Now, more than ever, it only makes good sense to look for ways to save money and protect ourselves from inflation! Learning and practicing these frugal and sustainable living tips will help you and your family to be more self-sufficient this year!
Frugality and sustainability are sisters: frugality leads to sustainability and sustainability results in frugality.
We could all benefit from more frugal and sustainable living these days!
In case you missed it, inflation rose at a rate of 6.8% last year and the American consumer is definitely feeling it in their pocketbooks!
Everything from milk to bread to meat have risen in price, so much so, that people are having to choose lower quality products or forego them all together.
In 2021, the price of natural gas has risen about 30%, fuel oil has gone up 43% and propane is expected to increase 54%. (Forbes)
There are even those who are being forced to choose between food and medicine, due to the extreme price increases this year…
It’s called “inflation”.
And it’s only expected to get worse.
Most people would like to be more independent of the “grid”, but don’t know how or where to begin.
When most people think of “the grid”, they think of the power grid.
However, most of us are tied to other “grids” of goods and services, like groceries, fuel, clothes and medicine.
Without those grids in place, most people’s lives come to a grinding halt.
But did you know that there’s only about 3 days worth of groceries on the store’s shelves at one time? If there were to be a rush on food, in the event of inclement weather or some other emergency, the shelves would be empty even sooner!
Do you have a stocked pantry set up at home?
What if there were a prolonged grid-down situation? How long would you last?
Do you have off-grid power back-up systems that you know how to use?
Are you dependent upon medications because you avoid making lifestyle changes?
What if you couldn’t get that medicine for some reason?
It doesn’t have to be that way, you know.
You have the power to turn your dependence on the grid into a more sustainable existence!
Frugal Living tips from the Great Depression
Keep in mind that a short 100 years ago, people lived productive and happy lives without power-grids, grocery stores or big pharma.
-Folks grew and preserved their own food.
-Knowledge of herbs and natural healing was common.
-Lighting consisted of candles and oil lamps.
-Everyone heated their homes and cooked with wood.
-Water was gathered from streams and the lucky few had wells.
-People made a living through trades and many of them were entrepreneurs.
Life was just more simple!
While we can’t turn back time, we CAN embrace the best of what is considered “old-fashioned” and implement them into our lives today. Frugality is back and sustainability is power!
How to start frugal living? Let’s start with our homes:
Frugal Living Tips at Home
1. Cook from Scratch
Everyone knows that processed food is not only more expensive, but many times, nutritionally deficient.
So why don’t we cook from scratch more often, if we know it’s cheaper and better for us?
We fail to plan.
It’s just that simple.
Take a look at the grocery sale ads on the computer. Then do a little meal planning (this means looking at recipes) for the week and make a grocery list. Stick to the list and don’t buy things that aren’t on your list.
Check out my 3-part video class “Master the Grocery Stores” on YouTube!
Get some “buy in” from the family and commit to cooking at home all week.
You’ll be amazed at how much money you save!
2. Use a Clothesline
A short 70 years ago, having a clothes dryer in the home was a rare thing.
Clothing dryers were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them! Most families used a clothesline.
I absolutely LOVE my clothesline and use it all of the time!
I save energy, my clothes last longer and smell amazing plus I always have an excuse to go outside!
3. Go Paper-Free
Single-use paper products are not only unsustainable, but they’re outrageously expensive!
Unless you’re camping, seriously ill or don’t have power, I can’t think of a good enough reason to use paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware.
Use real plates and silverware, for goodness sakes.
Make some pretty cloth napkins and throw them in with your other wash.
Paper towels are another “one-use” item that are totally unnecessary, in my mind.
Ok, you can drain bacon on them, but that’s the only acceptable use for them in my house!
When I was a kid, my mother had a drawer full of dish cloths, that were used for drying hands and dishes.
Today, it seems that the dish cloth has made a return and I’m so glad for that! You’ll save so much money by avoiding paper products!
Did you know that you can make laundry detergent, at home, in about an hour?
I’m talking about good laundry detergent that really cleans your clothes, that is safe for septic systems and will only cost you about $5 to make 10 gallons?
That’s less than one cent per ounce.
Guess how much the leading brands at the grocery cost per ounce?
Between 25-35 cents per ounce.
That adds up!!! Especially if you have a houseful of kids and do a lot of laundry!
