Welcome to Frugal Friday, a weekly instalment where we try to provide small, bite-sized frugal tips from the school of Professor Roar Frugasaurus’ Fantastic Frugality Fair! So, come along, grab a chair, and join us as we try to present some bite-sized chunks of frugal living. Not unlikely, several of these might be food oriented, just because we love food.
This Frugal Friday, we encourage you to spend nothing. Yup, in our fast-paced, hectic lifestyle, we encourage you to leave your wallet and just… have a day. More than one, if you can. It is surprisingly easy, once you get the habit of it. There are simply so many other things to do which do not require shelling out hard-earned cash.
Then again, I grew up in Norway. Most shops are still closed on Sundays here. If you absolutely cannot wait until Monday, you could stop by a gas station, but those are ridiculously expensive. So most people grow up with a “no spend” day almost automatically.
In our household, we have more no-spend days than we do spending days. From one week to the next, we usually go to the grocery shop one or two times a week. Occasionally, we throw in a trip to the pharmacy while we are down there. The rest of the week, we simply do not reach for our wallets, and it is so nice.
I don’t have to think about whether or not I want to “splurge” on a cappuccino at work, or a cinnamon bun. My wallet is not even in my pocket. I would have to go back to my office to retrieve my wallet from the locked drawer, which, incidentally, is right next to where I store my emergency oats. And, while I love the smell of coffee, I am not a large fan of the taste. If I get a strong hankering for something warm to drink, I have a tea strainer and a box of tea. At a guess, I would say that about 95% of the time, bringing my wallet to work was absolutely unnecessary. The exception being when I meet up with Mr. E. on my way home and we get some groceries. I am a tad paranoid though, so I do like having my wallet with me. Just in case, I dunno. Something absurdly catastrophic happened?
While I was a student, there would be days when I fell into the “treat yourself” way of thinking. Especially if there was an excuse, such as “it’s Friday” or “we just finished our exams” or “I’m working late and only brought one lunch”. While I don’t go around regretting the past as a rule, there are times when I look back and think about the money I could’ve saved for a nice emergency fund, if I had treated myself a little less, and not just had the mindset that students are poor, so I should just use what I get and not try to save much.
We are the kind of people who get excited about having a pantry and the thought of eventually finding an affordable standing freezer used, so we can do more meal prep. That means there is always something to eat in the house. It might not always excite or tantalise our taste buds, but it will get us through the day, no problem. A failure to plan ahead for dinner and/or lunch is not an emergency. Dig something out of the cupboards and hopefully the bland experience will help you remember to buy what you need for the week next time.
Bellies thus full, there are a plethora of options for not spending money. We go for hikes (free berries in season!), read books, write, cook, watch birds cavort around the birdfeeder, play board games, do crafts, be silly, learn something new, solve jigsaw puzzles, listen to podcasts, drink tea and hang out with friends of similar interest. Occasionally, this might cost me the price of a bus ticket or a bag of snacks to share. But again, since I not have a coffee addiction or similar daily money thiefs, I consider this money spent on social connections well worth the investment. Of course, it also helps that our friends are homebodies like us who don’t spend lavishly on ridiculous things. On the contrary, our best friends are similarly frugal people who get things used and frequent thrift shops.
I think the most important part of any “spend nothing” mindset, is simply to slowly grow to be content with what you have. It takes practice, but it can be done. Our tiny dining table is missing a piece and noes not match our coffee table, or either of our bookshelves. This bothers me exactly nothing, as I got all of them for free. My teacup does not have a funny slogan on it or match the rest of our dinnerware (not that our dinnerware matches for that matter), but they still perform their function as intended. It is not something that concerns me even one iota. If it does what it is intended to do, I am generally happy with it. Bonus points if it is not garishly ugly or shockingly pink or something.
Like the cat who happily curled up into my lap and slept for hours while I was catsitting this last weekend, practice simply being content.
Do you have any practical tips for not spending money?