So just what does a frugal weirdo do on a daily basis? People ask us all the time–no really, how do you and Mr. Frugalwoods make it through each month on only $1,000 or less? Are we holed up in a hovel weaving dog fur into sweaters to keep warm? Sitting in the dark to save electricity eating cold beans straight from the can? Not a chance!
Hate to disappoint, but our daily lives bear a striking resemblance to everyone else’s save for the fact that we progress through most of them without spending a dime. How? We established frugal habits and we execute them day after day. There is no one weird trick for frugality.
Since we have a number of mega life changes on the horizon–just, you know, having a baby, quitting our jobs, and moving to a homestead in the woods–I wanted to enshrine this relatively standard dual income, 9-5 juncture in our lives. Plus, in a few months I can look back fondly on how simple and non-sleep deprived our lives used to be ;). I reserve the right to write a completely different iteration in the future titled: A Day In the Life Of Frugal Weirdos + A Baby!
I’ve chosen to illustrate a typical weekday since most of us have more weekdays than weekends (except for you fools who are already early retired) and, I want to highlight the importance of routinizing frugal habits on average days. So this isn’t the best day of the month for us, or a particularly thrilling Saturday, or even a rather exciting Friday. In fact, let’s say this is a commonplace Monday (cue the booing now). Since there’s nothing special about a regular ol’ Monday, we see no reason to blow exorbitant amounts of money on a day that’s just a day. Instead, we optimize our quotidian existence for frugal efficiency.
That’s all well and good to say, but what does that look like in practice? You’re in luck–it’s written below!
Sidenote: while my schedule-oriented personality might prefer that we keep to the below timetable, we don’t adhere to these times precisely–we’re not running around with a stopwatch or anything.
A Monday In The Life Of The Frugalwoods
6:00am: Family wake-up time! All three (3.5 counting Babywoods?) of us wake up at 6am every weekday because we’re fans of routine and togetherness. Waking up at the same time means we can divide and conquer our morning chores and enjoy a few hours together before heading off to work.
Plus, we’re suckers for a good night’s sleep and committing to our 6am reveille provides ample motivation to go to sleep on time at night. Mr. FW and I make the bed while Frugal Hound carts a toy from the bedroom to the front room, which is her little AM ritual. I then take the Hound out for her morning constitutional while Mr. FW prepares breakfast.
- 1st spending opportunity: Breakfast. We eat on the cheap for this first meal of the day. Instead of rushing around and grabbing a pricey pre-made breakfast like a protein bar or, worse still, buying breakfast and coffee out somewhere, we cook this meal at home hot and fresh every morning. Our frugal breakfast of choice: Costco coffee, hacked seltzer, and $0.10/serving whole grain oats from Costco with a sliced banana on top. Throughout pregnancy I’ve added milk to mine for bonus calories and calcium.
6:15am: For some good old-fashioned frugal fun, Frugal Hound gives a high-five for her breakfast (the one trick we’ve trained her to perform reliably). Our Hound eats grain-free kibble from Costco, which is vastly less expensive than the dog chow sold in pet stores or on Amazon. Bonus: it has the same ingredients as its much more lavish analogues!
6:30am-8:00am: Special projects time! This is when I write the majority of what ya’ll read right here on Frugalwoods.com and Mr. FW engages in various pursuits including getting started on his workday, reading news, fixing blog back-end issues, browsing homestead properties, and the like. It’s a wonderfully relaxing and productive way for us to start each day.
8:00am: I get in the shower. This is self-explanatory. Suffice it to say, I’m a believer in soap and water. To keep our bathing low-cost, we use the cheapest shampoo and soap from Costco, which cleans our frugal bits just fine.
Other ways we save money in the bathroom: we purchase Costco toilet paper and refillable hand soap, I wear almost no makeup, and I rarely dry my hair (except in cases of extremely cold temps). But perhaps most notably of all: we insource our beauty care. I cut Mr. FW’s hair, he cuts mine, we bathe Frugal Hound ourselves, and we conduct all of our own personal grooming (beard trimming, greyhound whisker curling, eyebrow plucking, and the like).
8:30am: I drive to work.
- 2nd spending opportunity: the first commuter. My drive to work takes a mere 20 minutes thanks to the proximity of our house to my office. Thus, we’re able to get through each month on just one or two tanks of gas. And, our 19-year-old Frugalwoods-mobile costs a meagre $1,000 or so each year in insurance, gas, registration, and maintenance. Needless to say, we obviously don’t have a car loan.
