Three Frugal Tips So Obvious You Probably Haven't Thought of Them

Getting serious about saving money can seem like an onerous task. But it starts with simply changing your attitudes to money and the way you approach spending it. Here are three new frugal tips that are so obvious you may not have thought of them yet!

1. Assume you don’t need anything

Apart from the basic necessities (food, housing, energy, transport) we often say we ‘need’ new items. What we really mean is that we believe our lives would be easier, happier and better overall if we had those items.

When we go shopping for a particular non-basic item we start from a default position that’s so drummed into us we don’t realise it – that we must buy whatever it is we’re looking for. We feel deprived and somehow inadequate without the item.

One way to decrease your spending is to assume that you already have everything you need apart from basic necessities. Then, when a fresh need comes to your attention – a new smartphone; a pair of Mahno Blahnik shoes – you start from the assumption that you don’t need it and work backwards.

Assuming you don’t really need it, ask yourself if there’s anything you already have that could substitute for it. Alternatively, could you borrow it instead? Find it secondhand? Swap something to get it? Or, when you give yourself time to think about it, do you really have enough of that kind of item already?

Of course, at any one time there’s a fair chance that you don’t have everything you need. I often recommend people write a list of things that they intend to buy to put some boundaries around their spending.

The beauty of starting from a default ‘no needs’ position is that you exhaust every other possibility before buying the item. Then if you decide you do really need it, you can buy it without guilt. The real, genuine needs will emerge from the dross of your many wants like shining diamonds, and you’ll find the right items easily at the right time.

2. First things first

I used to be in a 12-step program, and if there’s one thing that is plentiful in these programs it’s wise sayings. Some might argue there are too many, but they can sometimes be quite profound. One of the sayings that has stuck with me over the years is ‘first things first’.

There are two useful ways you can apply this to your spending. The first one is simply allocating enough money for the basic necessities of life (food, housing, energy, transport) before buying non-necessities. Of course, there are many ways you can reduce your spending on these necessities so that you can save more money or buy something you really need.

The other meaning of the saying is even more straightforward, and involves how you spend your time. Shop for the necessities first, and then do any leisure shopping you want to do. If you’re prone to overspending, getting your priorities right in this regard could help you reduce the amount of leisure shopping you do, and therefore your spending. Instead of tacking your food shopping onto the end of a spending binge, take the time to think about what food you’ll buy, where you’ll buy it,  and how you can buy the healthiest food to look after yourself. Changing your priorities in this way is a signal that you’re looking after yourself, and this could also have benefits for your spending. 

You could also look more carefully at other basics like the transport you use to get around, and how you use electricity and gas. Putting time and energy into thinking about those things that you might otherwise spend, say, shopping online could not only reduce your carbon footprint but give you a more mindful experience of life.

3. Look at your familys money history

You’re not stuck with the spending habits that were instilled in you – it is possible to change your attitudes, and looking at how you came to develop them is a great way to start.

A useful exercise is to sit down and write a history of your family’s attitudes to money. Ask yourself:

How did my parents and grandparents spend money?

What were the attitudes to money that lay behind their spending habits?

What are my attitudes to spending?

How have the attitudes and habits of my family helped form my own attitudes?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to look at your spending habits much more objectively and start to get some distance from them. And you’ll begin to understand that you don't have to be stuck with them!

After taking a serious look at my parents’ attitude to money, and those of my maternal grandparents, I now have a completely different approach to saving and spending from the rest of my family. 

Have you found that you gained more control over your spending after changing some of your basic attitudes? What were your original attitudes and how did you go about changing them?

Until next time!

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