Are you looking for that one weird trick to catapult you to epic frugality and an early retirement epiphany? Do you want to know the super secret tactics Mr. Frugalwoods, Frugal Hound, and I employ to attain our sky-high 71% savings rate? Have you been prowling the internet for “hot frugal tips”? I know I have. Look no further because today, I’m revealing all.
So just how are we positioning ourselves to retire at 33? Get ready for some shockers.
The Frugalwoods’ 12 Shocking Frugal Hacks
1) Don’t spend money.
I could pretty much end the post right here, but then I’d feel badly that you took the time to click over and start reading… Plus I have a lot of Frugal Hound photos I need to squeeze in today.
I see folks getting more frantic than a greyhound in a squirrel sanctuary over coupons, sales, deals, and bizarre money-saving schemes. But the truth is, a genuine frugal weirdo doesn’t need any of that, because we just don’t buy it. Whatever it is, we’re probably not buying it. This might sound like a gimmick in and of itself, and you can feel free to treat it that way if it helps you. Try this out: “Oh yeah, I’m in the Frugalwoods-No-Buy program. It’s pretty intense.” All’s you have to do is, wait for it, resist the urge to buy stuff.
Every month, Mr. Frugalwoods and I go to the grocery store, Costco, and occasionally Home Depot and Amazon.com. Full stop. While it’s totally possible to impulse shop at the grocery store (ahem, pregnancy cravings, ahem), it’s far less tempting than say, I don’t know, a store that sells clothes or gadgets. When in doubt, don’t buy it.
2) There are no hacks.
The first rule of frugal hack club is that there are no hacks. Despite what we all might want to believe, there’s no hidden trove of tricks that we frugal people use. Life is pretty simple and peaceful when you’ve embraced the frugal ethos. Rather than spending your valuable life energy deliberating over which new useless doodad to buy, or how to pimp your ride, or bling your cat, you get to enjoy the beautiful ease and clarity that comes from being secure in, and content with, what you already have.
With all the extra time you’ll gain from not shopping or stressing out, you’re free to dress up your greyhound in absurd outfits, read books (checked out from the–gasp–free library), cook your own awesome food, and just generally enjoy life. Frugality is all about identifying your priorities and then only spending money in service of those goals. There’s really nothing more to it. But hey, I thought of more stuff to write, so keep reading…
3) Buy a used car.
If a frugal weirdo needs a car, you better believe they’re going to buy it used. No matter what car salesmen would have you believe (which, by the way, would entail taking advice from someone who stands to benefit from your loss…), a new machine will depreciate immediately after you drive it off the lot. You might as well fling a few thousand bucks out the window as you drive away to get the idea of just how much money you’ve wasted.
And when I say a used car, I don’t mean a car that’s a year or two old. I mean one that’s generously several years old. Frugalwoods-mobile is rocking it at age 19 and has incurred nominal repair expenses over the years. Why? She’s a reliable beast of a vehicle. Do your research, figure out what type of car fits your needs (not your wants) and then find one that’s 10 years old on Craigslist. Oh yeah, and pay cash for it. Financing a car is a greater sin than wearing white after Labor Day.
4) Go to a cheap college.
This is an example of taking the lazy way out. Instead of fretting and roiling over student loan rates and how to cobble together an astronomical tuition fee, encourage your kiddos (or yourself if you’re a super enlightened high-schooler reading this right now) to select a decent, inexpensive, in-state, public university.
There are plenty of amazing public schools that cost a fraction of their private counterparts. A fraction, I tell you! Mr. FW and I are both the products of public higher ed and look where we are now! Writing bizarre frugal rants on the internet! In all seriousness, we’ve both been served just fine by our public school BAs and never once had an employer look askance at our education. And did I mention we’ve never had any student loan debt? Oh yeah.
5) Cook your own food.
Yep, another shocker. I’m always amazed at the number of people bewildered about where to start frugalizing their monthly budget and turns out, they’re dropping a hundred bucks or more at restaurants every month. I totally get it if a restaurant meal every now and then is part of your entertainment or treat budget, but, making it a habitual component of your routine is an easy way to watch money fly through your fingers. If you do want to eat out from time to time, frugalize your at-home breakfasts and lunches.
