7 tips to get you started living frugal in these bizarre times

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By Christina

It seems no matter where you go today everything has become expensive. Buying bread is no longer worth the price or the chemicals. So regardless of your situation, you can live frugally without sacrificing anything. 

After all, living a life full of pleasure is the French way.

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Many of us have been living life paycheck to paycheck. (Even before the supreme inflation kicked up a notch)

What that means is you’re spending your entire paycheck and biting your nails while you wait for your next payday.

AKA: You are either living above your means or just right at it. And that is not sustainable. 

With the cost of living on the rise and the added inflation to everything but air, there needs to be a simple solution to help those of us who are on the brink of financial collapse. 

 

Credit cards are not the answer.

In fact, just chop those bad boys right up. 

The more that I learn about credit cards and psychology the more I see a negative reinforcement.

While they don’t really teach you how to use credit cards, you go into it blindly thinking it’s money. When in reality credit cards are like mini loans.

Each transaction is hitched to interest rates, as well as the entire balance of your card. Otherwise, how would they make money? 

And since you are not physically handing over money you have no psychological awareness that you are depleting your funds. 

Having said that, the best advice I ever got was to use cash. That’s right take out cash from an ATM and that is your budget.

The debit cards or credit cards are used for giant purchases you need to save for, but when you lay out a serious budget and make yourself stick to you, physically seeing your stash get smaller and smaller helps train you not to spend. 

This leads me to the next piece of advice found all over social media. 

7 tips to get you started living frugal

The “no spend” challenge. 

While I am all for this challenge, regardless of how hard it may be, it can be too much.

Especially when all you want is a coffee.

The reason goes back to the psychological response.

Think of it like dieting. If you deny yourself then what will happen?

You ended up gorging yourself on things you denied yourself. That is the same thing with money.

Instead of looking for things you can “cut off” look for how you can cut back. Going back to the coffee reference, think of it in terms of math. 

If a cup of your favorite coffee costs you $6, and you buy three times a week that is $18 a week. ($72 a month)

Now, if you spend that $6 on say a creamer or a coffee flavoring and a ground coffee you can make at home, then you only spend about $6(flavoring) + $8 (coffee)=$14 for the month!

Or two weeks depending on how much you drink a day. That is $58 in savings.

And instead of “denying yourself” perhaps you can reward yourself with one drink from your favorite coffee shop once a month. (the prices I used are estimates). 

I know the convenience is the best part of buying coffee at a shop, but with today’s coffee machine technology, you get the same convenience and less wait time. Plus your order is always right. 

 

If you’re really into saving money check out my post on pantry staples and make your own creamer.

Trust me once you make your own you’ll never spend money on the processed one again. 

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Counting Dollar Bills

So what is the first step to take before you begin your frugal living? 

 

Tip #1 Figure out how much money you’re spending each month. 

Make a list of all your bills, both big and small. Then decide what you can cut, what bills you can negotiate for lower interest rates, and which ones you can pay off now. 

 

Most people, including myself, will spend what they have.

Savings, why do I want to save? I worked hard for that money. 

Well, for times like this-inflation that is out of control. 

 

I’m talking about the depression lessons our grand or in some of your cases great-grandparents had to learn. 

History fact: Many of those in the Depression did a lot of penny-pinching. Take sandwich baggies, they would clean them out, turn them inside out, and gently lay them out for drying so they can be reused. Many learned skills they didn’t think they could, such as mechanics and labor. After all they all needed to work somehow. And of course, there was saving everything you had, and using what you already had over and over.

This is something I had to do when we were planning our move to France. The first thing was to give up a lot of buying small things for the house. The first month we stopped buying DVDs, books, small knick-knacks, curtains, etc I noticed a huge shift in our finances.

That made me realize that I wasted a lot of money on things that I didn’t need to replace or add to the house. Which in turn has created a new habit for me. I only buy what I need. I have my curtains from the States, I don’t need more. Unless a new window grows in my house. 

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Tip #2 Make your own Food

This is near and dear to my heart because I love cooking. While many of us in the States have been spoiled with DoorDash and Ubereats, that is the easiest way to spend all your money. 

Cooking at home is much better for your wallet and your health. 

