20 Ways to Stay Frugal

The winner of the Frugal Living Tip of the Month Contest for March is: iVillager saver610!

As we all know, it's a challenge to save money. Being able to swap ideas is the best way to find solutions that can make a difference. In March 2001, cl-miklynn started a Frugal Living Tip of the Month Contest on the Frugal Living message board. After a month's worth of posts, the winner of the contest was iVillager saver610.

According to cl-miklynn, "Saver's entry touched my heart, and she had so many great ideas for beginning on the Frugality Trail."

Enter the Frugal Living Tip of the Month Contest!

Here's iVillager saver610's entry!

My frugal ways only began after I hit rock bottom. I woke up one morning and looked at an old lady who had squandered her money on everything and knew I was in big trouble. Homelessness was staring me right in the face, and I needed to make some serious changes.

1. One of the first things I did was try to update my skills. By doing so, I was able to get a much better job.

2. In the mornings, I make my breakfast.

3. I take advantage of public transportation. Sure it takes me longer, and sometimes I watch with envy as I stand on a cold platform waiting for the subway or the bus while others speed past me to their $200-a-month parking spot. But I am saving about $125 a month on the parking space. I am also saving money on gas and wear and tear, and I'm being good to our environment.

4. I treat myself to a lunch out occasionally -- it is enjoyable because now my bills are paid.

5. I keep a snack drawer at work, of goodies I made or bought on sale.

6. I cook on the weekends so dinners are pretty nice. I watch for specials, keep a price book, shop with coupons and cook accordingly.

7. I contribute to my 401(k) because my employer matches it.

8. I pay myself first. I get paid every two weeks, and before any checks are written, I pay myself. I deposit to my savings account for my "old age" fund, my condo fund, my freedom account that I use for emergencies (flat tires, veterinarian bills) and my contingency fund that I use to build up at least three months of my salary.

9. I found a couple of friendly consignment shops -- even they have specials.

10. I just recently signed up for cable. I save because I didn't request the movie channels. I enjoy cable channels and CNN -- I couldn't get either with basic. My only splurge is old movies.

11. I have a cell phone, but since I only use it for emergencies my bill is the same every month.

12. I watch my savings accounts, and when they reach a certain level, I sign up for a higher-yield account.

13. I keep all of my bills in Quicken. Since I have a certain amount of money in the bank, my bank doesn't charge me a fee. (Bank fees can be as high as $14 a month, I hear.) I get free checks, free traveler's checks and interest on my checking account, as well as higher interest on my savings and CD accounts.

14. If I want to buy something new, I hold a small garage sale first to get rid of things I no longer use. Most recently, I wanted to by a beautiful new dressing table. So I set about to raise the money and put up my old dressing table for sale along with other unused items I pulled out of closets and drawers. I looked at all of my things -- if I hadn't used it for a year, I offered it at the sale.

15. I never spend my change. Shopkeepers ask me if I have extra change, but I say no. I drop my change in my dollar-store bank every night and deposit it frequently so I won't be tempted to spend it.

16. I now avoid labels that say "dry clean only." When it does need to be dry-cleaned, I use Dryel to keep my clothes fresh.

17. I look at my furnishings carefully to see if I can update them with some paint or new handles. I try to use my creativity. When I want to change my bedroom, I get out the old clothes dye, and voila -- I have a newer look.

18. I have money earmarked for my church and a charity. When I get a raise, I only increase spending in two areas: my savings and my church contribution. I believe God helped me to see the light.

19. When I receive the occasional bonus, small tax return or gifts of money on holidays, I keep 20 percent for myself to splurge and then divide the rest among my savings.

20. I visit frugal Websites and read books. I don't always learn anything new, but it does help to keep me motivated when I see others like me, wanting to live free of debt worry.

If all of this sounds like a lot, it is. It has taken me a couple of years to perfect these things. If you think I am doing without, you are mistaken. I have the things I need and some of the things I want. I believe that not having all of my wants immediately helps keep my eye on my larger goals. I also want to stress that I live happily. No bill collectors calling. I love going to the bank -- I get recognition there. They tell me about specials on CD rates and ask me advice on how to save.

Everyone who visits me remarks on the fact I have a beautiful place. My home is decorated with yard-sale items and deals from Kmart and Target, but it is done with love and a lot of creativity.

The old me was beaten down. Money is empowering in more ways than one. Money is not evil; poverty is evil. It causes good people to want to steal, cheat and lie and even murder. The lack of money breaks up marriages and families and causes good parents to lash out at children and the people around them. Money in the bank brings (besides compounded interest) peaceful thinking. When my thoughts are peaceful, well, I can do just about anything.

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