Frugal Practices I’ve Grown to Love

thumbs up womanIt’s wonderful when a positive, self-beneficial act becomes automatic and even better when you enjoy or look forward to doing it!  Being frugal doesn’t come naturally to me; I had to learn many of my current practices over time and fight against my upbringing.  My husband will attest that I’m certainly not frugal in all aspects of my spending!  But I’m so glad I started doing the activities that I list below because they have really enhanced my life, not only monetarily.




I’m not a great cook and I didn’t take to it easily, but the enjoyment I get from cooking has greatly increased in the past few years.  At first, I simply couldn’t afford to eat without cooking (or, preparing) the majority of my meals so it was a necessity.  As I became more invested in my health, primarily through nutrition, cooking grew in importance as well as pleasure.  I’m so glad that the frugal choice perfectly dovetails with the healthy choice in terms of preparing my own food (now if only meat and vegetables were cheaper than grains!).


Date Nights In


I love spending time with Kyle, and as we are DINKs it doesn’t matter much if we go out or stay in as we can be alone either way.  We had a wonderful date night last week when we cooked dinner together and then watched a movie from NetflixI often prefer to have a date night at home over going out as it’s more relaxed and we can put our spending money toward travel instead – as long as we are intentional about spending time together and not on our computers.  Plus, date nights in are pants-optional!


Sharing a Car


Kyle and I have shared one car for nearly a year now!  We made the decision to become a one-car family after we realized that we didn’t truly need our second vehicle and that it was expensive to maintain two cars for little reason.  Now we have all the kinks worked out, like how to get to two different activities at once and how the bus system works in our city.  I have been surprised by how much sharing one car has improved our relationship (I’m a quality time girl!) and our communication around money.


Online Banking


I’ve been a customer of online banks for over five years now, first with ING and now with Ally, and I have to say I’ve had a wonderful experience.  Not only are online banks cheaper than brick-and-mortar banks – free checking, no ATM fees, etc. – but in my experience they provide far better customer service.  Now that Ally has added smartphone check deposits, there is almost no reason to have a brick-and-mortar bank.  I was nervous about cutting the cord with BoA at first, but I let them go a few years ago and couldn’t be happier having them out of my life!


Health Insurance Wellness Program


My health insurance company gives me gift cards for eating fruits and vegetables and working out.  That’s great in itself, but I’ve discovered that this external motivation for tracking has helped me keep my own records up to snuff so that it’s easy to transfer the information into the company’s system.


Not Having Cable


I should clarify that I only like not having cable 8 months out of the year – I would really love to have it now through the end of March Madness!  But as we were considering adding cable during this period, I realized that I really like not having it.  I’m a sucker for TV so with cable available I tend to lose hours at a time.  At least with Netflix I have to make and active choice to start the next episode!


None of these activities has a huge impact on our bottom line, but added together they are not only helping us to spend less money but they are life-enhancers in other ways!


Which frugal habits do you really enjoy and which are like pulling teeth?  Do you enjoy the practices I listed?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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40 Responses to "Frugal Practices I’ve Grown to Love"

  1. I know we should get rid of cable, but I REALLY REALLY like watching my Aussie Rules football and Cricket, which means that I wouldn’t be able to do that if I removed our cable subscription.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..The Cheapest, Easiest and Best ways to learn a Language in 2013

    1. Emily says:

      How about only subscribing during those seasons? We never sign contracts with cable so that’s possible for us, though we never have. Soon enough I think they’ll start offering a la carte programming; this system is getting too ridiculous.

  2. Oddly, I like ironing all of our clothes for the week every Sunday. It’s a decompression time where I put on a couple of shows on Hulu and just get it done and mentally work through stuff. So I guess I don’t like the ironing as much as I like what I do while I iron =)
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Kitty PoP Speaks On Wealth And Consumption

    1. Emily says:

      I know what you mean! I do the same while folding laundry and some kinds of cooking. The chore is NBD and you can do something fun in the meantime.

  3. Savvy Scot says:

    Date nights in are fantastic! Mrs Scot and I do these all the time! 🙂 Also a BIG fan of cooking
    Savvy Scot recently posted..Planning Our 2013 Holiday to Mexico

    1. Emily says:

      So fun to combine the two as well, even in our tiny galley kitchen.

  4. David W says:

    Biking to work is one I enjoy a lot, although this time of year not so much.

    We also started making our own laundry soap recently, it’s about 1/10 the cost of commercial stuff and we’ve found it actually works better. I can’t say I enjoy it or not since it doesn’t really change how we live, but it’s being frugal which I enjoy on principle. I posted the recipe we use a week or so ago, although there are countless other varieties out there.
    David W recently posted..Homemade Laundry Soap

    1. Emily says:

      I’ll check it out. I’ve heard that using vinegar and other common chemicals can be far more effective than the packaged/branded cleaning supplies.

      1. David W says:

        Yeah, I’ve heard that standard household white vinegar makes a great fabric softener and deodorizer, although I have yet to try it. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in spray bottles work as an alternative multi-surface cleaner (sprayed from separate bottles, don’t premix).
        David W recently posted..How Important Are Mutual Fund Fees?

