Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What We Do Without

In my series on the Five Principles of Frugality, I wrote about how the frugal life is always going to involve sacrifice. In this post, I thought I would share some of the things that my family does without in order to save money. These are just the things that my family gives up; I know that these items will be different for everyone.

Without further ado, then, what we do without:

1) Cable TV - For us, this is a no-brainer. Paying for TV? I always say, we would have to make a lot, lot more money to even think about using it for this. "No, dear, we couldn't start a college fund for you, we had to pay for TV . . . ."

That being said, we are still human. ;-) We enjoy movies and even TV shows on DVD, usually rented from Blockbuster online or Redbox. And I admit, there are nights when I'd really just like to veg out in front of whatever's on the tube. But would I really be better off if I could . . . ? 'Nuff said.

2) Eating out (very often) - Neither Michael nor I were raised in families that spent a lot of money on restaurants or takeout, so has always been natural to us to cook at home. And as our family and expenses have grown, we have reduced the little that we did eat out to very rare occasions.

It definitely takes advance planning to prevent getting takeout on those busy nights, but it is not that hard if you don't allow yourself to consider a restaurant. And on the rare occasions when we do eat out, it is a really enjoyable treat!

3) Brand loyalty - I never thought I was that particular, but when I started trying to reduce our food budget this summer, I discovered that there were a whole host of particular brands we were holding onto purely out of habit. Now? My default is almost always the store brand, unless I can get a name brand cheaper with coupons (which definitely happens) or if we have tried the store brand and it was really poor quality. You know what? We hardly miss the name brands, and occasionally an off brand is even better!

4) Professional Haircuts - When Michael first asked me to cut his hair, I categorically refused! Although my dad did cut my brothers' hair when they were little, that mostly involved buzzing it off! However, after a lot of convincing and with thoughts of the potential money saved, I finally bought Michael a hair cutting kit for $11.99 at Ross.

Turns out, it has been pretty easy to cut Michael's hair. I just do it with the scissors, and it looks fine. Perhaps, it's not salon-worthy, but it's neat and he's happy with it. And we made back the cost of that kit with just the first haircut!

Not to shock you ladies, but I have also actually let Michael cut my hair! He did a fine job - my only quibble was that he was being so careful that it took him forever! I have curly hair, so if it's not exactly perfectly even, you can't tell. For my last few haircuts, I have gotten some great deals at a couple of salons, but I am open to Michael doing it again in the future.

5) A second car - This is probably the most radical, and admittedly the most difficult, thing that we do without. However, we easily save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a year, by not paying for the insurance, taxes, gas, and maintenance of a second car. Instead, in the past 3-1/2 years of marriage we have been able to put this money toward paying off school debt and buying our home.

Living on one car takes a lot of adjustment, especially in a society where it's practically unheard of, but I'm here to tell you that it is possible. A few of the unexpected benefits we have seen include increased organization and efficiency, more motivation to get out and get exercise, and more time and energy spent in and on our home life. We still hope to get a second car one day, but for now, we can live with this.

Anyway, those are some things that my family has chosen to do without. I'd love to hear in the comments section about things that other families are giving up to save money and how it's working for them.


  1. I have the same policy about cable -- I'd have to be making a lot more money to pay for it. While I would like to have it at times, I feel that it would be an unnecessary monthly bill. Netflix allows me to watch the TV shows I like and prevents me from indulging the temptation to just watch whatever is on -- and it costs less than cable.

    As for eating out, I've recently started making a big effort to carry my lunch to work everyday. Much healthier and cheaper, and when I do pick up takeout or grab lunch out on the weekend, I enjoy it much more! I'm excited about my new frugal practice!

  2. Great thoughts! I don't know if I could let my husband cut my hair - you are a brave woman!


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