Embracing Frugality (Again)
As I write this, the world is amidst a global health crisis. The UK has been in lockdown for just over a week (since Monday 23rd March), with fines issued to anyone leaving their homes if it’s not for one of the permitted reasons.
COVID 19 has changed life as we know it. Everyone has been affected in some way by the virus.
From a monetary viewpoint, the upset is astronomical.
The economy has ground to a halt. Businesses have been forced to close their doors, all non-essential work has stopped, and many jobs have either been axed or put on hold.
Faced with so much uncertainty, my family, like many households, is adopting a frugal lifestyle to make sure we have enough to make ends meet during this crisis.
And do you know what? Frugality ain’t that bad.
In today’s post, I’m going to share how I’m rediscovering my love of frugality, and how it may just be the silver lining in all of this.
Before we get into it, I want to state that I’m in no way trying to make light of the REAL financial hardship and emotional challenges some people are experiencing due to the Corona Virus. My only intention with this post is to shed a ray of optimism on an otherwise miserable situation.
My Past Frugal Experiences
I’m no stranger to frugality.
Around 2012, I stumbled across a blog called Early Retirement Extreme.
The blogger behind ERE, Jacob, had adopted extreme frugality as a means to save 75% or more of his income in a quest to become financially free in just five years!
Most people that read ERE think Jacob is a nutter. I thought he was a genius.
I tried to emulate Jacob’s methods of lifestyle optimisation and expense cutting so that I could save similar amounts. But there was just one problem; my wife didn’t share the same love of penny-pinching.
My suggestions of switching to a diet of mostly porridge and beans, cutting our own hair and only shopping at thrift stores didn’t go down well.
On reflection, I realise that my wife puts up with some shit. 😉
But I was fixated on achieving financial independence. I mean, how awesome would it be to have enough money that you could do whatever you wanted every day? What’s not to love?
So, I persisted that we at least make some changes to save more.
We stuck to a budget, limited how much we ate out, bought all our furniture second hand, AirBNB’d our spare room, and spent pretty much every weekend doing up investment properties.
The lifestyle choices we made, along with being DINK (double income no kids) at the time, allowed us to save 50% of our income.
We were rapidly moving towards financial independence (FI) and never really felt that we were missing out on much by not spending like our peers and friends were.
After we achieved “lean” FI (our basic living expenses were covered by investment income), I chilled out on the frugality front – or to everyone else; I stopped being as much of a cheap bastard.
Faced with the uncertainty over our income and the economy over the coming months, we’re doing all we can to make our pennies stretch as far as possible.
And so, I’ve reconnected with my old friend, frugality.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” – the frugality motto
I’ve never really stopped being thrifty, but I had relaxed the reigns a little. But given the circumstances, I’m much more conscious of what I’m spending, and of what I’m wasting.
Here are a couple of things we’re doing to save money during this pandemic – some by choice, and some necessary to stick to the lockdown rules:
- Not Wasting Food – we’re putting extra effort into meal planning to use ingredients we already have. We’re also batch cooking meals and stretching out each meal as far is it will go. And as usual, Charlie (the dog) has helped out with any leftovers.
- Cooking All Meals At Home – while you can’t dine in at restaurants or cafes at the moment, you can still order takeaways, which we’re choosing not to do. To reduce meal costs – and partly due to not being able to get fresh meat at the supermarket (bloody panic buyers!) – we’ve been making pasta bake with tinned tuna instead of chicken.
- Not Using The Car – I only used the car once last week to go to the supermarket. I walked to the local shop for bread and milk when we ran out during the week.
- Home Workouts – this one sucks, and I’ll be back to the gym as soon as it opens.
- Mending Old Clothes – I’ve used the extra time around the house to sort out my wardrobe. I’ve decided not to buy any new clothes in the next few months and make do with what I have and mend old items.
- Reusing Plastic Bottles – empty spray bottles have been refilled with concentrated disinfectant instead of recycling them. Plastic bottles have also been substituted for skittles for bowling in the back garden.
- Cutting My Own Hair – I’ve attempted to cut my hair again (I stopped as past baldy’s were never a hit with the missus) as I was looking more and more like a mushroom each day.
The Final Word
Being thriftier during the lockdown has allowed me to rediscover what appeals to me about frugality.
The money-saving aspect is great, but I love the efficiency of it. Only using what you need and eliminating waste appeals to my engineer brain.
Frugality also forces you to think – how can I do this without X? – instead of taking the easy way out and spending money.
And perhaps the greatest benefit of frugal living, is the contentment it brings. You can be just as happy making do with what you have. There is great joy to be had in living simpler.
If I’ve (re)learned anything during this past week, it’s that you don’t need to spend money to be happy. With a roof over my head, food in our cupboards, clean water from the tap and my family safe and well, there’s a lot to be grateful for.
What about you? Are you being more frugal during lockdown? Will you continue living frugally when all this is over?
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Hi! I'm Jamie
I’m a 30-something money blogger that writes about saving, frugal living, investing and entrepreneurship.
I achieved financial independence at 30 through hard work, saving and learning to invest.
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