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Living Frugally - Money Saving Lessons from My Mom
When it comes to living frugally, almost all the essential money saving lessons I have learned in life up to this point came from my mom. If she had not lived frugally by example, I may not have adopted much of what I practice in my own family today. Allow me to share with you what are these frugal living tips and lessons that have helped me in my personal finances as well.
Living Frugally Means Attitude
Living frugally first of all means Attitude. As Winston Churchill said "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." What kind of attitude should we have to be able to live frugally?
Being content with what we have is one key in living frugally. The reason why many people have problems with their finances is because they tend to want more and buy more. If they see their neighbors have a new TV, they feel that they also need to have the same.
I did not come from a rich family, but God provided what we needed. As a young child, my mom always tell us that we should be content with what we have. Whenever a meal is served, my siblings and I may complain about the food (especially if it was vegetables), but she tells us right away “Eat what is served. It is good that we have something to eat while others don't.”
I do not have all the fancy toys and clothes that other children have, at times I wish I had, but then, I learned to be content with what we have. As one Filipino proverb says, “Habang maiksi ang kumot, dapat matutong mamaluktot.” In English it means when the blanket is short, learn to curl up.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.~ 1 Timothy 6:6
Keep Life Simple.
How can life be simple when things today are becoming so complicated? Long time ago, the basic necessities are just food, clothing and shelter. Now, people can’t seem to live without mobile phones, computers or laptops, cable TV, a car and the like.
And to add to that dilemma is the fast turnover of things. You just bought a new mobile phone and in just a month or so there’s a newer model with better features. Then again, some popular celebrity starts promoting a new fashion statement.
If you would go with flow of this world, then you can never have a simple life. The key to simple living, I think, is knowing what you really need. To simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary. That is what my mom taught us from the very beginning. If we don’t need it, she won’t buy it.
Yeah, we have a little more than the basic necessities but we don’t have the biggest TV in our living room nor every latest gadget there is in the market. My mom (even my dad) never really cared much about fashion. So, she just buys us clothes when we need them and if it happens that the latest fashion looks good and modest enough, and then she buys it for us.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. ~ 1 Timothy 6:7-8
Living frugally means Smart Spending
Buy what you need for less.
My mom always buys where things are cheaper. I remember she would go to the Balintawak Market, a very big wet market in the Philippines. Early in the morning, suppliers of fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and poultry and other wet and dry goods bring their produce to Balintawak to sell to the market vendors. Most small retailers also buy from there since their wholesale prices are really cheaper. For clothes, shoes and bags, she would go to the flea markets in Divisoria or Baclaran.
My mom seemed like tireless when shopping. She would go from vendor to vendor and compare prices. Once she finds a vendor who sells at a fair price, she would go back to him when buying the same item. Another thing I admire about my mom is that she’s really good at getting a bargain. She doesn’t hesitate to ask the vendor to give her the lowest price possible. If she’s not satisfied with the price, she also doesn’t mind walking away.
I guess, for many nowadays, shopping in the supermarket or in the malls is the most convenient. It is still possible to buy what you need for less there. Watch out for special sales, save on coupons, compare prices and try to ask for a bargain if the seller would allow it.
Buy products with quality that lasts.
Buying cheaper products doesn’t mean that you would not care about the quality of the product. If something is worth a little more but the quality is guaranteed to last, then go for it.
I remember my sister who is really good at wearing out her school shoes. What my mom did was she bought her a pair that was really so durable. A school year has passed, then another and it still isn’t worn out. How my sister wished that it has already worn out so she could have a new pair.
Don’t compromise on the quality of the product. If you’re expecting to use a product more often and for a long time, then choose the best in terms of quality even if it is more expensive. Clothes, shoes, bags, appliances like washing machine, TV, electric fan are some items included in this category.
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Living frugally means Prudent Saving.
In order to save money, we need to conserve our resources. What are some ways that we can do to save on our monthly bills and other expenses?
How to Save Money on Utility Bills
- If you’re not using it, then turn it off. The reason why my parents chose to make all our windows very wide is so that the light shine through and that the room will be well-ventilated. So, we can turn off the light when it’s day and turn off the fan when it is quite cool. The same goes with the water consumption. Use a water cup when brushing our teeth and use a pail and dipper when taking a bath.
- Do everything at one time. My mom hates it when we iron clothes a little today and a little tomorrow. We are able to conserve more energy when ironing all the clothes at one time. The same is true when washing clothes or even dishes. If you’re going to use the washing machine, better maximize the use of energy by putting in as much clothes as it can handle.
How to Save Money on Food
- Eat at home. It is still much cheaper to eat at home compared to eating out. Home cooking will also ensure that you get the proper nutrients into your food. Of course, not every type of dish can be cooked at home. So, once in a while, it is still okay to eat out and relax.
- Cook in bulk. This is especially helpful for working moms. Cook meals in bigger quantity then pack in meal sized portions then freeze. Cooking at one time conserves on fuel used for cooking because you’re able to spend less in reheating the food.
- Buy items on sale. Well, you should not buy every item that is on sale, especially if it‘s not part of your budget. Just buy those which are really cost saving; those which you will certainly use; and those which you can use before the expiration date (Some items on sale are near expiration dates, so check it out).
- First in, first out. Most wasted food products are those which we fail to eat because it’s not safe to eat anymore. So, be sure to serve and eat immediately leftovers. Put older grocery items in front of your storage area so you can be sure to use them first before those with later expiration dates. Label if you must with the date of purchase whatever food item you put in the fridge or freezer.
It also helps to be a little resourceful to be able to save a little more. Three things I’ve seen my mom do in regards to this: Recycle, Do-it-yourself and Repair.
My mom definitely is a recycler. She doesn’t just throw away things she can reuse like bottles, boxes and plastic containers. She seemed to have another use in mind when it comes to these things. The only negative side to this is that sometimes it contributes to clutter at home.
If you can do it yourself, why not? You get to spend only on the cost of materials and save on the labor costs. My mom is so versatile when it comes to doing it herself. She sews our house curtains, our sofa covers and even our school uniforms. I still remember her teaching me how to sew the skirt of my school uniform when I was in high school.
Another do-it-yourself project that I think I copied from my mom is learning to do haircuts. Yes, I do the haircuts of my children and I think I do it better than my mom. I have 5 children so I’m saving a lot. I just don’t know until when they would allow me do their haircut.
My mom doesn’t just throw away things when she finds them to be broken. She looks for ways to repair them so she can save the money instead of buying a new one. To do the same, we’ve got to learn to sew buttons and mend tears. Learn to repair the sole of your shoes. Learn to experiment.
I had this headphone which was broken by a naughty boy. One of the hearing pieces was broken off. I checked if it was still functioning and it was. So, I checked to see if there’s a way to reattach the broken hearing piece. I was glad to have thought of using a soft wire (one that I got from the packaging of my son’s toy car) to reattach it and now I’m able to use it for some of my work.
There are still many other ideas which we can employ to live frugally but what I have shared are the essentials of what I learned from my Mom. Thank you, Mom. Feel free to share your frugal tips in the comments section as well.