Being frugal without looking poor

When you make a decision to be frugal for your family, you don’t have to yell it, shout it or announce on IG. You can make decisions to help your family without looking poor. You can still enjoy your life by changing your priorities. Here are 5 tips for being frugal without looking poor.

  1. Choose your friends wisely. If you have a lot of friends that always invite you out, you can decide which ones are your closest friends that you want to go with. Your good friends won’t mind coming to your house or eating at cheaper places. Keep your small circle strong by focusing on those few friends. There are great ways to focus on some friends and experiences.
  2. Quality over quantity. Cut back on some experiences. If you really like to go out and try new places, then plan that in your budget. When it’s in your budget, you can enjoy it more. If you want to go out and only order a salad, ask the server for a separate check. There really is no shame in only paying for your own food most of the time. If it’s a friend’s birthday, maybe you know everyone will want to split the check. Plan ahead and look at other things to cut out.
  3. Don’t talk about it. I’m not telling you that you can’t talk about it all. A few accountability partners are so great to talk with. When you’re trying to change your financial situation, it can be easy to be hyper-focused on that. Just be conscious of how much you are talking about it and what you are saying. If friends are spending money on things you wouldn’t spend anymore, you don’t have to tell them. You can be excited for them. Even if people notice and ask for advice, you can help them with generalizations or sharing your situation instead of saying that they shouldn’t do certain things.
  4. Know your audience. If you’re around other frugal people, you can be excited about your purchases and savings. If you just got a great secondhand dress, you can tell people that would appreciate that. If someone says they bought the same dress at Nordstrom, you can be silently excited that you saved a lot of money.
  5. Don’t get obsessed. Don’t make every single thing in your life about saving money.
    Spending time to save money can easily take over your life. Clipping coupons could take hours and hours.

Look at your life and how you are spending your time. Quality over quantity and balance will help you to be frugal without looking cheap, poor or snobby.


Step #3 – Calculate food and personal expenses.

After you’ve made a plan and faced your debts, you need to start calculating your expenses. Start with your fixed expenses. Print out a bank statement and credit card statement for the last month. Use different colors and mark every food expense and personal expense. Once you start, you will see a pattern and decide how many colors to use or expense categories you want to use.

Photo by Jay Wennington on Unsplash

Food – I suggest breaking out food into grocery store and eating out. Food expense is such an easy place to overspend when you’re not budgeting and keeping track of it. I keep my Costco purchases in a separate category because I don’t get very often and it can derail my weekly grocery budget. So, I just keep it separate. I also budget separately for my kids’ school lunch accounts. Don’t be discouraged if this number is really high. When you’re aware, you can easily start to fix this if your current spending habits aren’t in line with your goals. Look back at your goals, and figure out if your food spending is keeping you from working towards your goals.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
This is not how I look when I go shopping. Haha. My kids are usually in tow and mad because I didn’t buy all the things.

Personal – I like to break the personal expenses into lots of categories. This is a good area to start using cash envelopes to get this spending category back in line. In the personal category, I include personal expenses like haircuts, gifts, cash, clothing, dog grooming, and items for the house (all the stuff I buy at Target). Just like using cash envelopes, I like to put the same amount away each month for these items. If I put away $40 per person each month for clothes, I have a good amount in that category when it is time to buy clothes. I try to buy my kids some clothes each season. The only time I completely clear out this category is when it’s back to school time. I do the same thing with haircuts and gifts. These amounts can hit all at once. But, I try to be prepared. If I set aside so much each month for these items, I have the right amount when you need it.

I’m breaking down my budget starting basics into six easy steps. If you spend 30 minutes on your budget each week, you will have a budget set up and ready to start at the end of six weeks. Then, I’ll help you keep it going and sticking to your budget.


Set Financial Goals

Do you feel stuck? Are you not great with numbers or money? Do you not know where to start with a budget? I’m breaking down setting a budget into small 30-minute steps. If you follow these steps every week, I’ll have you managing your own budget in just two months.

