So, you have decided to embark on a life of frugality. You have done your research, maybe even started following the steps outlined in my article How to live happily on less and now realized there are more things you could save money on, but you do not want to come across as a penny pinching old miser a la Scrooge.
As always, fear not, I have your back with 7 ways to be frugal without falling into the cheap trap!
1. Tip Well, But Order Smart
For a very long time I was unsure and uncomfortable with how much to tip at a restaurant. It’s an awkward situation to be in. I don’t want to come across as cheap, but I also don’t want to look pompous.
Not too long ago, I have decided that for the amount of work a waiter/waitress puts in on a nightly shift and the people they have to deal with, they deserve the 20% tip on my $50 dinner.
A little trick I have learned along the way is to be smart about your ordering so that you don’t feel too pinched when it comes to tipping.
Order water instead of a soft drink. Order a glass of wine instead of a bottle. These things may seem insignificant, but they make a difference.
You don’t get charged for the tap water, but you won’t come across as cheap when you tip well. You save quite a bit of money when you opt for a glass of wine instead of the bottle, but you can still enjoy the luxury of treating yourself.
Also, if you know you are going straight home after your meal out and you know you have everything at home to make yourself a coffee or tea and maybe even have some left over cake or sweets, skip the dessert at the restaurant.
With the 20% tip option, this way you are frugal with your spending without looking and feeling like a cheap restaurant patron.
2. Go Bargain Hunting
I know this will demand a bit of research and time, but at the end finding that item you have been meaning to buy on sale can feel very satisfying.
Plus, don’t be shy taking a look at thrift stores and second hand shops for items such as shirts, sweaters and pants. You will be surprised what gems you can find hiding in those stores.
A few years ago I found some quality shirts that were barely worn and are still part of my everyday wardrobe to this day. And an acquaintance of mine swears by thrift store shopping and she always looks fabulous.
When shopping for yourself go bargain hunting, go to those thrift stores and second hand shops, but when shopping for gifts for others it’s best to avoid buying something used to give to another person. That would make you look cheap and even inconsiderate.
Bonus Tip: Use Honey for Bargains Online Honey is an awesome online tool that will search the internet for all of the best coupon codes when you’re shopping online. It’s a simple browser extension that finds coupon codes and has saved people millions of dollars!
3. Transportation Choices
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of having the latest car model or having the luxury of driving everywhere, but the reality is that this is not always feasible.
If you live in a bigger city with good public transportation and you are not required to have a car for your job, making use of the bus/subway/streetcar is a great way to be frugal without looking cheap.
A lot of people take it and it saves you a lot of money on buying a car, gas, insurance, parking fees, maintenance and the list goes on and on. If the need ever arises to get somewhere by car there are options like your local cab company, Uber or Lyft.
If you do need a car, choose a used vehicle that has passed its E-test and is fit for all weather conditions.
Whatever you do, do not drive a car that is held together with duct tape (yes, I have seen this more than once), because that will not only make you look cheap, but also put you and any passenger in serious danger.
4. Give Your Clothes a Second Chance
How many times have you noticed a tear or hole in your favourite sweater or pair of pants and begrudgingly thrown them out?
Or you wore an outfit that didn’t fit well anymore, but you felt too attached to let it go?
A couple of months ago I bought a sweater I fell in love with at first sight. It fit well. It was warm and it happened to be in my favourite colour.
After one wash the stitching holding the zipper started to come apart. I made an effort to fix it myself, but as soon as I had one tear fixed another appeared right beside it.
I thought about wearing the sweater either way, but felt self-conscious about the tears popping up all over.
At the same time I had a dress I really wanted to wear to a function, but the shoulder straps were too long and would have made me look lopsided. I thought about wearing it anyway and just keep adjusting the straps every few minutes, which on second thought would have looked silly.
So, I decided to take my sweater and my dress to the seamstress to get them fixed and altered. At the end, I may have spent a bit of money on it, but I also saved a lot more by giving those two items a second chance instead of buying a brand new sweater and dress.
The moral of this little story is before going out and spending $100 or more on a new piece of clothing, bring it to a seamstress to get it fixed or altered and only spend $20.
Bonus Tip: Sell Old Clothes on Poshmark. If you have clothes in your closet that you just never wear, but don’t want to just donate them or throw them away, you can try and sell them on Poshmark! It’s a free platform where you can buy and sell used clothes and be nicer to the environment.
5. Invest in the Important Things
Saving money is great and sometimes buying the generic brands are the way to go. This is not the case when making a big and important purchase such as a laptop to run specific programs, a washing machine, even an e-reader.
These are items you consciously want to invest in and that you want to last a long time. It won’t matter if you saved a couple of hundred dollars, if the machine/computer breaks within the year and has to be replaced.
I have seen it happen and it is very unfortunate when the item is then haphazardly (sometimes even with duct tape) or replaced with the more expensive version while the broken one is stored some place in the house, because the person felt too foolish to throw it out so quickly after buying it.
What I’m saying here is, do your research and do not cut corners when it comes to investing in big, important items. It rarely ends well in the long run and makes you look like a penny pincher.
Bonus Tip: Start Investing with Acorns. If you’re thinking about starting to invest your money, a great way to start is to use Acorns. Acorns connects to your bank and will round up your purchases to invest your spare change for you. It’s a simple way to get started with investing without huge amounts to start.
6. High-Speed Internet vs Cable TV
As I mentioned in my article “How to live happily on less”, it is a great option to cancel your cable TV subscription and invest in high speed internet, if you want to adopt a more frugal lifestyle.
The internet service might cost you a bit more, but without the tear-inducing cable bill you end up saving quite a bit of money.
It would just be a cheap way of living, if you cancelled your cable TV and had internet that reminded you of the good old dial-up days when trying to watch a movie or show.
7. It is a Lifestyle, Not a Punishment
Deciding to live a more frugal life should not feel like a punishment. This can make you sour and bitter, which people will notice.
You may start lying about going out, because you don’t want to spend the money, instead of making smart decisions on what to order when going out for drinks or dinner.
Accept that being frugal means you are taking control of your financial situation. And be open and honest with your friends and family about why you may not have the funds to accept their invitation to a destination wedding. But at the end, do not limit yourself or deny yourself those little luxuries that are within your budget.
Being frugal can be an empowering and fun way to take control of your financial matters, but beware cutting too many corners ending up being a penny pinching miser, who never has any fun.
This is about you and your future. You made goals and found your motivation to save money for things that matter in your life, don’t let that come at the cost of your overall happiness.
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