Make frugality automatic
A recent commenter on my 101 ways to reduce your spending and keep more of your money post mentioned that time would be better spent working on increasing income than going through a lot of effort to eke out small savings in a large number of categories. I agree, which is why it’s important to make frugality automatic so you don’t need to think about it. Automatic frugality means automatic savings, plus time available for focusing on the things you really want to achieve.
Many times it’s just as easy (if not easier) to do the frugal thing than it is to do the wasteful or more expensive thing. Take using rags instead of paper towels, for example. It takes less effort to grab a rag off the pile of clean rags, use it, and toss it in the dirty pile than it does to make constant trips to the store for paper towels, haul them home, put them away, use them, put them in the trash, empty the trash, repeat.
So how do you make frugality automatic? Like anything else that’s automatic, you just need to make it a habit. Start by making small choices and getting used to them. Pick one thing to change, and start there. Maybe this month you’ll eliminate paper towels. If you put the rags in the same place you kept your paper towels, there’s no thought involved at all in using them. Another easy item to tackle is eating healthier food for breakfast instead of junk food or skipping it entirely. All it takes is habitually keeping a box of cereal in your desk drawer. It’s just a matter of looking at your life and seeing what simple changes you could make, making them, and forgetting about them.
After all, we habitually do things that cost us money without giving them a second thought — it’s just as easy to habitually do things that SAVE us money and/or have a positive effect on the world around us without giving them a second thought. That leaves us free to focus on the things we want to achieve or love to do instead.
I think the first thing to adjust would be eating habits. It’s probably the best way to save money in the short run. By buying groceries and cooking opposed to ordering in or going out to eat can save money and you can see an impact right away. Not only that but it is healthier as well. I have been good at keeping that automatic and I think others can as well once they get a few quick easy meals they can cook under their belts.
Another thing to point out is that small savings in a lot of different categories can add up to big savings… especially if the money is invested for the long term and helped along by the magic of compound interest.
Aside from which, a person’s ability to earn extra income is generally limited- by time, money, education, and priorities. There is a certain trade-off between giving up family time to take on an extra job. There is much less of a cost to using a rag instead of a paper towel.