14 January 2008

Frugality is my Middle Name

I took a cooking class at BYU just for kicks and giggles, and it was great. I really enjoyed it. I learned lots of things, but one of the most important was my teacher's motto: Live frugally and travel. It is a motto I fully intend to adopt; in fact I feel like I already have. After all, we're leaving in 28 days to go to New Zealand for a whole year, and it won't put us into debt at all.

A girl who lived on my floor freshman year has set a goal to save money this year, and she requested tips. I decided that my tips would make a great blog post.

  1. You absolutely must, must, must create a budget. First, create a year-long budget looking at your overall expenses and noting the months where your expenses might change somewhat. Then do a monthly budget based on your yearly estimates. Each month create a new budget. Then put that budget on the fridge where you will see it all the time. Let's say you allot $150 that month for groceries. Every time you come home from buying groceries, deduct it on the sheet and make a note of how much you have left in your grocery budget. Also include your savings on each month. If the last week of the month comes and you only have $10 to spend on groceries, you better not spend more than that. Remember that when you go over, you are only hurting yourself in the savings department. You can also "borrow" the money from another category (like gas, eating out, or miscellaneous). I had to "borrow" from miscellaneous a few times when there were expenditures like a broken car or if I forgot to factor in a birthday or something.
  2. Set goals for yourself about how much you want to save, in what amount of time, and for what purpose. It's much easier to stop yourself from spending money when you know ther will be a return of some kind.
  3. If you want to save money on groceries, you have to make a list! Then when you go shopping, don't buy things that are not on the list, unless you realize upon seeing it that you meant to add it to your list, and just forgot. The only things you can buy that were not on your list are NEEDS, not wants. Of course, I'm not super-strict about this. Sometimes if I see something on sale (and it's really a sale, and not a pretend sale) then I will go ahead and buy it.
  4. Base your grocery list off of what you already have in the house and what is on sale. Buy in bulk ONLY if it's something you would already use and it's something you buy a lot of. For instance, I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts a lot. So when they are on sale, I buy lots of packages. When I get home, I divide them into plastic bags based on the amount I would usually use in one dinner. Then I can defrost for only one meal.
  5. Eat leftovers. Don't make a new dinner if you've got perfectly good food that's already been prepared. Don't buy your lunch when there is food you can pack. (This is not my strong point!)
  6. Rice. Pasta. Beans. Legumes. Cheap, filling, healthy.
  7. When you are considering buying something that you are not sure about, ask yourself, "Would I rather have this or would I rather have the money?" Also, you can give it to a sales clerk and have them hold it overnight. Then, if you still really want it, you'll make the effort to go get it the next day.
  8. Set budgets when you travel. Don't let yourself spend more than you already planned.
  9. Open a savings account so your spending money and your savings money are separate.
  10. Shop around for big expenses like flights.
  11. Get a credit card that will earn you points on things you will use. Eric and I have a card for airline miles. It's a good card, and we will actually use the miles.
  12. If you are really having to save, remember that sometimes you have to make sacrifices. You might have to have a second job. You might have to work when you'd rather play. You might have to live in a lousy apartment for a little while. You might have to cook dinner for you elderly landlady every night for reduced rent. You might have to set your heater or a/c to a less-than-comfortable setting. The sacrifices you are willing to make all depend on how much money you need/want, and what you're willing to do to get it.
And those are my 12 cents. Mostly, saving money is about discipline. If you don't have it, you just have to practice building it in yourself. And really, writing things down will help you do that. I've heard that when people are told to record a behavior, that behavior automatically changes; when you write down every single expense, you will stop spending so much, because you'll tell yourself, "I don't want to write this down!"


Janssen said...

Great post! I've been thinking about writing about it too.

allicat4 said...

As always, words of the wise! Thanks for your ideas, they will help me save for New Zealand. :)

Kristy said...

I love it! Great tips!