I am not living in a country where things are cheap and in addition to that my salary is pretty low at the moment, so I started to track my spending habits again. Rent and utilities are not a big issue right now for me (because I am lucky) , so I focus on other things.
The main issue seems to be food, fun and transportation. My goal right now is to save a little bit of money to be able to travel in between quitting my current company and starting something new. So, with my goal set, here is what I recently started to do:
1) Throw away less food. When food is expensive, buy less and use everything up. Astonishing things and great meals can be made out of leftovers. Okay, sometimes it’s cr*p, sometimes ingredients don’t fit and sometimes leftovers taste weird. But even if your success rate is 50/50 percent, we’re talking about food that you would have dumped if you hadn’t tried, so trying is win!
2) Buy local food. Local food is often cheaper and fresher. Learn how to cook and and buy seasonal. In my case, I got a Japanese cookbook so I can learn how to use the foreign (for me it’s still foreign), but cheap stuff in the supermarket to make nice meals instead of having to buy pricey ingredients just because I don’t know how to use the local stuff.
3) Bring my own tea and coffee to work. On a workday I get at least three bottles of tea and one coffee out of the vending machine at our office. That’s a total of nearly 4 dollars. Per day. Now I brew my own tea (about 1.5 liter for maybe 50 cent) in the morning and take a flask to work. Another, smaller one I fill with coffee to have some variety (20 cent). While this saves me a lot of money it also will hopefully allow me to lose some weight as coffee from the vending machine has about 20 grams of sugar per serving in it.
4) Buy less junk-food. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Junk food is expensive and has no real nutrition. Nevertheless it is challenging for me, because I like junk food. Especially limited-edition stuff and new seasonal products and there is a ton of this here in Japan. Not to mention all the green-tea sweets. I now make it a rule to only shop one item of junk-food per shopping trip in order to control this a little bit: Want some icecream? Can’t have that bag of chips then!
5) Bike everywhere. No taking the bus to the mall, no taking the train either, go by bike and save some money. I am lucky though because I live 10 minutes away from work, so I can walk. Also the weather is pretty nice at the moment. So the real challenge will start when I live further away from work and/or the weather is bad.
6) Read more. By reading more I go out less and spend less. A library card is also helpful for that. In my case it was for free *lucky* and now I can enjoy a ton of books in my free time. Reading keeps me from strolling the local mall and shopping for things I don’t need.
7) Rent some DVDs instead of going to the movies. If you’re not into reading try renting movies instead of going to the cinema. Visit to the cinema; 18 bucks. One rental DVD: 1 buck. Making your own popcorn can also be pretty fun and it’s cheap.
The major issue for me is to be frugal but to still have fun with it and to not feel deprived of anything.
A little discipline doesn’t hurt, but feeling bad all the time because of money-issues does. I don’t want to think of spending or saving all the time, so I try to do simple things that can be improved easily and things that don’t force me to change my overall life or force me to give up too much. Small changes that still allow me to live my life with a certain quality but that make a difference in my account at the end of the month.
What do you think about being frugal? If you live frugal, what are your special ways to save money?