Investing in a frugal lifestyle

The term frugal can be defined in so many ways. Some people define it as only saving money and never spend a dime, some compare it to being cheap, some say that they live frugal even when they barely save money … Everyone has his own interpretation.

For me, being frugal is a lifestyle. It’s a way of living where you make your own individual choices of how you want to live your life, how you save your money, and most importantly how you want to spend it. It’s creating the possibilities for yourself to spend your money on the things that you want and are important to you, by saving money on other things. You can for example choose to live a very thrifty or frugal life in all aspects of life and place all the money that you have on a bank account, or you can save a lot of money on certain things, in order to be able to spend more money on other things that matter the most for you. There are so many possible ways of living frugal. Everyone is free to live the way he or she likes (that’s the beauty of life). I just think it’s wonderful that by means of small money saving changes, and by being careful with your money, you can stretch your budget and be able to do do so much more with it 🙂 … As I already mentioned in a previous post for my fiancé and I it’s not about having the biggest or most expensive car in the neighbourhood, or what other people may think about our car, house or even our lawnmower 😉 … for us it’s about saving some money on these things so we are able to take a leave of absence for two years, or retire several years earlier or do something we like. So we apply a frugal lifestyle with that thought in the back of our minds, but of course still live the way we want (yup we don’t save money on vacation and bubbles).

This blog really helped me (and my boyfriend) to live a more frugal life … (I’m only blogging for a year now). A frugal lifestyle is really an investment. You have to change habits and sometimes change your perspective on things, in order to become frugal in all aspects of your life and for example not only spending less money on one shopping trip. It’s not possible to completely change your life from one day to another and become frugal in all aspects. It’s a journey that takes time, one where you discover new things everyday.

I noticed that in the beginning of my frugal journey I only wondered what the best ways were to save money in the short term (which was good since step 1 is cutting all big expenses) … Now I’m starting to think more and more in the long run and start changing small things in my household that seem trivial but in the end help to waste less money. I really notice that I start questioning a lot of habits/things … (most of the time things that just became habits in the past). I’m also changing things and even buying things, in order to save more.

A few months ago I for example bought some pyrex dishes with a lid on. They were in promotion, I got 6 dishes for 20€. I really really like them, they are super convenient (I don’t know why I didn’t buy them sooner). It’s maybe silly that I’m so enthusiastic about it but now I can make lasagne in the dish, put the leftovers in the fridge with the lid on (no more changing dishes or wrapping paper needed) and the day after I can put it in the oven or microwave to heat it again. Or I just can put it in the freezer… I don’t know why I only discovered it a month ago :). It’s a nice investment. Another example are handkerchiefs. Until three months ago I used paper handkerchiefs all the time. I sneeze a lot and I didn’t like cloth ones as a child. However, three months ago I gave it a try to use a cloth one since paper ones actually cost a lot of money, and it’s also a lot of waste. I went to a very cheap store (Wibra) and found some incredibly cute kerchiefs from Daisy Duck, Plains and Minnie Mouse (I don’t like boring) … Ever since then I only used them (okey not when I was sick and had a running noise). I don’t know how much money I would save by using cloth handkerchiefs, but I think It’s better than paper ones and there is less waste. My boyfriend already used cloth handkerchiefs so I didn’t have to convince him :). I also bought a sandwich wrap (you had a glimpse of it in my blog) and try to use it all the time when taking my lunch to work. It’s much better then wrapping them in tinfoil. Another example is my cycle bag that I received as a birthday present of my parents… It’s so easy when I go to the store with my bike :).

So living a frugal lifestyle, or trying to live a frugal lifestyle is not just about spending less money or putting some extra money on your bank account and be done with it. You really have to invest in it! Every now and then you have to take a moment and wonder why you are doing what you are doing. Are you doing it because you really want to or because everyone else does it, are you doing it in a cost efficient way, or did you just create a habit without thinking about other possibilities (for example using dishes without lid, using paper handkerchiefs) etc… So in order to live a frugal lifestyle you really have to invest behaviourally, emotionally and sometimes even financially. All kind of small changes add up to big changes. It’s a journey that keeps on going. My boyfriend and I are going in the right direction and save a lot of money. We however still have a lot to learn. Hopefully we are able to in the end achieve our goal of retiring early! Without denying ourselves everything of course!

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What does a frugal lifestyle mean to me?

A few days ago I was talking with a friend about the fact that my boyfriend and I are trying to live more frugally. When talking about it, she asked me how far we would go and what exactly our personal definition is of “frugal”. Would we only budget our expenses, or would we also stop eating out, get rid of our car, use only home made alternatives for care and cleaning products, stop travelling and so on …

So what exactly do I (and my boyfriend) understand as a frugal lifestyle? For us it’s about saving money where we can, being more economical and creating more possibilities to do the things we love and live how we want. It’s about living a “luxurious” life in which we want for nothing and have the time to enjoy life to the fullest! Realising that “luxury” isn’t about wanting more and more (more and bigger cars, more household appliances, more expensive jewellery … ) but about enjoying what you have and about doing the things you love and actually having the time and freedom to do it. It’s about creating more time for yourself, for being with the ones you love and doing the things you like. It’s also asking yourself whether you really need X or Y and if it makes you truly happy, or whether you just want it because everyone else has or does it, or because of how people around you would perceive you …

