What Can You Live Without in Order to Increase Your Frugality?

by Miranda Marquit · 73 comments

There are probably a good deal of stuff you could live without — especially if you want to simplify your finances. Some stuff include stamps, mail and paper checks. It occurred to me that, not only could getting rid of some of these things help you simplify your finances, but getting rid of them could also save you money, contributing to a frugal lifestyle.

I began thinking about other things that I might be able to do without in order to enjoy a simpler — and more frugal — life. Here are some of the things I’m beginning to think that I could live without:

  • Television programming: I have high speed Internet. I have Netflix. This means that I have access to TV shows the day after they air, and that I have access to movies — some of them using instant play with my TV via my Web-connected PS3. So, why am I paying more than $70 a month for TV service?
  • Magazines: We are in the process of culling our magazines. Most have online versions, and there is no reason to be paying for magazine subscriptions when so much of what I read in terms of news and commentary is online anyway.
  • Paper books: I love reading and I love books. But my husband recently pointed out that electronic versions of books for readers like the Nook, Kindle and iPad are much less expensive than buying hard copies. With the amount of reading I do, it would be relatively easy to recoup the initial cost of buying an electronic reader. Plus, electronic books would reduce the clutter in our home.
  • Clutter: Speaking of clutter, we’ve got more of it than I like. I could definitely live without it. We’ve been practicing more mindful spending, so that we aren’t bringing in more clutter, but we could get rid of a lot of the stuff that we have.
  • Meat: I’m not saying I’m going vegetarian. But I have found that I don’t need so much meat. Meat is expensive, and it can affect your health if you eat too much of it. We’re looking into preparing more meatless dishes. This should lower health care costs down the road, as well as mean more money in our budget now.
  • Christmas presents: With the holidays just around the corner, many are already shopping online for the holidays. But do you really need more stuff? You can save money by purchasing fewer, more thoughtful, presents. It’s hard to resist the consumer call of Christmas, but we are trying.

In the end, it is up to you to examine your financial situation and your needs to decide what you can do without. We managed with just one car for the longest time, but in our current situation, with a rather undeveloped public transportation system in our area, just one car is not feasible for us. However, I look forward to the day when we can get rid of one of our cars, and save money on insurance and other costs again.

What do you think you could give up in the quest for frugality?

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth September 27, 2010 at 10:53 am

Your argument about ebooks is very short sighted. While it is a cheaper initial outlay, there is no potential for getting that money back. I can trade or sell my print books. You are really only licensing the digital content. (That is, the company you bought it from can revoke it and you have no right to lend it to anyone, unless you give them the entire reader.) A more frugal option would be used books or the public library.

(For the record, I am a librarian. But I’m also a techie that desperately wants an ereader, but won’t until I’m given the same rights I would have if I purchased a paperback.)

Steve September 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I agree with Elizabeth — and, for the record, I am not a librarian and I AM a tech support guy for a large number of Macintosh users.
I never keep a book once I’ve read it. Now, selling it or trading it gets some money back, but guess what: borrowing it and returning it after reading costs: are you listening? That’s right: NOTHING! ZERO! ZIP!

Miranda September 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Great points! I will have to hold off on the eReader, I suppose. πŸ™‚ You make good points about some of the issues we have now with everything so digitized and portable.

Karen October 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I’m a librarian like Elizabeth. I think the nation should note the preponderance of librarians on sites about how to live frugally! We must be due for more compensation. πŸ™‚

I never pay one dime for cable, Netflix, Barnes & Noble, magazine subscriptions or any other type of content provider because EVERYTHING is available through your local library. The library version of getting obscure movies is called interlibrary loan. It’s free. Check out magazines for the weekend and read them. Your local library will buy all of the episodes of a TV show if you ask them and there is still budget left and it fits what they collect for public use. For those of you who aren’t yet maximizing your payback from your local library, I would aim to get 3 or 4 times your yearly tax investment back. Where else could you get that kind of return? The only downside is it’s slower and there can be fines if you are bad about returning stuff on time.

Your investment helps lift up everyone else in the community too. Thanks.

Jane October 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Frugality can also depend on where you live. I do have ereaders, a kindle that I use for books that I would purchase anyway and for the free books available through Amazon. A Sony for library ebooks available from a large city library across the country-a far bigger selection than my hometown library. Both of these were the old model that I purchased at a discount when the new ones came out. And, yes, I do still use the local library.

Bobbie October 11, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Ditch the cell phone. I pay $9 a month for a VOIP service with unlimited talk time and long distance inside the US.

