In my opinion, the ‘true’ definition of frugal living doesn’t really exist. For example, if we were to take the literal definition from the Oxford Dictionary, it would tell us that frugal refers to “sparing or economical with regard to money or food” or “simple and plain and costing little”.
Would you agree with this? I wouldn’t.
I think that living a frugal lifestyle goes a lot further than just being “sparing” or “economical”. On the contrary – and as I have repeatedly said throughout the articles I have written on the Frugality website, frugal living is about quality, sustainability AND cost-effectiveness.
By achieving these three metrics in parallel with one another, you stand the best chance possible of living a frugal, yet fulfilling lifestyle.
Going back to the Oxford Dictionary definition, the terminology refers exclusively to “money or food”. However, while money and food do, of course, play a large part in being frugal, it actually goes a lot further.
Think along the lines of transportation, clothing, and energy. Also, think along the lines of housing, fitness, and mobile technology. In fact, think along the lines of practically everything in your life right now.
That, is frugal living.
In order to send you on your way, I’ve decided to discuss some of the best ways you can engage in frugal living without giving up the things you love.
Food and diet
OK, I know that I said frugal living goes a lot further than just food or money, but in reality, food should sit at the core of your frugal journey. In fact, food is the epitome of quality, sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
Let me explain.
For the best part of two years now, I have enjoyed a 1 litre serving of fresh, organic plant-based juice for both breakfast and lunch. The juice consists of locally grown ingredients, which I try to keep at a 75%/25% ratio across vegetables and fruit, respectively.
You might be wondering how on earth I get through the day on just vegetables and fruit juice? Well, it’s currently 16:34 here in Thailand and I am still full of beans. In fact, I can see myself writing this entire article with ease before dinner time!
The key point here is that our bodies crave natural, nutrient-rich foods. There is nothing more nutrient-rich than organic vegetables, believe me. In fact if you don’t believe me, I challenge you to head over to Netflix and watch the ground-breaking documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.
Watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead for Inspiration
If you haven’t watched it, Joe Cross – an Australian man that is heavily overweight and fraught with medical conditions, decides to go on a 60 day journey where he drank nothing but organic vegetable and fruit juice.
Not only did Joe lose a significant amount of weight and reduce his ever-growing reliance on prescription medication, but he very quickly increased his energy and concentration levels. Further, Joe also found that he longer craved high-fat, processed foods that his body had practically lived on for the prior four decades.
When it comes to costings, you’ll save heaps of money, too. Under no circumstances should you try and skimp on quality. On the contrary, make sure that you only buy the highest quality, fully-organic fruits and vegetables.
Now that you’ve sorted breakfast and lunch, all you need to worry about is what you are going to eat for dinner! No seriously, making such a rapid transition to your diet overnight is never easy. If you think that two juices per day is going to be too much for you, then why not start with one?
In fact, there is no need to even replace a meal at the start of your journey. As long as you aim to get 1 litre in per day, your body will ever-but-slowly begin to crave it. When it does, you can begin to up your intake!
As a final note on the frugal living diet strategy, it is also worth noting that you are effectively investing in your productivity levels. I can all-but guarantee that by getting the right foods in your body, you will notice that you have heaps of surplus energy floating around. This will allow you to use this excess energy for productive, and perhaps – profitable tasks.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to give you any sort of exercise routine. However, as a quick note, you will certainly find that clean eating and exercise go hand-in-hand for your long-term productivity levels.
Anyway, what I want to focus on with respect to frugal living is staying clear of gyms.
Why? Well, while the price you pay on your monthly membership will depend on where you are located, and the type of gym you join, why pay to exercise period when you have the outdoors at your disposal?
I know that I am fortunate right now because I am living by the beach, and thus, I get to run and swim at a cost of $0. But, even if I wasn’t living in the right environment for outdoor exercise, I would still try and make full use of what I had.
For example, when I was recently in Hong Kong I was a bit overwhelmed at the hustle and bustle of the city. Everything around me was either a high-rise financial building or traffic jam. At this point, I had two options. Either I pay the $25 daily gym fee at the hotel opposite my AirBnB apartment, or, I go and find some good old greenery! Knowing me, I obviously chose the latter.
By simply doing a bit of Googling, I found that not too far from my apartment was a huge recreational park. In doing so, I was able to go on a super long run without wasting $25 on the pay-as-you-go gym fees. As an added bonus, the park also had some outdoor exercise equipment!
If you’re sitting down reading this and saying to yourself “But it’s always raining outside”, then I do understand your plight. But, is the rain going kill you? Will it hurt you? No, of course not – so go and put your sneakers on run!
As somebody that travels frequently throughout the year, I do everything I can to keep the costs down. But, I by no means skimp it. On the contrary, I utilize a few simple frugal tips to make sure that I get the best price possible on quality flights, food and accommodation.
For example, I always use an online flight comparison website like Skycanner to find the best possible deals. The tool is awesome because it gives you loads of flexibility. For example, you can use the pricing calendar to show you the cheapest day or month to fly a particular route. You can also bring up results on a county-to-county basis, as opposed to just airport-to-airport.
Once my flights are sorted, I’ll then head over to Trivago. While people often tell me to use Booking.com or Agoda, this is far from being frugal. Why? Because the likes of Trivago give you prices for both Booking.com and Agoda, alongside thousands of other independent hotel websites.
If I’m travelling to an expensive city like Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo, I’ll usually skip Trivago and instead head straight over to AirBnB. You can get some awesome apartments on AirBnB at really affordable prices – even more so if you intend on staying for more than a week. Plus, the vast majority of AirBnB apartments will come with kitchen facilities, meaning that you can further reduce the costs of traveling.
