One of my favorite things about frugality is that being frugal often forces me to think outside the box. If I am going to live a life consistent with frugality, it often means challenging the status quo and learning to think about money and expenses in a different way.
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Being frugal also means learning some fun new skills along the way! Frugality often involves becoming more self-reliant by doing things for yourself rather than paying others to do them for you. Not only can you save a lot of money this way, but I personally enjoy the sense of accomplishment that I feel when I’ve done something entirely by myself (including teaching myself how to do it in the first place!)
7 Frugal Skills You Should Know
There is a reason why this one is the first one on the list, and it’s because we’ve all got to eat! Not knowing how to cook or not liking to cook can kill your finances fast- not to mention your health. Meal planning in advance is also going to be a helpful habit. To do this, just determine at the beginning of the week what you are going to be eating that week, and shop accordingly. If your brain hurts just thinking about meal planning, look into something like $5 Meal Plan, and spend a few bucks a month to let someone do it for you. I’ve actually recently started using an app called Plan to Eat, which allows me to import my own recipes and meal plan/grocery shop using my smartphone. Winning!
My friend is a personal trainer, and for years she has been training a married couple who eat out three meals a day, seven days a week because they don’t like to cook. They have been begging my friend to cook for them, because they know that she eats healthy.
So starting January 1 this year, my friend became their cook. She makes three meals and two snacks a day for them (seven days a week), and they receive the food prepared and ready to heat. For this they are paying her $2500 a month (which also covers food cost). It’s great money for my friend, but awfully expensive for the couple! However, they are eating much healthier now, and in the six weeks since my friend has been cooking for them they have each lost more than 15 pounds. Frugal lesson: learn to like cooking.
2. Basic Home Maintenance (if you own a home)
This can also be a biggie, because houses are expensive and taking care of them can also cost a pretty penny. Being able to do as much as possible on your own will end up saving you some cash! We’ve tackled things like unclogging drains, caulking, and fixing leaky faucets, as well as cleaning gutters. YouTube is a treasure trove of information to help get you started on pretty much any maintenance task.
3. Basic Automotive Skills
No one should expect an hour on YouTube to turn them into a mechanic overnight, but basic things like refilling windshield washer fluid, checking tire pressure, checking coolant level, and jump-starting a car are pretty straightforward skills that can usually be done by pretty much anyone. We haven’t ventured into changing our own oil yet (that’s on our list of frugal skills we want to learn), but Mr. CMF has started changing the batteries on our cars when they need replacing.
4. Money Management
This is another biggie! And I do think that money management is a skill. Having basic money management skills like making and executing a household budget, balancing a checkbook, negotiating monthly bills, calculating your net worth, and saving for retirement are skills that will pay dividends- literally- over time.
My favorite FREE online resource to help you manage/budget your money and plan for retirement is Personal Capital (review here). I love all the cool graphics they have to help you understand your finances as well (I am a total visual person!)
5. Gardening and Preserving Your Own Food
This is on our list of things to learn and get better at! Part of frugality is becoming more self-reliant, and I cannot think of many better ways to accomplish this than by growing and preserving your own food. This year we plan to start small with some herbs indoors in pots and some tomatoes and green peppers outside. We also want to learn how to can/preserve produce this summer, so I’ll probably ask my mother-in-law over one day to teach me how to do this.
6. Entertaining Yourself
I’ve included this one on the list of frugal skills you should know because costs can get out of hand if you aren’t good at entertaining yourself cheaply! Entertainment does not always have to mean attending a concert, a movie, or going out to eat. For example, I recently discovered that my library card to the public library in the town that I last lived in is still valid- and that library offers free online book borrowing. So lately I’ve been reading a lot of books for free through the library. Pretty sweet!
Hiking, exercising the cheap way, visiting friends, and going to parks are other frugal activities that can be fun for the whole family. There are also great options to actually make some cash in your free time too, such as taking surveys (for example, via VIP Voice, Valued Opinions, Earning Station, or Harris Poll Online, or doing all your internet searches on Swagbucks.
7. Fixing Things
Often when something isn’t working properly it can be tempting to just replace it. However, developing a “try-to-fix-it-first” mentality can be a way to save yourself some serious cash. For example, just a few weeks ago my iPod was not working properly. It kept dying on me at the gym, even after I had just charged it. I was getting frustrated with it, and told hubby that a birthday gift idea for me would be a new iPod. He took it from me and started trying different cords to charge it.
Within a day we had determined that the problem was not the iPod itself, but the cord! And we already had a different cord, so we didn’t even need to buy anything to solve that problem! I can’t believe that hadn’t occurred to me- but I’m sure glad hubby thought of that 🙂
Have you used any of these frugal skills to save money? What’s the best frugal skill you’ve used, and how much do you think you’ve saved?
Suggested Reading: One of my favorite books about forgetting the Joneses and livin’ the “stealth wealth” lifestyle is The Millionaire Next Door. This book profiles numerous individuals and couples who are masters of frugality- and, as the title indicates, are often millionaires. If you have not yet read this book, I definitely recommend that you give it a read.
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CMF’s favorite FREE money management tools!
Some of the best online tools out there for money management are at Personal Capital, and the awesome news is that they are all FREE! Cash flow tracker, 401(k) fee analyzer, investment checkup, net worth monitoring, and many more! I’m a net worth junkie, so the net worth monitor is my favorite. Check out my Personal Capital review here, or click here to check out all the awesome tools for yourself!