What does a Frugal Day Look Like?
Some people have a hard time grasping what living a frugal life is all about. Many people think that it is too hard and requires too much thought or work. Most people just can't be bothered to try something a little different than what they are used to. I thought it would be a good idea to take you through our frugal day. I hope that it helps people realize that they too can live a frugal life without it being a major frustration.
My husband wakes me up as he heads downstairs. I get dressed first thing, because I have found that if I wait until after the kids are up it takes me forever and that wastes lots of time. Once I am dressed I go fix breakfast for the kids. Breakfast consists of pancakes that I had made extra and frozen, as well as bacon that I got for $.69 a lb by combining a sale with a coupon. Topping for the pancakes is homemade maple syrup.
After we are done eating I load the dishwasher and wash a few ziploc bags to hang dry during the day. While getting the kids moving to do their chores and get ready for the day I get a load of laundry in the washer, washing it on cold. I gather the things I need for my errands and we head out the door to take my son to school. After dropping him off we hit the post office, bank and library on our way home. By combining errands while I am already out and about I save gas money and time. By dropping off the library books on time I am avoiding fines.
Once we are home I get the laundry out of the washer and take it upstairs to hang on my racks. We aren't allowed to have an outdoor line in our neighborhood, but that is fine I have always hung clothes up indoors and it dries just fine. I also put away the clothes that are dry. I make sure to do this during the day when the sun is up, so that I don't have to turn every light on upstairs in order to put everyone's clothes away. Using natural light as much as possible really cuts down the electric bill.
Next I head downstairs and take a look at my menu. I don't plan each day specifically, but I like to keep a list of the meals that I can make with what is in the house. I decide what I want to eat and take it out of the freezer to thaw. This way I won't have to use the microwave to thaw it a few minutes before time to cook dinner. The kitchen needs sweeping, so I grab the broom and dustpan. There is no need for a fancy Swiffer with its special disposable pads. A regular old broom works just as well.
After helping the kids with school for a couple of hours I get my son off the bus. There is no need to make a second trip to the school when the bus will drop him off at my driveway. I do like having that contact each morning and since he is in preschool I don't really want him on a bus with a ton of older kids in the morning. But on the way home I have already talked to the teacher that day and he is riding home with just other preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Lunch is something fast and easy, PB&J, macaroni and cheese, hotdogs or chicken nuggets for the kids, along with fresh fruit. I usually have leftovers. After lunch we spend the afternoon finishing school, reading or playing. We take a walk down the street so that the kids can take care of the dogs at the neighbors. The kids having their own job has been such a blessing. I hardly ever hear "I want..." at the store. They have their own money.
We don't usually go anywhere for the rest of the day unless a child has an afternoon or evening activity. These things are very close to our house and take very little time or gas money. Dinner is made from scratch using whatever I took out of the freezer in the morning. While dinner is cooking I will get a batch of muffins in the oven as well. I try hard to only use my oven once a day and plan any baking I have to do around that time. For instance for lunch today the kids had chicken nuggets, which I heated in the oven. I also made a batch of muffins for our breakfast tomorrow as well as a batch of mini muffins for the kids snack in the afternoon. This all baked at the same time, which saves lots of energy.
After dinner I made a batch of chocolate syrup to use in chocolate milk. I also packed my husband's lunch for the next day. Doing this the night before prevents him from standing with the fridge door open for five minutes trying to figure out what to take, which will usually mean he can't find anything and possibly eat out. That gets expensive real quick so I try to always have leftovers for him. If I don't, we keep a supply of hot pockets (bought on sale and with coupons) or soups for him to take instead. He also takes fruit and cookies.
I actually buy cookies for him to take. I can get a pack for $.88 and that will give him cookies for 10 lunches. I can't make my own for less than $.88 so it is cheaper for me to buy them. When I open the package I divide it up into ziploc bags so that I just need to reach into my cabinet and grab a bag. It makes getting his lunch together so much easier. By figuring out exactly how much it costs to make something on your own versus how much to buy it, you will be able to make the most frugal decision.
While I am cleaning up the kitchen after dinner I also wash some more ziploc bags to dry overnight. My husband will give the younger kids a bath together to save on bath water. My son takes a quick shower, but my daughter takes a bath. We tried the shower route with her, but she has very curly hair and it was taking her forever to get the tangles out in the shower. She was draining the hot water heater each time. Showers aren't always the best option, so keep track and see what works for you. Being aware will help you make the best decisions. Towels get hung back up to dry; I wash them once a week.
After the kids go to bed I throw all the cloth napkins down the laundry chute to be washed. They take up little space in a load of towels and that is one less product that I have to buy each month. We also turn off all the lights except in the rooms we are in. I cut out coupons and go through the sale fliers. I will be preparing for my trip to CVS and the grocery store in the morning after I take my son to school again. Planning ahead, making lists, and organizing what I need will make the next day go so much smoother. I do this while I watch TV, it isn't hard or tedious work and it makes me feel productive even while sitting around watching TV.
When we head to bed I start the dishwasher and turn down the heat. All lights are off except for one nightlight in my boy's room. We have a nightlight with an on/off switch for the upstairs bathroom and if someone uses it in the middle of the night they just flip that on instead of the 3 overhead lights. Saves energy and also doesn't wake them up as much as glaring overhead lights.
I hope this shows you that living a frugal life does not have to be a lot of work. It might take a few extra minutes (hanging the laundry), but the payback is very good. It might not take any extra effort at all (using an old fashioned broom instead of a new one that requires disposable products) and the payoff is still very good.
There are also plenty of things you can do that will save you money all the time, but require no effort after the initial investment. For instance using fluorescent light bulbs and wrapping your hot water heater in an insulating blanket (about $15 at a hardware store) will save you money every day, but require no work from you.
Changing the way you do things and the way you think about things can really lead to a more frugal life. Being aware of your choices and choosing to do the more frugal thing (wash the ziploc bag instead of throwing it away) means extra coins in your pocket at the end of the day. All these little savings add up to lots of dollars at the end of the month or year. Living a completely frugal life all at once (or ever) might seem overwhelming. Try changing one thing a day or start a new habit each week. And don't beat yourself up if you have to dry your clothes in the drier once in awhile or if you forgot to pack a lunch. No one is perfect. But trying to be more frugal is better than not trying at all.