Little Things We DON’T Do to Save Money

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Last summer, when a reporter from our local newspaper interviewed me about this blog, I was quoted as saying that despite being debt-free, my husband and I continue to practice “active frugality.” What I meant by this is that we employ all the same frugal practices, but for different reasons. Paying off our mortgage didn’t give us an excuse to spend, because we still want to give our children a good education, and prepare for retirement. Our goals have changed, but our way of life hasn’t.

I also said that many people fail to embrace frugality because it requires effort and patience. This is true, but when I think back on that interview now, I wonder if I made a mistake in saying those things, because I might have unnecessarily scared people away from the frugal lifestyle by giving them the impression that frugality is all work and no fun.

Actually, we think our thrifty lifestyle is very fun because it’s created time for us to do the things that are most important to us. Yes, we buy our clothes at garage sales, and cook from scratch, and do our own car repairs, and those things definitely save money, but I think that what we don’t do is the real essence of our frugality.

Frugal zealot, Amy Dacyczyn, once pointed out that the concept of passive frugality is very difficult to get across. Whenever she was interviewed, photographers would always want pictures of her doing frugal activities, like hanging laundry or baking bread, but they never wanted to photograph her bypassing the junk food aisle in the grocery store, or zooming past McDonalds without stopping. However, she often felt that what she chose not to do was of the most significance, and had the greatest impact on her family’s lifestyle.

We live in a consumer culture, and each of us is faced with countless decisions every day about how to spend our money. Have you ever thought about all the things you didn’t buy? All the times you said no to a purchase, whether it be a dollar store trinket that you didn’t really need, or a brand new car that you did need, but passed on because a used car would get the job done? Often, what we don’t do, or buy, or participate in can save even more than what we do (I was going to add another “do” here, but it made me laugh, and then question my emotional maturity). Here are just a few examples from our life:

1) We don’t live in chaos, because we know that disorganization wastes time and money.
2) We don’t buy a lot of convenience foods.
3) We don’t drive over the speed limit, because we don’t want to risk costly fines, and higher insurance rates (or our safety).
4) We don’t pay monthly auto and homeowner’s insurance premiums, because paying our entire premium in advance saves $120 per year in service charges.
5) We don’t pay for car washes.
6) We don’t own smart phones, because we can buy standard phones for a penny, and we don’t want to pay $30 extra each month for a data plan.
7) We don’t text, because we don’t want to pay for it (also I hate it!)
8) We don’t keep up with technology. We try to make do with what we have until it quits working.
9) We don’t insure anything we can afford to lose.
10) We don’t pay interest. Ever.
11) We don’t pay people to do things we can do ourselves.
12) We don’t pay for childcare. The kids’ grandparents occasionally babysit them, but most of the time we keep our children with us. (we do this for more than financial reasons).
13) We don’t waste food.
14) We don’t pay for personal grooming services, except for haircuts for the girls and me.
15) We don’t keep up with the Joneses.

That last one kind of says it all.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, and now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments about the little things you don’t do to save money. I’ll compile a big list, and post it so we can all share ideas, and recharge our frugal batteries, so to speak.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

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10 comments… add one

  1. Mgarneau December 6, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Another nice essay — it is not hard to agree with these ideas.

    # 14  We started using the flowbee when we got married – now me and the boys sit in the kitchen waiting our turns.  But my wife and my little girl do get the treat of a real haircut at a lady’s house (I do the coloring).

    #6  I do not own a cell phone (too much $ and people can find you) it
    seems in this small town everyone knows it too.

    But #1 — sometimes I wonder what is chaos and what is normal.

    Reply
  2. Davette Brown February 19, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Nice list – most people don’t realize that the things you skip are just as important

    Reply
  3. David Knigge May 21, 2012, 11:41 pm

    I recently decided to eat meat from only grass fed, hormone-free livestock for health reasons, but the costs were $7/lb. and up. I contacted a farmer that was raising sheep for wool and buy his older animals unsuitable for wool anymore for less than $2/lb. processed. It tastes gamier but aging 2 weeks helps a lot and I am a confident scratch cook who has have eaten wild game all my life so it can’t be that difficult. Also I love to pressure cook tough cuts. It’s quick and saves energy.

