This is a series in the style of The Frugal Girl’s Five Frugal Things, where I post weekly about what I’ve done lately to save money and make things stretch in order to further our financial goals, which currently include us paying off a decent hunk of debt. I encourage you to play along and post your own weekly frugal wins in the comments section below!
This week’s frugal wins are the perfect example of us trying to live out our personal money philosophy –cut down spending on everything that doesn’t really matter to us personally, and don’t apologize or feel guilty for intentionally spending on the things that do matter to us. Priorities will look totally different for every person and family, and we shouldn’t judge other people for having different areas of priority than us.
For example, we prioritize spending money on books in our house. Because our local library is extremely small and pretty limited, we purposely carve out money in our budget as much as we can for new books for both us and our kids. For me, that means that I take great joy in my Book of the Month subscription, which lets me get new hardcovers at a steal and means I always have things I’m excited to read on my shelf, and I also put aside a bit of a budget every quarter or so to buy new Kindle books. Sure, I try and get Kindle deals or double the Kindle rewards points when I can, but if I can’t, I don’t worry about spending full price sometimes. For my husband, that means investing in an Audible subscription (which there’s a great Black Friday deal on right now), since listening to audiobooks is the way he prefers to get his reading in. And for our kids, we budget for books at all school book fairs, as well as buying books for Easter, Christmas, and birthdays.
As you can see, books are important to us, so we’re not shy about making sure there’s money for them in the budget. As for things like home and holiday decor? Not important to me. So I look to save money wherever I can. But if YOUR priorities are inverted and you derive great joy from going all out on home decor but get all your books from the library, that’s totally okay!
Frugality isn’t the end goal — it’s the means to an end. In other words, I’m not setting out to be frugal so I can win some kind of nonexistent “most frugal person of all time” award. Frugality isn’t a competition–it’s a way of learning to live the most abundant and meaningful life you can with the resources at your disposal. Sometimes I get the feeling in some frugal-minded communities that if you aren’t maximizing savings on every last thing, you have somehow morally failed as a “frugal” person.
Friends, this thinking is flawed.
A truth I learned a long time ago was that, spiritually speaking, the adversary works in extremes, and that the truth or the best way is often found somewhere in the middle. Applying this to frugality, we can see that a life of NO frugality is very often wasteful, excessive, and prone to financial missteps like unmanaged debt. However, a life of extreme frugality (obviously I’m not talking about poverty here; I’m talking about general frugality) only for the sake of pinching every penny just to pinch every penny has its own ills — it often means that any purchases that were “unnecessary” are criticized or riddled with guilt, and all of a sudden, all the enjoyment that can come out of intentional spending is lost. It can even lead some to have a less generous mindset because generosity isn’t always “frugal,” at least if you’re just looking at the dollars and cents of it.
So even though my family has been in a period of needing to tighten our belts for this entire year of 2023, I’ve still applied my same general money philosophy where I could. I may have spent way less money in general on things I really enjoy and try to prioritize (buying books, going out to do fun things as a family), but we’ve still prioritized money to those things wherever we could, totally guilt-free.
That’s the beauty of having a great budget, in my opinion; it helps me to see where I have some wiggle room after all necessities are taken care of, and it helps me to be able to enjoy those little luxuries, no self-criticism necessary.
Okay, long tangent aside, here are some of my frugal wins for the past week:
Note: There may be affiliate links in this post to books, products, or services mentioned.
I took advantage of Amazon’s 3 for the price of 2 sale
As I said above, we budget money for books for Christmas, which actually comes in two forms — we buy books as stocking stuffers and general Christmas gifts to be unwrapped Christmas morning (because Christmas is not Christmas to me without some new books to enjoy!), and we also buy several new Christmas picture books each year for our kids to unwrap and add to our Christmas picture book library. We generally have them start unwrapping them around December 1st (or even a little earlier, depending on how on top of things I’ve been). We unwrap one each night and read it together as a family, and our kids LOVE reading and re-reading all our Christmas books from year to year.
