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What does a Frugal Day Look Like?

Updated on May 14, 2008

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.

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    • Dorsi profile image

      Dorsi Diaz 

      10 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

      Great common sense ways to be frugal- and be green at the same time. I think that it requires changing habits a little bit at a time- until it does become a habit.

      Through economic neccesity I think peoples lifetsyles are changing to be more frugal, it makes so much sense and it doesn't require alot of hardwork- it's mostly a change of our minds.

      Great hub with good advice!

    • Simply Mom profile image

      Simply Mom 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin's Northwoods

      Great hub! Nice job giving people ideas on little things that can make a huge difference. I think people think living frugally/simply is an all or nothing deal and it isn't. Make small changes over time and you'll see how easy it is and how much happier you'll be! Thanks!

    • HubSub Urban Mom profile image

      HubSub Urban Mom 

      10 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      You pegged it! I used to buy the 88 cents cookies until I found out most are made of the hydrogenated oil stuff. I enjoy baking (cooking not so much) so most of my cookies are homemade. Great article!

    • Cailin Gallagher profile image

      Cailin Gallagher 

      10 years ago from New England

      Your day sounds so lovely and smooth. I could use some of your organizational tips. I handwash dishes for a family of five which can be time-consuming, but only because I don't have a dish-washer. Also, I use dish towels and cloth napkins instead of paper to save money. I love your idea of bringing us through your day. Very easy to follow.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Great hub, Jennifer! Lots of great tips on living SENSIBLY. That it also saves $$$ is just an added benefit. My children are grown and gone now, but I still buy "family size" if it's something that can be used in several meals, especially if it was on sale! I've been hanging laundry indoors for years...beats me why people will waste electricity drying clothes that won't be worn for several days hence!

      I'm surprised no one asked how running a dishwasher can be considered "frugal". Well, the answer is not convenience, but for health. A dishwasher uses water far hotter than human hands can stand, meaning dishes and silverware are sterilized. However, I never run mine overnight, only during the day so I can open it right after the last rinse to let the dishes air dry and also use the steam to humidify.

    • Lifebydesign profile image

      Lifebydesign 

      10 years ago from Australia

      These are all great tips Jennifer! It really is about reframing the way you do things and then going about them differently.

    • profile image

      Alil Nairtcab 

      10 years ago

      Thank you for your advice. I am currently doing my best to be frugal but still enjoy life. I like the idea of reusing plastic ziploc bags. That's definitely on my list now, and I'm getting even more ideas from your other hugs. Cheers :). -alil

    • donnaleemason profile image

      donnaleemason 

      10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      Excellent advice and there was some things that I definitely will be trying . Thanks.

    • Andy Xie profile image

      Andy Xie 

      10 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      I think that being frugal is about enjoying the simple things of life, going back to basics. I handwash the dishes when I can, use as little commercial detergent as possible.. Sometimes I try to use less dishes for dinner! I agree that sometimes it takes a little more time, but if you think about how much time we waste doing unimportant things like watching boring television, it's not that bad.

      Awesome hub Jennifer, I just joined your fan club.

    • francetales profile image

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      I loved this idea, I'm going to write about my frugal life in France.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      I believe that living a frugal life can be enjoyable. I see My neighbours planting their own vegetables patch and doing their own jams and conserves. They do it because they take joy doing it... I am trying to learn from them.

      As a family we also have lots of days out to unexpensive places and we take a picnic bag with us to most of our outings with the children. At the end it is more enjoyable having a picnic than sitting for hours -with the children driving me mad- in a restaurant!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Very, very good advice!

      I am sick and tired of the few people that say they PURPOSELY waste things because they believes it stimulates the economy. It does not.

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