By being more frugal my boyfriend and I can stretch our budget, do more things with it and save more money. On the other hand, having less stuff, trying to consume less, looking for sustainable alternatives for things, means also less waste, a simpler less materialistic life and being able to live for less. All these things are a goal in itself, but also help towards our (life)goal:

  • In the (near) future my boyfriend and I want to build a nice house. Last year we bought the house were we currently live in. It’s a small house that’s renovated, located near the city, but still in a green environment (across the house there are even sheep, so cute). It’s ideal to live in for a few years. However, we like to build our own house that’s a bit bigger, a bigger garden and located in an even more green environment. At the moment we have a loan for the house, but our payment per month is really ok (1400 euro), so each month we still can save a lot of money. In four years we then want to buy some land and build our (dream)house with the money that we saved and the money we will get from selling our current house.
  • Eventually our dream is to spend our money in a smart and thrifty way, try to reduce our spending to the minimum (but still living the life we love), save a nice amount of money and become financially independent so that we can choose our own work-holiday rhythm (for example working for 8 months, and take 4 months vacation each year), or even retire early. It will take some time to become financially independent (we are still young) but at the moment we save a nice percentage of our income, can do all the things we like, live thrifty, discover more ‘frugal’ habits each day, and just don’t have to worry about being short of money, so that’s a nice start.

There are a few things that we like that are maybe less thrifty or economical, but it’s about searching for a good balance between these things and living frugally. For example:

  • I have a weakness for scarves, handbags, dresses and nice clothes. In my ‘student years’ I went crazy and went shopping a lot. Now I learned how to contain myself, and that it’s not about the quantity (as much clothes as possible), but the quality (it’s better to have a few qualitative pieces). But still, it remains a weak spot. I’m limiting my purchases, and in the future I will go snooping in thrift shops and go to swap parties. I first have to declutter my closet though, I’m sure I will find some lost or forgotten treasures.
  • I really enjoy eating chocolate and drinking sparking wine/cava/champagne or as we like to call it bubbles. I have to admit that my boyfriend and I drink more than our fair share of bubbles each week. We really enjoy it. So that’s not so thrifty, but on the other hand when we would go to a pub it would cost us easily 50 euro for one night. A good bottle of bubbles costs around 5-10 euro so we just enjoy these few glasses, cosy on the couch at home for only 5-10 euro.
  • I like travelling. There are so many places me and my boyfriend want to visit … When we travel, we do travel luxurious in the sense that we don’t go backpacking or drive around with a camper, we like staying in a nice hotel. We like going to big cities as London and New York (we went to New York last year and it was soooo amazing, it’s a wonderful city), and just walk around all day and experience the life in the city. Apart from our travels to cities we go snowboarding in the winter, and like relaxed summer holidays at the beach where we can walk a lot, get the know the culture and go swimming and snorkelling. If it were up to us, we would keep on travelling (as a matter of fact, in two weeks we will go for a few days to Rome).

So yes, sometimes I/we go crazy on things as shopping and travelling and enjoying our bubbles. But, we for example don’t have a dryer, we pay attention to our use of electricity and water, we are using home made alternatives for our cleaning products (well I’m still looking for replacements, at the moment I’m discovering the wonderful uses of washing soda, but that’s for a later post), we try to walk and go by bike as much as possible and thus try to limit the use of the car …. The list goes on and on and everyday we’re finding new frugal habits that can be combined with how we want to live our life.

So, this is what a frugal lifestyle means to me and my boyfriend. I’m sure that over the following months and years our view on a frugal lifestyle will evolve and chance. For now we just keep on tracking our expenses (it’s still difficult to try to remember each day to insert our purchases and expenses), keep on looking for new frugal habits (at the moment I’m immersing myself in the world of home made cleaning products) and just enjoy our life. Because we may be dreamers and have all kind of plans for the future, we also live in the present and enjoy every single day and live our “luxurious” life.

My Frugal Journey

Today I decided to start living frugally. At the moment I already live quite thrifty (I think) but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. I want to discover more ways to live frugally, to become more conscious about my spending and spending habits, and to adapt (together with my boyfriend) a frugal lifestyle. And what better way than sharing my experiences of my frugal journey in a blog.

Now what exactly is frugal living? Wikipedia defines frugality as “The quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the consumption of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance.”*

This definition seems to imply that frugal living is about sacrifice and deprivation. However as described by Erin Huffstetler in a very interesting article about frugal living**, frugal living is about living smarter and using your money in a smarter way, so that you can afford to live the life that you want to live!

Three main concepts of living frugally are described:Frugal Living2

  • Smarter money management [know how much money you have and how much money you need to pay your bills]
  • Smarter spending [spend the money that you have in the best way possible]
  • Harnessing your creativity [find ways to make due with what you have and do more things yourself]

So living frugal is about getting more ‘bang for your buck’, creating possibilities and living the life you like to live. I’m up for the challenge of trying to live more frugally. I want to pause for a moment and overthink my spending habits and habits in general life. I want to adopt a frugal lifestyle in which I am more conscious about spending money, handling food, products, buying services, doing more things myself …

I hope you will follow me in my journey to a frugal lifestyle. I hope that in my upcoming blogs I can share tips and tricks that are useful to you all, and to receive some feedback.

Regards,
Frugal Fiona

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frugality
** http://frugalliving.about.com/od/frugalliving101/a/What_Is_Frugal.htm