Whether you're dealing with a mountain of debt or trying to save money for your retirement, there are numerous circumstances that can force someone to change his or her spending habits. Frugal living is typically viewed in a negative light, where the word "sacrifice" becomes synonymous with "suffering." However, this does not have to be the case. Here are 10 frugal living tips to achieve happiness on a tight budget.
1. Keep Track of Your Spending
If you're planning to live on a tight budget, you need to start by keeping track of all your expenses. From car repairs to that cup of coffee you buy every morning, everything must be recorded. It's easy to lose track of how much you spend in any given week. The next thing you know, you are looking at a credit card bill that is well outside your means. So, you pay the minimum payment, which is another no-no, and the cycle of perpetual debt begins. Keeping better track of your spending can help you avoid wasting money on unnecessary expenses.
2. Change Your Spending Habits
Now that you're keeping track of what you're spending your money on, look through your monthly expenses and start trimming the fat. This is where people begin to think that frugal living is a complete downer compared to a lifestyle of superfluous spending. Don't think about limiting yourself on the things you want, start thinking about cutting out the things you don't need or waste money on. Avoiding name brand items, buying in bulk, and buying used or refurbished items are just a few examples to help you save and change your spending habits.
3. Monitor Your Money
Many people are guilty of not knowing how much money they are carrying in their pocket or purse on a daily basis. Even worse, many people are guilty of not knowing how much money they have in their bank account. How are you supposed to follow a budget if you don't even know what you are working with? What if you dropped some cash without even knowing it? Finding random cash in your pocket is the best feeling in the world, but you should be taking better care of your money if you plan on living on a tight budget.
4. Carry a Coin Purse
Want to live happy on a tight budget? Start carrying a coin purse, and stop treating loose change like it's the plague. Most people become annoyed with fishing through their pockets for change, so they just pay with large bills and get more loose change that they don't want. Keep those coins organized with a coin purse. If you still refuse to pay with exact change, just stuff the coins in the coin purse and empty it into a jar when you get home. When the jar is full, take it to a coin counter at your local grocery and exchange it for cash or a gift card.
5. Give Yourself an Allowance
Limit yourself to a set amount of spending cash per week, like $100, and only withdraw that amount from your bank account. Stretch that weekly allowance as far as you can, and if you spend it all, don't withdraw more money until it's time for your weekly withdrawal. Giving yourself an allowance will help you develop better spending habits to help you save money for when it counts.
6. Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle
Yes, your health can play a factor in how much money you're spending. One of the best frugal living tips anyone can follow is to get in better shape. Those who smoke, consume too much alcohol, have poor eating habits, are out of shape or are overweight tend to spend more money than a person who is living a healthy lifestyle. If you are in shape, you will eat less. If you quit smoking and drinking, you aren't wasting money on alcohol or cigarettes. If you jog, walk or run on a regular basis, you are giving yourself an activity that will make you healthier and hardly costs any money.
7. Look for Ways to Earn on the Side
While you don't necessarily have to take up a second job or even a part-time gig, finding ways to earn money on the side is a frugal living tip that will help you reach your retirement goals, or give you more spending money. Earning money on the side will also keep you preoccupied so that you feel less tempted to waste money, and what better way to live happily on a tight budget than to spend time earning money rather than spending it.
8. Stop Impulse Buying
Never walk into a store and purchase something without thinking about it first. Frugal living requires you to consider all purchases with at least a 24-hour timeframe. If you still feel compelled to have the item in question after 24-hours, then it might be worth buying.
9. Never Buy Anything at Full Price
Have you ever purchased something, only to see it go on sale a month later? If you find an item, and followed the suggestion in tip #8, make sure that the item you must have is at least on sale. If it's not, then wait till it goes on sale before you buy it. Hopefully, by the time the item goes on sale, you'll no longer feel compelled to buy it, thus saving even more money in the long run.
Another useful tip would be to only allow yourself to purchase something if you are able to find a coupon for it. Websites like CoupounMountain.com provide free coupons you can use for online purchases. This is another great way to help you curb your shopping impulses and practice frugal living habits.
10. Change the Way You Eat Out
Giving up on restaurant dining and eating out may be a good tip to save money, but it probably won't make you very happy. Instead of giving up on it completely, try changing the way you eat out. Always keep an eye out for promotions or deals. Restaurants tend to offer discounted meal prices during off hours, so try eating earlier or later than usual to save. Scan the appetizer section and see if you can turn an item into an entrée. Many times, a restaurant will have an appetizer and an entrée that are virtually the same, only the appetizer is a bit smaller and comes at a cheaper price. Also make sure you take advantage of any coupons you receive in the mail, or print your own from online.
Living frugally doesn't mean you have to give up on all the things you love, it just means you have to learn to enjoy them in a different way. It's all about self-control and being smart with your money. Whether it's watching an early matinee showing, or opting for the red-eye flight when you want to travel, you can still enjoy the many pleasures in life on a tight budget.