Frugality isn’t a handful of big things that you do every once in a while to save cash. It’s a steady routine of little steps that, over time, add up to a big difference.
Best of all, those little steps are the ones you choose. You can skip over the ones that impact your particular life in an unwanted way, but stick to the ones that cut spending in areas that you care a little bit less about.
For me, it’s simply a way of going about my life. I spend as little as possible in the areas I find less important so that I can maintain financial stability throughout my life and spend in those areas I do find important. This whole idea is threaded throughout my day to day life.
Want proof? Here are ten things you can do this evening to cut your spending a little. Do them tonight and you’ll save a little bit. Keep the ones that work and make them part of your routine and you’ll find yourself saving quite a lot over time.
1. Make dinner at home…
When you make a meal at home, you cut out the cost of paying someone else to prepare the food, paying for that building’s location and maintenance, and also chipping in for a bit of business profit. If you tip, you’re also tossing some cash at the wait staff or the delivery guy. Those costs really add up, even for one meal, and if you do it repeatedly, that’s a lot of cash. Make it at home instead and cut out all of those extra costs.
Sure, eating out is more convenient, and if you feel less than confident in your cooking abilities, you might want to choose a meal made by someone else. The catch is that the cost is almost always far more than what you can make at home and most homemade meals really aren’t that time consuming either, particularly if you use a slow cooker and prepare something to cook slowly while you’re at work. Start with a great “teaching” cookbook like How to Cook Everything or watch a Youtube video or two on how to prepare something that seems tasty to you and before you know it, you’ll be prepared to make every meal you can imagine.
2. … but make a triple or quadruple batch and freeze the rest.
If you’re already making a meal, make plenty of extras. This can save money in a lot of ways.
First, you can freeze the extras and bring them out for quick lunches or dinners whenever you need something simple. With casseroles, for example, you can often prepare the whole thing and simply bring them out and toss them in the oven when needed.
Alternately, if you completely cook more than you can eat for dinner, you can simply use the extras for leftovers. Pack them up and take them to work the next day.
Doing this means you can afford to buy ingredients in bulk, which can save you money. If I make four pans of lasagna at once, I can buy the bulk noodles and actually use all of them, for example.
3. Go for a walk before dark – and turn off all of the lights before you go.
A walk is one of the best things you can do in the evening. It’s light to moderate exercise, which is great for your health. It’s completely free. It gets you out in the community, seeing people and learning what there is to do near where you live (or, if you live in the country, you get to see the beautiful countryside).
Better yet, it can save you money. Turn off all of your lights before you leave, as well as other energy-eating devices (like your television and your computer). If you save 1,000 watt-hours while you walk, you’ll save $0.15 or so, and that’s actually pretty easy to do. Ten light bulbs, a computer, a computer monitor can easily add up to 1,000 watts, and if you walk for an hour, you’ve made it.
Make an evening walk a routine. You’ll feel better. Your energy bill will drop by about $5 a month if you turn off the lights before you go. You’ll also be taking proactive action for your long-term health.
4. Read a book after dark.
You’re at home. It’s dark out. You’re feeling a bit tired, but you’d like to relax for an hour or so before bed. Try something different and don’t turn on the television or the computer. Instead, leave those energy-eating devices off and open up a book.
Books can entertain. Books can teach. They’re also available in abundance for free at your local library and they require very little home energy to enjoy – I can easily read by a two or three watt LED lamp.
“But I fall asleep when I read!” If that’s the case, then it means you’re tired and you need to go to bed anyway. A lot of people don’t get enough sleep and falling asleep when you read or watch television is a good sign that you just need to go to bed.
5. Turn off climate control and open the windows.
Where I live, the only time it actually makes sense to use climate control is during the evenings and night in the wintertime and during only the hottest days in the summer. The rest of the time, the temperature is constantly somewhere between 50 F and 80 F outside, so why run the air conditioning or the furnace? Just open the windows.
Climate control does a great job of keeping the indoor temperature right at a certain level, but if you simply accept a bit of variation in that temperature, opening the windows can mean a huge reduction in your energy bills.
As this article is posted, summer is on the verge of transitioning into fall in the northern hemisphere. It’s the perfect time to try turning off the air and opening the windows a bit, at least where I live.
6. Clean out your pantry.
Most of us (myself included) have pantries filled with items bought for specific recipes or picked up because they were on sale. These items are used once or twice, then find their way to the back of the pantry, largely forgotten.
Don’t forget them. Give your pantry a cleaning and figure out everything you have in there. Better yet, strive to use this stuff that you’ve already purchased. Use those items as foundations for recipes for the coming weeks.
7. Assemble a meal plan for the next week or so and make a grocery list based on that plan.
It’s pretty easy to do this. Just make a grid with seven rows – one for each day of the week – and three columns – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, look through what you have on hand and what’s on sale in your grocery flyer and figure out some recipes using those things that you could easily prepare for meals. Fill those meals into the meal plan, then figure out what groceries you’d actually need to buy to fulfill those meals. There’s your grocery list for the week! Stick to it when you’re at the store and you’re going to find your grocery shopping to be much more financially efficient.
Remember, if you’ve frozen meals before, you can certainly use those to fill in some of the blanks on your meal plan, and any meal that uses up stuff you’ve already bought before it goes bad is a big positive.
8. Clean out your closet.
Most people have dozens of items stashed in their closet that they bought intending to use regularly but ended up not finding a way to squeeze it into their life. Those items are just money sitting there taking up space in your closet.
A good closet cleaning can not only earn you some pocket money from selling off the unwanted items on Craigslist, it can also clear up your living space. Suddenly, now you have someplace to put your vacuum instead of the corner of the kitchen, for example.
9. Walk through your monthly bills.
This is a dull task, but it’s worth doing about once a year or so.
Just take a copy of the most recent installment of each of your monthly bills and walk step-by-step through the statement. Do you understand what each of the charges are? Do you think that each of the charges are necessary?
If your answer to either question is “no,” then a call to customer service is in order. Figure out what all of the items are on your bill and try to remove anything that you don’t want or need on your bill.
Even if you just remove a single one dollar charge from one bill, it’s worth it. That’s $12 a year. That’s $60 over the next five. Often, you’ll trim a lot more than that. Even if you don’t, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you’re paying, which can be useful when shopping around for something like a new cell contract.
10. Talk to your neighbors.
This final tip might seem surprising, but it’s something so many people overlook. Talk to your neighbors. Get to know them a little bit. It pays off over and over again.
If you know your neighbor and need a special kind of screwdriver, you can just ask to borrow one instead of dropping cash at a hardware store. The same is true if you need a bit of sugar or need a hand with something. A neighbor can prevent you from throwing money at those kinds of little things. A neighbor can also be a set of eyeballs on your door when you travel, keeping it safe and picking up packages or newspapers. Not only that, a neighbor can sometimes turn into a friend, and friendships are invaluable.
Spend a few minutes talking to your neighbors and you might find yourself building a relationship that’s far more valuable than you think, regardless of whether your neighbor remains merely an acquaintance or becomes a friend.
This evening, you have many opportunities to trim your spending a bit. What will you choose?