The number of effective ways to trim your spending is nearly unlimited. You can check out encyclopedic tomes of frugality tips from the library or simply visit one of a thousand frugality blogs out there on the internet and collect more tips than you can possibly deal with.
When you first dive into the whole idea of frugality, it’s pretty exciting. It’s so easy to find big lists of tips and many of them seem to apply to your life. You cut your spending at the grocery store. You cut your spending on food consumption. You cut your spending on entertainment. You cut your spending on utilities.
You cut here, you cut there, you cut everywhere.
At first, you grab the low-hanging fruit and you see savings everywhere. A grocery list and store flyer routine cuts your grocery bill by 30%. Eating at home saves you $30 a week, and using leftovers saves you about the same. You make your own household cleaners, take advantage of tax-free holidays, and use online automated shopping techniques. The savings are sizeable and plentiful.
Before long, though, it gets harder. A lot harder. You’ve cleared all of the low-hanging fruit, which means you’re left with tactics that either don’t save you as much money or don’t apply to things you do as often. Not only that, the “newness” of frugality has worn off.
That’s the very point where it becomes vital to keep trying new frugal tactics.
For starters, it helps keep the idea fresh in your head. When you keep looking for ways to save money and you keep asking how your behaviors are minimizing your spending, you continue making frugality a natural and normal part of your life. You are frugal when these thoughts are the norm and not the exception, and the only way you get there is through practice.
Not only that, trying new frugality techniques eventually leads you to better ways of doing things. I’d happily spend an hour or two trying out a new tactic if it meant I would spend $0.50 less a month with no additional effort because in two years I will have saved more than enough money to make up for that time.
Sometimes, I’ll stumble across techniques that cause a breakthrough of sorts, causing me to save quite a lot or see things from a new angle even for someone who must have seen tens of thousands of frugality tips by now.
The practice of continually trying frugal tactics keeps my mind in the right place and continually leads me toward spending less on the normal routines in my life. It can also be a lot of fun (since I actually enjoy trying new ways of doing things).
So, when you see yet another frugality list, don’t sigh and click away. Look through it and try to find a few new things to try. You might gain a little ground or find a new breakthrough, but in any case you’ll have fun approaching an ordinary thing in a new way.
This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.