The 4 Principles of Frugal Living

We are frugal minimalists here at Hello Brownlow. So it’s no surprise that I’m on a “frugal living kick” here lately. We had an influx of spending money (home renovations, medical bills, etc) and need to even our budget back out. A no spend month and buying less all together is a great way to keep spending in check.

Frugality and minimalism intersect at this point: buy less. With buying less you’ll often find that you are using the four main principles of frugal living:

  • Use it up
  • Wear it out
  • Make do
  • Do without

For years I saw this saying pinned to my mom’s bulletin board in her room. She’s a resourceful woman, as most teachers – men and women – are, and always had just the right thing to fill in the gaps when we needed it. Every item is always used to its fullest. When I stopped to think about it, my grandmother very much had the same frugal living mentality. Some of my fondest memories of her are when she was cooking or baking. “Well, I don’t have [insert any ingredient], but a pinch of this and a dab of that should work!”

To be less of a consumer, it's pretty simple: buy less. reuse more.

What is Frugal Living?

If you have a lot of something – you use it up.

When you have something valuable – you wear it out.

You don’t have exactly what you need – you make do.

And when you just don’t have the means to purchase something new – you do without.

Today, all of us are under the pressure of a consumer-driven world. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us that we need the newest and best. And if we don’t… well, we’re just nobodies.

To be less of a consumer, it is pretty simple: Buy less. Reuse more.

Typical item life cycles in our home

In our house, an item that we squeeze every last bit of goodness out of is a t-shirt. It is worn to threads. Clothing is one thing I hate to throw out. Let’s look at the life cycle of a t-shirt in our house.

  1. The shirt is purchased at the store (probably Target).
  2. We bring the shirt home. Wash it. Wear it. Repeat.
  3. One day, the shirt gets a big stain or rip. Most people would throw it out. Not us!
  4. I cut up this “useless” shirt into small rags for the garage and for our baby’s meal time clean-up.
  5. The rags for the garage are used for motor oil and discarded after use.
  6. The rags used for baby’s face at meal time are tossed into a basket in our laundry area when they get dirty and are washed frequently.
  7. Baby’s rags are used until they unravel and become threadbare. At that point they are discarded.

Being frugal doesn’t mean you have to go without something all the time or purchase really inexpensive items to save money. You just need to be creative!

Use it up

We are all guilty of purchasing that giant bottle of shampoo or body wash with the intention of using every. single. drop. After a few weeks of using it you get tired of the scent or the way it lathers. You’re out shopping, and oh, look! More shampoo! You buy some more and come home to toss out that half used bottle.

Just to think of all the half-used products I’ve tossed out because I was bored or it expired before I could use it all makes me queasy!

Instead of buying a giant bottle of something you’ve never purchased before, and therefore don’t know if you love it, try purchasing a travel sized version. Most travel and trial size bottles only contain 5-10 uses. If you don’t like the product in any way, you won’t feel guilty about buying way too much.

I purchased this travel size shampoo for my mother-in-law years ago. She loved it so much, that she purchases liters of the shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis! She would never have bought this shampoo if she didn’t have the opportunity to try it first.

Think about all that open but half eaten food lurking in your cabinets. To use it all up, get creative with your meal plan! Take a quick inventory of all the food in your house and think of new recipes that use those ingredients.

Have way too much food? Try hosting a dinner party or give food away (unopened and not expired) to the local food pantry.

Wear it out

Three things that we should wear out are clothes, furniture, and cars. Fast fashion is a growing problem for our wallets and the landfills. Furniture seems to be disposable too with people selling barely sat on couches just weeks after they are purchased. And you don’t always need to have a car payment!

I’ve always been bad about clothes. That warm fuzzy feeling that comes from instant gratification is always so satisfying. And with my 10×30 Capsule Wardrobe Challenge, I found a new appreciation for my hardworking clothes.

If you haven’t read up on what you should buy secondhand, I suggest you do! We purchased two new couches from Facebook Marketplace for less than half of what they would have cost new at the store. They look brand new! But they were too big for the seller’s space so they got rid of them.

