Getting Past Frugal Enough

When you start learning to be frugal for the first time there is a sort of magic to the process.  You shed old wasteful spending habits and start to focus you spending on what really matters most to you.  You feel excited about doing it since it often makes you life better and saves you money so make changes is easy.  Also during this time you find out lots of great ideas to reduce spending, after all there are entire blogs devoted to frugal ideas.  The only problem is this honeymoon period comes to an end fairly quickly and after a year or two you really have run out of new ideas on what else you can do.

After you have finally run out of ideas you hit a sort of cruising period where you don’t learn much else about being frugal.  The problem with this state of being is you tend to fall into a bit of trap of assuming that everything that you are doing is all that could be done and stop learning new frugal tricks or even keep an eye open for them.

Then something will happen that will shake you out of your cruise control and make you think back about things again.  As an example, for me this week it was looking for some coffee.  We were shopping for a few items after getting back from our vacation and we forgot to buy our usual coffee at Superstore.  The next day I was picking something up at Walmart and wanted to avoid going to a different store for a single item.  So I had a look at Walmart and then I found a coffee I actually like (which is hard enough of a requirement) for 20% cheaper than my usual coffee.

So this entire shopping trip triggered an old memory of something that I keep meaning to do but never did it…start a price book.  A book of certain items and where I got them cheap at and what price.  That way I can tell how good a sale is at another store by looking at a flyer and pick up some items elsewhere.  I live within a short distance of four different grocery stores so it is not like I would be using much gas to do this.  I’ve know about this idea for years…I just got lazy about actually doing anything about it.

This has lead to a few other ideas in my head that I’ve been meaning to do something about like trying to make wine from frozen juice…an odd but cheap experiment that is currently started (I’ll let you know if that work out or not).  So while I won’t get back that magic of the first time of being frugal I am remembering the fun of doing little experiments again and getting past my old theory that I’m frugal enough.

How do you get back into trying new things after being in a rut?  What experiments in frugal have you tried out recently?

10 thoughts on “Getting Past Frugal Enough”

  1. The price book is a great resource. I finally got around to doing this when I took parental leave to help my wife take care of our 2 lovely children. What I ended up doing was first identifying all of our staples that we pick up on a monthly or longer basis (bulk is great). Once I had that list into a spreadsheet it goes (via blackberry playbook). Then I hit the flyers that were being provided each week. I would document the regular price for each item and its quantity and then the sale prices. I also accounted for monthly 15% off days at specific grocery stores. This allowed me to see if where we were regularly shopping was costing us money or was it was our most efficient option. I ended up analyzing Walmart, Superstore, Save-on-Foods, Safeway, Sobey’s and Costco (yes I live in Alberta). The findings were interesting to say the least. For our family if we were only going to purchase groceries from 1 location it was Superstore hands down. However Save-on in conjunction with their 15% off once a month was relatively equal and less when in conjunction with their sale items. Walmart and Costco were cheaper for few select items, and Sobey’s and Safeway were generally more expensive. As a result our spending habits have changed and where we go for groceries has changed. Save-on-foods once a month for the 15% off, then Superstore for most other staples and then Costco for bulk items maybe once every month or every 2 months. It ended up saving us in the neighborhood of 25% from when we were shopping almost solely at Save-on-Foods. My wife thought I was slightly crazy but it gave me a goal for when I was grocery shopping. My oldest child even helped enter prices while we were shopping. Now however I have slipped back into that lull that you talked about. Next on the list is phone and internet services. Do bundles actually save you money or just give you more services that you don’t end up using? The only way I have tried to stay out of the frugal lull is take one item and see if you can do without it, do it cheaper, find it cheaper and then how much time am I spending doing it. Frugal to a fault can be dangerous.

    By the way been reading for quite sometime and finally commenting a little more. Always a nice reminder or something to think about here at CDFA45.

  2. Devin – No Frills is generally ~ 10-20% less than Superstore for the exact same thing. I’ve got one a block away and it’s my staple store.

    Tim – I have a price book in my head. It gets kind of crowded up there now that stock prices are clogging it up. I have to confess that I’d rather make money than save it these days, but crab legs on sale is an awesome thing.

  3. This is a perfect example of an initial time well spent exercise that will payback over and over again.

    My wife and I go through our weekly flyers religiously and have a decent idea of where the good deals are but a price book would make us even more efficient.