Ditch cable tv. Your kids will read more, do better on homework, fight less, and develop better conversation skills with minimal tv.

Buy used books. No $200 outlay for a kindle, no $8 per title charge. Pick them up at garage sales and flea markets and only get the brand new books that are your favorite, must-have, authors.

Go camping for vacation. Drive there. You and your kids will survive the stigma of never going to Disney or hawaii. It won’t leave emotional scars, I promise.

Live like a college student.

Don’t upgrade to “needing” a brand new car every 2-3 years, or an expensive car with all the toys. Buy less house than you can afford. (You’ll never regret having a mortgage smaller than the bank told you you could afford.)

Don’t get suckered into expensive weddings / clothes / hobbies / remodeling / vacations / jewelry / electronics / luxury items. You can be happy without them.

Kristin October 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Skip giving presents altogether (or severely cull the gift list). Growing up, my family went for shared experiences and home-made baked goods for gifts. My husband gleefully agrees – anything other than a meaningful gift is simply passing stuff around.

bill October 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I agree with most of these suggestions. A couple of my favorites:

-right price your house if you buy one. Don’t get something too small or modest if you are likely to outgrow it or become dissastisfied. Don’t get one too big, especially if your kids are about to leave home. Trading houses cost you transaction costs.

-we give nice Christmas presents, but most are things that we needed anyway, like clothes. We just save up many of our purchases and give them as presents. Some we buy after Christmas on discounts and then give because we celebrate the Holy season more than the day.

-if you have teen girls, shop the trade-in clothing stores and sell your surplus to them. Also, train your kids to enjoy finding quirky, individualistic clothing at second-hand stores.

-use much less laundry soap, dishwasher soap, or shampoo than the labels suggest(one fourth to one half). Things still get clean.

-for casual dining out on occasion, use coupons, discount books. etc. In our town their are lots of these that can save you $5 off on a meal for two, or even more for a family of four. Don’t do this unless you would have gone to the restaurant anyway for it is unsatisfying if you get food you really don’t enjoy.

-don’t buy soft drinks or dessert when you eat out, unless it is a special occasion. With big portions you may share meals or save half for the next day’s lunch.

-buy good quality clothes from vendors with absolute guarantees. You’ll pay more up front, but you can return the item years later if it doesn’t last. Cabelas, Land’s End, REI, LL Bean, etc. are good about taking back clothes that shrink, cloth that pills, zippers that stop sliding, etc. Be honest, but don’t accept poor quality or value.

Chris October 14, 2010 at 10:46 am

I keep cable for one thing. Live events. Mainly football. I usually cancel the service for the off-season.

Jenn October 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Laundry & dishwasher soap – there have been several stories in the last year about the perils of using too much soap and how it can ruin your appliances. I’ve cut back by 1/2 (I followed their example on how to determine how much to cut back) how much I use and everything comes out cleaner and I’m saving money.

Fruits & Veggies – check your local paper (or online) for local farmer’s markets and then stock up on items that you know how to can/preserve/freeze and you’ll save a bundle. There are plenty of instructions online on how to to this!

Meat – I don’t know if this is a local thing or if it’s available in other parts of the country but we went in with some neighbors on a 1/2 a steer. It was about 250 pounds of beef, all kinds of cuts and it averaged out to $1.50/pound. Obviously, it can fill a freezer but if you share with others, it’s not too much. One caveat though, check the butcher and how he/she cuts the meat. The one we used provided “country cuts” which are fattier and seem to be of a lesser quality than what you’d see elsewhere.

Craig’s List is a great place to “recycle” unwanted items of all kinds.

If you have small kids – trading in their old clothes at Salvation Army/Goodwill for the next size up is a great way to save money. You can often find nearly identical outfits one or two sizes larger and trading them out for a few dollars sure beats having to buy new!

Welsey B October 17, 2010 at 10:01 pm

As an owner of two Kindles, I still buy quite a few print books. I always buy printed versions of books I want to take notes in or books with complex page layouts in print (textbooks, cookbooks, certain technical manuals, etc). Also for books I want to keep for longer periods of time (certain favorite authors like George R.R. Martin will always decorate my bookshelves so long as print books exist). And I still price a book to see if the ebook really is cheaper. For many popular but non-new titles (Agatha Christie novels for example), the printed book may be the same price as the Kindle version–but if I can resell it for a dollar, the true cost is cheaper. And when Border’s sends me a weekly 33% or 40% off paperback coupon, it beats the Kindle price by even more.

