“Minimalism” and “Frugality”: Two words that I’ve become intimately aware of the past few years, especially since they’ve helped dramatically – and necessarily – shape my life during that time for several reasons; the first being that for the past 20 months I haven’t earned an (as in zero) income.
Now to be far, this reason didn’t come as a surprise to me; it was a conscious decision brought on by my no longer wanting to work at a “real job”… Well, okay, that’s not entirely true; in fact, regular readers know that it’s only half the truth.
I actually quit my last job after years of being fed up with the both the unprofessionalism, and constant bullying tactics by an unscrupulous boss; the good news is that due to some good planning, at the time quitting didn’t create a financial burden for us (as we were two at the time) so saying “Ciao” to this scenario once and for all was pretty easy – and so that’s what I did.
I remember it like it was yesterday: The moment after I’d handed in my notice I just stood outside the hotel and basked in the moment… And as the warmth of the sun hit my face, a new sense of freedom washed all over me with the knowledge that no longer would I be subjected to the vile comments and targeted criticisms designed to belittle employees – employees who like me, who didn’t fall under the “nepotism” or “cronyism” categories. And boy oh boy, did it ever feel liberating!
Then just one year later, life shifted dramatically once again when my wife and I split up after 13 years of marriage; and while this was something unexpected, in hindsight it’s probably the best thing for both of us at this time in our lives. This sudden change made me believe that I’d have to go back to work, you know, in order to “hold the ship together”, so the hunt for a new job began.
This proved not to be easy; in fact it was hard. No wait, it was worse than hard – it was down right demoralizing, especially after a couple of mind-blowing attempts to re-enter the job market kicked me hard when I was already down.
Frustrated and angry, I made the decision not to jump back into the pool of unpredictable bosses, shitty work situations and childish office politics, but rather to stay the course of not working, and try and make it work on my terms. And with this decision, my focus switched to looking for ways to live on, and with as little as possible.
I knew this would be a challenge since I still wanted a lifestyle that included eating food, drinking coffee, having the occasional beer and – oh yeah – traveling abroad a couple times a year. So the question became: Is it truly possible to have it all? Can we live a life on our terms while still keeping the wolf at the door?
There was only one way to find out! I figured if it was to work, stretching any monies I did have as far as humanly possible would be the first step, and something I needed to master sooner than later.
Now to be fair, I’ve always been a frugal guy; you know, the kind who is always looking for deals in pretty much anything and everything I’ve ever buy. But the impending goose egg that has shown up every two weeks in place of where a paycheque used to be brought the reality of what “wants versus needs” truly means – and it ain’t pretty!
Therfore for the past year or so I’ve looked for ways to cut, conserve and do without things in order to keep my expenses low, and you know what? I’ve discovered that living on less has actually given me more of the things I want from life, and less of the “stuff” that I don’t want. For example:
- I wanted more control over my life instead of a bunch of “clutter” that fills it up.
- I wanted more freedom to pursue the projects I enjoy, and fewer (if any) stupid or banal rules and regulations to adhere to.
- I wanted to be able to pick up and go when I want, where I want rather than have my schedule dictated by someone who has authority over me.
And while I want all these things and more, I’m also fully aware that such freedom comes at a price; and that price is having less money to spend. Hence why I’ve developed a more intimate relationship with my two new life partners named “Minimalism” and “Frugality”.
Keeping this in mind, I’d like to offer my list of 25 habits that have brought Minimalism and Frugality back into my life, in the hopes they can do the same for you. Personally, I’ve attacked these like a pit bull in a meat locker, and as a result been able to avoid that thing called “a job” – at least for now!
So without further adieu, here’s the list.
25 HABITS THAT PROMOTE MINIMALISM AND FRUGALITY
- Dump all entertainment except streaming – Netflix, etc. – and save a couple hundred bucks a month. Even better, turn off the screen and go for a walk with a friend.
- Watch D.V.D.’s or blu-rays from the library, or borrow from friends – both are free.
- Read books which you can get for free from the library. Or, if you’re like me and like to own your books, go to the thrift stores/second hand bookstores to buy them cheap. If you must have something brand new, get it from amazon.ca but make sure you get free shipping. $20- spent on a book provides 20 – 30 hours of entertainment, plus (depending on the book) you might learn something; even if it’s “50 Shades of Grey”… Okay, maybe not.
- Make it a habit to NEVER pay “full price” for anything – Use coupons, or scope out deals whenever possible using the internet.
- Remember that Tuesdays at the movies is always cheap, but bring your own candy if you really want to keep the cost down.
- Join a “Meet Up” group and meet new people who do cool things.
