The following is a guest post contributed by Jena Ellis, who writes on the topics of Online Certificate Programs. She welcomes your questions and comments at her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're not careful, the word "frugal" can start to sound like an insult. People use it to mean "cheapskate" or even "freeloader," which is unfair when you consider that at its heart, frugality is just about living wisely and well and doing it within your means. If you're new to living frugally or you've been doing it a while, it can be a good idea to take a step back and refocus on where you can save the most money. With that in mind, here are 11 great ways to live a low-cost life:
Plan your shopping. Don't go to the mall and browse the racks; that's the quickest way to spend money you don't have on something you don't need. Plan in advance what you need to buy -- clothes, a tool, etc. -- and only buy that. Trust me, this is a great way to save money you didn't know you were losing. Impulse buys can be deadly for people trying to live a smart, frugal life.
Work out on your own. Avoid paying a costly gym membership and work out on your own. You can do tons of exercises and get in great shape without ponying up high monthly fees for all that equipment.
Cut out the red meat. You'd be amazed at how much you can reduce your grocery bill by cutting out the beef. Plus, as a bonus, you can focus on lighter meats or veggie meals.
Sack it. You probably hear this tip all the time, and that's because it works. Taking a sack lunch to the office, even if it's just last night's leftovers, is so much cheaper than going out for a midday meal.
Buy a clothesline. You can slash your electric bill by skipping the dryer and hanging your clothes on the line after they're washed.
Get a family cell phone plan. It's unlikely you'll be able to ditch your cell phone altogether -- for many people, the cell phone is the only phone they have -- but you can save some serious cash if you pool your plans and get a family rate to share with your spouse and children.
Cut the credit cards. Don't use credit cards, period. They trick you into living beyond your means and suck you into a world of debt that can take years to escape. If you've got debt, work hard to pay it off. If you don't, consider yourself lucky.
Cut the cable. This is a good decision, especially if you're not a huge sports fan and don't need dozens of channels of games and highlights. Cutting off your cable TV will save you hundreds of dollars a year, and you can use some of that money to invest in DVD purchases or rentals for programs you really want to see. As a bonus, you'll have more free time to spend with friends and family.
Cut the addictions. Smoking and drinking can be hard habits to break, but the financial and health benefits you'll reap from eliminating them from your life are amazing. You'll be healthier, wealthier, and all-around happier. Seriously: You'll bank thousands of dollars by quitting. Don't be afraid to ask for help, either.
Share your ride. Joining a carpool is a great way to reduce fuel costs and lower your carbon footprint. Along the same lines, check out the public transportation options in your city. I've found it cheaper -- and more relaxing -- to ride the train to work than to waste gas dealing with rush-hour traffic.
Use that library card. Books, movies, music: You can get them all for free at your local library. Hang onto those hundreds of dollars you're spending on trips to the movie theater and various stores by opting for free media.
That's just the beginning. With a little practice, you'll be living like a frugal champ in no time. Good luck!