5. Make your Coffee at Home
With rare exception, it is not necessary to buy coffee out.
Coffee is so simple and cheap to make at home, it’s just a matter of having your supplies on hand.
That daily $5 latte is costing you $1,825 a year! That money would go a long way to pay off debt or increase your savings!
6. Purify your water at home and ditch bottled water
Bottled water falls under “single-use” products and is extremely wasteful…and expensive.
You can purify your water at home, with many options, these days.
Bringing your own water bottle is just one more way to reduce your dependence on the grocery store and save money as well!
7. Stop Eating Out
Sure, there are times in life when you just want to eat out, and that’s ok.
It’s when eating out becomes a habit and you stop preparing healthy meals at home that it becomes a problem.
Dining out should be something that you have a “sinking fund” set aside for or ask for restaurant gift cards for Christmas and birthdays.
8. Take your Lunch
Eating out for lunch every day can quickly reduce your earnings! Even a “fast food” burger and fries are about $10 these days!
It may not seem like a lot of money, but do the math.
$10 x 260 days (Monday – Friday) is $2,600 annually! That’s a lot of money that could go to much better use, like paying off debt, saving it or putting it into a “sinking fund”!
Brown-bagging your lunch is a great way to make sure leftovers are eaten, as well!
9. Avoid single-use items
Single-use products like Keurig pods, plastic wrap, Styrofoam coffee cups and laundry detergent pods are expensive and wasteful.
None of these are necessary, in my mind, and can all be easily replaced by more sustainable options.
Make coffee in a coffee pot by using coffee grounds.
Use bowls with lids.
Bring or ask for a ceramic coffee cup. (I actually bring my own when I know coffee will be served!)
Make your own liquid detergent and measure it out! No one needs a pod.
10. Buy Better Quality Second-Hand Clothing
Fast-fashion is expensive and wasteful.
It makes so much more sense to buy better clothing second-hand.
You can be frugal without being cheap!
This is where is just makes sense to look for that better quality clothing, it will last longer and stay out of the landfills!
Of course, this needs to be coupled with your sense of contentment with what’s in your closet, once you’ve built an appropriate wardrobe for work and home.
Good quality clothing will last for many years and you’ll love wearing them when you buy classic styles.
11. Buy groceries in Bulk
It makes sense to buy in bulk, especially if you have a plan to store that food properly. Purchasing bulk food can be a great way to pay less, per unit, for staple items.
I order from Azure Standard quite often and love their quality.
For example, if you see a great deal on a 25# of flour, you’ll need air-tight containers to store it in once at home. Bulk purchases aren’t a good deal if you can’t keep them fresh.
However, buying in bulk can allow you to get rock-bottom prices on basic staples! Make sure that you know your unit prices so that you can compare “apples to apples”.
12. Take advantage of loss-leader sales
“Loss Leaders” are those sale items listed on the front, and sometimes back, of a grocery store’s ad.
These are items that are very inexpensive and the grocery store often takes a “loss” on them, hence the name.
“Loss Leaders” are often seasonal produce that are in season, special deals that the grocer was able to get as well as holiday sales.
Take advantage of these great deals, as long as they are items that your family enjoys.
Also, make sure you’ve got room in your cabinets and/or pantry so that you can buy a few extra!
Making your own bread is a very satisfying activity! Not only will you know what’s in it, you’ll save a ton of money! Have you seen the price of a loaf of bread lately???
Depending upon the recipe, a loaf of wonderful homemade bread will cost you about 50 cents!
If you’ve never tried to preserve food before, I strongly suggest you begin with freezing food.
Freezing food is super easy!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn how to can food.
Water-bath canning is usually where people begin. With water-bath canning, you’ll be able to can high-acid foods like fruits and jams.
Pressure-canning is required for low-acid foods like meat and vegetables.
Ask the older women in your family to teach you how to can, or check out your local extension office for canning classes. YouTube has plenty of videos about canning but not everyone abides by the safety guidelines, so choose carefully. You don’t want to get sick because you skipped steps or received poor instruction.
15. Start a Garden
Regardless of where you live, you can grow some food.
Apartment dwellers can grow window boxes and container gardens on their patios or balconies.
Suburbanites can grow the same way, or even in raised beds.
Start small, but just start!
Take it from someone who couldn’t keep a house plant alive, if I can do it, YOU can grow food too!
