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I watch for sales and try to get the best deal but am not REALLY frugal. I want/need to change that. What would be some advice/tips that y'all have for someone trying to make some serious life changes? Did any of y'all make a complete transition from *blush* wasteful ways into a life of frugality?
 

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I know for us the first step was "knowing" our money. By that I mean, knowing what comes in versus what goes out, tracking everything we spent for several months because in all honesty what we would write on paper wasn't always what we spent. Best of intentions can still lead to spending you might not even know you are doing. We live on a zero based budget each month, every penny is accounted for. It is something we sit and talk about every single month.
 

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For us it was an abrupt change. DH was out of work and we ran out of money. I had to make every dollar count. I had to make sure we didn't waste what we already had (food, clothing, tools, car, etc). It's not always about the sales. There was a lot on sale at the grocery store this week that I didn't need, so I didn't spend the money. Likewise, I don't need new shoes, or a purse, or a bunch of plastic Easter decorations, no matter what the "deal" is.
 

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I have a whole article called "Step Down to Savings" which has been printed and re-printed a few time on various places on the internet. The concept is simple ... keep "stepping down" to a more frugal way of life then when you get to a point where you reach an uncomfortable or unsustainable level, go back to the level that you can maintain.

For instance (oh my gosh, there are so many examples that I could use; where to start?):

Let's say you want to be frugal by eliminating disposable paper products. You do a survey are realize that you use paper plates daily for your toddler's lunch, your husband takes a paper to-go cup of coffee to the office daily, you go through a roll of paper towels a week, boxes of facial tissues are scattered through out the house and used for every conceivable reason from wiping noses to killing spiders, and of course there is the TP usage.

So you buy a couple of cute plastic plates for your child's lunch. You tear up old clothes to make a rag bag. You switch your husband to a washable travel mug. You learn to drain fried items on a wire rack, not a paper towel. You make a few fabric napkins and suggest to your mom that more napkins would make the perfect Christmas gift this year. When the boxes of facial tissue go empty, you don't replace them. No one notices. If they say anything you suggest they use a handkerchief or some TP from the bathroom. You realize that fly swatters are also handy for killing spiders. You start to buy the TP that you can get with a coupon then realize that one no-name brand is just as good and is always cheaper anyway so you begin to buy that instead.

So far, so good.

You decide to keep going and try to eliminate all paper products. You stop writing checks. You send long, wordy e-mails instead of letters. You 'forget' to mail out Christmas cards or birthday cards. You use fabric gift bags instead of wrapping paper. You cancel the newspaper and when magazine subscriptions expire, you don't renew. Your baby is in cloth diapers and you buy a "Diva cup" for your "monthlies".

You begin to toy with the idea of giving each family member an assigned "rag" for use in the bathroom along with a squirt bottle of water so they can rinse after using the toilet. Before the family thought you were just a bit quirky but they put their foot down at this suggestion. Your teenagers starts to go to the neighbor's house to use their bathroom and your younger child begins to tell his teacher at school that your family is "too poor" to buy TP. You have officially reached your level of discomfort.

Back up a step and start buying generic TP again.

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Constantly evaluate how you're spending your money and ask yourself if you can avoid spending, delay spending or spend in a more frugal way. So many people assume that much of their budget items are fixed expenses. For instance, people will often budget based on their "net" paycheck (that is the amount of money you receive after all the taxes and other deductions are taken out). I recommend that you budget on your gross paycheck. Evaluate your taxes periodically. If you get a big refund every year, stop giving the government an interest-free loan and adjust your withholding so you have access to that money now. Can you make better benefit decisions so you don't have to pay so much for health insurance through your employer? Is that second job really worth it? Is the over-time? Have you ever appealed the assessment on your house to lower your property taxes? When was the last time you asked other companies to quote you on auto insurance? Do you need life insurance? Wouldn't a term life insurance policy get you more insurance for less money? Are you wisely using the money in your health savings account? Are you taking advantage of your company's 401k? Would lowering your house insurance premiums result in a lowering of your mortgage payment because they would require less for the escrow portion?

Keep asking. Keep evaluating.
 

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I have a whole article called "Step Down to Savings" which has been printed and re-printed a few time on various places on the internet. The concept is simple ... keep "stepping down" to a more frugal way of life then when you get to a point where you reach an uncomfortable or unsustainable level, go back to the level that you can maintain.