    Definitely going to do this.

  4. All that effort to save a few bucks off coffee meanwhile you are still paying for gas and all of the costs associated with owning a car. Have you thought about getting ride of you car. That would be frugal.

    I was at the grocery store and a woman argued with the cashier to get 0.40$ off three items. She held up the line for 15 minutes. I noticed that they were buying useless items like beer glasses for $10 and other junk. Afterwards they were hauling their 0.40$ discounted goods to their car that probably costs them $400-500 to own. The irony

  5. @Devin,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Re telecom bundles there is the potential to waste money on things you don’t use…the issues is the cost saving (if any) by breaking up the bundle. I’ve looked at mine a few times but unless my wife is willing to give up TSN I can’t get any additional savings by removing the cable part. I personally could live on internet alone for TV, but she can’t.

    @Jacq – Ugh, my mind can’t hold that much information. I’m more like a file system…I can find anything you are looking for easy, I just don’t store the information itself.

    @$25000 Dividends – Thought about getting rid of the car and did an analysis on it a while back. It wasn’t worth getting rid of the car since it is 10 years old, there is no payment and the insurance is dead cheap. The time savings I’m getting from it more than offsets the costs from it. Besides I already share commuting about half the time which further keeps my fuel costs down.


  6. Well, lesson learned today…it is WAY cheaper to get prescriptions at Costco…When we first moved to this town I just went to the drug store for meds but they annoyed me the last time I went so, armed with a years worth of prescriptions I went into Costco today and paid less than $2 for 3 months worth of my thyroid meds that at the drug store cost me over $20 for one month!!!

    But, Costco is not cheaper on many things.

    I have my price book memorized and in my head always! Hubby is truly amazed that I remember all that.

    Got a bunch of yummy mangoes on clearance yesterday and cut them up and froze them at home…a huge 2 kg bag for $2. Meat…our Save on Foods will put $3off and $5 off coupons on meat that is soon to expire. Last week I got free meat…better than that they actually paid me money to take it away….pork stir fry (and nice looking meat…2 days til the best before date) priced at less than $3 with a $3 off sticker on it….SCORE. Even the cashier said ” I wonder if they realize what they have done”

    Coupons…yup, I use them especially for cleaning supplies and toiletries…I have free toothbrushes and toothpaste and very inexpensive soap, bathroom cleaning supplies and much more in my laundry room stockpile. I am not a crazy coupon lady but when I see a good deal I am in!! I rarely use them on food as I do not eat anything that is processed…just way too many food allergies.

    So for me it’s the clearance sections, a good eye for a deal, and knowing the stores and when things are marked down….and sadly lessons learned the hard way.

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  8. @Jacq, Nice to know that No Frills is less expensive. The unfortunate part is no No Frills where I live. 45 minute drive for the closest one. Thanks for the info though.

    @ Tim, yah I am a big CFL fan so until there is an alternate way to see those games I am pretty much stuck to a cable package. Waiting for their on demand tv subscription. CRTC looks like they have accepted a video on demand application for Canyon.TV. Wonder if it will change the awful hosing that cable companies have created. You must buy this many channels to get the single change you actually want to watch. Don’t really know of any other products or services I use that are like this.

  9. I noticed that in July I completely fell off the wagon, I figure it was (and is) grief eating and spending. I haven’t been buying useless clutter, but have been eating out more.
    I’m re-reading YMOYL to get me back on track, and to hopefully inspire me to look at my spending from a different angle.
    I can usually keep my price book in my head, but doing a price book short term will help me stay focused until my habits (some new, some good old ones) are ingrained again.
    Cable will be chopped in my home as soon as I’m finished price shopping landline and internet suppliers so I can un-bundle my telecom utility.

  10. I can’t say that we are in a rut as of yet to be honest. I’m always keeping my eyes open for new ways to be frugal. One great example is that Fabric Refresher by Glade and Febreze. The cost can be upwards of $6.00 a bottle to make your fabrics and your home smell pretty. Well we came across this simple recipe that you can alter as you see fit (depending on size of bottle used)
    1 empty spray bottle
    1/2 cup of fabric softener (whatever you use and just use the cap on top and fill it 2x if that makes it easier)
    2 table spoons of baking soda
    Fill with cold water and shake!
    DONE and for pennies!

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