Day 2: How To Develop The Frugal Living Habit

“There must be more to life than having everything!” ~Maurice Sendak

Why do they label us consumers? Aren’t we people with thoughts, feelings, and passions all our own?

Aren’t we more than working from 9-5, sponsoring a corporation, in order to earn money so that we can support a shopping habit, or live in a large home and own two cars, living lives of luxury dining and entertainment?

Yet, if someone were to take an objective, outsider look into our lives, what would they say?

Is there an alternative?

We are by nature, creatures of habit. We like things done a certain way because we’ve always done them that way, or because someone taught it to us that way, or because our parents did it like that.

We just flat out don’t like to do things differently.

Humans, in general, hate change.

Therefore, purely out of habit, we spend our money, time, and energy on useless things (consuming) and miss out on the joys of frugal living (producing).

In order to break free of the consumer culture and develop new, frugal living habits we have to start looking at the small stuff. Exploring new ways of doing things plays a large part in forming new habits.

Discovering the Minimum Level

Not all, but many of us are in bondage to poor spending habits. We have become slaves to society and corporations. The question then becomes…how do we break free and develop new, frugal living habits?

This will only happen by seeking the minimum level.

What do I mean by that?

We must continue, or start for the very first time, taking small steps toward scaling down. The minimum level must always be on the forefront of our minds. Daily we must ask ourselves “Am I doing this out of habit? Is there a way to reduce or lower ______?” We should persist in the search for the minimum level until the process is no longer acceptable for our standards. Then, be sure to bring it up a notch on the comfort scale.

Here are a few suggestions for reaching the minimum level.

Tips To Help You Reach The Minimum Level

Please keep in mind what we learned on day one of the Challenge. This is not about depriving ourselves, it’s about putting off the “more is better” mentality and learning to enjoy what we have.

Use less laundry detergent. Don’t always feel like you have to use the recommend amount of laundry detergent. Perhaps your clothes aren’t really that dirty and you only need half of what is suggested. And may I propose wearing jeans and using towels more than once before washing.

Cut back on the amount of soap used when washing hands. It could be that only 1 pump of soap will do, rather than 2 or 3.

Reduce water usage. Would a 3 minute shower get you just as clean as a 10 minute one? Better yet, do we really need to shower every day? Is it feasibly to reduce it to a sponge bath on the days when you’re just lounging at home?

Try using less shampoo. Or, consider if a daily shampoo is absolutely necessary.

No need to use the blow-drier everyday. There are days when we could go without using the blow-drier and let our hair air-dry.

Go Au natural. It’s not what you think:) I’m suggesting to go without makeup a couple days a week, or at least scale it down. Your beauty comes from within…embrace that truth.

Stop buying shaving cream. Use a homemade moisturizing soap instead.

Watch out for that toothpaste. Could it be that a quarter inch of paste will work just as well as a full inch. Baking soda’s a pretty cheap alternative too.

Drink water. Boxed or bottle juice is expensive! Soda contains no nutritional value and isn’t cheap either. Drink water!

Set the drier for a shorter cycle. It’s possible that the clothes are dry long before the moisture sensor picks it up. As an alternative, hang your clothes to dry, and toss the drier all together:)

Is your plate always full? Try eating smaller portions.

Satisfy a chocolate craving. Reach for one small piece; the super-sized candy bar really isn’t necessary.

Morning cup of Joe. How about using a french press as an alternative to the electric coffee pot. I promise, once you taste a cup of coffee made with the press…you’ll never go back.

Buy off brands. Let go of this love for brands. Be open to healthier, cheaper ways of eating. Just because things taste different doesn’t mean they taste bad.

Buy in bulk. Not always, but most often, buying in bulk will save you money and allows for a simpler diet.

Eat real, whole food. Maintain a simple diet. Stop buying processed foods and rediscover the wonderful tastes of pure, wholesome nutrition.

Turn down the thermostat. Daily reduce the settings by one or two degrees. Wear sweaters and slippers in the house. Add an extra blanket to the bedding.

Low watt bulbs. Purchase the lowest wattage bulbs you can stand. You can always put the brighter one back in if it’s too dim.

What about the water heater? Turn her down too.

Drive less. Batch errands. Stay home. Ride your bike or take the bus.