16. Grow Sprouts
Having your own herb garden is such a great investment and so worth the little bit of time it takes to grow one.
You can have a very simple container garden that grows culinary herbs to make your meals taste even better!
But don’t limit herbs to cooking!
You can make teas, salves and so much more!
You really don’t need all of the toxic “cleaners” that you find at the grocery store!
As a matter of fact, save your money and make your own with a few simple, germ-killing ingredients and say good-bye to over-priced commercial cleaners!
19. Eat Your Leftovers
I’ll never understand why some people take issue with leftovers…
I LOVE them!
Families can save a tremendous amount of money on their grocery bill if they will take the time to consume leftovers.
You don’t have to eat them back-to-back days, but at least put them in the freezer and eat them another day!
20. Turn the Heat Down
When you leave the house, turn the thermostat down.
By simply turning it down by just one degree can save you 1-3% on the electric part of your heating bill! Just imagine if you turned it down further!
Even though we have geothermal heat, I still keep an extra sweater on and keep the thermostat down. With teenagers at home, our bill averages about $80 a month.
21. Turn the Lights Off
Be a stickler about making sure lights and chargers are plugged into power strips that can be turned off easily when not in use.
A power strip is about $10 and you will see the benefits in your next electric bill if you use them!
22. Make your own Personal Products
You can save a lot of money by making your own personal care products like toothpaste, deodorant and make-up.
When you find great sale prices on grocery items that you use regularly, stock up and create an extra layer of food for your family!
24. Cut your own hair
During the lockdown last year, I took to trimming my own hair with my Wahl trimmers.
I have no background in cosmetology, however, with the help of a few YouTube videos, I got the job done.
Even now that the salons are open, I still schedule haircuts out further than recommended and trim my own in-between appointments.
This saves well over $100 a year, for me alone.
Add the kids and the husband, you’ll really save a lot of money!
26. Learn How to Sew and Mend
A skill that was a “given” to learn when growing up, sewing and mending have fallen by the wayside.
I find that to be a sad fact.
The good news is that you can still learn to sew and mend by hopping on YouTube!
Learning how to repair clothing rather than replace clothes will save you a lot of money long term.
Simple sewing projects like making your own cloth napkins are a nice beginner place to start!
27. Ditch Cable
Cable has been dead for a while now, and I think most people have already figured that out.
However, be careful about streaming services!
It doesn’t take much to exceed your cable bill with streaming bills!
Thank goodness that cell-phone plans have come a long way!
However, you will need to do some homework before you run out and switch to the cheapest plan.
Every cell-phone service has it’s pros and cons, one size does not fit all.
Living out in the country, I have found that I have to pay more for coverage. However, you may find that you can get away with the cheaper plan.
29. Go “Low-Grid” with Your Power
“Low-Grid” living means making a serious and
concentrated effort to drastically lower your use of electricity.
*Using candles and lanterns in the evening rather than turning on your lamps.
*Hang your laundry out.
*Use less hot water.
*Avoiding products that require power and replacing with non-electric versions.
30. Start Tracking your Power Usage
I get a big kick out of doing this.
First of all, if you haven’t met already, go out and introduce yourself to your electric meter.
Mine happens to be right outside the door, so it’s not too inconvenient but it IS outdoors.
You can use a basic lined sheet of paper or use the “Notes” app on your phone to keep track of each day’s usage.
I suggest starting on a Monday or the first day of your week, when everyone goes to work and/or school. Read your meter, first thing in the morning and document it.
Do this again the next day and the next.
As the weekend approaches, when more of the family/kids are home more often, observe the usage patterns.
I found that my teenagers were using a lot of electricity….shocker, I know but still.
However, armed with hard numbers, I was able to approach my teenagers and show them how much more their “bad” habits were costing us and push for change.
Power strips in their rooms helped tremendously.
Giving them a time limit for showers improved things.
You’re doing them a favor because they won’t always live at home. When the bill finally has their name on it, they’ll reflect back on the lessons you taught them and have the tools to improve their energy usage.
If you don’t have kids at home, look for ways to turn things off/unplug around the house and watch the meter readings for changes.
–Hang that load of laundry outside.
-Turn the thermostat down a few degrees.
-Cook in your solar oven instead of turning on the stove, which uses a tremendous amount of electricity.
