A big part of successful frugality is the routine with which you live your day-to-day life. Here are twenty four little things that you can incorporate into your daily routines that just trim a little money away from your spending – and puts it into something more important to you.
1. Brush your teeth. An unclean mouth is a perfect place for unwanted bacteria and germs to take root. Good oral hygiene reduces the chance for bacteria to grow in your mouth. This reduces doctor visits, medicine costs, and productivity lost to illness – not to mention the time spent feeling awful.
2. Take leftovers to work for your lunch. If you have something left over in the fridge from a previous meal, pack it up and take it with you to work. If you choose to eat it there, it’s a double savings – you save in that you didn’t waste the food you made at home and you also save by not buying the overpriced food options at work (eating out or the food vendor).
3. Take a piece of fruit or toast with you as you leave. A simple high-energy breakfast raises your energy for the rest of the day, making you more productive. It also helps with alertness, helping to ensure that you make better decisions throughout the day.
4. Adjust your thermostat before you leave. In the summer, raise the temperature several degrees; in the winter, drop it several degrees. Don’t waste money controlling the environment of your home while no one is there.
5. Prepare a grocery list before you leave. Look in your refrigerator and cupboards to identify the things you actually need, then make a list from them. Look in the freezer, too, and make a rough meal plan while you’re at it so that you’re sure to be buying only the things you actually need and will use.
6. Turn off all possible electronic and electric devices before you leave. Devices left on that aren’t doing anything sap electricity which you pay for. Devices even as simple as toasters devour energy throughout the day. Turn off your television, your cable box, any gaming consoles, kitchen appliances, radios, and also don’t forget to turn off your lights. This can be made much easier by putting your home entertainment equipment on a switch, so you can simply flip it before you leave.
7. Take a new route to work (and do the same on your way home). Every six months or so, it’s worth trying an alternate route to and from work. Why? For one, there might be a better route for you to take due to new roads or simply a lack of earlier observation on your part. For another, traffic flow changes constantly based on road construction and new roads, often affecting roads not under construction, meaning a previously-discarded route that’s close may in fact be a much better route now.
8. Park far away from your office. Why? Two reasons. For one, at many workplaces, parking far away from the building is less expensive, because closer spots are often in restricted lots (this was the case in my previous workplace). For another, parking far away from the building requires you to walk much further to get in there, giving you a bit of exercise.
9. Wash your hands a few times a day. This works for similar reasons as brushing your teeth – it reduces your chance of getting sick, which saves on doctor’s bills, medicine, and lost productivity. Get your hands wet, get soap on them, and rub them together for the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
10. Use your work downtime to spell out in writing your personal goals. It’s far more valuable than just surfing the web or sitting idle. Make lists of your short term and long term goals, then flesh out how you’ll achieve each one. Come up with specific things you can do and write them down.
11. Eat lunch at your desk. Eating lunch at your desk is far less expensive than eating out, plus it gives you time to work on your goals (as mentioned above). Of course, this is even easier if you brought your lunch, as suggested earlier.
12. Drink water instead of soda or coffee. Water is virtually free and quenches your thirst more effectively than coffee or soda, both of which have adverse health effects (caffeine addiction, weight gain).
13. Invite a friend over. Make a plan for doing something social at your home. Inviting a friend over is far cheaper than going out with a friend and, even though you might have to spring for some costs such as food, it’s likely that such an invitation will be reciprocated later, giving you a free evening of entertainment.
14. Touch base with some people you haven’t heard from in a while. How does this save money? The more established relationships you have, the more likely it is that you can tap your social network for advice (and sometimes more), plus friends often drop each other useful things all the time. Friends are useful to have all around.
15. Meditate or pray. Meditation and/or prayer calms you, improving your health and making it easier for you to make better choices afterwards. Take some time near the end of your work day or the start of your post-work day to meditate for a bit or offer up a prayer in quiet solitude.
16. Try a generic product. When you’re trying to decide at the store which product you should pick up, consider giving the generic alternative a try. It’s almost always far less expensive and it’s often identical to the name brand – many times, they are the same item in different packaging.
17. Hit the library. Libraries offer an abundance of entertainment options for free: books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, games, and countless other items are there to easily be checked out.
18. Air up your car’s tires. Filling your car’s tires up to the maximum recommended pressure once a month or so has an enormous positive impact on your car’s gas mileage. With some recent testing on my wife’s car, we found that it improved her mileage by four miles per gallon.
19. Wash your windshield when you stop for gas. A messy windshield reduces vision (which increases the likelihood for accidents) and can have a subtle negative aerodynamic effect on your car. Since it’s free and you’re just standing there pumping gas, wash it up!
20. Have something in the freezer for dinner. Instead of going out to eat or stopping by the grocery store to pick something out, take a look at what’s in your freezer. Likely, there’s something in there you’ve forgotten all about that will make a wonderful, cheap dinner.
21. Read a book for your evening entertainment. A book (particularly one checked out from the library) is an incredibly inexpensive way to entertain yourself. Turn off the television and the cable box (saving energy) and crack open a book instead.
22. Go for a thirty minute walk. Not only can it be a free form of entertainment, it’s also a great way to improve your physical fitness a bit, reducing your health care costs.
23. Do some of your morning routine the night before. Pack up your leftovers. Turn off as many of your devices as possible. Put the things you’ll need to take in the car. Why? Doing this now helps to ensure that you’ll do things more efficiently in the morning – and you’re more likely to remember everything, too.
24. Turn down the thermostat before you go to bed. Just drop the temperature five degrees or so. You won’t notice it until the morning, at which point you can raise it right back up when you’re still toasty warm from a long night’s sleep. This can easily save you a few dollars.
And a final bonus one… go to bed early. A well-rested mind is a more alert mind, more able to avoid marketing tricks and also more capable of helping you to get ahead in the workplace.