There are countless suggestions we could list. But here’s the thing, every one of us have living and lifestyle situations that are unique. Some of these tips may not apply to you specifically. I challenge you to focus on the principle. In order to develop the new frugal living habit, and break old ones, we must always search for the minimum level. Be patient with yourself and your family. It may take days, weeks, or even months to adjust to the minimum level. And then when comfort comes, try lowering even more. :)

Now It’s Your Turn

Daily Goal:  Examine your own unique situation and challenge yourself to the minimum level. How will seeking the minimum level effect the way you live now? What will you reduce today? What can you work on reducing in the future?

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Comments

  1. We do most everything on this list already but I can never go without blow drying my hair because it is an absolute mess if I don’t!

  2. You are off to such a great start with this challenge. I love everything it stands for. It reinfores the good habits we have created and suggest attainable goals to take it even further. One major change we have made in the last couple of years is hand washing dishes. This, using traditional methods actually uses more water than a dishwasher. But, if you have a double sink, fill one side half way with hot water and dish soap, fill it with dishes then put the clean soapy dishes in the empty side of the sink. When they are all done, refill the hot water with more dishes if you have more and let them soak while you turn your water on and rinse the dishes already done. Always shutting the water off while you are actually doing the washing. Just another idea. Thanks so much for the challenge.

    Also, a few blog friends and I are collectively presenting a new challenge idea that we would love to have you join. If you have a second, check in at http://www.thespacebetweenblog.wordpress.com on Monday to learn more, and feel free to email me if you have any questions!
    Karah @ thespacebetweenblog

  3. I just happend to stumble upon your blog and the Living Frugal Challenge today, and I decided to join at once.

    I love the quote! Spot on!

    I’m happy to say that I already do a lot of the things you suggest here. I wash my hair only every third or fourth day (it doesn’t get dirty as quick if you don’t wash it to often), I often go without make up, I go for only washing under my arms and the face sometimes, and I try to use a miniumum of lanundry detergent, shampoo and so on. And I don’t have a car, so I ride my bike, walk or sometimes go by bus or train.

    One of my goals for 2012 is to go back to healtier food = no take outs or ready made from the freezer, but home made cooking and lots of seasonal veggies and fruit. Less meat and more beans and lentils.

    It will be very intresting to follow the 23 days of this challenge!

  4. We do the things on the list that apply to us already, do you have more suggestions for going a level deeper/lower? I’m starting to look for things I can unplug/disconnect, but there aren’t many things we plug in that aren’t being used regularly… I’d love more ideas. :)

    • I was hoping someone would ask this question:) These suggestions are only meant to encourage reflection. There are so many things that each one of us can do in our own living situations that are unique to us. My family and I are a bit off the mainstream but for the sake of going deeper here are a few more examples…we sold all but 3 lamps in our entire house and don’t really use candles that much either. Most of my kitchen tools require no electricity to operate. In our shower right now we have only my shampoo bar soap (that we use for our whole body) and a vinegar rinse. We have flipped switches on the breaker box to many of the rooms in our small home (that really helps with the temptation to use the outlets and almost eliminates lights left on unnecessarily). I make just about everything we “need.” I just made an arrangement with a local farm to trade a few hours of work in exchange for all the food we could eat for free. And bottom line, I just don’t shop. I can’t even go into boxed stores anymore…it’s to much of a temptation for me. The kids and I have grown to appreciate being at home during the day (homeschooling saves us a lot of money too). We’ve “let go” of so much, yet we’ve never been happier! I’m always on the look out for the minimum level. In no way have we “arrived.” All we need is just enough so that we can be the creative people God has made us to be. The rest, in my mind, is just bondage!

  5. For the person who can’t go without blow drying your hair, did you ever consider a different hairstyle? the dryer is so hard on your hair anyway and time consuming. As we get older our hair needs washed less often, I’m 50, and you can go with 2-3 times/week. As for laundry, if you have a front loader it takes much less water and detergent and unless the load is very dirty you can go every other time without detergent if it’s just towels, sheets, etc. I use about 1/8 the cup on detergent bottles and still get even car-working clothes clean for my hubby. A great article, gives one much to think about.

    • Deb, I’m heartened to see your comment about doing laundry occasionally without detergent. I know our towels have a soap build-up, and that suds will appear without adding additional detergent. I believe in washing towels once in awhile without adding detergent, and think that people should try it themselves to see if they agree.