31. Insulate Windows, Doors and Attics
You’ve heard it time and again, but it truly makes a huge difference in the comfort of your home!
Check out this PDF and discover all of the gaps you’re not thinking about and how to seal them up!
32. Get Rid of Shopping Apps on your Phone
It’s only common sense that we buy more when it’s convenient to do so.
Deleting apps that constantly tempt you to purchase can and should be eliminated.
33. Discontinue Subscription Payments
On an iPhone, go to Settings and then tap your name ID, then look for “Subscriptions” to see what you’re paying for each month..
Companies like Truebill will also help you to find all of your subscriptions.
34. Create “Sinking Funds”
A “Sinking Fund” is simply a savings plan for a future specific need.
You might create a “Sinking Fund” for something you’re saving up for i.e. tires, a new house, computer, farm equipment, car, college, etc.
“Sinking Funds” are kept separate from regular “bill paying” funds.
One easy way to keep “sinking funds” away from other monies is to create an envelope for it!
35. Reduce Your Errands
Most of us aren’t aware of how much gas we burn by running errands.
Consolidate your errands, eliminate the ones that you can do on-line and you’ll probably save money that you didn’t need to spend, as well.
36. Start Using a Gas App
The price of gasoline continues to rise and there isn’t much we can do about it except for two things.
- Use less.
- Pay less.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free gas apps available to help you find the best deals on fuel.
Gas Buddy is one of my favorite gas apps, I can see where gas is cheapest at a glance.
37. Keep Older Cars Maintained
As the owner of older vehicles, I can attest to the fact that you must set monies aside to maintain them.
Here again, “sinking funds” are perfect for this.
We keep “sinking funds” going for tires, oil changes and regular maintenance.
Even though you need to spend money to keep older cars running well, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than car payments!
38. Avoid New Cars
New cars can be so alluring.
Car dealerships are good at what they do.
They are able to extend car loans out to 7 years these days, making monthly payments attractively affordable.
But here’s the thing…
The #1 rule of finances is to “never finance a depreciating asset”.
New cars lose 20-30% of their value when you drive them off the lot, within the first year…but the amount of money you owe stays the same.
Don’t forget that you’ll be required to pay for full-coverage insurance, NOT for your benefit, but for the lenders’s benefit.
39. Consider Liability Insurance for Older Cars
Once a car’s value reaches a certain point, it might make sense to consider switching from full-coverage to liability insurance.
40. Bike to Work or for Short Errands
If you live in an area where it’s possible to bike in lieu of driving your car, do it! It’s better for your health and billfold.
41. Shop Around for the Best Rates
Don’t assume that any one insurance company has the best rates!
Things change so keep on top of your premiums and don’t be afraid to compare companies.
From many years of counseling couples who were in financial trouble, holidays and gift expectations are almost always a problem. From Christmas to Easter to birthdays, families can be demanding with unrealistic expectations.
Many times we are told “that’s the way we’ve always done it”!
But that was then, this is now.
If you are trying to get your financial house in order (and if you’re reading this, you probably are!), then it might be time to have a sit-down discussion with family members and let them know that things need to change or you won’t be able to participate.
Ditch the guilt!
We have adult children now with families of their own. They all have different goals and income levels, what kind of parent would I be to not respect where they’re coming from? Things change and we have to be willing to change for the people we love.
42. Minimize Gift Giving
Do you really have to buy a gift for people at the office? For that extended family member who you rarely see except for Christmas?
When my husband and I were trying to pay down our debt, we didn’t buy for anyone except our own children. Period, no apologies.
Immature adults who get their feelings hurt because they won’t receive a gift need to go buy some “big boy” pants and get over it.
43. Be Willing to Change “Traditions”
The “way it’s always been” is a poor excuse for guilting people to buy gifts they can’t afford to buy.
Things change and even more so in 2022!!!
Massive inflation is really hurting American families! Change is not only good, but necessary!
45. Consider a Destination Christmas
Another consideration is to forego gifts and go to an inexpensive venue that everyone would enjoy.
46. Draw Names
Big families, like ours, draw names due to the sheer number of people.
However, even smaller families can benefit from drawing names for gift buying and reduce the pressure on everyone.
I hope that you’ll grab hold of at least a few of these frugal and sustainable living tips and implement them into your life! You’ll not only save money, but you’ll increase your self-sufficiency factor!