I love sending frugality tips to my friends when I see an opportunity for it. I thought it might be fun to share some of those recent ideas I’ve sent out to people. (Names are changed, along with a few bits of personal info from my responses.)
To Amy, the chronically disorganized friend:
I find it really useful to make a daily to-do list at the start of the day. I try to list five things that are on my mind to do, and then five things that push me forward on big projects. I’ll use any piece of paper for this, but I find that the back of junk mail envelopes is particularly useful because the paper is free and the width is just about perfect.
To Bill, the friend afraid of winter heating bills:
You can actually cut those bills down quite a bit by doing a few things. Put thick blankets over the windows in any rooms you’re not in very much and turn off the heating vents in those rooms, too. Wear long sleeved shirts with t-shirts under them around the house and then drop the temperature on your thermostat several degrees so your furnace doesn’t run as much. If you have any windows that have an obvious draft, use some caulk to seal up the leak (if it’s easy to do, of course).
To Chloe, the friend who shops too much:
I used to be badly addicted to bookstores. The best thing I did to cut out that habit was to just avoid that area. I actually started grocery shopping in another town and I found a different route home from work. That way, I was never close to the bookstore. You might also want to take a photo of your kids and wrap the photo around your credit cards tightly so you remember why you’re trying to cut down on your spending.
To Donald, the friend who thinks he needs to start contributing to retirement:
Just go sign up. It is way more important to start contributing to your retirement than it is to pick the “right” investment. If you pick the wrong investment, you’ll lose a few percent on your return in the short term and you can correct it later. If you don”t contribute, you lose all of your contributions AND all of your returns. If you’re unsure what to pick, just ask the person helping you set up the plan, since they probably have a good idea of what’s good and what’s bad. Do it now and you’ll sleep better at night.
To Elise, the friend who is addicted to the lottery:
Lotteries are a terrible return on your money. For every dollar you spend, you get around $0.70 back over the long haul. You’re better off putting that dollar in a change jar for a rainy day. I understand that they can be kind of addictive, though. If you love the thrill of a chance of winning something, enter drawings and contests for free. There are thousands of drawings out there that you can enter and you still get the thrill of a chance at the big win.
To Florence, the friend who is considering a personal finance seminar:
A seminar can really help, but you might want to try some free options first. First, check out the internet. There are many “series” that can help you get your finances in order. You should also head to the library and check out a book or two – I particularly recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. If you like to hear what you’re learning, try the audiobook versions of the books I mentioned above, which you can also probably get at your library. Try those out and see if they help before you dump money into a seminar.
To Gary, the friend who is planning out a home improvement project:
Hey, I’ll help with that! Thanks for asking. Just let me know when you’re planning on doing it. I’ll bring some tools, too.
To Helen, the friend who wants a different career:
Do what I did: spend a big chunk of your free time getting that next career started. I’m not really sure what you’re thinking of doing, but you can fill your spare time with more schooling or writing a great and well thought out business plan or even starting that side business. The biggest thing is to not give up on it and to spend some time each day on it.
To Ira, the friend who listens to lots of music:
I’m glad you think that piracy isn’t cool, but you’re right that music is pretty expensive. Most of my music listening these days is done using free online services like Pandora or Spotify. Most of the time, I’m listening to music somewhere that has wi-fi, so those services are basically free. When I’m offline, I usually use Slacker, which lets me download a long stream of music to be listened to while offline (though you do have to kick out $4 a month for that service). I occasionally still buy albums, but it’s a lot less frequent now because I really don’t need them much any more.
Hopefully, one of these tips matched your situation. If you know a friend who is in one of these situations, feel free to borrow the tip and pass it along to them.