’s assume the average car payment is $300/month.  This is much lower than I paid when I bought a new car, but it’s a decent average.  If we both had that payment, we would’ve paid $36,000 in car payments in the last five years!  That’s why I hate new cars (unless you buy them with cash).  When we do finally need to purchase a newer car, we’ll certainly use the 20% rule.

Total savings: $7,200/yr

8.  Monitor credit/debit cards

It’s amazing how many times incorrect charges have shown up on my credit or debit cards.  Sometimes they happen on accident, but other times it just seems to weird to be accidental.  When this happens, get on the phone and get it straightened out!

Also, when I’m charged an annual fee on a credit card, I usually try to call them and talk my way out of it.  This won’t work all of the time, but when it does it’s a good $50 or so savings.

Some credit card companies are catching on to this, and they transfer you to a separate department to negotiate the fee!  This happened on our Frontier MasterCard – a persistent man in India debated back and forth with me for over 15 minutes on what combination of annual fee vs mileage earned we would pay.  In the end I cut it in half and received the same mileage, but they successfully made it very painful!

Total savings: $100/yr

9.  Cash Budget

I’ve talked about this a few times before, but the best way to get your spending under control is to use a cash budget because it makes you realize where you money is actually going.  It’s also much harder to give up a Benjamin ($100 bill) at the bar than it is to simply swipe a credit card for the same amount.  You’ll feel the pain with cash!!

Total savings: too hard to estimate, but a lot!

10.  Keep your long term goals in mind

If you don’t know what you’re saving for, it will be hard to stay inspired.  What are you long term goals?  Do you want to take a dream vacation next year, pay off the house early, or retire by the age of 50?  Once you get that goal, make saving for it a priority.

Total savings: once again, too hard to estimate

11.  Saving on travel

I traveled with my job for seven years, and we travel quite a bit for fun too so I have some experience in this area.  However, I’ve been really lucky because we’ve amassed an incredible amount of hotel points to make our travel much cheaper.

Whenever I pay for my own travel and can’t use points, I get creative to find the best prices.  My favorite booking agency is Hotwire where you can book your hotel rooms and rental cars.  This is by far the cheapest way to rent a car.  Other ideas to decrease expenses is to try places like VRBO where you can rent out houses and condos – this really works well for a family.  As I’ve alluded to in the past, I’ll spent more time on travel discussions soon.

Total savings: $150/yr

12.  DIY home repair (yard, house, etc)

When I was in high school, I worked part-time as a maintenance man (and janitor) at my school.  I can’t even begin to estimate how much money this has saved me over the last three years of home ownership.  From minor repairs, yard work, making our own headboard, and painting walls, it’s all pretty easy and if I don’t know how to do it I’ll look it up on Youtube!

Total savings: $400/yr

I don’t like when they have the articles online that say “How to save $10,000 a year”, etc because we all have different spending habits.  Obviously, if you aren’t a gym member now, you’re not going to save $600/yr!  However, I do see most of these as sacrifices that my wife and I choose to do.

What are your go to methods for staying frugal?

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