November 29, 2011

Top 10 Steps to a More Frugal Life

Being frugal, despite my upbringing, was not something that came naturally to me.
I had been happily living alone with my cat.
I had a good job and could afford the rent on my own in San Francisco and still live a very full life.
I had the mobility and financial ability to travel when I wanted.
Then it all changed - for the better it turns out - but it all changed. Almost eight years ago now, I met my future husband.

He already had two kids ages six and eight.

Needless to say, my life changed dramatically, almost instantaneously, in many many ways. I was a step-mom, and I suddenly had a family to support and provide for. Unfortunately, it took me many years to come to terms with the fact that my single person purchasing and consumption habits no longer worked while supporting a family.

Finally, after we bought our first house, after moving to Portland and after we decided together to make some lifestyle changes that meant we were a one main income family, we started making some significant changes to our consumption and purchasing habits.

This is top ten list of the things we changed that instantly reduced our monthly expenses:
  1. We eliminated cable TV and reduced our Netflix account to on demand and streaming only. (In fact, we only watch TV through online sources.)
  2. We cancelled our telephone land line, everyone had cell phones anyway.
  3. Drastically reduced how much we eat out.
  4. Stopped buying baking/cooking mixes (Bisquick, Shake n Bake etc.) - you can make them from scratch!
  5. Started cooking a majority of our meals from scratch (learned to preserve food, make cheese)
  6. We started buying all our staples in bulk.
  7. Expanded our vegetable garden and started our veggies from seed.
  8. Replaced all our lighting with high efficiency compact fluorescent lamps.
  9. Replaced all our shower heads and faucet aerators with high efficiency fixtures.
  10. Stopped buying on credit cards.  (I have to add -- stopped buying things we really did not absolutely NEED and pretty much made it a rule to buy clothes only from re-sale stores.)
Of course we are not perfect and we still occasionally eat out more than we should.  Also since we implemented this plan I was laid off and out of work for seven months.  This definitely had an effect on our credit card balances.  But being laid off is also what prompted us to go ahead and get our first chickens.

I have learned a lot over the last few years and keep finding new ways (making my own shampoo and body products) to reduce our expenses and increase the amount of local and organic food we can afford.
Volunteer sunflower, our backyard


  1. These are all great tips! We have done most of these on our road to financial freedom. We also added planning snacks ahead so we always have bags of things to munch on in the car, eating seasonally and shopping at thrift stores first, before the mall (which we actually enjoy).

  2. I am right there with you! I should have listed resale stores also!!! Even my teenagers prefer them because their money goes so much farther.