And let’s talk about cars for a moment (I could write a whole post on not having a car payment!). Just because you’ve paid off your car or a new model came out, doesn’t mean you need to purchase a new one. A big mistake my husband and I made right out of college was purchasing two vehicles with TWO car payments. Lesson learned.

Make do

The two areas of life that come to mind when I think of “make do” are 1) clothing and 2) cooking.

Clothing – get creative!

There are different events happening all the time in our busy lives. Most of those “require” that you wear something different and out of the ordinary. But that’s often just a preconceived notion or a fear of being judged.

Earlier in May, we went to horse races at Will Rogers Downs that celebrated the Kentucky Derby happening the same day. Since I had already started my 10×30 challenge, I thought that I had nothing “fancy enough” in my wardrobe.

After looking at all my pieces again, I decided that my dress was good enough. Adding a necklace dressed it up. But I shouldn’t have worried! There were folks in jeans and t-shirts. It was just a fear in my own mind that I would be under-dressed. And no one walked up to ask me if I was on a “frugal living journey”. I would have laughed if they did!

When making-do with your wardrobe, try making unexpected pairings. Then put them on in front of a mirror and see how they look! You might be surprised at how many new outfits you can find.

Trying something new with food

I read cookbooks like others would read fiction. Well, I mostly just look at the pictures until I see something delicious. Then I get to the ingredient list – yikes! When I realize I’m missing so many ingredients, I start to wonder if I could make the dish without them or substitute with something different. With frugal living, I’m not the biggest fan of buying specialty ingredients just for one dish.

Some of the tastiest meals we’ve made have come from recipes where we didn’t have all the ingredients. Our list of 10 meals to make when you’re broke practically all came from a real recipe at some point in time. We adapted the ingredients each time we made it to suit what we had.

Meal planning and taking a pantry inventory can help with “recipe block”. It also creates new dishes that your family will love!

Do without

All the time we tell ourselves that we need something new. The warm-fuzzy feeling we get when we purchase something is just temporary.

Next time you’re at the store, avoid that last impulse purchase at the check-out line. Also don’t “reward” yourself with physical objects when you achieve a goal. Try an experience or a hobby instead.

You might find your finances are in “emergency mode” and you don’t have the cash in your account. When this happens, you’ll learn to “do without” as to avoid putting unnecessary charges on your credit card and going into debt you don’t even need. Frugal living can be a temporary fix to a sticky financial situation.

What are the ways that YOU embody these frugal living principles?

4 Principles of Frugal Living

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  1. I have a few idea’s we do to make a stained shirt or blouse go even further. We just use dye in a dark color. Don’t always think black! Navy, chocolate brown, charcoal grey, hunter green and eggplant are all dark and chic colors. If you get a stain high on a blouse or blazer consider putting a pin over it. It’s actually very stylish to put a cluster of three pins together high on your blouse or blazer. I’ve saved a nice purse recently by gluing pearls and faux diamonds over the damaged area. Think out of the box! Only you will know and you’ll be surprised how people will compliment you and want to know where you bought the item! Change items by removing bow’s or adding them. You can change buttons on a inexpensive blouse and really make it look more expensive. Always shop at the end of the season for staples on sale such as coats, leather gloves and scarves. Do this for all seasons. After Mother’s Day buy jewelry etc Stick to a list of needs when shopping sales. Buy quality clothing. It will last you longer and you’ll look more put together as well.. Buy your basics on sale such as a ivory blouse, navy skirt, navy blazer etc. Make sure your wardrobe mixes and matches. This is easier with one dark neutral color, one light color and two or three accent color. Make sure all your leather goods are one color. I learned all of these great tricks from my grandmother. I have so many more I learned from her. Talk to people that have lived through hard times. They are full of idea’s.

    1. I love all of these ideas! Especially using dye to make a stained item darker. I am definitely going to try that next time we have a shirt (or anything) that’s stained!! You’re so creative with all the things you do to hide “imperfections” that end up making the item look even better than before.

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