Having said that, try making things at home that you use all the time. For instance, you can have pancake mix at the ready in your pantry (without chemicals or other additives you don’t need), or make your own bread.

Make your own vanilla sugar, vanilla extract, and much more. Check out how to stock your pantry with homemade items. 

Tip #3 Grow your own food

If you think about waste, and how much you waste when you buy veggies or fruits then you understand you’ve wasted not just food but money as well. 

If you only grow what you eat, and do something with that food such as a can or freeze it then you’re saving so much more than you can imagine.

Especially if you’re harvesting rainwater as well! 

Veggies, lettuce, flowers everything! Just grow it! Not only will you have the freshest ingredients to cook with but you’ll also save time and money.

You won’t have to drive to the store which saves you gas, time, and money- all by itself. 

Whatever excess you have you can then can.

Learning how to can veggies, pickles, and other things is actually easier than you think.

So head on over to the store and get some Mason jars!

 

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Get your dose of tips, advice and lessons learned at my expense. Grab a cup of coffee, get cosy and let’s do this! 

Tip #4 Stop buying paper towels. 

Toilet paper is ridiculous and paper towels, I mean come on for paper?

Honestly, it is just a waste of money. And if you’re into saving the planet then honey stop buying paper towels. 

Start using cute dishtowels and cloth napkins. You can make your own from fabrics that you no longer use or scraps you have lying around.

Or you can hit up the thrift stores to buy a starter batch until you can splurge on the ones you really love. 

 

Tip #5 Make your own cleaning products. 

I was super surprised when I moved to France and discovered in almost every supermarket there is an aisle where you can mix and match fragrances and ingredients for household cleaning products.

I was also surprised two of the biggest items used are baking soda and vinegar.

You can do so much with vinegar.

Such as cleaning your windows, and fighting hard water and calcium stains in your bathroom. (and it’s so cheap! For me less than a euro)

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Get your dose of tips, advice and lessons learned at my expense. Grab a cup of coffee, get cosy and let’s do this! 

Tip #6 Start composting for that garden. 

Composting isn’t difficult, but it can seem intimidating. Especially if you’re a girly girl like I am and don’t like touching or being near bugs or getting dirty.

(Yes, I am fully aware I living in a very muddy place and I have picked up a few dead mice and I have cringed for the last four years!)

Start with a base layer of branches or twigs to encourage airflow. You can also use mulch, rocks, and other items that allow for air.

Next layer with green and brown-garden clippings and kitchen scraps. (tip! NO MEAT or ANY KIND OF ANIMAL PRODUCT!) next layer of leaves can be wet.

Every week you’ll want to rotate your pile and make sure to cover “rotted kitchen scraps” with soil to keep the smell down to a minimum. 

Your compost container should have a lid, make sure you keep that secure to keep heat and moisture in. 

 

 

Tip# 7 Stop getting the latest and newest gadgets. 

Having come from the States I know how hard this is.

However, when I moved to France and saw the state of some people’s phones I thought wow that is refreshing.

I’m talking 1st to second-generation iPhones still being used!

Living in a non-credit credit economy is refreshing. Not a lot of things are at my fingertips, and I’ve discovered my life is much simpler without them.

I am now a happy owner of a three-year-old phone. (1st time EVER!)

The lesson here is you don’t need to have the latest television or gadget. Televisions last a lot longer now and are made with energy efficiency in mind, so unless you’re still watching a television that was new in 1950, don’t get another television.

You’d be very surprised to know that most people in France don’t own a television.

Not because they can’t have them or that they have to pay yearly tax on it, cause they don’t.

Most of the French tend to read when the weather is horrible, or right before they go to bed. 

In the summer or the months when the weather is good, they are out living life. Waste your money on life, not things that you’ll replace or refuse to be seen within a few months. 

 

I know living on a budget is hard, and the economy is still looking like a mess but for your personal economy and to help relieve stress living frugually will help you to that French lifestyle of pleasure and relaxation. 

So go ahead and live frugally, but don’t sacrifice! 

 

 

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Hi, I’m Christina

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I’m the coffee-addicted creative behind Christina Q. Writes. As a full-time writer and lover of history, I share insights into my crazy wonderful life.  Christina Q. Writes is where I share tips and advice to help you live simply and in the moment, and do it your way. Don’t be afraid to laugh at my mistakes!