26 August 2013

How we live frugally

I wanted to do a post sharing some of the ways that we manage to live frugally, on one salary. It's not to say everyone should live like this, or that our way is the right way, I'm just sharing some of the things we do.

We've never been well off (husband changing careers and / or us emigrating every 5 years will do that to you!) and have always lived frugally but been the "odd ones out" doing so. Then the recession happened and everyone was like, "Here are some great ideas to live economically!" and started spouting the same tips that we had been doing and been laughed at for for years. Suddenly we were ahead of the game and not the freaks ;)

Because our lifestyle is just normal for us we don't even think twice about the way we do things. Sure, it would be nice to be wealthy and enjoy lots of luxuries, but for the most part we don't feel super deprived. Consequently, very little things excite us and become treats - getting a take-away meal, going to the cinema, going somewhere expensive like a theme park for a day out, renting a DVD, eating out, etc.

I actually like living in a way that the little things excite me.But that's another post for another day. Today's post is about sharing how we live frugally. Here are some of the ways:

I almost never buy books - we use the library. The only books I buy are books I've read from the library that I really like and want to reference over and over, for example gardening books or parenting books. Or, you know, the Outlander series. I am a prolific reader and love that I can indulge in a literary feast and it costs me nothing! I am so grateful for our libraries.

In England you have to pay an annual TV licence fee to watch public TV. We chose to do without. Instead, we enjoyed a DVD subscription service and could choose what we wanted to watch, when we wanted to watch it, ad-free. Here in NZ public TV is free and we do sometimes watch it, but we don't pay for Sky / cable.

Grant and I each have iPhones but they are older models (3Gs) bought used, and we only pay for basic pay-as-you-go service without data. Topping up my phone for calls / texts costs me about $20 every three months or so. I go online with my phone at home with wi-fi but when I'm out and about it's a regular phone. I'm okay with that because I'm happy with the savings. Grant also now has an iPhone 5 for work, so if we are out and about together and really need to look something up online we can do it with that one.

Food and drink
In England processed food is cheap and eating fresh costs more. Here in NZ processed food is expensive and eating fresh is cheaper, which suits us well. I cook our meals from scratch and seldom buy convenience products.

We also eat produce that is in season as the prices here fluctuate dramatically - a cucumber that costs $1.29 in summer costs about $5 in winter! We do without cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicums, etc in winter. Of course, growing your own food is a great way to save money and we plan to do more of that soon.

We make packed lunches when we go out for the day, and for school / work. I am planning on doing a post about packed lunches - let me know if you are interested in that!

We sometimes visit clearance food stores for bargains, freezing excess items like bulk lots of cheese. When cooking from scratch I sometimes cook double or triple the amount and freeze the extra in single portions. Then, when I have a day when I'm too exhausted to cook we have our own convenient frozen meals to choose from and I know exactly what's gone into them.

We don't drink soda or alcohol or smoke - the no alcohol / smoking choice is for religious reasons but I can't deny that I enjoy the financial benefit!

There are so many free things to do and see here in NZ, we are so lucky! If you select the "New Zealand" label in the drop-down menu on the left you can see some of the places we like to go that cost absolutely nothing. We do occasionally go to places where there is an entry fee, but as mentioned above it's a treat and not a routine occurrance.

I cut Grant's and the boys' hair myself and always have. I have a mobile hairdresser come to my house to cut my hair, which is convenient for me and inexpensive too - she doesn't have the overheads of a salon so can charge less. I prefer not to have expensive treatments that need expensive maintenance, such as colouring.

I've talked before about the clothing bank I built up for the boys here and here - it's been a great saver. I buy my own clothes on sale or in thrift stores. Grant seldom seems to need new clothes (he wears a uniform to work). We usually pick up good condition items of school uniform in the second-hand clothing bank at school for significant savings. The boys don't mind and of course we don't pick out ratty, old items but ones in good condition so nobody would be able to tell the difference anyway. It helps to be able to pay $5 for a school sweatshirt instead of $35!

We have always made a point of living close to Grant's place to work to minimise the commute time and ensure that we don't need a second car. We paid cash for our car and don't ever plan to have car repayments if possible.

Anytime we need something we check eBay first. For example, if I want to buy a new belt, or a book, or anything, eBay is worth taking a peek at for a bargain (used and new items).

DIY repairs and maintenance
Grant is handy and willing to repair whatever he can, which saves us money. For example, the other day he was cleaning out the car and for some reason had to move the car before he was finished. He accidentally ran over the cable for the vacuum cleaner and it snapped right out of the machine. Rather than rush out and buy a new vacuum cleaner he took the old one apart and mended it good as new, following a video on YouTube. It wasn't easy and it took some time and effort but it saved us money! YouTube is a great resource for videos on how to fix things.

Grant is also our resident IT technician. Would it shock you to know that the two desktop computers we are using are about 9 years old? Grant just adds / replaces things like memory, hard drives, processors, etc as needed (usually finding parts on eBay as mentioned above) to keep things ticking along. Backing up, reformatting hard drives and reinstalling programmes also helps to clear out things like spyware which can really bog down your computer.

We almost never use our tumble drier. We either hang washing out on the line to dry, or hang it on clothes-horses indoors. This not only saves money but extends the life of our clothing too. And as far as dry-clean-only clothes go, we never buy them. If I inadvertently buy something dry-clean-only from the thrift store I generally end up giving it a go in a cold-wash cycle in the washing machine. I've never screwed up a piece of clothing yet.

I really try not to spend money on disposable items, such as paper towels. A cleaning cloth works just as well and can be washed and reused. We try not to use disposable plates or cutlery, and we use cloth napkins at the table. Why spend money on something that will just be thrown away?

SO! These are a few of the ways we live frugally - I'm sure there are more that I haven't mentioned but like I said, it is just normal for us now so might not come to mind. Maybe one day we will be wealthy and be able to spend out but for now I'd rather make some sacrifices and enjoy being debt free with the security of some savings put by. That is priceless to us.

What are your favourite frugal tips?

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