Frugality is one of the Puritan virtues, and is a founding philosophical precept of this country. It’s wrapped up in a mythos of self-determination and self-reliance…and it has fallen somewhat out of favor with modern audiences.  Look at me, being all philosophical…..

Still, just because frugality isn’t fashionable doesn’t mean it’s not important. To me, frugality means getting more out of life, and getting more out of your limited resources. It’s easy to conceptualize, but it’s a matter of setting habits, not a quick fix. Make frugality an emphasis in your day-to-day life, and it will extend to the rest of your life as well.

Make A Budget

When it comes to budgeting, I recommend a zero-sum budget or the envelope system.  If you opt for the old-fashioned cash-only method, put up a corkboard with six envelopes, labeled “Car”, “Rent”, “Groceries”, “Utilities”, “Fun” and “Savings,” or whatever your categories happen to be.  Put your receipts for these items into these envelopes and tally them up at the end of the month. You’ll probably be surprised at how much you spend when you’re not paying attention.  In fact, it can be rather shocking.

Track your income and compare it to your expenses, and start trying to shift things away from expenses and into savings. Look for things you’re buying but not using (like gym memberships), and make an effort to cancel them. Also look for ways to cut out small expenditures like lattes, your daily iced tea fix, or a nasty cigarette habit.

Frugality: The Simple Life

“People Buy Things They Don’t Need With Money They Don’t Have To Impress People They Don’t Like.” — Will Smith

If that phrase hurts, it’s probably time to consider simplifying your life.  Are you one of those people who trade your car in every few years?  If so, you’re blowing a ton of cash on cars you’ll never truly own.  Are you the target demographic for those Lowe’s commercials about home remodeling?  Unless you’re planning to sell your house in the near future, maintain it, don’t remodel it. Those ads (and those programs on Home & Garden TV) are meant to make you feel insecure about your house.  Don’t listen to them. Maintain your home, but only remodel if it’s an enjoyable task for you or if you plan on selling in the near future.

Protect What You Have

Everyone should take the time to catalog their possessions in case of a break-in, natural weather event, or fire. And that is also the perfect time to find things you aren’t using and sell them. Try, as always, to simplify your life, and focus on the important things. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, focus on making good decisions that will affect your financial future. That also includes investing in life insurance and the different types of insurance that can protect against the unthinkable.