Our decision to live near both of our jobs was a strategic choice we made to sacrifice house size and yard (we have none) in order to reap the benefits of short commutes. In addition to the costs associated with long commutes, there’s a serious decrease in quality of life when you’re required to be in your car for long stretches everyday. Plus, the later you get home from work, the less likely you are to cook your own dinner, clean your own house, walk your own dog… a long commute can quickly translate into a vicious cycle of spending.
8:45am: Mr. FW partakes in his shower and then walks Frugal Hound once more.
- 3rd spending opportunity: a dog walker and/or doggie day care. We chose to adopt a breed of dog (the greyhound!) that’s fine staying home alone all day while we’re at work. Hence, no need to shell out for a dog walker or doggie day care.
9:00am: Mr. FW jets off to work on his handy dandy bicycle.
- 4th spending opportunity: the second commuter. Once again, our proximity to work–and Mr. FW’s willingness to bike in all weather–saves us the expense of either a second car or public transit.
9:00am-12:00pm: We do things at work, mostly involving computers and cubicles. Oh yes, we lead ridiculously thrilling lives. Commence jealously at any moment.
- 5th spending opportunity: morning coffee or tea. To avoid this archetypal resource squander, I bring my own tea bags to work and Mr. FW avails himself of the free coffee in his office kitchen.
12:00pm: Lunchtime! Ahhh lunch, glorious lunch and the topic of the…
- 6th spending opportunity: the midday meal. Not buying lunch at work is perhaps the easiest, most implementable frugal tip you can enact. If you take nothing else away from this rambling and ridiculous post, start bringing your own lunch to work right now! ASAP! No excuses friends.
While Mr. FW and I typically munch our $0.39/serving classic Frugalwoods rice-n-beans (with a side of organic salad greens), sometimes we branch out into more extravagant options such as salmon burgers, homemade chicken salad, or avocados. But even these ritzier meals still cost a fraction of procuring lunch from the cafe.
Frugal lunch protip #1: cook up a huge batch of something tasty on Sundays and then portion it out for your lunches all week.
Frugal lunch protip #2: pack your lunch the night before–this eliminates the “I was too busy this morning!” excuse.
Frugal lunch protip #3: keep a jar of “oh crap” peanut butter (or similar) at your office to combat the “oh crap, I forgot to grab my lunch!” excuse. I learned this lesson the hard way after forgetting said lunch once last year.
1:00pm-3:00pm: We do more things at work, mostly involving computers and cubicles.
3:00pm: I get very hungry (some might say hangry) and require a snack!
- 7th spending opportunity: the afternoon snack. Since I know I’m going to need a snack every afternoon, I plan ahead and pack a menagerie of food for myself everyday. I used to get by on just a piece of fruit, but pregnancy has wrought a need for far more caloric intake. Hence, my daily snacks include: carrots, broccoli, green pepper, almonds, and 1 hardboiled egg. I don’t eat this all at 3pm, rather I sort of graze all day long, but I figured you didn’t want to read about every single one of my frugal snacktimes.
I’m always shocked when people don’t realize they’re going to need a snack and then must dash to the vending machine every day in a famished frenzy. Failing to plan ahead with regard to snacks is a frugal fail, folks. Know thyself and thy’s eating needs and henceforth plan accordingly.
5:00pm: The official workday ends and we begin our respective commutes. I usually talk to my mom on the phone during my drive. I suppose that’s not a frugal tip per se, but it is nice to call one’s mom on a regular basis. Moms everywhere agree with this statement.
5:30pm: I go to free yoga!
- 8th spending opportunity: exercising/recreating. I love me some yoga and while I could (and sometimes do) practice yoga at home by myself, I prefer the camaraderie and challenge of doing yoga at a studio. I learn something new every single time I’m on my mat and, without fail, I get a better workout when it’s led by a trained professional (otherwise I’m wont to recline in child’s pose for too long… ). But you can bet your frugal fanny I’m not paying $18 per class for this pleasure! Nay! Instead, I volunteer at my studio twice a week in exchange for free classes. On Mondays, I take out the studio trash barrel (total time commitment: 4 minutes) and on Wednesdays, I check people in for class and mop the studio (total time commitment: 30 minutes).
