Frugal living doesn’t have to be a life devoid of fun. In fact, you might be surprised how easy it is to trim your expenses with a little patience and planning. The more you can get out of every dollar you spend, the more money you will have to save for potential emergencies, a college education for your children, vacations to exotic locations, or whatever big ticket item your heart desires. To get you started, here are 7 ways to spend money wisely.

1. Pony up for quality where it counts.

The cheapest option isn’t always the best option. What’s the point of buying a cheap pair of shoes if they’re just going to become worn out and rugged within a few months? It would be cheaper to pay $50 for an outfit that will be in good shape next year than $20 for an outfit that has to be replaced in less than 6 months.

2. Buy generic label groceries.

You would be hard-pressed to find any difference between name-brand and generic labels in the grocery store. Don’t believe me? Grab a bottle of a name-brand peanut butter and the generic grocery store variety and compare the ingredients. Repeat this exercise with things like canned vegetables, boxes of pasta, cleaning products, and medicine. When you purchase name-brands, you are not paying for the product itself, but rather the idea behind the product. In other words: name brands are more expensive because they have higher marketing budgets (not higher quality). 

3. Cut down on food waste.

Answer honestly: if you had to guess, what percentage of the groceries you buy end up uneaten and tossed in the trash? According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Center, the average American family of four throws away almost 50% of the food they purchase, resulting in an annual loss up to $2,275. To avoid grocery waste, change your thinking about shopping. Instead of making a list of items to purchase without thought process, plan ahead by writing down a weekly schedule of the specific meals you are going to cook before you go to the store. If it isn’t required in the ingredients you need, it doesn’t go in your cart. Make note of how much food gets tossed in the trash and cut the amount you purchase accordingly. If you’d like to save time and money, check out this essential resource on once a month cooking.

4. Wait for it…

Retail therapy is almost always a good idea, but smart shoppers know how to be patient. Why should you spend $100 on that gorgeous skirt now if it’s going to be marked down to make room for fall and winter clothes? Be patient and you will be rewarded with a steep price cut. Keep an eye out for the special offers that you can’t refuse.

5. Clip coupons for special occasions.

Dining out is one of my favorite date night activities, but it sure can empty a wallet fast. Restaurants are typically generous with their deals, so start clipping for serious cash savings. Wanna make coupon-clipping a fun and interesting game? Try this:

  • Get an envelope and start collecting coupons
  • Decide on a weekly date night
  • Have a random drawing to determine where you go (it will always be a surprise!)

6. Go to the matinee.

Late night movies are so overrated. Why would you pay double the matinee ticket price just for the pleasure of combating a much larger crowd and struggling to find a seat in a packed auditorium? Go to the early show to save some dough and beat the crowd.

7. Hit up the thrift shop.

Consignment shops are full of deals on barely-used clothing that could save you tons of money on your wardrobe. If you have never considered thrift shopping because you’re afraid the quality won’t be up-to-par, give it a chance. The thrift shops in my neighborhood are quite picky about the items they accept, so I bet you just might be surprised.

Do you have any additional tips that will help people save some dough? 

If you’re feeling cash-strapped, please don’t feel like you’re alone. I understand how you feel, and I’m willing to wager the overwhelming majority of people reading this share your pain. Do you have any tips that will help everybody spend money wisely? If so, please share them below because we could all benefit from your knowledge.

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Featured photo credit: 401(K) 2013 via Flickr

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