  5. Emily too says:

    I at least don’t dislike most of these practices too, but they mostly don’t feel like frugality because they’re just what we’ve always done (except the health wellness stuff, we don’t have that); having one car and Netflix feel like luxuries, not scaling back. However, our grocery spending has crept upwards in the last couple months since my excitement about cooking has gotten me to venture more into meat territory, so we have to watch that in the future.

    One frugal practice I do really enjoy is having friends over for dinner, or having potluck brunches, instead of going out to eat a lot. It’s not always cheaper for the host, but if you take turns it evens out, and if not you can always make recipes that scale up cheaply. And it’s just nice to be able to treat your friends, and not have to worry about vacating a table if you want to hang out for hours.

    1. Emily says:

      I love having meals in homes as well. Our friends at church are great about having lunch after service every week, but we usually only attend when it’s a BYOL event at someone’s house or in a park.

  6. I hate only having one car. It works for you guys because your schedules are similar and work near each other. We are currenly using twice as much gas so I can have the car for interviews or errands while my wife works. And we are limited from getting other jobs because we have to make sure our schedules don’t overlap.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Do’s and Don’ts of Free Wifi

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah, there are some situations that are amenable to sharing a car and some that are not. Any chance of your wife carpooling to work?

      1. Unfortunately not. They usually don’t schedule anybody for the same shifts. They overlap the shifts instead.
        Edward Antrobus recently posted..Do’s and Don’ts of Free Wifi

  7. Date nights in are the best! I also just recently switched to Ally–I love it!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..Kick Your Debt to the Curb in Four Easy Steps

    1. Emily says:

      Sweet! I love recommending Ally to people.

  8. Ross says:

    Ally bank has smartphone check deposit! Im gonna drop US Bank checking tomorrow! That’s what I’ve been waiting for. I bet ally doesn’t charge $.50/check deposited.

    1. Emily says:

      Yep, they finally got it running a month or so ago! And no, there are definitely no fees for that sort of thing (or anything else we’ve done).

  9. krantcents says:

    Quite a few years ago, we started to stay in for Valentine’s Day. I usually get (inexpensive) flowers and bring in dinner. Even in southern California, February is cool enough to fire up the fireplace and I light candles. It is romantic and far less expensive than going out. We also stay in for Mother’s and Father’s Day. Our children celebrate with us by either bringing in food or cooking up something.
    krantcents recently posted..How to Prepare for 2013 or Any Year!

    1. Emily says:

      That sounds wonderful and romantic! I think it’s much nicer to have privacy than be fighting crowds.

  10. AverageJoe says:

    I’m all over the first two, especially. Cooking is so relaxing for me, it’s really more about the fun than the frugality…even though we keep a pretty strict food budget.
    AverageJoe recently posted..How Successful People Accomplish More – Two Guys and Your Money 025

    1. Emily says:

      I wish I was more efficient in the kitchen – I think it would be more fun if I wasn’t so slow, and if I could involve Kyle more.

  11. Heather says:

    Many of mine you mentioned! Cooking, having one car, date-nights in. Also on my list would be biking to work and church, giving N home haircuts (and going 2 yrs without a haircut and then donating it, in my case), making gifts for family members on bdays and holidays, and shopping at thrift stores (and just shopping less in general). When traveling N and I enjoy running tourism and staying with friends/family/low-cost hostels. Of course, like Emily too said, these don’t feel so much like frugality than they do ways to live freely, cherish others, and be mindful of our earth.

    Maybe keeping the heat down in our apartment is most appropriate, since the cost-incentive is notable–we’ve got used to our kitty snuggling with us at night, a feature of keeping a cooler apartment!

    1. Emily says:

      Oh yeah, I forgot to mention cutting Kyle’s hair! That is fun, although we don’t do it very frequently. I like couchsurfing/finding hostels as well – another good one to add to the list.

  12. Sara (SWR) says:

    These ideas are fun to read!

    We started menu planning on a monthly basis and doing a lot of big-batch cooking over the weekend, as a timesaver for busy weekday nights. It takes about an hour to plan all of the meals and shopping lists, but then shopping and cooking are a breeze. It has cut our grocery bills significantly, as well as the amount that we spend on takeout. It’s so much harder to justify the expense when the food you have at home is already prepared.
    Sara (SWR) recently posted..Hello, again

    1. Emily says:

      I’m trying menu planning for the first time EVER this week! It’s difficult, though, since Kyle and I don’t often eat the same food. He’s getting short-changed.

  13. Julie says:

    Having one car is such a good idea if you can swing in. We did that for years. Wasn’t until the last few years we really needed a second car.
    Julie recently posted..Growing Your Twitter Account Naturally

  14. You are so right about the date nights at home! 🙂 But looking at the bigger picture, you make such a valid point that living within one’s means can be deeply satisfying and even fun! Thanks for a great article.
    Eliza from Happy Simple Living recently posted..Day 24 of the January Money Diet – Cancel Something

    1. Emily says:

      Very nice phrasing.

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  17. freebird says:

    I’m a big fan of walking instead of driving or going to the gym. It costs less, it’s good for your health (both physical and mental), and it’s green. Of course this only works if your home is well-located, and I chose mine with this in mind. I have groceries, discount stores, hardware, banks, library, pharmacy, medical offices, and post office all within a half mile radius. I only use my car to commute to work, which unfortunately is not well-located.

    1. Emily says:

      Very good point. Walking is so hormonally helpful and environmentally friendly.

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