How to Live Frugally in an Overpriced World

List: Posted: 09/28/11

The O'Jays sang a great song 'For the Love of Money' that goes like this, "Money, money, money, money, money".  The almighty dollar bill ya'll.  The green gremlin.  The shiny shilling.  Whatever you call it, everyone needs more of it.  Here are some great practical tips I've learned to help stretch my wallet as far as it can go.


Tip 1: Learn the Difference between 'Essential' and 'Nonessential' Purchases.


A great tip my grandma taught me is this: "Treat your money like soldiers, each one trying to bring back as many prisoners as possible".  What does that mean?  It means, put your money to work!  Don't spend money on things that make it disappear. 

Here are the top things that make money vanish: leisure, alcohol, cigarettes, brand-name goods, 3rd party services, new cars, vacations, new electronics, beauty treatments.

I'm not saying don't buy any of these things, but understand what is an investment and what is a liability.  Say you have $100.  You can spend an hour getting a massage, or you could spend it on rent and make your own hot tub by having a candlelit bath filled with essential oils (cheap) and bubble-bath.  A couple of tea tree candle and some bubble bath will set you back less than $3, but you'll feel like a queen when you emerge from that bath an hour later.  Now, the massage is relaxing and enjoyable too, and you should do it if you have a sports injury... but if you'd enjoy that calming bubble-bath just as much, that is the wiser money choice.


When you spend your money on something that increases in value, then that $100 dollars is being saved and increased.  Whereas buying nonessential goods and services is the same thing as lighting the cash on fire.

So, try to invest your money rather then spend it. In this sense, your money is always working to bring more back to you!


Tip 2: Learn to Cook


Besides being a useful life-skill, learning to cook can save you a lot of money over the years.  Eating out burns a hole in your pocket, period.  You are not just paying for the actual food; you are paying for the restaurant's staff, rent, equipment, and services.  When you go grocery shopping, you are saving all that money and keeping it in your own pocket! 

If you can't give up eating out, try to at least cut back.  For instance, take a family of four.  If they eat out 3 times a week, that family will spend over $2,000+ more a year than a family that eats out once a week.  You don't have to completely cut out restaurants, but just by reducing the number of times per week or month you eat out, you will see your savings grow.


Tip 3: Never (Ever) Buy a car Brand New


Buy an older car.  Buying a brand new car makes no sense.  Even waiting a month to buy a used car with 100 miles on it can save you literally thousands of dollars.  If you are really that desperate for attention, just go out in the street and light a bonfire with your cash, or skip down the street throwing it gaily around you and laughing.  You will still spend less and get a lot more attention.  


Seriously, the value of a car decreases DRAMATICALLY in the first 3 years.  Buy a used car 3-7 years old from a used car dealership, and you will save the most amount of money you can on a vehicle.  Plus, almost all cars these days are reliable the first 10 years, and the insurance will be much cheaper if you bought your car for a lower price.


Tip 4: Buy Everything Online


Buy online, especially on Craigslist.  I don't even shop for furniture, computers, cameras, cell phones, or even cars anymore at dealers/ stores.  You can save a ton of money shopping online.  Amazon and Craigslist are my two favorite spots.  Some people may be nervous of getting scammed when buying electronics online, but Amazon, NewEgg, and Ebay are great ways to go that have proven guarantees against such scams.


Craigslist is scary sometimes as it is the most unregulated, but the best advice is to research the product, always pick up the product in person, and always get a copy of the seller's driver's license if you are parting with a substantial amount of cash.  An honest seller will not mind you doing this, so it's a good way to spot the scam artists.  Another good tip is if they agree to meet you at their house rather than a gas station or parking lot, more than likely they are legit.  Also, items like furniture are easy to check for quality, so you don't need to fear you're being ripped off.


Tip 5: Brush Up Your Mechanical Skills

Learn simple mechanical skills.  Changing your car's oil is easier than washing dishes, but many people react to opening up their own car's hood as if there were anacondas under the engine.  Be a man (or a woman), and learn how to do basic car work. 


At the minimum, to save money each year you should know how to change oil, flush coolant, change your radiator, change belts, change your battery, windshield wipers, fuses, change your spark plugs, change your tires, and change your brakes.  Just Google or YouTube it, and each of these things takes less than 20 minutes to do!  They are super easy to learn (and teach to your kids) and will save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over your lifetime compared to overpriced auto mechanics


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