For instance (oh my gosh, there are so many examples that I could use; where to start?):

Let's say you want to be frugal by eliminating disposable paper products. You do a survey are realize that you use paper plates daily for your toddler's lunch, your husband takes a paper to-go cup of coffee to the office daily, you go through a roll of paper towels a week, boxes of facial tissues are scattered through out the house and used for every conceivable reason from wiping noses to killing spiders, and of course there is the TP usage.

So you buy a couple of cute plastic plates for your child's lunch. You tear up old clothes to make a rag bag. You switch your husband to a washable travel mug. You learn to drain fried items on a wire rack, not a paper towel. You make a few fabric napkins and suggest to your mom that more napkins would make the perfect Christmas gift this year. When the boxes of facial tissue go empty, you don't replace them. No one notices. If they say anything you suggest they use a handkerchief or some TP from the bathroom. You realize that fly swatters are also handy for killing spiders. You start to buy the TP that you can get with a coupon then realize that one no-name brand is just as good and is always cheaper anyway so you begin to buy that instead.

So far, so good.

You decide to keep going and try to eliminate all paper products. You stop writing checks. You send long, wordy e-mails instead of letters. You 'forget' to mail out Christmas cards or birthday cards. You use fabric gift bags instead of wrapping paper. You cancel the newspaper and when magazine subscriptions expire, you don't renew. Your baby is in cloth diapers and you buy a "Diva cup" for your "monthlies".

You begin to toy with the idea of giving each family member an assigned "rag" for use in the bathroom along with a squirt bottle of water so they can rinse after using the toilet. Before the family thought you were just a bit quirky but they put their foot down at this suggestion. Your teenagers starts to go to the neighbor's house to use their bathroom and your younger child begins to tell his teacher at school that your family is "too poor" to buy TP. You have officially reached your level of discomfort.

Back up a step and start buying generic TP again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Constantly evaluate how you're spending your money and ask yourself if you can avoid spending, delay spending or spend in a more frugal way. So many people assume that much of their budget items are fixed expenses. For instance, people will often budget based on their "net" paycheck (that is the amount of money you receive after all the taxes and other deductions are taken out). I recommend that you budget on your gross paycheck. Evaluate your taxes periodically. If you get a big refund every year, stop giving the government an interest-free loan and adjust your withholding so you have access to that money now. Can you make better benefit decisions so you don't have to pay so much for health insurance through your employer? Is that second job really worth it? Is the over-time? Have you ever appealed the assessment on your house to lower your property taxes? When was the last time you asked other companies to quote you on auto insurance? Do you need life insurance? Wouldn't a term life insurance policy get you more insurance for less money? Are you wisely using the money in your health savings account? Are you taking advantage of your company's 401k? Would lowering your house insurance premiums result in a lowering of your mortgage payment because they would require less for the escrow portion?

Keep asking. Keep evaluating.
Do you happen to have a link to this article CookieLee? I would love to read it. TIA!
 

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My advice for someone wanting to make serious life changes would be to pick just one area of their finances and work on it. I found for myself when I focused on one area at a time I gained traction. For instance when I focussed on lowering my grocery bill, I scoured this site as well as other sites on how to eat healthier AND cheaper. I then compiled the tips and slowly began implementing them.
 

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Try different things...keep the tips and advice that works for you, and don't try to hang on to those that don't. If you find yourself slipping back into old "wasteful" habits, just start again to implement the frugal things that work for you and your family.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Wow! What WONDERFUL advice!
Calimom-that is a necessity and hopefully something I will do today. I'm HORRIBLE at tracking my money, I guess I'm just in denial not really wanting to know how bad things are.
CookieLee, I'm with Debbie and would LOVE a copy of that article (please).
Lucky, that is something I have to work on. I'm bad about "slipping" then just giving up :-/ I was hoping that by joining this community I would gain some encouragement and accountability partners.
Lara, that is smart advice. I tend to jump in and try to do everything at once then end up overwhelmed!
Brenda, TY!!!! I am a major bookworm (I majored in English) and LOVE to read new books; that one sounds really insightful!
Brat-I hate that for you! My husband is VERY supportive (as you said yours was) and thankfully that is all I have to worry about! Maybe we can keep putting tips on here that work for all of us.

Y'all are awesome! Thank you!
 

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well I am late to the party as usual...

all these wise ladies gave u wonderful advice...

