9 frugal habits that save a lot of money: how to live debt free

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Today I wanted to share with you a few things that frugal people do on a regular basis. Some of these things are things that we do daily or monthly that have saved us a huge amount of money.

 If you don't know our story, my husband and I paid off $36,000 in debt in two years on one income while having two babies at that time. And it was an inconsistent income at that. Now we still live a very simple, frugal life. We are able to do amazing things like cash flow cars, home improvements and vacations, and help other people. We don't feel like we live a deprived life; we feel like we live an amazing one. But we just made a few small swaps.

Watch the video online HERE or watch directly below:

 1. Frugal people have an emergency fund.

I realize that that's a really easy thing to say and a harder thing to do. Building up an emergency fund does take work. But I promise, if you are focused, it will happen a lot faster than you think it will.

I know that the recommended amount is $1,000 to start out with. If you follow the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps, the first step is to save up $1,000 emergency fund. I think that's a great place to start. I never wanted to stay there even while we were paying off debt. I feel a little bit more comfortable having a little bit more money in there, like $500 per person. So, for our family, more than $1,000 is a more comfortable place to start. But $1,000 is still great.

 Focusing on that emergency fund and putting everything you have towards it in the beginning is a great idea.

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Recently I was listening to NPR and they were talking about how this big federal study that surveyed thousands of Americans showed that 4 out of every 10 people (40% of the people surveyed) could not handle a $400 emergency. They would not have the cash to cover it. They would either have to sell something, swipe a credit card, go to a payday lender (so predatory), or borrow money from a friend or family member (which would, in turn, create a burden on that person they're borrowing money from).

 That sounds nightmare-inducing. It kind of made me panic when I listened to it because it took me back to a time when my husband and I could not cover a simple emergency and we did have to borrow money. It was embarrassing. I never want to go back to that place, so, for me, having an emergency fund is paramount. (I made a video on how to quickly build your emergency fund.)


2. Frugal people do not leave money on the table.

 If your company offers a 401(k) match, you contribute the max to get the max amount of match that you can. I know that a certain financial guru tells you not to do that while paying off debt. But we took the match because I'm not going to turn down free money and we didn't stay in debt much longer than we would have if we hadn't done it. That 5% extra towards our debt didn't mean that much, but 5% extra in a 401(k) where it's being matched and gaining interest.

We also look for little ways to save by using Ebates and Honey when we're shopping online, or using things like Shoptagr or camelcamelcamel to find the best deal. These are all great resources that are free that help you get cash back and save money without swiping a credit card. You don't just swipe a credit card to get cash back — there are plenty of websites that will do that for you with no interest.


 3. We buy a lot of things used.

I would venture to say most of the things in my house were purchased used.

Our vehicles are used. We paid cash for our minivan at the end of 2017. Best decision ever. I love it. I never thought I would be a minivan mom but I totally am. It is so much easier to load three kids into that thing than it was my SUV when it had three seats across. It was just like kismet. We saw it on the side of the road. It was well below what we had saved up for. It's a dream car. When we went to get the oil changed one day, the guy said, "This vehicle is in pristine condition."

 It's not just vehicles we buy used. We also buy a lot of our tech refurbished. My phone was refurbished, my husband's phone, my laptop, my computer. I think our little Roku was refurbished.

We've ended up saving thousands of dollars over the years buying those refurbished items. They're the same and they don't cost you any more. In fact, $75 for an iPhone.

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4. We eke out as much life out of something as we can.

 If something tears up, we repair it before we replace it. For example, my husband works a blue-collar job and his job requires him to have a certain type of boots. And that boot is very expensive. They cost about $120 per pair, and that is totally worth it. But we end up not needing to buy a new pair every single year because the place where we purchase them from also repairs them.

For example, when the bottom of his boots started wearing out and it needed to be resoled, we took them back to the place where we purchased them and they resoled them for a few dollars. The same thing with the stitching on the back of his boots, when that started to wear out, they put a new panel in. Good as new. So we were able to really stretch out how long those boots last, plus we're reducing the environmental impact.

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5. We are always trying to evolve in our thinking about money or learn new things about money.

We listen to a lot of podcasts from money managers. We read a lot of books from people who have been financially or business successful.

 We don't all come from an equal background, right? It's not a level playing field. Not everyone was given the opportunity to learn about finance in school. Not everyone's parents knew a lot about finance. So I feel like, as Jason and I learn, we want to pass on some of that information via this channel. Also, even though we're not financial experts, we've run the Financial Peace University class at our church. We volunteered to do that. Our church didn't have a kit, so Jason and I purchased one so that we are able to do that. It's just really important to us, now that we know, to help others.