I love my eReaders, but I think the whole ‘death of print books’ bandwagon is a little premature. Even as a “money-saving” option. It will only save money for people buying a lot of brand new release books. And even then you’ll have to buy at least one a month to break even in a year. I also don’t have to plug my books in to use them, worry about publishers retracting my rights to books I’ve purchased, having to upgrade my print book every two years, turn off my printed books during plane take off and landings, or having the device lock-up or the battery die at inopportune times.

The other factor is the green cost. One study recently showed you had to buy something like 300 books on the Kindle to make the environmental cost break even compared to print due to the plastic and mercury used in production and the lifetime energy costs (of your recharging and Amazon’s hosting servers).

Worldwalker October 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

You don’t have to pay for ebooks. There are tens of thousands of public-domain books out there. Authors like Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott didn’t suddenly get terrible when their copyrights expired. You can find their books at Project Gutenberg, Manybooks, my favorite MobileRead, and more. An ebook reader makes it possible to read the classics in bed. There are also some publishers (Baen, O’Reilly, etc.) who get it, and sell their ebooks significantly cheaper than paperback, and without Digital Restrictions Management, so you can convert them to any new format that shows up. Plus there’s Smashwords, home of not just indie authors (who, admittedly, obey Sturgeon’s Law) but also the backlists of much better-known writers. There’s a world of books out there for the frugal ebook reader owner; don’t believe the big guys who say you “have to” buy your books at fifteen bucks apiece from them and them only. My ebook reader (it’s a Sony 505) has saved me enormous amounts of both money and space.

me pete October 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Number one way to save money- GET OVER YOURSELF! give up keeping up with the jones’s next door. the media has us well trained to respond appropriately (ie spend money) to the slightest sensation of shame or envy. get over it, learn from it, live better with less!

Robert Allen October 19, 2010 at 12:44 am

In “decluttering” and living more frugal I have come up with one question I ask myself before I buy any kind of hard goods. That question is “Will I still be using this a year from now or will this end up being sold at a garage sale.”

This one change has enabled our family to weather this Great Recession quite easily and it also helps to eliminate the need for a garage sale every year or so.

Lynne October 21, 2010 at 7:10 am

I save a lot of money by dropping my book club memberships. No more impulse buys that sit on my shelves unread. I’ve rediscovered the public library. I keep a wish list on amazon of books I want to read, and I’ve found most of them at the library.

I belong to a book discussion group that meets monthly. Attendance had dropped dramatically. In discussing this with the leader, I suggested we limit our selections to paperback books. Most of our previous selections were newly-published hardbacks. She agreed, and attendance has picked up again.

My daughter got her own cell phone account, and that cut my bill in half. I also dropped my land line; why pay for two phones when I’m the only one at home now?

I let my magazine subscriptions expire a couple of years ago, and I don’t miss them.

My cats get their rabies shots at the low-cost clinic each spring.

I watch for BOGO’s (buy-one-get-one-free). I have a stockpile of HBA’s (health and beauty aids) and laundry products. I only stockpile items that won’t spoil. Coupons are a great way to save, but use them wisely. If the store brand is cheaper than the name brand with a coupon, get the store brand.

Printing on “draft” will make your inkjet cartridge last longer.

It was a little tricky, but I suggested to my co-workers last year that we eliminate drawing names at Christmas. It had previously caused some hurt feelings anyway. At first, I was perceived as the office Scrooge, but my boss liked the idea.

Andrea Mills December 13, 2010 at 12:48 am

Our teenager daugther reads a book a day, she gets them from the school library – we couldn’t afford feeding her habit any other way.

We plan our meals two weeks ahead and use the meal plan to create a shopping list. Using the shopping list helps save money because we only buy what’s on the list.

We don’t have 500 tv channels, just regular antenna tv. We get netflix movies twice a week, which we can ditch any time we want.

Larry Edelstein December 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm

“Increase your frugality”?

Really? Is that really the phrase you want to use?

How about “what can you live without in order to spend less”?

There’s something idiotic about the language here.

cm-168 December 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

be careful of going meatless. Research on diabetics is indicating that high levels of carbohydrates triggers the diabetic process and the subsequent weight gain associated with diabetes. The current recommendation of between 300 to 350 g of carbohydrates is probably too high and for better health, shoot for closer two hundred grams until better research comes along and helps you fine tune that number. as a diabetic, I’m staying under hundred which is no joy believe me. the way I figure it, it’s better drop your carbohydrates a little now than whole lot later

Jennifer January 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

I agree with cm-168—meat isn’t unhealthy. In fact, I never felt healthier or lost weight so easily as when I was on Atkins. It was the lure of carbs and sugar that led me astray and made me gain it all back. It’s a myth that Vegetarianism is healthier.