In addition to receiving free yoga classes for my labors, I get to chat with everyone, make new friends, and become part of the yoga community. I sincerely enjoy the job of checking people in for class–there’s just something fun about welcoming everyone to yoga and making sure they’re all set to have a good class.
This opportunity is not unique to my yoga studio–it’s actually fairly common practice at exercise/yoga/dance studios across the country. Rather than incur the overhead of hiring full-time employees, studios are thrilled to have free help in exchange for free workouts. Plus, you never know where this type of volunteering might lead. My fabulously frugal sister used to clean her ballet studio in exchange for free dance classes for herself and her three kids and now, she’s paid to teach ballet several times a week thanks to the relationship she formed with the studio owner (of course it doesn’t hurt that she’s a stellar ballet dancer).
7:30pm: Dinner time! While I’m at free yoga, Mr. FW bikes home, takes Frugal Hound on a long walk, manages general household affairs like trash/recycling and getting the mail, and prepares our dinner. I really did marry a winner.
- 9th spending opportunity: dinner. Once again, cooking vittles yourself will always be more economical. We keep our food bill in the range of $300/month by not eating out and strategically shopping frugal. Our weeknight meals are quick, healthy, and fairly easy to prepare so that chef Mr. FW isn’t overburdened by complicated recipes after a long day of work.
Frugal dinner protip: keep a stash of prepared frozen meals on hand just in case. For nights when you’re unexpectedly held up at work, not feeling well, or otherwise just know that cooking ain’t gonna happen, pop one of your frozen items into the oven and relax. While not the healthiest option, our frozen pizzas have saved us from getting take-out on more than one occasion. Here again, it’s a question of knowing yourself and being prepared.
7:45pm-8:15pm: TV time! We like to watch a little bit of TV while eating dinner (classy I know and I swear we won’t do this once Babywoods is old enough to eat at the table with us), which brings us to our…
- 10th spending opportunity: televised entertainment. In lieu of paying for cable, Netflix, Hulu or whatever else is for sale these days, we watch free internet TV. Woohoo for free stuff!
8:15pm: Frugal Hound playtime! Frugal Hound loves it when we carry her toys from the front room back into our bedroom so that she can repeat the process. It’s hilarious to watch and it never fails to entertain her. We do this until she gets tired and flops down dramatically on her bed (sidenote: FH is one of the laziest dogs on earth).
8:30pm: More special projects/work time! I catch up on freelance writing work as well as Frugalwoods-related activities while Mr. FW puts in more time for his job.
9:30pm: Time to get in bed and read books. This is pretty straightforward: we get in bed and read some books.
- 11th spending opportunity: books. As avid readers, Mr. FW and I require a steady supply of readable materials. But rather than purchase them, we rent them from the very excellent Cambridge public library. We’re able to request titles online in advance so we have a constant flow of literature to peruse.
10:00pm (sometimes 10:30pm if we’re really engrossed in our books and lose track of time): Lights out. Of all the things we sacrifice in service of our goals, a good night’s sleep is never one of them. Despite being absurdly busy right now between working full-time, blogging full-time, freelancing part-time, traveling, and preparing for the birth of our first child, sleep is a priority. And this, in fact, is a frugal tip.
By eating well, sleeping 8 hours a night, drinking loads of water (ok yes, usually in the form of homemade seltzer), and exercising, Mr. FW and I keep ourselves in superb health. Of course our good health is also partly due to luck and living in a first world country, but it’s amazing how many little illnesses one can stave off by following these simple principles. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that we snooze on a $279 mattress either.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! You made it through our relatively humdrum weekday existence! It’s not all hiking and travel and exotic discoveries with chest freezers everyday around here. A lot of life is just elementary, happy routine. And the pivotal frugal hack of life is: we only had to implement a frugal solution once for each of the spending opportunities listed above and then we reap the benefits every single day thereafter.
We don’t reinvent the frugal wheel on a daily basis, we just rinse and repeat our already frugalized existence. Thus, extreme frugality isn’t a struggle or a hardship for us, it’s just how we naturally live. With each of the spending opportunities I outlined, we did have to exert some energy around creating a frugal workaround, but the key is that we only had to do it one time. Now that is some frugal efficiency.
I think many people’s weekdays probably resemble ours and here’s the thing: we all get to the exact same end result. The frugal weirdo difference is that we spend precious little money getting there.