Monday, July 2, 2012

Frugality

Tonight I colored my hair, which got me to thinking about the frugal steps that homeschooling families often take in order to survive on a single household income. Maybe it seems unusual for hair color to bring frugality to mind, but up until a few years ago, I made regular trips to a salon for professional highlights. Then I changed my strategy and decided to color my hair at home in order to save money. That was only one of many small steps that I have taken over the years in an attempt to live more frugally. Below is a list of some of the money saving choices that our family has made at various times. It is by no means an exhaustive list; these are simply some of the items that came to mind.

  • I color my own hair at home as opposed to professional highlights. (see above)
  • My husband and I do not have smart phones, iphones, or any other type of fancy cell phone. We each have a ten dollar tracfone and we buy prepaid cards to obtain minutes for them. We only use our cell phones when we are away from home or in an emergency situation. These bare, basic phones don't have any extras, such as the ability to take pictures or a keypad for easy texting, but they still perform the basic function of allowing us to make a call when we need to. Leaving off all the bells and whistles saves us an awful lot of money, which is a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion.
  • We do not have any television stations whatsoever. Yes, I'm completely serious -- please don't faint! We don't have cable or satellite T.V. We don't even have a 'rabbit ear' antenna on top of our T.V. We only keep our television -- the old, boxy kind that isn't digital and doesn't have a flat screen -- to watch occasional movies together or to play the Wii. Our T.V. technically 'bit the dust' several years ago and we realized that we didn't miss it. I'm so glad we didn't get a new one. I don't have to worry about the content that my children watch and we don't have to pay for cable or satellite T.V. 
  • We rarely eat out and I always utilize a meal plan. I must admit that I have struggled a bit with the meal plan over the years. I have read and followed books about meal planning. At times I have prepared freezer meals. For awhile I used an online meal planning service called e-mealz. Right now I am making my own weekly meal plans from a list that I compiled of about twenty-five of our family's favorite recipes. I have never found a system that is absolutely perfect, but I know that I spend far less money at the grocery store when I use some type of  meal plan. And we only eat out when we have planned ahead to eat out, which also saves a lot of money.
  • I shop at a discount grocery store (Aldi). I find that I spend far less when I shop at Aldi than I do using coupons at a regular grocery store. I will admit, though, that I don't buy everything at Aldi. I am quite a stickler about only purchasing food products that are made with natural ingredients for my children to eat. Also, I am on a strict gluten-free diet. Thus, some of our food is purchased at a health food store. But I still save a lot by purchasing all that I can at Aldi.
  • I prepare my meals with natural ingredients and avoid convenience foods. Not only is this healthier, but avoiding prepared foods saves money too.
  • My children don't have birthday parties every year. This may seem like a small thing, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. We celebrate each of our children's birthdays every year within our own family with a special dinner, cake, and gifts. However, our children take turns having a birthday party that includes their friends as invited guests. Parties cost money and my children's birthdays happen close together. It would be a financial strain to pay for each of them to have a birthday party every single year. 
  • I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. There was a time when I found myself making too many trips to Wal-Mart. I was frequently going in to buy a few items, but it seemed that I couldn't get back out the door without spending at least fifty dollars. Wal-Mart is the type of store that intentionally makes it difficult to run in and get only one or two things. For me, better planning of my necessary Wal-Mart trips helped to ensure that I frequented the discount giant no more than once a month. This plan turned out to be much healthier for my pocketbook.
  • I practice contentment. This is the most effective and important frugal tip that I could ever learn. It is easy to compare ourselves with others, but those comparisons always rob us of true happiness. In our family, we don't drive new cars or have all the latest items. We don't live in a big or fancy house. And guess what? We are happy.  Praying for and practicing contentment is essential for saving money and also for experiencing real joy. 
These are some of the ways that we have attempted to live more frugally. As my husband prepares for a job change and our family faces a possible move, I am looking for new ways to cut corners. How have you been successful at saving money for your family? I would love to know your tips!