    Reply
  4. Jay from Philly June 14, 2012, 7:01 pm

    My wife LOVES grocery shopping. All women love to shop, I lucked out on where she likes to shop. A few years back we stumbled on a huge farm market out in the Amish countryside that has incredible deals on homegrown produce as well as a meat counter stocked with meats from local farms. Since then we drive out twice a month to the farm market and load up the trunk. We eat at a local hole in the wall afterwards and enjoy our time in the Amish countryside. That is our date.

    Reply
  5. Xandra Williams January 11, 2013, 11:29 am

    Hello, Im from the land down under, we are (hoping…no striving for!) the self sufficient life style. I have just found your website and it is amazing, especially the ‘what Don’t we do’ bit…
    *we don’t buy eggs, we have our own chooks…
    *we don’t take our three children to the play cafes, we prefer the park across the road, with its fresh air & infinitely lesser amount of germs…
    *we don’t buy paint/play dough/chalk/bubble mix/compost/sunflower seeds/a lot of vegetables/presents or cards for birthdays & christmas…we make or grow our own…
    *we don’t buy expensive chemical laden washing powder…we use soap-nuts & bi-carb soda…then we use the water on our vegetables…
    *we don’t buy chemical laden shampoo & conditioner…we use bi-carb & vinegar…our hair is a lot more manageable & less tangled (and with two daughters with long hair it is so much better!!)
    *we don’t buy take away…i cook two dinners on monday so I don’t have to cook on tuesday…and two dinners on wednesday so I don’t have to cook on thursday…two dinners on fri so I don’t have to cook on saturday…& sunday is normally a dinner that i have prepared from the leftovers from somewhere along the week…this gives me extra time with my children…

    I am going to try the home made wipes & fridge bread…

    Thanks for everything you post on here…I’m going to be a regular from now on!

    Reply
  6. Amber Mohler January 23, 2013, 6:29 pm

    I really enjoyed your saving money tips, so one thing that my husband and I do is that he does most if not all the grocery shopping because he can stick to the list and I have a much harder time not buying “shinny” things. By “shiny” I mean anything I dont need or even ever wanted until it is right there in front of my face. We stick to what we know we do best, we know what we are good at and what our spouse is better at then utilize that. Thank you again for your ideas, have a wonderful new year.

    Reply
    1. Michelle August 6, 2013, 4:19 am

      Amber your marriage sounds a lot like mine. My family calls the local tourist attractions and ask if they have donation days or free days which almost all have 1 month. They won’t advertise it but you have to call around.

      Reply
  7. Valerie Cook June 25, 2013, 11:41 am

    I’m fairly new to your website. Since stumbling on it, I’ve been bragging about you to everyone that will listen. I refer to you as my friend Heather! :-) I consider myself an organized person, however, remaining that way has been my struggle. Your suggestions and ideas have been very helpful. I am currently working on a plan to become better organized and debt-free. I am also a christian, and it’s my desire to please and honor Christ in every area of my life.

    Friendly,

    Valerie

    Reply
    1. Heather June 26, 2013, 12:55 am

      That’s wonderful, Valerie! I’m glad I could help.

      Reply
  8. Suenia Oliveira January 21, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I liked a lot what you posted here and also the things we can do to save money. I do my hair and color it myself, I do my nails and tool nails; I take care of myself. I turn the light off every time I left a room. I really try not to waste food it cost a lot. I do my things by foot. I live really close to downtown city so I left my car at the garage and go by foot. I exercise myself doing this. I love books a lot. Most of them are English books so I need to search well to get it free ones or buy used ones. I clean my home myself b/c I do not pay for things I can do. I try to use less air conditioner in my car and use the seasons and weather to save gas. Also I use fan instead of air conditioner at home and in Brazil is hot =)

    Reply

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