Focusing your efforts on reducing your grocery bill will also continually yield dividends. Since food is one of those things we just have to buy on repeat, finding ways to make it cheaper will be a boon for you every single month. Don’t just trim off a few bucks every once in awhile, change how you eat and watch the savings grow. Mr. FW and I munch healthy (hello organic produce!) for around $300-$350/month for the two of us–yes folks, it can be done.
6) Buy a house as an investment.
If you choose to buy a house, buy smart (many frugalers are in the renting camp, which can also be a great strategy). Don’t spend above your budget, don’t take out a mortgage at a terrible interest rate, and don’t buy something you won’t be able to later resell or rent out. When you’re buying, treat it like an investment, not a home. You’ll have plenty of time to home-i-fy it after you move in, but you can’t go back in time and make it a better investment.
7) Bide your time.
In those rare instances where Mr. FW and I truly do need to buy something, we take the tack of biding our time. Much like Frugal Hound stalking her toys, we’re methodical and ruthless. We observe, price compare, research, deliberate, investigate used options, consider if we already own something that’ll suffice, determine if it can be borrowed, and then carefully make our purchase. In this way, we find the best product at the best price and don’t suffer buyer’s remorse. I’ve never been sorry that we waited to make a purchase. Time always lends perspective and a better deal. It’s a proven frugal fact.
8) Get a frugal pet.
For those of us who are fur, fin, or feather-inclined, it’s important to make a thrifty choice when selecting a pet. Rather than sentencing yourself to a lifetime of struggling to find coupons for dog-walkers and groomers, select a breed of dog that doesn’t require either (I’m of course biased towards greyhounds, but there are other breeds that also fit the bill).
It really is possible to build future frugality into your adoption of a pet by taking into consideration their exercise needs, medical proclivities, grooming requirements, behavioral tendencies, and your own travel and work schedule. I’m a huge advocate for pets, but only when done frugally and responsibly.
9) Invest simply.
Do not use ostentatious money managers and ETFs with words and marketing that make you feel smart but actually just mean they’re leeching money from you every month. Choose low-free index funds that are so straightforward, you can manage them yourself. It’s boring, but it works. Sometimes–actually often–simple is best.
10) Don’t waste time caring about what other people think.
Unless they’re going to help you pay down your debt or save more money for you, forget what anyone else thinks about you. You don’t have to race around trying desperately to figure out how to keep up with the Joneses because you’re keeping up with the Frugalwoods (which is really easy to do, by the way, since it mostly involves an absence of actions and things).
If you’re spending money so that people will be impressed by you and like you, consider this: do you really want to impress and befriend the type of people who would be impressed by lavish displays of wealth? “Not I,” said every frugal weirdo reading this.
11) Do it yourself.
Whatever it is, don’t hire it out. The exception here is dental and medical care–I’ve gotten questions about this before and, for the record, we don’t advocate for home-surgery. But if a task doesn’t require an MD, you can probably figure it out on your own.
Fix your own house, cut your own hair (yes, gentlemen and ladies), wash your own dirty dog, cook your own delicious food, change your own tires, clean your own house, and just generally don’t pay people to do stuff for you. You’re wasting two things when you hire out: 1) your money, 2) your opportunity to learn a new skill.
12) Look beyond the flash.
All that glitters is not gold. The consummate frugal weirdo knows to studiously avoid anything that reeks of marketing and gaudiness. Plenty of stuff falls into this dangerous category: new cars, new clothes, new furniture, even pre-packaged foods at the grocery store.
Put on your flash-blinders and open your eyes to the wonders of scratch-and-dent appliances, used furniture on Craigslist, thrift store clothing, and raw, bulk foods in boring colors like green and brown. Cleverly avail yourself of what our non-frugal counterparts cast off. The used market is rife with other people’s mistakes. Make them your cunning advantage.