My life changed pretty drastically a couple of years ago. I was divorced and moving to a different state, and wondering how on earth I was going to pull this off. The dogs and I crossed the border into Oklahoma and I thought: Well, another chapter in my life begins.
What kept ringing in my years in those early days were someone’s words, meant to make me feel small. “You can’t make it by yourself.”
I’m pleased to say that, through thick and thin, I have managed to make it. And I don’t feel as though I’m going without at all. In fact I have found that I like to live this way.
Now I’ll tell you how I learned to live frugally.
1. I doubt I’ve put 1000 miles on my car, which is now paid for, since I moved here. Of course much of that time I couldn’t drive due to my ankle. My advice here is that we should think twice before we fire up the car and back out the driveway.
Wait, if you possibly can, until you have two to three errands to run before you head out. Travel to these errands in the most expedient way, so that you don’t waste any gas. I go out once or twice a week. Otherwise I’m content to be home with the pupsters.
2. Eat your main meal at lunch time. And yes, breakfast is the most important meal of your day. I always have cereal with fruit in the mornings and then one cup of coffee.
It was two cups of coffee for years. But I indulge myself with a mini Keurig, and I don’t want to use two K-cups in one day. So one cup is enough, and I savor it all the more.
If you want to eat out, lunch time is the cheapest time to go to restaurants. If you wait for dinner prices, you’ll pay more and miss all those lunch specials.
Restaurants tend to serve big plates of food. When they bring your meal, ask for a to-go container and split it in half for later. You’ll eat less calories and have another meal you don’t have to cook.
I sometimes order a pizza online and have it delivered. I can eat lunch on that one pizza for up to four days.
For supper (which is what we call it around here), I tend to have a potato. I have a baked potato one night with half a package of frozen vegetables ($1.75 for a packet). I put half of the veggies in the fridge for the next baked potato.
The next night I will have a baked sweet potato. Throw in some iced tea, and this is my meal. Occasionally I have a protein smoothie instead.
It’s far better to eat six times per day and not eat as much, as it is to eat three meals a day and stuff yourself.
The third night I will have another regular baked potato with the rest of the packet of veggies. It is filling and the veggies are nutritious.
3. I buy very few clothes. I launder them and then hang them on hangers in my closet to dry. It makes your clothes last longer not to dry them in the dryer. If I had a place to hang them outside, I probably would. But with my ankle, for now it’s better to do it this way.
4. I don’t spend money on entertainment. I do have a TV and cable. I have internet. I rarely buy magazines, and I get many books free from publishers so that I will review them.
I don’t go to movies. But then I wouldn’t go to movies or concerts if I had all the money in the world. I have trouble with places that are loud and crowded.
5. I buy most of my household items, like big packs of paper towels and toilet paper, from Walmart.com. You get free shipping when you spend $45. So once and sometimes twice a month I will stock up.
I started doing this so I wouldn’t have to go to a store and overdo it with my ankle. And then have to walk from the garage to the gate and up the steps indoors. But I will continue to do this because I don’t have to use gas to go to the store and the things I buy are placed right at my door.
You get good deals, and that’s where I order my coffee. I get my cereal there too. Anything that isn’t frozen or needs refrigeration I order online.
6. I use water judiciously. I don’t use the dishwasher. It is older and the cycles seemed to go on forever. I can rinse my plate in a short span of time, using little water in doing so. Plus I don’t use electricity this way.
I actually kind of like to wash dishes. It is a reflective time for me.
7. I primarily shop the house when decorating, although I will allow myself the occasional splurge on something. For instance, I bought myself a wicker chair from Pier 1 a few months ago.
It’s fun to shop the house, and see how many different ways you can decorate your home with what you have used in other rooms. Which is why I tend to use the same colors throughout the house.
8. I usually only have one lamp on at night. I will turn the one on in the kitchen so I won’t run into things letting the dogs out before bedtime. The entire house does not need to be lit up unless you have people working in every single room.
Just make it a habit to turn the lights off when you leave a room.
9. Try to plant drought-resistant plants indigenous to your region. They need less water. And as I did last year, allow your plants to reseed. That’s why I have morning glories and such from last year in the back yard.
Or keep the seeds and replant them next year. Or share with a friend. It’s fun to trade seeds.
I only planted a packet of zinnias this year and did not buy any plants.
I am fortunate that I enjoy nature. It is free to watch and photograph birds and such. And then I can show them to you!
10. We really don’t need big houses unless we have very large families. Want is different than “need.” Otherwise we’re wasting space we have to pay utilities and taxes for. I rent a small bungalow for just over $600 a month. And I know I could live in half of this 1000 square feet space.
My idea of a perfect space would be a very open space with few walls. I actually like lofts where you often can see the bed from the kitchen and the kitchen from the bathroom. Open layouts gives you the feeling of spaciousness.
I do hope the McMansion era is over. In my opinion, what a waste of money and resources. When they’re foreclosed on, they sit like giant monoliths, a testimony to a country that thinks bigger is always better.