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 6. Frugal people are content.

 Contentment is a huge part of things. Being grateful for what you have, knowing that what you have is enough, and knowing that if you can't be happy with what you have now, you're probably not going to be happier when you have more. Learning to manage small things kind of turns into learning to manage big things later on. If don't find peace and contentment in where you are right now, you're not going to move forward.

 Maybe we don't always have the best of everything or we don't get somewhere as quickly as we want. But having contentment in the moment, being grateful for where our feet are planted has brought us peace, and we're not constantly looking for the next big thing.


7. Short term sacrifices matter

In that same vein, I feel like we, as frugal people, understand that short-term sacrifice is where it's at. I got a comment recently and I'm going to read it to you because I really don't fully understand this mindset. It says: I think it's okay to pay off a large bill early especially with extra money you make, but not at the expense of living and enjoying your life.

I think that there is this idea that you have to spend money to enjoy your life. I don't agree with that at all. Some of the times in my life that have been the most peaceful and the most enjoyable have been the times when we didn't have the most money. When we were actually working on paying off our debt and we were at home with our littles. Or when I was pregnant with my oldest, it was just my husband and I, and we just hung out together. We would go on walks, rent movies, and read out loud. This is going to sound crazy. My husband would read Games of Thrones to me out loud, and then I would read whatever I was reading to him out loud. It was just this really silly time to connect over books. We enjoyed life to the absolute fullest, but that didn't mean that we spent money.


Right now we are paying off our house. We are paying off our house early and we have a plan laid out. We start August 1st, and if we stick to this plan and commit to it, then that means by December 2022 we will have our house completely paid off. So, in less than two and a half years, our home will be completely paid for. That means for two and a half years, we're not going on vacation, we're not making huge home improvements, and we're not doing a ton of extra stuff. We will have our house paid off in our 30's. I think that's worth it — to go the next 50 years of my life without a mortgage because I spent two and a half years living a very simple life.

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8. Frugal people plan.

 We plan our meals, appointments and budgets. You can't plan for everything -- that is not how life works; things are going to come up. But because you have a plan in place, it makes those unexpected events a little bit easier.

 One of the things that I do is I cook once a week now. I prep a lot of things for later in the week. But I also will go ahead and cook a bunch of stuff for the week, stick it in the fridge or in the freezer so I can throw it in the Instant Pot or slow cooker later, or just heat it up again later. So if I have a sick kid, I'm not feeling great, or we have a last-minute appointment, that meal is already taken care of and we don't have to scramble and then end up at the drive-thru spending needlessly.

 We also make longer-term plans.

We sit down at the beginning of the year and we plan out different things that we want to do. For example, any trips that we want to take. We do birthday trips for our kids for their birthdays. My middle son's birthday is in May and we started planning beginning of January for what we wanted to do with him for his birthday. That way we're able to get the best prices, save for it, and plan for it. It's not a 'fly by the seat of your pants' life.

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 Some people likes spontaneity, and that is fine. I'm not saying that we're better because we make plans. It makes me feel more secure. I know that, for a lot of people, this whole idea of planning feels stifling, and I get that. Because we're not all the same person and we don't all have the same needs, personalities and desires. I think that that is a conversation that needs to be respected — that we don't all have to agree and we don't all have to be the same.

 If you're a spontaneous person, you just have to plan for spontaneity — which I realize sounds like I contradicted myself. That just means that you set a little bit of money aside in a separate account so that when you want to 'oh, your favorite band is coming into town. Let's buy tickets last minute,' or 'hey, do you want to go to the beach this weekend' you have that money there and you're not going into debt because of it.


9. We have hobbies that earn or save cash

Jason and I have hobbies that earn us money. When I started YouTube, it was just a hobby, I thought, 'Oh, I'm out of debt and I want to share with other people how I did it.' And now I make a pretty decent chunk of change off this channel. I'm cool with that. For a while, I kind of felt guilty. And then I thought, "Why? Does Oprah feel guilty for making money talking to people and helping them? Probably not. So maybe I shouldn't either." (Not that I think I'm Oprah.) We shouldn't feel guilty for making money off of our hobbies.

 My husband does woodworking. He builds me these beautiful things. Seriously, he built this bed. It's modeled after a Pottery Barn bed that costs $1,750 and he built it for $250. He has hobbies that save us money and could potentially make us money if he sold the things that he built, but he doesn't.

What about you? What frugal things do you do?