We’ve now been living frugally for two months. We do have generally frugal habits, but these last months we’ve been extra vigilant.
The other day Mr Livslevandes came to me and asked that we take a couple of days off from our frugal endeavors and check in at a hotel. While I’ve been having an uncharacteristically socially intense period of life, he’s mostly been at home with the cats… We had a quick look at our financial status, saw that we’ll still be able to reach our goal of paying off the mortgage in full, and booked ourselves a weekend.
Then I felt I had to ask him if he wanted to completely abort this experiment now, after two months instead of three. (This frugal focus was my idea, he generally goes along with my ideas but I like to do a quick check every once in a while.) He answered that he’s not really noticed that much difference, so saw no problems in continuing with a frugal November as well.
Three things struck me when I thought about that short conversation later. First how amazing it is that we still, after more than 20 years together, want to go away for the weekend just to be together! Secondly that frugal living creates freedom – it’s because of our frugal habits we have the resources to do a spontaneous thing like this together. And finally the fact that Mr L hasn’t been noticing the extra frugal effort that has allowed us to put away a lot more money than usual… most likely because we’ve been saving on stuff that’s not that important to us.
I think that’s the whole point of getting into the habit of frugal living. With conscious choices you can often save money without feeling deprived, and then be able to do what you really want. Here are a few things to consider:
Take note of all the small expenses – especially those that are regular and frequent. To bring lunch from home instead of eating out, for instance. Let’s say you can have the daily special for SEK 80, while a home cooked meal costs you 10:-. SEK 70 for every homemade lunch once a week will save you SEK 280 a month, if you bring lunch every working day you’ll save 1 750:-. (In our case we’ve saved 560:- per month by not eating lunch together at a restaurant every Friday.) A caffe latte à SEK 35 kr every working day makes 875 :- in a month. And many small apps makes one big hole in the budget… As well as the evening paper or decorating magazine a couple of times a week. To routinely by that kind of stuff is an unnecessary habit, and you might not miss it as much as you think. (Why not give yourself a one-month-challenge to find out? You can always go back to your old ways again later. If you want to.)
Another great way of saving is to find ways to get the same experience at lower cost. This hotel weekend we’re taking? Just by booking it via a membership card (Coop hotellpremie) – we get the exact same room at SEK 800 less. Or if you really want to read a couple of magazines and month, and have a tablet, why not try Ztory or Readly and read your magazines on your tablet? At SEK 99 a month you’ll most likely save money – and get access to many more magazines as well, at no extra cost. Both services offer free tryout-periods. Even cheaper, but not as convenient, you might find your magazine available at the local library for free. Or maybe there is a blogg or site with similar content that you can follow instead?
How much do you pay for tv-channels? How many of them do you actually watch? Could you switch to a limited cable-deal? Or maybe cancel cable all together, use the play-services online instead. Or just do something else…
Maybe visit you local library? The libraries nowadays (in Sweden, at least) have not only books but also music, audio books and movies that you can borrow. At no cost.
Electricity and mobile phone-services are worth comparing. Only pay for the services you actually use! Mr L and I have different plans for our phones, since we use them differently. His is SEK 70 cheaper than mine each month.
And when was the last time you did a thorough evaluation of your insurance policies? When I did I discovered that we were twice insured (automatically added by our respective unions). I asked my insurance company for help in weeding out the ones we wouldn’t actually receive double payouts from if something went wrong – and we ended up paying SEK 1 000 less per month. And still having the same cover.
Do you have any subscriptions? Many apps and online services require subscription these days. Often for small sums per month, but they add up. Cancel the ones you don’t actively use. And while you’re at it, why not check if there is a cheaper or free alternative that can serve your purpose. If your subscription is for a newspaper, you might try the route of Mr L, who shares the morning paper with our neighbor. They pay half the subscription each, and take turns reading it first.
Food costs are also an area where it’s possible to have very varied budget. I made a very simple weekly menu that allows you to eat for less than SEK 1 000 a month. But even if you never eat out it’s easy to pay 3 or 4 times as much for food – if you don’t plan. We all need to eat. But by planning, starting with what’s already there and adding food that’s on bargains or in season and therefore less expensive, you can bring your costs down and still eat good quality food. Planning will also help you use everything you buy. The most expensive food is the one you throw out without eating. (You do know that “best before” doesn’t mean “ruined the day after”, right? Look at, smell and taste the food – and trust your senses to tell you if it’s still edible. A vegetable that’s a little sad-looking can still be tasty in a casserole, for instance.)
Be conscious of where you spend your money, and don’t spend them on things that don’t matter to you. That way you’ll have more money left for whatever you think is important. Whether that is ecological food, designer clothes, to travel, to work less or something else entirely. Take control, and use the power that gives you to live the life you want.
Our priority is to be debt free as soon as possible. (And right now to go away for the weekend, check in to that hotel and enjoy each other’s company… )