Each year I do a mix of fun Christmas titles and more serious, heartwarming titles, and this year, these are the ones we chose:
- The Christmas List of Richard Lindsay (heartwarming story of generosity)
- Red & Green (fun title with same illustrator as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom)
- Decorate the Tree (interactive book in the same vein as Press Here)
- The Legend of the Candy Cane (spiritual meaning behind candy cane)
- Merry Christmas, Little Pookie (board book)
- Christmas Parade (board book)
- I Spy: Christmas (my older kids love the I Spy books)
- Red and Lulu (beautiful story of being with loved ones for Christmas)
- Otto the Ornament (fun story with a deeper message)
Since several of the books I was looking at were already part of the current 3-for-the-price-of-2 deal that Amazon is running, I decided to favor buying those titles since I was already considering them anyway. That meant that I got two of the books above for free since 6 were part of the deal.
I used a website builder to create a business webpage instead of hiring a pro
I’ve known that we needed a business website for our flower farm for years, but now that we’re going full time with the business, I needed to move it high up on the priority list. Because we needed our website to do a lot of things, I was seriously considering hiring a professional to design it, but seeing as that was going to run us around $5-7K, I decided we’d get a more expensive business subscription through Squarespace and design my own. I’m still able to sell products and direct people towards our flower farm (which are the most critical things), and maybe one day down the line, we can have a website designed that we can do more specialized things with (like having a separate account for florists, adding in the convenience fee of 3% if someone chooses to use something like Venmo, etc.).
For now though, we spent $310 for a year-long website subscription and design rather than $5,000. I’d say that’s pretty frugal!
We started exercising again using a previously purchased program
I used to be an avid exerciser until I badly injured my back in 2018. I’m now more or less functional again thanks to intensive rehab therapy, and I wanted to try and build up my strength again after basically taking five years off.
My favorite way to exercise is to go to group classes at a local rec center, but as that’s not a huge option for me right now (both because of lack of options in my rural area and due to time constraints thanks to my season of life), I decided to favor my second choice, which is buying a pre-made program. Years ago I bought Kayla Itsines’s BBG program when it was still offered as a downloadable ebook (now she only offers monthly subscriptions), and I kept the ebook. Since it was by far the strength program that’s made the biggest difference for me, I decided to pull it back out and start doing it again. And it’s been a great challenge for me! And it costs me nothing! Win win.
We enjoyed a free open house as a family
We’d promised our kids that we’d take them out for a special dinner once Matt found a job, so my oldest has been not-so-patiently pointing out to us that now that Daddy has “found” a new job (since we’ve now decided to take our flower farm full time), we owed them dinner.
We decided to make an event of it and drove to the nearest Pizza Pie Cafe (an hour and a half away) since they’ve got great gluten-free options and the kids adore it, and we stopped by the Orem Temple open house before so that our kids could see the inside. Temples are an important part of my faith, but you need a special recommend to be able to go inside a temple after it’s been dedicated, which you can’t get until you’re at least 11 years old, so our kids had never seen the inside of a temple before. They loved getting to enjoy the beauty of the building and learn more about why we have temples, and it was a wonderful evening spent out together. (If you want to learn more about why temples are important in my faith, you can click HERE.)
We’re re-using Christmas decor and not buying any new
I’ve spent very, very little money on home decor over the years. The majority of the holiday decor I’ve gotten for our home has come for free from people who loved to decorate for all holidays and who gradually let more of it go as they got older. That was definitely the case with most of our Christmas decor; the only things that I personally bought were our pre-lit Christmas tree 12 years ago (which no longer works–I finally bought new lights for it this last January on clearance), our family’s stockings, two wreaths on clearance, and a couple strings of lights. I believe that basically everything else I’ve acquired for free.
I’ve found that home decor and holiday decorations are some of the easiest things to source secondhand, and you can find some fabulous and beautiful pieces for very little if you have the patience to wait for a few good estate sales.
Other Frugal Wins:
- We ordered the basic business checks instead of paying extra for a pattern
- I searched for promo codes and used Coupert and Rakuten anytime I shopped for anything online (including paying for my business website!)
How’s your Christmas prep coming along? And what are your favorite Christmas picture books? I’d LOVE it if you shared some with me! I’m always looking to add more.