(psssssssssst, if this is your first day, welcome, and click here for the beginning of this series.)
So what did I learn in my month-long frugal living experiment? Well, that it’s possible to live well on less. Sure, I could have cut back even more, lived off of ramen noodles, bought no clothing or anything for the house, BUT that really wasn’t what I was after.
I still wanted to live well, just on less.
For the first year of our 2.5 year-long marriage (HUGE, I know) I kind of figured I would have to wait to have the house I wanted; wait until we were debt free before I could really have the things in my home that I wanted. So I went without while secretly, and not so secretly, resenting it.
But it’s become more and more apparent to me that you can decorate well with little money. I know I’m no expert in any of this, but I’m inspired daily by the many great DIY bloggers out there that prove you can decorate well on less.
I truly believe in bringing the things you love into your home while living within and even beneath your means. No waiting; bringing them in today. Often that means being more creative or making a lot of things by hand, but in the end I think it makes a much more personalized space.
So here’s my list of things I really learned:
Thrift store shopping is legit when it comes to clothing and household decorating. It means I can buy a lot more with less and with room to spare for some “fun” pieces that I’d really like. Personally, I like the idea of spending some of my money at thrift shops and the other part at bargain stores like TJ Maxx and Target.
I was surprised how easy it was. I’ve heard a lot of people say the main reason they don’t thrift shop is because of the amount of time it takes, but when I went, albeit only two times, it only took about an hour for some awesome finds.
Homemade snacks, like energy bars and granola bars, taste so much better and save a pretty penny. Oh, and they’re better for you, are super easy to make and very versatile.
It’s the little changes that save big money over time. Some coupons, homemade cooking, buying in bulk, homemade snacks all save a little bit of money for us on their own, and so much more when you add up the little savings. Here’s a cheat sheet I came up with for frugal grocery shopping that amounted to small changes but big savings.
Shopping my wardrobe first before I run out and buy more clothing helps me to save money and, frankly, maximizes the outfit potential in my wardrobe. Making creative use of layers can expand my wardrobe as well as the various fashion challenges copy cat closet inspires (mixing patterns, shorts and leggings, and bright pants have all helped me to shop my wardrobe and come up with new outfits).
Paying in cash makes me much more conscious of every dollar I spend and makes me less spendy in general. I know for sure this is true, because for the second half of the month I failed to take more money out from the bank. It’s not always convenient for me, especially since my bank is so far away, and I’m often too cheap to use an atm.
Excuses, excuses, I know. In any case, when I started paying with my card again, I noticed how it hurt less to spend so I ended up spending more.
Make-ahead and freeze recipes = money saver and time saver! I cannot begin to reiterate how amazing this book has been to my life. It makes dinner time a breeze, and so far all the recipes have been winners for the husband and baby.
If I knew just how easy it was, I would have started sooner. I’m not even kidding. I took two separate nights, about a half hour a piece, preparing 5 separate meals, for a total of 10 meals. Tonight’s dinner was a breeze and I’m hoping it will help us save from eating out so often.
Which brings me to my next point: we still ate out too much! I found out about the make-ahead and freeze book near the end of this month so I didn’t get to fully utilize its potential. I know we eat out for convenience and because we’re too hungry to take the time to make something from scratch, but with the new make-ahead plan I’m on I can have convenient food on hand that will make whipping up a meal take mere minutes.
Taking pictures of my outfits helps me identify the “holes” in my wardrobe. Since participating in WIWW, and copy cat closet, I’ve noticed I have an overwhelming amount of neutrals, and solid colors, and not a whole lot of patterns, florals, and spunk (yeah, I just wrote that). Maybe I could have figured that out by looking through my wardrobe, but for some reason it became painfully obvious upon capturing live pictures of the evidence.
Homemade laundry detergent is amazing, but tripling the recipe is an even better idea like I did here. The whole recipe is only a few dollars, and will last a long while. It works, and you can use any unscented soap you have on hand.
Handmade decorating leaves a little piece of you with every project and the quality and personal touch far beats the generic store-bought decorations from places like Pier 1. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pier 1, but if you can make something by hand, you can usually make it with better quality materials, and it impresses a piece of you on it. That’s pretty special.
As with my 31 days series on no more procrastinating the important, non-urgent things in life, I don’t plan to stop this way of life, or quit learning. I realize I have much more to learn and have only touched the tip of the iceberg.
I’m sure I’ll keep on learning about cool little tricks to save money and still live well…I might even change my mind on some things I’ve written about in this series, but that’s okay too.
My creativity and resourcefulness have been stretched in this series, and I think that’s why I loved doing this so much. The fact that I found frugal living to be bountiful living was a plus.
Homemade, thrift shops, and resourcefulness all went hand in hand to living well on less.
I hope you might have found some tid-bit of encouragement that you can live well on less (although, I’m sure many of you do a mighty fine job of doing so!). I know I’m humbled daily by my amazingly thrifty, and resourceful friends (you ladies know who you are ;) ).