For those of you who are tired of debt and want to try to live more frugally but are overwhelmed by the thought of quitting their spendthrift lifestyle cold turkey, Lori Felix recommends sitting down with your partner and having a heart to heart.
Working as part of a team will help make the process easier and less frustrating.
"If one person is trying to be frugal and the other is still free-spending, that is not going to bode well," she says.
Once you're on the same page, then you can look for ways to start to tackle each area of spending (she says using Mint.com is an easy way to find money leaks).
Finally, she says, you'll help yourself stay on track by putting aside a little money each month for fun - often you can find this extra cash inside your food spending, your utility and cable bill, and your last-minute gift buying.
To share more of her tips for frugal living, Lori started More with Less Today. Here, she discusses why she loves pinching pennies and how we can all do a better job saving money. Read on:
Tell us about More with Less Today...when and why did you start your site?
I started my blog in January of 2009. My daughter was in her last year of high school and the "empty nest" was looming large. I knew I was going to need a hobby to fill my time. I have always been a collector of helpful ideas and tips and wanted to organize them in a way that they could be shared. I was intrigued by the idea of blogging and self-publishing, but I really had no idea what I was doing. My learning curve was huge!
What's the story behind your love of frugal living?
My parents were very frugal. They raised four children on one school teacher's income. I watched my mom use the envelope system, coupons, and green stamps. She was dedicated to stretching the paycheck as far as she could while still saving and giving to those in need.
Who are your biggest inspirations when it comes to living frugally? What did they teach you?
My mom showed by example that your worth does not come from your possessions. She was never impressed by showiness, and to this day, she could not name five designer labels.
Both of my parents were very generous and gave of their time and talents. We often had someone who needed a dose of family and friendship at our Sunday dinner table. We never felt lacking for anything.
What are the most common things you think people spend too much money on?
In my humble opinion, impulse purchases and the habit of instant gratification are what most people spend too much money on. Spending without a plan and not saving up for larger purchases are what keeps the credit card companies so profitable.
I am going to take some flack for this, but spending too much money on entertaining the kids is another area. Please don't think I did everything right - I did not. I am looking in the rearview mirror and suggesting that you put the money into a college fund instead of buying another toy or gadget.
What ways have you found to save on these items?
My husband and I spend a little time each weekend talking about how we spent our money over the last week. We try and tackle one area at a time for improvement. Last month, we cut down the cable TV bill, and this month, we are writing down all of our food and grocery expenses and talking about ways to spend less.
We talk about what is ahead and where those funds will come from. We have been discussing trading in one of our old paid-for cars for a more economic hybrid car. We decided that we are going to cut our monthly budget by the amount of the car payment first.
Can you offer your best advice for saving money on...
...groceries: Start with a weekly meal plan. You only need about five meals in your rotation to get started. I have a popular blog post with about 30 ways to save money on groceries. Try to cook once and eat twice. Use a slow-cooker and stock up at the grocery store when the items you need are on sale. The average family should be able to easily save $100-$200 on food-related expenses each month.
One of my favorite tips is to put the kids in charge of clipping and organizing the coupons. Split the savings with them and call it their allowance. Think of all the money-saving lessons you can incorporate into this family project.
...household goods: Track prices before you buy and determine the best time to make your purchase. Try to save up and pay cash. Take a look at Craigslist or eBay to see if you can find it cheaper.
See if you have anything you could sell or trade in first to help raise money for your purchase.
...clothing: Learn to love the thrift store or consignment store. You would be amazed at the thrift store scores I have found, many NWT (new with tags). Kids grow fast. Look for this year and next year's sizes when you find a low price. Consign or swap your gently-worn kids' clothing.
...entertainment: Take advantage of the free options in your town. Every Thursday, I post a round-up of free or almost free activities that everyone can enjoy. There are free workshops, classes, movies, events, free museum days, and much more. Use sites like Groupon or the Entertainment Book to help save you money. I am a big advocate for having fun on a budget.
...bills: Try to pay a little more each month and pay them off as fast as you can. Some advocate focusing on the largest ones first, but sometimes small victories can give you the momentum you need to keep chopping away.
Several times a year, call providers and ask them if there are any discounts or new packages available. Tell them you are looking for ways to cut down on expenses and see what they may be able to do for you. This has proven successful with utility companies, cable TV providers, cell phone plans, and more.
It never hurts to ask!
What are the most surprising ways frugal living has enriched your life?
My husband and I feel like we are on the same team when it comes to saving and spending money. We enjoy setting goals that are mutually beneficial, such as saving for the hybrid car I mentioned.
We trust each other with our money and our spending, and that is something that money cannot buy.
When do you let yourself splurge?
We splurge on making memories. My family lives on the opposite coast, and we make several trips a year to spend time with them. We also try to have one fun date each month and we take turns choosing a date or activity that the other person will enjoy. Last month we went paddle-boarding and tomorrow we are taking the train into Los Angles to watch a college football game.
What are some of your favorite tools, books, resources, etc., for saving money or learning about saving money?
I love to use apps and resources on my phone to help me to save money. I make sure that my phone and data plan pays for itself each month in this way. In my blog, I write about my favorite apps that tell you what is on sale at the grocery store, where to buy the cheapest gas, when to buy your airline ticket, retail and promo codes, and many more.
I invite my readers to email me if there is an item they are buying and I will do a free price check for them using some of the apps and sites that I use every day.
I added this free personal shopper feature to my blog a few months ago, and my readers have really enjoyed it. Not only does it save them money, it saves them time, and it is something that I really enjoy.
I joke and call it my "super power," but I usually manage to find the rock-bottom price or tell them to wait until the price drops.
To me, the retail price is just the starting point!