I have an iPad, and I get Kindle, Nook, and iBooks all in one. I am a voracious reader, and I find the iPad to be much easier and cheaper in the long run. Mostly because I always found it hard to give up my books, so I rarely resold them. And who has time to go to the library? Not me.

I used to get Netflix–except we never watched the movies. So got rid of that and pay for satellite, and DVR my favorite shows and and movies for free from that. In the long run, pay TV has proven to be much cheaper. I get more from it.

Now, if I could get my BF to stop buying “stuff”, we would save money and solve the clutter problem. But know what we got each other for Christmas–new cars! Because we needed them, really. Mine was 8 years old and had 220K miles on it, his was almost as bad.

Lets keep in mind that being frugal can mean different habits for different people.

Titan's Mum January 9, 2011 at 8:39 am

1) Library, library, library… the single best way to save money. You can check out how much you save right here:

2) Rather than getting into the meat/no meat question I would say, ditch the packages. If you replace a fast food hamburger with a box of cookies, you have given up meat, but not saved your body at all. The “if your grandmother didn’t have it in her pantry, don’t eat it” rule is a pretty good one. You save money buy cooking more yourself and control what goes into your body. Having been a vegetarian for 12 years, then craving some meat when I became pregnant, my health has always been excellent with both diets. I would say, however, that I have grave concerns about how animals are raised for food in our economy, so this is where i splurge on quality over quantity.

3) Finally, don’t buy what you can borrow. Need a pipe wrench or a specialized tool? Borrow it from a friend or rent it.

Miranda January 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I just wanted to point out that I didn’t say meatless. I even said that I wasn’t saying to go vegetarian in the post. I did say that you could save money, and improve your health, by cutting back on meat, and incorporating some meatless dishes into your menu. When I was growing up, I had meat 7 nights a week. Literally. There’s really no need for that. We’ve saved money, and I’ve noticed an improvement in my health, by cutting back to having meat about four nights a week — with at least one of those nights being some sort of fish or seafood.

Gordon February 19, 2011 at 3:08 am

If you are in a position to do so, getting rid of your motor vehicle is a hugely effective cost-saver, especially if you substitute walking or riding a bike. Sure, many people in the US need their car (those with kids; those in an area with where it’s unsafe to walk or bike). But there are also many people who could simply walk to work a few miles, but continue to drive. Plus, by walking and/or biking 5-12 miles a day, and by carrying heavy groceries home from the store, I also saved money by giving up my gym membership, which I no longer have any use for. Health care costs are also lower when you’re in shape, stay a healthy weight, and have fewer chronic lifestyle-based health problems (although I admit that you may have more acute injuries from things like bike crashes!).

Anand March 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm

You can save on books by using the library. If you aren’t fussy about reading a book as soon as it comes out you can always “hold” it at your local library. If the book you want is not available in your library system they might get it from another system or can even buy it. Ditto for movies- most libraries now carry DVDs- again you have to be willing to wait. If you like the programming on the networks (and there is some excellent stuff on network TV) a halfway decent antenna will give you better digital pictures than cable. In combination with movies from the library you can do away with NetFlix too.
Pound for pound veggies cost as much as meat if not more- so I don’t know if switching the one for the other will save you money- it’ll definitely make you healthier.

You don’t mention the obvious things like setting your thermostat to 78 when using the a/c and 68 when using heat- didn’t someone famous say the nation just can’t afford the energy bills that go with setting your thermostat at 72 year around?

Bill March 20, 2011 at 12:39 am

Amazon runs specials every day giving away terrific free new books for the kindle. Plus so many classics are free. I just finished The Invisible Man. There is a 10:1 ratio of free to bought books on my kindle.

I do agree tht the current rights are hideous. Why can’t I give it away once or “loan” a book to a friend?



Veronica March 28, 2011 at 12:37 am

I bought an ereader to both reduce clutter and get books a bit cheaper. It’s okay, but if you’re really into reading, you might find that you miss reading physical books more than you think. I have my ereader stuffed with classics which are very inexpensive and a few new books, but I mostly only appreciate it when I am traveling or need something to read in a waiting room. My ereader will never replace the primacy of physical books in my life.

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