As any Scottish person worth his or her salted porridge would happily tell you, there is a world of difference between being cheap and being frugal. We have all encountered cheapskates. They are of the sort to not leave enough money when contributing to a shared restaurant bill. They may leave an inadequate tip or no tip at all, even when the service has been excellent. They are the kind of person who thinks nothing of treating themselves to luxuries, but would never consider contributing time or money to any charity. They are the type to exit the building just as the hat is being passed around at a benefit performance or fundraiser.
In contrast, frugal people have a plain and no-nonsense understanding of money. They realize that spending money wisely and mindfully is one of the most important skills one can possess in our wealth-driven society, a skill that can greatly contribute to the enjoyment of life. What follows is a list of hints and ideas about ways to become a little more frugal without being cheap. If you’re not already doing them, these ideas will hopefully help you to make the family budget go just a little bit further.
“¢ Don’t waste your money by paying full retail prices for clothing. From the local Sally-Ann to the pre-owned designer boutique, there are so many excellent thrift and consignment stores out there that sell hardly-worn or never-worn top quality clothing for a fraction of the going retail price. Keep these options in mind, also, when buying such things as kitchenware, camping gadgets, books, home furnishings, sports equipment — you name it.
“¢ Don’t be fooled into buying cupboards-full of over-priced and fancily packaged cleaning products for your home. In reality, there is basically nothing in your home that can’t be adequately cleaned with the use of simple, cheap and effective cleaning items such as baking soda, borax, bleach, and vinegar.
“¢ Spend some time shopping around for the best possible deals on such things as automobile insurance, home insurance, internet service, long-distance calling plans, mortgage rates, etc. There is lots of competition in all these areas now. A few hours of solid research (the same amount of time some people spend in shopping malls every weekend) can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars every year.
“¢ Remember that more money spent equals more time spent earning it. In other words, be aware of the true cost of so-called convenience products. When you buy pre-packaged, processed foods that claim to make your life easier and free up more time for other things, you are not only sacrificing taste and nutrition, and damaging the environment, you are also inevitably paying more money. By paying more money, you in turn have to work more than you need to. If you would rather spend more time in the office or behind the cash register, than standing over a stove stirring a homemade soup or pasta sauce, that is all well and good, but you shouldn’t be conned into thinking that paying for convenience necessarily equates to a better life.
“¢ Most important of all, learn to distinguish between needs and wants. This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of skilled shysters out there in consumer-land who have a vested interest in blurring that distinction for us. Around every corner there are various buccaneers, carnival barkers and snake oil salesmen whose job it is to convince us that we simply must have a shiny new stainless steel barbecue or a sexy ultra-slim cell phone. By acquiring these items, we will somehow become happier and more fulfilled. In reality, we need certain things, such as good food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. in order to sustain our lives in a reasonable way. The rest are just luxuries, or wants. Of course, there is nothing wrong with these luxuries, as long as we keep them within moderation. It is just that we must recognize them for what they are. We should not be suckered into somehow believing that they are must haves.