  6. I struggle on the shower thing – I love my hot shower. I like spending as much time in there as I can. ;-) It’s my relaxing time….so I cut back in other ways. Great list Andrea.

  7. BullFrog Springs says:

    Love reading your post. I do almost everything on there and have decided over the last few years. I don’t like spending money, now if I can work out how to pay of the house fast, we don’t need much to live. Thanks for the ideas they are always great.

  8. This is really coming in handy with one of my goal words for 2012 being FRUGAL!

    I’m challenging myself to:
    – Run less bath water
    – Use less toothpaste
    – Eat smaller portions (and eat leftovers next day)
    – Replace pop with water.

  9. Thanks for the ideas! We switched to the french press recently and I just went down and checked out our laundry detergent scoop. They sure do give you one MUCH bigger than the amount you really need and in my rush I frequently use too much. I changed that out for a MUCH smaller scoop to avoid being so wasteful. I’m going to continue to reflect on your suggestions and the attitude of using less.

  10. OH! And hubby started going poo-free yesterday. I’ll start when we run out of shampoo. :)

  11. One area not on this list is going back to a minimum amount on our cable/phone/internet bill and the fact that we also both have cell phones. We definately have gotten caught up in the “convenience” factor to an excess. Thanks!

  12. Andrea, it seems that my family and I are very similar to you and yours as evidenced by your response to Chara S; we do most of the same things you posted there. “”We’ve “let go” of so much, yet we’ve never been happier! I’m always on the look out for the minimum level. In no way have we “arrived.” All we need is just enough so that we can be the creative people God has made us to be. The rest, in my mind, is just bondage!”" This is very profound and about sums things up for us as well.

    One thing to add to the Tips would be to do less laundry and by this I actually mean wear your clothes more than one time before throwing them in the hamper. If you were not sweating profusely and do not have obvious soilage your garments can be worn several times. If one becomes comfortable with this tip it will actually help you: become more content with what you already have as well as during down sizing, since you will actually require fewer outfits.

    Thank you so much for taking the initiative to get people thinking more frugally as well as implementing frugal living. Peace and grace to you in the worthy name of Jesus

  13. I love this challenge, I had already started doing many of these things because of my environmental beliefs. It was a good thing since the recession gave our budget a huge hit. We gave up cable a few years back and have been thrilled with the choice, I thought I would miss all my shows, but I really don’t. We still watch some TV and movies, our only expense is Netflix, and I may be cutting out DVD’s from that too. We will also likely give up the home phone since we all have mobile phones and I don’t think I could give those up. My biggest commitment this year is to dine out a lot less often. I had started working part time outside the home and started spending my whole paycheck on restaurants. So, it’s back to basics for me, quit my job and cook from scratch. I’m also in the middle of a large yard remodel. We have had a sucessful veggy garden, but decided to add lots of fruit. We have removed all the none food producing plants and I’m in the process of planting several varieties of berries, grapes and fruit trees where once there were plants that took time and water and gave nothing in return. I am still in the purging phase as my kids have grown up, I have one out of the house and the other in his first year of college, so we have many things we no longer need. Plus my husbands office got moved home. Lots of downsizing means lots of opportunity to bless someone else with something useful that I no longer need. I was trying to sell many of the items, but have found it is emotionally not worth the hassle. I just periodically take a load to a local thrift shop and go home to admire the cleaned out area. I look forward to hearing other people’s ideas. I am no where near my minimum, but I’m moving in the right direction.

  14. Just found you on twitter talking about the challenge. What a great idea! This is exactly what more people need as Western societies continue to pile up debt and live beyond their means. We like making homemade cleaning products too to save money. It is better for the environment and less expensive.

    Keep up the good work!

  15. After I read this yesterday, your message kept going through my mind when I had to go shopping. Victory was achieved when I came home with only one splurge/item that was not necessary: Linda Watson’s book Wildly Affordable Organic: How to eat on $5 a day or less. If there is one area that I need to really work on reducing on my budget, it’s my food bill. I won’t go into details on it here, but despite a LOT of work to keep it down, it’s out of control IMHO. Can’t wait to see what tips she gives that I’m clueless on. Anyway, it felt really good and freeing to “be frugal” all over again!

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