- Instead of going out for dinner, invite friends in and create a nice evening at home. Don’t order food in either – it’s just as expensive as going out. Instead, buy quality ingredients and cook restaurant quality meals at home an impress your friends with what a culinary star you are! For ideas, Google Jamie Oliver for the food, and random websites for inspiration and ideas on how to make the evening more fun and memorable. Bonus Tip: Board games are always a great addition to a fun night!
- Buy discounted meat from your grocer, and freeze it for later use. This is a great way to have really good quality cuts of meat (including lamb shanks, boneless skinless chicken thighs, pork loins) at your fingertips, only for 20% -30% off the regular price. When the deals are hot, try to get enough protein to last 2 – 3 weeks at a time.
- Use Farmers Markets to buy all your veggies; however only buy what’s on special and work your menus around those items. If they have discounted produce, check it out and see if it’s something you can get home and use quickly, or cook and freeze for use later on.
- Speaking of discounted produce, I use it to make soup from scratch once a week in the winter; it costs about $5- a pot, uses up left overs and I usually get at least 10 good hearty meals out of it.
- Put your grocery receipt on your fridge to remind you of what you bought, and how much you paid. This is to stop you from letting food you buy sour and go to waste – by seeing that you paid for it is an incentive to use it up in a timely fashion… did I mention it will go in the soup?
- Do I even have to mention this? Brown bag your lunches… period
- Restrict your Starbucks/coffee runs to once a week… if you have to at all! And remember, a drip coffee will cost you $2.25, while a “triple non-fat-low-soy-double-pump-caramel-180-degree-chai-latte-no-foam-etc.” will always, always be over $5- and be gone twice as fast, every time! The only time you should buy coffee out, is when you are using their environment (and free WiFi) at the same time. That’s easily worth a Toonie.
- And finally, always shop at Costco for the big items; but always – and I mean ALWAYS – go in with a list and don’t buy anything else; and that even means when that sample person tries to temp you with paper cups full of hummus or pot stickers… Just stick to the list, then run like Hell!
- Use Dollar Stores for items like greeting cards, napkins snacks, food items etc. However, don’t buy any of the crap like key chains, kitchen utensil or anything that sparkles because – well – it’s all crap from the dollar store!
- Recycle all your cans and bottles; not just because you get money, but because it’s the right thing to do. I have no issue grabbing a few extra bottles out of the bin (but stop short of dumpster-diving) as doing so helps me earn around $60- tax free every month.
- Don’t buy magazines; or if you absolutely HAVE to have one, get a subscription and save up to 80% of the cover price.
- Don’t buy new things if you don’t have to, especially if your old one still works. For instance, my last car lasted me 13 years, my 42” big screen T.V. was 10 years old when it died, my clock radio lasted me 15 years, etc. If it ain’t broke, don’t waste money on a new one.
- Having said that, when I do buy something I want, it’s always high quality because quality will last, where cheap crap never does. This strategy is summed up nicely by this statement: “I’m too poor to buy the same item three or four times when I only need to buy it once”. Spend more, buy quality, but buy less often.
- Keep track of all you spend – ESPECIALLY on credit cards. Every morning I check each of my bank accounts to see how much I have, where my visa is at, when it’s due, figure out how much I can afford on this and that, etc. This is a critical snapshot that keeps me living within my means, and ensures I have the money I need to put towards my bills, etc. More importantly it reminds me that if I have debt, how much it is so I can control it.
- If you DO know you want to buy something, (clothes, an appliance, a toy, etc.) then give yourself no less than 3 weeks to find the very best price. The waiting causes you to see the deals that are out there – Case in point: I recently needed a new pair of jeans, so I’ve been poking around checking out where the sales are, when yesterday, POOF! The Bay had a “One Day Sale” on Calvin Klein Jeans for $29, instead of the regular $95… that’s $61- in savings! This strategy always ensures I get the best price on everything I buy. Speaking of which…
- Never impulse buy anything, but rather remind yourself that you didn’t know it existed 5 minutes ago and move on. If you are still thinking about it 3 weeks later, it’s no longer an impulse and you can make a more informed decision whether or not to buy.
- Remember that almost everything goes on sale at sometime, and wait for them to get the best deal. Yes, even Apple products and Dyson vacuum cleaners go on sale at times, but you (a) have to be patient, and (b) keep your eyes peeled.
- Buy seasonal items at the end of the season for the following year, and save up to 80%. This is especially effective with Christmas decorations, etc.
- And finally here’s the best tip of all for saving money: Ask the sales clerk for a deal, even if there isn’t one being advertised – you won’t believe how many times you can get an extra 10% or more off… just for asking for it!
There you go: 25 habits that help me stave off working for “The Man”. Try them and see what you think, and remember that you don’t need to hate your job to save money!
And thanks for taking time to read the post; I hope you enjoyed it.