Expert Interview with Amrita Singh on Living Frugally in Style for Mint

Frugalista Amrita Singh not only loves saving money, she's passionate about helping others do the same.

There are so many wins when you learn to live on less and save more, she says, not the least of which is living debt free and the opportunity to grow your retirement savings.

"Frugal living starts small by saving dollars and cents, but it can quickly grow to a healthy mindset around spending less and differentiating between need and want," she says. "If I can make frugal living pretty and easy, it may inspire people to give it a try, and once bit by the bug, they may go full in and get on a path to a better financial future."

Amrita, the founder of Pretty Frugal Living, recently checked in to tell us when she got bitten by the frugal bug and offer some of her best tips for saving money every day. Read on:

Tell us about Pretty Frugal Living...when and why did you start your site?

My website came out of sheer necessity. I'm a seasoned broadcast and TV producer, but I left my network life so I could pursue my passion for digital video and digital media. The first step in making the transition was to build a website from the ground up. I didn't know much about WordPress or CSS or anything...but I knew it was important to experience the build firsthand and treat my site and YouTube channel as a calling card. Since I was already known as a frugalista, it only made sense to develop a site where I could curate all my tested tips and tricks. There are a lot of fantastic blogs and videos out there for frugal living, but I wanted to make things prettier and more current. After the launch, I was amazed at how keen people were to support my content, and the site is now an important creative outlet for me.

When did you become a frugalista?

I used to produce content for news and radio. I approached the morning show radio team and asked if they would allow me to do a monthly column on the show. The producer was keen to give me a chance because I had a unique voice and my name was ethnic. Yup, those were the two things that gave me a leg up. The last hurdle was to pitch a winning concept and theme for the column. The year was 2008, and the recession was a daily topic that we were all covering.

I thought it would be fun to test frugal-living practices and go on-air to report my results. The producer liked the idea, and I started putting together tape-talk segments for the show. While researching, I read about the word "frugalista" almost making it into the dictionary. It was the perfect descriptor for the kind of frugal living that I wanted to explore.

Frugal living done in a fashionable way. No one had any idea how popular the radio column would become, and I moved from a monthly appearance to a bi-weekly appearance quite quickly. Soon after that, I started to re-purpose my radio content into segments for local news. The rest (as they say) is history.

What are the most surprising ways frugal living has enriched your life?

Well, it's definitely given me the opportunity to connect with a whole new community, especially through YouTube, and together we discover lots of fun, frugal stuff. On a more personal level, frugal living has given me the freedom to follow my dreams and ideas for a better and more fulfilling work and personal life. Having enough money in savings is a great motivator for taking risks. I'm single and I'm not a big consumer, so sticking to a budget is easier for me, and the reward is being able to save up for trips or one-off experiences, all of which enrich my life.

Where do you find inspiration for your frugal living lifestyle?

Absolutely everywhere. First of all, I'm lucky to be surrounded by amazing friends who are part of the lifestyle industry: designers, stylists, chefs, and crafters. Whatever is happening in their world can be adapted into frugal living options. My Instagram feed is also full of trends, patterns, and colors that can be applied to frugal living ideas and videos. I live in Toronto, so there's lot of opportunity for window shopping, which gets the creative juices flowing, especially when I see packaged gifts being sold for a pretty mind immediately wonders how I can make something just as sweet on a dime? Two last words: Google alerts.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about frugal living? How would you correct these?

Being frugal is synonymous with being cheap and/or living a "granola" lifestyle. I don't think there's anything wrong with being cheap or living a granola lifestyle, but to me, frugality equals freedom. When you can differentiate between needing and wanting, and when you can master the art of making instead of buying, all of a sudden you have more control over your shopping impulses and your finances. Practicing frugality develops an ability to make smart buying decisions and puts you in control of your consumption. If I want to splurge on a designer purse or shoes, I have money in my account to do so and there's no guilt because it's a treat that I can afford thanks to practicing frugal living every day. One thing that is true about frugal living? It's not always convenient, and it does require time.

What are some of your favorite frugal living hacks or tips that we can use every day?

There are so many! Start a lunch exchange with colleagues and never underestimate the power of a good big batch recipe. Schedule time to cook! Make your own fabric freshener spray with water, rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, and some fresh lemon juice. This comes in handy in the fall season as coats, sweaters, and scarves come out of storage. It's multipurpose, too, as a furniture or room freshening spritz. My favorite beauty hack is an all-natural scrub made simply with equal parts oatmeal and almonds ground up to a powder. Mix a little bit in your palm with a touch of water to form a paste. Use this to exfoliate and moisturize your face, your neck, your hands, and even your feet!

What are some of your go-to methods for saving money on...

...Groceries?: Use an app like Flipp to plan your shopping around the best sales in your area. Use the app for price matching when you hit the check out.

...Household goods?: Make your own multipurpose cleaning supplies so you can cut back on the store-bought stuff. Stock up on cheap ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol. These three things are the base to many frugal solutions.

...Clothing?: Host a well-planned clothing swap and turn it into a quarterly event. Assign a theme each time, invite people who are similar in div shape and have your sense of fashion. This is a great way to add new pieces to your wardrobe without hitting the mall.

...Entertainment?: Get together with friends for a frugal dinner out. Make it a challenge! What restaurant or eatery can we check out this month where our individual bill will be no more than $15? Also, find ways to have fun without your wallet...Google all the free stuff you can do in your city and start doing it with friends and family.

...Bills? Schedule an hour once a month and dedicate it to calling your service providers and negotiating better deals. Also, make time to shop around for the best's a hassle, it's not a fun task, but it could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Do you ever let yourself splurge? If so, on what?

Absolutely! Usually on gifts for others and anything techie that helps me produce videos more efficiently. And, I know this will come across as strange, but when I get to transfer a lump sum of money to my TFSA or RRSP, it's just as nice a high as splurging on a pretty new dress!

What are some of your favorite tools, books, resources, etc., for saving money or learning about saving money?

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