As a side tip, if you’re unable to use public transport when you travel, you should look to see whether the city in question has Uber or Grab. If not, they will probably have their own version – such as Bolt (Taxify) in some European countries.
Either way, make sure that you buy a tourist sim card when you land at your destination so that you always have 4g on the go. You can usually buy a sim card with pre-installed data, meaning that you won’t face the risk of attracting huge data roaming charges from your domestic provider.
For the best part of my adult life I was getting financially robbed on energy. I’m from the UK originally you see, which is one of the most expensive countries in the world for consumer electricity. I remember having a light bulb moment (excuse the pun) one day, where I decided to explore the possibilities of renewable energy.
It turned out by making a one-off investment in solar panels, and getting them installed along my rooftop, I could save heaps of money. Even better, various governments around the world now offer non-repayable grants on solar installation – something which would have come in handy when I decided to make the transition all them years ago!
Anyway, by absorbing energy from the sun, I now save a significant amount of money on my electricity bills. The savings will of course vary depending on where you live, and how much sun you get throughout the year. In other words, the more sun you get, the more energy you can generate, and the less you pay to third party electricity companies.
In fact, if you are fortunate to live in a sunny climate, you stand the chance of generating more electricity than you actually need to fuel your home. If so, you have the chance to sell the surplus energy back to third party providers!
Moreover, solar energy is clean energy. If you are the type of person that cares about the environment (which I hope you do!), then you can do your thing for Mother Nature.
All-in-all, I think that if you have the financial means, investing in solar is a huge step towards frugal living.
Medium house prices have literally never been higher, with some real estate markets experiencing year-on-year double-digit growth. While growth isn’t problematic per-say, it is the rate at which house prices are growing which is the problem.
You see, in strong economies such as the UK, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, homeownership is now becoming near-impossible for first-time buyers. Even if you can get the required financing to buy a home, you’ll likely be tied to the mortgage for in excess of 30 years.
Is that what you really want?
If not, then I would strongly suggest you look at some of the alternatives. For example, why not consider downsizing by purchasing a prefab tiny house? These houses can cost just a fraction of a traditional on-site property, not least because they are primarily built using highly efficient, factory-based production techniques.
The beauty is, you get to design the entire house yourself from scratch. The manufacturers will then make your dream home, ship it to your desired location, and install it in a matter of days.
This is frugal living in its finest form. No more mortgages, no more interest payments, no more rental bills. Be a homeowner and move away from the reach of profit-driving financial institutions!
Mobile phones: Devices and calling credit
Mobile phones are crucial in the modern world. However, frugal living does not mean going out and buying the latest $1,000 iPhone. On the contrary, you could easily buy a smartphone that performs all of the same bells and whistles as an iPhone, but at a fraction of the cost.
But, before you do, have a think about what you actually need the phone for. Personally, as somebody that works on the road, I need to have access to emails around-the-clock.
Moreover, I also like to have the option of taking photos when I travel to new places. As such, I focus on phones that give me end-to-end connectivity at the touch of a button, alongside a reasonable camera. Do I need to spend $1,000 to meet those goals? Hell no!
You might not even need a camera or have a requirement to access emails. Instead, you might only need a phone that allows you to make and receive calls and messages. Either way, try to avoid spending unnecessary money on a super expensive phone.
When it comes to paying for calls, texts and data, you need to try and be really shrewd with costings. First and foremost, ask yourself what you primarily use the phone for.
I rarely, if ever, use the phone to actually make phone calls or send text messages. Instead, I make my telephone calls via WhatsApp and Skype, and send messages through Facebook. As such, the vast majority of my usage is data.
With that in mind, I decided to purchase a pay-as-you-go phone, as there is no point locking myself into a 24 month contract, where the calls and text message allocation is simply going to go to waste each and every month. Instead, I purchase a monthly data package that gives me supls of 20gb of data.
I also make sure that I’ve always got a bit of credit in my Skype account. If it turns out that I do need to make a phone call, I simply paste the number into Skype and make the call. It costs just a fraction in comparison to doing it the conventional way!
Heating your home
Putting renewable energies such as solar to one side, frugal living is also about efficiency. This is especially true with regards to heating your home. What I mean by this is finding the perfect equilibrium in keeping your home warm at all times, while at the same time minimizing your costs.
This might take a bit of trial and error, in the same way that you need to go through bouts of being too cold or too hot when trying out a newly installed air conditioning unit!
Nevertheless, there are two energy-efficient strategies in existence, with both sides of the camp unable to find agreement as to which is better.
On the one hand, some will argue that the most efficient way of heating your home is to leave the heater on a very low setting 24/7. The argument is that by switching the heater on and off as and when you need it, it actually consumes more energy because it requires additional heat to get the temperature back to where it was before.
On the other hand, opponents of this theory will argue that by leaving your heater on 24/7, you’re essentially using more fuel and thus, you’ll spend more on your bills.
So which theory is right? Well, there is no hard-and-fast-rule to this, as it all depends on your individual home. This could be the size of the house, whether or not you have long corridors, what the insulation is like, and so on. As such, this is why I suggest performing some tests.
Here’s what you need to do.
First, take a metre reading. Then, for seven days straight, keep the heating on at a very low setting. At the end of week one, take note of the current metre reading.
Then, in week 2, turn the heating on and off as you normally would, as and when you get cold. Once the week is over, take another metre reading.
Finally, calculate which week consumed more energy, and you have your answer!
I hope you’ve enjoyed part 1 of my guide on frugal living without giving up the things you love! Click here for part 2!