I would start in one or two areas..turn the heat down or the air up a degree..turn off the lights..these are things u can do with out your family even noticing.

buy products on sale and stockpile..shop and menu plan from your own pantry

I hang the majority of our laundry it saves us a bundle....

I have started making more of my own cleaning supplies and this save me a few bucks every month.

it is about your and the families comfort level..

hugs and good luck..
 

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Welcome

OM, how can you possibly be late when this party has just begun?

The first thing I did was keep track of every penny we spent - that type of thinking works for me. The whole process is so personal and you have already been gifted an amazing amount of wonderful advice - including choose what works for you and go for it! And stay with it and us, even when you slip!
 

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Re: paper products I hadn't thought about checks and wrapping paper as being 'paper products' that's a useful way to look at it.
For TP I use a basket full of cloth wipes cut from t-shirt material in place of TP for number one. I put the used ones in a step-lid trashcan and wash them to reuse. This has a similar sanitary effect as toilet paper without the paper waste. Plus, no bits of paper clinging!
 

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I also agree about the focus.
Maybe paper products one week,
electric use another week
food
transportation, including calling your car ins co to ask about any discounts you may qualify for
entertainment
 
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Discussion Starter #15
Y'all are so creative! I've never thought about many of these things. I LOVE the idea of starting gradually, with one or two things then working my way up. First thing, though, is I have to finish reviewing my account to see where all my money is going!

Mel
 

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I know for us the first step was "knowing" our money. By that I mean, knowing what comes in versus what goes out, tracking everything we spent for several months because in all honesty what we would write on paper wasn't always what we spent. Best of intentions can still lead to spending you might not even know you are doing. We live on a zero based budget each month, every penny is accounted for. It is something we sit and talk about every single month.
I think this is the best advice you can get. If you've ever heard of Dave Ramsey, this is the type of thing that he recommends. It's basic but hard at times to follow. Definitely priceless advice.
 

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wasteful may be an understatement for us...foreclosure, bankruptcy...awful with money!

Step one : Track your expenses for one month : know your income and your outgoing

Step Two : Build a budget based on your expenses : eliminate one thing you dont need

When you are done with those two then ask for the next step
 

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Great advice.

I'm here to welcome you into the community.
Please stay and learn and contribute.

Come in, have a cup of tea or coffee, sit, and enjoy the conversation.
It's nice to meet you :). We look forward to watching you grow in frugality.

Ps. I use cloth TP. It's very comfy and cleaner. No dingleberries.
 

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Technically, you should track your money and see where it all goes and adjust your spending, cut where it's needed, and etc. Not to be full of excuses or lack of effort, that does not work well for me and my husband, we differ widely on thoughts of spending money (i.e. last time we did this together, there was a huge fallout on him buying a pair of $130 pair of boots and my $6 package of tampons.......).

For me I decided I needed to change the way we are living, period! I came to this conclusion a few weeks ago (I fell off the frugal wagon HARD!)- I came home from work exhausted (mentally), to a messy house with loads of clean laundry taking over the 1 couch (that needed to be folded), to a hungry husband and child asking what's for dinner, my response was 'we are going out to eat'. While we were out eating, mind you the third time that week, when we got the bill I figured that we almost spent half my pay in 3 days going out to eat (my husband enjoyed 3 steak dinners that week). I got my job so we would have insurance and money to set aside for remodeling the house, not to go out to eat! So I decided, I need to 'Live Simply'. If we live simply, we would have less stuff, be more organized, less cleaning to do, and have more money. I am starting to declutter, making menus for the week (although we did go out to eat two times since then). I have noticed the more organized I get the better we manage and save our money. I work hard for my money, I want it to work for me!

As for looking for sales and such, I really don't have too much time to shop around for deals. I just know sometimes for us, quality over quantity works. I will try to find deals on some things but know where not to waste money. My youngest loves Justice clothing, I know at a local Goodwill I can get her a few outfits for half the price of 1 outfit at the store (or only shop the clearance racks). My oldest has an odd body type, very short with hips and a butt (but of course she is a size 0), we know of 2 brands that fit her very well without alterations, those are the only pants we will purchase for her, she may only get 2 pairs, but we know those 2 pairs will fit and not be a waste of money.
 

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Sounds like your on the road...We didn't get into this mess overnight and we are sure not going to get out of it over night..Just take one step at a time and work your way up...Soon it will be so easy that you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner..
 
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