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Before I became a client at The Finance Coach, my daily routine was not unusual when compared to most Americans. An average day may have included a trip to the overpriced coffee shop, a meal or two away from home, and a workout at a nice (read: expensive) fitness club. Some days I vacated the house for some recreation in the form of mall shopping while a cleaning lady performed her magic on our home. Other days included afternoons at the salon for a cut & color or maybe a pedicure. Busy days filled with work often involved quick shopping runs for impulse or unplanned purchases due to my lack of planning.

Those were the good parts of that lifestyle. The unspoken bad parts included ever-increasing credit card bills, unhealthy eating and little exercise. We rushed through life reacting instead of preparing and we felt out of control.

After beginning our budgeting journey, my family’s goals and priorities changed drastically. While working with our coach, it became clear that many of these “necessities” to our day were really wants not needs. After the initial pain of new routines, the changes we made actually became more comfortable and we found that our family enjoyed being good stewards of our money more than having temporary comforts and “things” along with the worries that overspending brings.

Three years later our family’s daily activities look much different and I will be the first person to say that I would never have believed these changes would be so comfortable. I thought that frugal living was just another word for a dismal dull life. I was wrong!

Here’s an example of just one day in our frugal life:

Morning begins with coffee at home, brewed in a coffee machine I bought with a Target gift card that I received when I had a prescription transferred to their pharmacy. While in the kitchen, ingredients for a pot roast are tossed into the crock pot for our evening meal. I also mix up a batch of bread dough and set in the refrigerator to rise. (It’s a recipe that tastes just like O’Charlies’ rolls for a fraction of the price-email me for the recipe if you’d like.)

Next is a quick shower after a walk on the park path through our neighborhood. Before leaving the bathroom a swish of vinegar followed by a sprinkle of baking soda goes into the toilet, a spray of vinegar hits the vanity top and the sink. The towel is hung up for a second use at tomorrow’s shower. Switching to homemade cleaning products made with on hand items not only reduces the price tag, but also reduces how much stuff we have to buy. Our family realized we don’t need a spotless home, just a comfortably clean one and we can make it that way ourselves with just a little effort.

Lunch is made with leftovers from last night’s dinner. We used to make large quantities when we cooked at home and inevitably they would end up in the trash. Now we make exactly what we will eat for a meal or we plan ahead and purposely make extra of some ingredients to use in future dishes. This day’s lunch of chicken quesadillas is made from last night’s chicken. Meals are much more frugal now as we plan them two weeks at a time based on coupons, grocery sale papers and in-season produce from the garden (or preserved food from last season’s garden). Meals are switched around to match our daily cravings, but generally we stick pretty closely to the plan.

Today also includes some household organizing tasks. Coupons for upcoming grocery shopping are printed on the back side of recycled paper and on the “economy” setting of our home printer. Bills are set to be paid via online banking in order to save check and postage costs. A service provider is phoned to ask for a reduction in a recent fee due to poor service and bill is reduced. A medical provider is contacted about a possible error in billing and that bill too is reduced.

I run past G-Dub (that’s the Goodwill store for you newbies) and drop off some donations and a quick run inside to see if I can find a pair of scrubs for my daughter to wear to work. I score and get pants and a shirt for only $4 total as these particular items are half off today! I also find a handbag (with the tags still on it) for 50 cents and pay for it out of my “blow money” envelope. This bag will match the pair of shoes I picked up at a garage sale, also for 50 cents. On the way home from this trip I celebrate with a free fast food soda obtained with an online coupon.

Today I’m getting my hair cut by a woman who is a cosmetologist and needs extra cash. I go to her home and get a cut for $10. She does a great job and I save about $65 over the salon price I used to pay. I’ve forfeited the color portion of my hair care routine and found that the color God gave me is actually just fine and I receive compliments regularly.

I stop at Old Farm Market as I go by (for those of you local to TFC, check out this market in Avon, Indiana) to inspect their marked down produce table. I get 10 pounds of bananas that are approaching well-ripened for .19 per pound. A few will be eaten right away, the rest will be frozen for baking bread and muffins.

When I arrive home I form the rolls and bake them just as the roast finishes. While the oven is on I also bake some of the bananas in a bread for tomorrow’s breakfast. Dinner is a time for our family to gather and connect. And while an occasional dinner out is fun, we enjoy our time in our home without long waiting lines, loud dining rooms and less-than-healthy food.

After dinner, with the dishes loaded in the dishwasher I head outside to water our garden using water from the rain barrel connected to the downspout of our home. We made this from items we found for free on Craigslist. Soon there will be tomatoes and peppers harvested and I’ll spend some of my evenings canning these jewels in my pressure cooker. We’ll enjoy them in the winter when a fresh tomato costs an arm and a leg. Tomorrow’s lunches are prepped from leftover pot roast for those in our family who will need a work-day meal.

Finally, time to relax with a Netflix movie and popcorn popped on the stovetop (not in a pricey microwave bag). I need a bit of pampering before bed so I grab a plastic basin and some homemade foot soak and enjoy while reading a library book. I finish up the spa treatment with some Mary Kay peppermint lotion (always available free to hostesses-home parties are a great way to get great items for free!) and some nail polish I got for 19 cents with a doubled coupon at Kmart.

It’s not glamorous, but our frugal life is more satisfying than our previous habits. There’s little guilt associated with our splurges now and no dread over the arrival of a credit card bill-we use cash! These changes are small and seemingly insignificant, but have made a powerful difference in our lives. I don’t foresee changes in these habits. We like them. We like the control that we have over our lives. We like that these habits help us live within our budget.

Want more info on how you and your family can take some small frugal steps? Leave a comment or give us a call at The Finance Coach. They’ll start your frugal journey today!

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