LOADING HST TIME
The Dance in the Deeps
A Clockwork Armada
"You're in America now," I said. "Our idea of diplomacy is showing up with a gun in one hand and a sandwich in the other and asking which you'd prefer."
--Harry Dresden [Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher]
There are only 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who know binary, and those who don't.
The first question you want to ask yourself is "Why should I bother reading some Internet-Dude's lame blog post titled Frugality Lessons 101? That is, quite possibly, the most insipid manner in which to while away my morning coffee-time that I can imagine." Sorry, but that'll be covered in Frugality Lessons: #0: Why Bother? I'm sure I'll get around to writing that someday, but today is not that day. Sorry.
Frugality when it's broken down to its most simple works like this: Stop Wasting Money. Now, I'll readily admit, that's a lot harder than it sounds. Spending money is easy. Earning it is a hard, time consuming, process.
Here are some simple Thou Shalt Follow type rules⊛ to help get you on your path to Stop Wasting Money. A few you can start today, others may take a while to prepare for, or to set up.
This is a biggy, and most of you you won't even go this far. Trust me, this one is simple, and unless you're reading a tattered, coffee-stained printout of this post in the middle of the Kalahari Desert⊛ you'll be able to do this: Track all of your spending each month. There are a lot of ways to do this. Some people like the envelope method (I hate the very idea. I mean, seriously, who wants to deal with all those dead trees, not to mention the constant math? Ewwwww.) My preferred method is to use Mint. It has a nice website and a slick app that works on both Android & iOS. You plug your bank info into Mint (Don't worry about giving your banking info to some random app, it's made by Intuit, so it's a respectable organization) and then... Actually, that's about it. Mint will automatically assign transactions to various categories, and you can make your own as well. As long as you are paying with plastic (i.e. a debit card, or The Great Evil,⊛ a credit card) Mint will track it for you. You can also manually add cash transactions, if you are from the 18th Century and still do those.
Break down your spending into three basic categories:
Needs are things like Food, or Not Living Under a Bridge.
Bloated Expenses essentially breaks down to "stuff that's necessary, but that I am spending (substantially) more on than I need to." Depending on where you are at, Bloated may include such areas as Food, Housing, or Cellphone. This is probably where the bulk of your spending is at. This is the prime cutting area. And it is usually the one that's going to be most painful to Stop Wasting Money in.
Luxuries are not just things like Going to Disneyland or That epic 2017 Maserati Ghibli.⊛ They also include items like Cable TV, Going To Movies, and I Deserve This Lunch On The Town.
Cut wherever possible. Remember, you are doing this to help yourself (and your family, if you've got one of those) so be honest. Don't trim like you're trying to perfect a bonsai. Below you'll find some areas you can almost certainly Spend Less Money. Start cutting out Luxuries, and shifting spending from Bloated, to Needs. Here are a few tips & ideas to get you you started:
What subscriptions do you have that don't fall under Needs? Do you have a Netflix subscription, cable TV, & Hulu? You can certainly cut two of those, if not all three! You'd be amazed how many people have signed up for a trial for something -fully intending to cancel after the free trial expired- and went on to completely forget about it. Go digging through statements to see what you can slash.
Eat cheaper food. One of the simplest ways to reduce your grocery bill is to stop buying pre-made foods & to cook your own. "Oh, but I can't cook," you say. Bah! Once you couldn't walk, but then you spent some time practicing, and voila! You've been walking since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. A hundred years ago there were far fewer resources to help out an aspiring cook, but today you have the Internet. You can literally find instructions on how to build a nuclear bomb online, so I'm fairly certainly that it has souffles covered. Start with my recipes, then take a look at AllRecipes.com. Don't have time? Take a minute to learn of the wonder that is crockpot cooking.
Ignore the name on the package. A name-brand package of food will often be 2-4 times more expensive than the nameless package on the shelf right next to it. Many times it is exactly the same product, manufactured in the same plant, with the same machines, with the only difference being which bottle/jar/can/bag it is sold in. People assume that a name brand means you are paying for quality. In some (rare!) cases that is true. For example, Saddleback Leather prides themselves on producing the highest quality bags on the planet. But is that can of Dr Pepper™ really twice as delicious as the can of Dr. Thunder right next to it? Probably not.
Buy in bulk! Compare the prices of the incy-wincy serving-and-a-half bottle of, say mustard, with the "family sized" option. By purchasing the larger container, you can often easily reduce the price by 50% or more. If it's not going to go bad before you can eat it, and the price is less-per-unit, why not buy the large package?
Do you buy organic food? I know a lot of people claim that "organic⊛" food is better for you. The Mayo Clinic says it's "probably not." But even if they were, how much are you paying for that theoretical benefit? According to Consumer Reports organic foods cost anywhere from 0% to over 300% more than regular food. If you routinely buy organic food, you can probably cut your grocery bill in half just buy buying normal food.
Thrift Stores are one fantastic way to save money. I have found everything from new clothes with the original tags still on, to kitchen appliances. Thrift stores are definitely an area for caveat emptor, but you can save wild amounts of money by shopping at thrift stores.