According to Google search*, spending less and saving more is one of the top New Year’s Resolutions.
The problem is, we rarely keep our resolutions. Not because we lack willpower, but because we set the wrong resolutions and go about achieving them the wrong way.
We start with good intentions. Like keeping a budget. And maybe we’ll download an app to track our spending. But come February, too many days have gone by when we were too busy to track our expenses and the budget is lying forgotten at the bottom of the draw.
So how do you achieve your goal of spending less and saving more?
The first thing to do is ditch the spend less, save more goal altogether.
It’s too unspecific, unmeasurable and there’s no concrete plan for success. What you want is something specific to work towards.
Instead, swap your saving goal with one or more concrete frugal goals and you’ll automatically meet your savings goals.
Below is a list of 25 frugal goal ideas that you might want to consider. Don’t try to do them all. Just pick one or two. Often, when we set goals or resolutions, we go all out at the starting gate without leaving any puff for the rest of the race. We can become overwhelmed, especially once the holidays are over and we have to try and fit our resolutions in with business as usual.
So instead, pick one or two goals that resonate with you, create a plan and go for it.
A Plan to Reach Your Frugal Goals
Before you get started, here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re successful at reaching your frugal goals.
- Know how much you spend already on the habit you want to change. For example, if you want to reduce your grocery expense, you have to know how much you currently spend. Set a realistic target for how much you want to be spending. A target ‘range’, for instance, $200 – $240, is more flexible and doable than an exact amount.
- Pick one or two sustainable action steps that you can do each and every week to gradually reduce your expenditure. Keeping with our grocery example, start by planning and cooking one extra vegetarian meal a week. That’s it. Depending on how much you spend on meat for a meal that could be around $15 per week savings or $780 a year with one small habit change.
- Once you have that habit under your wing, pick another sustainable action step. By sustainable, I mean something you can easily work into your current lifestyle each week. By the end of the year, you’ll be saving significant amounts on your groceries, and you’ll be much more successful than if you had gone in gung-ho in January and then went back to old spending patterns in February.
12 Ways to be Frugal This New Year
- Spend With a Plan
Budgeting gets it all backwards. Don’t spend and then track your expenses. Plan how you’re going to spend your hard-earned money ahead of time.
Having a game plan for your money isn’t complicated. Start by getting your banking right. Check out the free cheat sheet on organising your banking for saving success.
- Start a Savings Plan
The key to successful saving is to pay yourself first and automate the process.
Decide on how much you want to save each payday and then use online banking to transfer that money to your savings account automatically before you’ve even got out of bed and had time to spend.
What are you saving for? A holiday? A new house? Something else. Reverse engineer your goal so you know exactly how much to save each week.
- Reduce Waste
Reducing waste is not only good for your hip pocket, but it’s also good for the environment. Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the meaning of insanity”. Buying single-use items over and over, using them once and throwing them in the bin is an insane waste of money.
Switch it around. Buy once and use it over and over and save a packet load over the course of the year.
Focus on alternatives to disposables. Here’s some further reading to get you going:
- Reduce Food Waste
- 10 Ways to Ditch Disposables in The Kitchen
- Start a Compost Bin
- Getting Started in Cloth Nappies
- A Menstrual Cup will Change Your Life (Seriously! And ironically, more convenient than disposables.)
- Cut Your Grocery Bill
Cutting your grocery bill is one of the fastest and easiest ways to save money.
Here’s what you need to know to reduce your grocery bill and make life easier:
- How to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget
- The Easiest Way to Menu Plan
- How to Batch Cook the Easy Way to Save Time and Money
- How to Stockpile the Right Way to Save Money
- Make Tap Water Taste as Good as or Better than Bottled
- Ideas for Brown Bagging Your Lunch to Work
- Join the Library
Your local library is seriously the best source of free stuff around. Not just books, but borrow music, DVDs, TV series, audiobooks, games, puzzles, computer games and toys. And probably more things I can’t think of. Stream music and movies for free. Take free courses. The library is a MUST resource for the frugal.
- Buy Everything at a Discount
One of the best ways to shop and save is to only pay cash – it saves you from overspending and going into debt.
That doesn’t mean you can never use plastic but only spend if you know you have enough cash in savings to pay off your card the very same day.
Use a wishlist to give yourself some thinking room and avoid impulse buys. I like to use Evernote to record things I might like to buy. An alternative to a wishlist is the 30 Day Rule: write the date of the item on your wishlist and make sure you don’t buy it for at least 30 days. Then after 30 days, reevaluate whether you really want it. More often than not you won’t.
When you do come to purchase something, make a habit of shopping around for the best price and haggling for a better deal.
- Entertain Yourself for Free
There’s no question that most of us spend way too much time in front of a screen. And with pay-TV, streaming services, gaming subscriptions and online shopping, we really do SPEND when we’re in front of a screen.
So this year, make a goal to spend less time and money on screens and more time exploring the free entertainment in your local area.
Picnic in the park, visit the beach, enjoy free local events, visit your library. There are hundreds of things to enjoy for free that not only leaves you with more in your pocket; you’ll be healthier as well.
Most of us are drowning in too much stuff. Clearing the decks not only frees up more space, but it also frees up time (less time managing your stuff), clears your headspace and you can make some extra cash selling the stuff you don’t need anymore.
- Learn a New Skill
You can never have too many skills. You might choose to learn a new frugal skill, like baking or gardening, or update your career skills. Check out your local library for free books and online learning resources in the skill you want to learn. Visit YouTube, which is a treasure trove of free learning. Take a free university course or a community program or an online course.
- Make Gifts this Year
When is the best time to start making Christmas gifts? Right now! It takes time to craft, so it’s best to start early. Use your newfound skills to save money and make gifts with meaning. You never know, it may become a hobby that makes you money on the side as well.
- Lower your Bills
Apart from the groceries, energy costs is another expense that can take a huge dent out of the budget, but one we have a certain amount of control over. This year, why not take steps to lower your energy consumption and reduce your bills.
- Switch and Save
- How to Make Big Savings on Your Energy Bill
- Make Your Home More Energy Efficient with Solar Passive Design
- Start a Garden
A lot can be said for starting a garden. Not only can it help feed your family, but it’s also an excellent way to de-stress and enjoy the outdoors. And kids love gardening.
You don’t need a lot of space to start a garden, in fact, if you’re new to it, it’s important to start small and work your way up. A few pots of herbs on the windowsill or at the front door is a great place to start.
- 8 Essential Herbs to Grow in the Garden (because herbs are the easiest to get started)
- Small Space Gardening
- Gardening for Free
- Building a Raised Garden Bed
Start the new year right with actionable goals and a sustainable game plan that will see you save money and achieve your financial goals of saving more and spending less this year.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.