We don’t have a budget. For anything. Ever. When I first shared this, folks were mildly shocked. After all, Mr. Frugalwoods and I are all about saving money, so how on earth do we skip this most basic of financial conventions? Through habitual frugality.
Mr. FW and I have been living frugally for so many years that it has become our modus operandi. We’ve programmed ourselves to see the world through a frugal lens such that it’s more natural for us to not spend money than the alternative. A budget is moot because our approach to spending is on autopilot. But getting to this budget-free frugal zone didn’t happen automatically. Deliberate decisions over the years have facilitated the formation of our consistent frugal habits.
Over the duration, these seemingly insignificant decisions have had a pretty major impact on our savings. These are things that wouldn’t cost much per unit, but over the course of a year, or five years, would dramatically reduce our capacity to save and our overall net worth.
These decisions have a cumulative effect akin to the act of brushing your teeth every night. Brushing just once isn’t going to prevent you from cavities, and skipping a night isn’t going to yield a mouth of dereliction, but the comprehensive benefit of brushing daily is lifelong dental health.
Frugality works the same way and a concerted, long-term application of frugality will yield substantial savings and, perhaps more importantly, a very low cost of living. When your expenses are low, you have the freedom to make much less money.
Here are a few of the Frugalwoods consistently frugal habits:
- What we eat for breakfast. 10 cents a serving for oats is pretty hard to beat. As I outlined in Breakfast: The Hidden Destroyer, we save $913.44 per year by adhering to our oats.
- Bulk homemade lunches that we take to work every day. Mr. Frugalwoods whips up a batch of rice-n-beans or lentils or quinoa on Sundays and we take them to work all week. It never even crosses my mind to buy lunch because I’m prepared every day with my homemade vittles.
- Living without cable TV. We only had to make this choice once and it’s been a recurring frugal habit ever since. Instead, we watch free YouTube and Roku shows when we do watch TV, which isn’t all that often.
- Mr. FW rides his bike to work, which is vastly cheaper than taking public transit or driving.
- Drinking seltzer instead of soda. Especially with our franken-seltzer set-up, this is a dang cheap way to get our daily (hourly) doses of carbonation.
- Making coffee at home (up to and including pumpkin spice lattes). Conversely, if we both habitually bought a coffee
everyday for $3 apiece, for example, that’d be $2,190 over the course of a single year. While that $3 doesn’t sound like much in the abstract, it’s a pretty significant sum over time.
- Conserving energy. We only turn on the AC or heat when necessary. We allow our bodies to acclimate to the ambient temperature so that we don’t need to condition our home for a fairly broad band of temperatures.
- Doing fewer loads of laundry. We wear our clothes more than once before washing them, which helps the clothes last longer and uses less energy, water, and laundry detergent. I line-dry most of our laundry in order run the dryer less.
- We don’t shop unless we need something specific. This removes the temptation to “find” something we need in a store. I used to be a terror with this in CVS and Target. I was forever locating something I suddenly “needed” (a shower cap! travel-size tissues!). Now, I don’t go into a store unless I’ve determined in advance that I seriously need something.
In the course of life, you’ll have weeks where you make amazing advances towards life goals and personal achievements galore. But, there are also hundreds of weeks where you just go through life and chug along. And there’s nothing wrong with chugging and enjoying the simple pleasures of taking a walk, cooking a nice meal, eating that meal, eating the leftovers of that meal, and then talking about that meal (maybe that’s just me and Mr. FW).
The key is to have these habits in place so that you don’t have to make laborious financial decisions on a daily basis. When you establish a frugal autopilot, it frees your brain to do other things (like dream up ways to surprise your wife by making her homemade marshmallows) and you don’t succumb to decision fatigue over the plethora of material goods you could be buying. By incorporating frugal habits into the things we do automatically and everyday, we don’t have to spend a lot of energy calculating a budget or debating expenses.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I have made frugality second nature and it’s just how we live our lives. We love our routine frugality and the financial independence that it will enable.
P.S. I made a few updates to the site over the weekend–check out my brand new repository of Frugal Hound pics, Frugal Hound’s Funny Greyhound Photo Corner, as well as my new Hire Me/Collaborate With Me page.