  • Brainstorm. You will start by brainstorming a bunch of goals you could have. In other posts, I will show you pros and cons of certain goals. However, I’m not going to tell you which is the best goal. Here are some ideas but you should sit down and write your goals with your partner.
    • Emergency fund
    • Debt reduction or elimination
    • Save money for big purchases
    • Retirement
    • Insurance or Death planning
    • Live on less then you earn
    • Give to others
    • Find work you love
  • Prioritize. Once your list is complete, go through and pick out two or three goals that you and your partner want to focus on. Have you ever watched a three-year old soccer game? Each kid’s goal is the same to kick the ball, but they don’t really go anywhere. You need to work together with your partner to create a focus for your goals. The other goals can also be priorities but you need to start by focusing on a few goals at a time.
  • SMART. Now that you have some goals set as priorities, convert them into smart goals. This stands for Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. You need to specify what your goal is so you can measure it.
  • Plan. Now, you can plan. Break the goals into smaller goals. You are not going to specifically figure out where the money is coming from just yet. You are only going to break it up into smaller goals.

Getting started on a budget does not have to be time-consuming or exhausting. You can make your budget work for you. This week, our only focus is to figure out what our goals are and when we want to achieve them.


9 Ways to Lower Cell Phone Bill

When you look at your budget, you might find that your cell phone bill is a major part of your monthly expenses. Yes, we all need one and most people need a reliable one with good service for various reasons. So, I won’t tell you to get rid of yours but here are some ways to cut back.

woman holding iPhone during daytime
  1. Lower data usage. This is one of the easiest ways to cut back on your cell phone expense. Maybe you don’t need the unlimited plan. You can use Wi-Fi often. You can also go into your settings for each app and turn off background refresh when not using. This is a setting that is easy to click on when you add the app to your phone. But, it means that the app is constantly running and using some data. Even just your e-mail could be using a lot of data by refreshing constantly.
  2. Sign up for a family plan. A family plan paid by different individuals is generally much cheaper than an individual plan. Make sure you trust the person to pay the bill. Pay your part of the bill on time and be willing to help out when the plan goes over on data usage. This is also a great way to have enough people on there to justify the unlimited account.
  3. Sign up for paperless billing or automatic pay. With most carriers, signing up on automatic payment will save you a little money each month. My account is currently shared with my parents and my mom’s card is on the automatic payment. But, I go in before the due date every month and pay my portion of the bill. Then, she only gets charged for her portion. We save $5 a month by using autopay.
  4. Look for extra charges. Don’t pay for insurance on your phone. Invest in a good case and treat it like it’s $500 (it kind of is). If you are worried about something happening to your phone, pay yourself $20/month to have money set aside to buy a new phone. If nothing happens, then you can pay cash for your next phone.
  5. Don’t buy the newest phone. Really examine if you need a new phone. My mom recently got the new iPhone X. Her previous phone was not going to be supported anymore with Verizon. She had had an iPhone 5 for a few years but had had a flip phone before that. It makes sense for her to buy the best phone because she will keep it forever. But, if you want to upgrade just to upgrade all the time, maybe you don’t need the best phone.
  6. Pay cash. Most carriers don’t really charge a different rate if you pay installments or up front for the cell phone. But, if yours does, make sure to pay cash for your phone. Saving up before buying the phone, can lower your monthly expenses.
  7. Don’t pay late. I really hate late fees and avoid them at all costs. Get ahead of your expenses and have the money set aside at least one paycheck before the due date.
  8. No-contract phones. When my teens started, I put them on this great plan called Ting. They use T-Mobile and Sprint towers for service so the service was decent. But, we only paid for the number of calls, text and data used. We could cancel it at any time. But, they learned how to be careful with their usage. If they went over a certain amount, I had them pay the bill. We used it as a great way to teach them about money and paying their own bills.
  9. Change carriers. This one is hard. But, if your cell phone carrier if your cell phone bill is making it hard for you to reach your other goals, you might look into switching carriers. It’s not that painful, I promise. Look at reviews and ask around. My specific area doesn’t always have the best reception, so I have to be careful which carriers I use. Otherwise, I could have very spotty data coverage at my house.

Add up all the long-term costs before you buy. If you’re shopping carriers, you should add up the cost of the phone plus the cost of the service for the year. That puts the total amount in your face instead of just the month-to-month payments.

Remember, your budget is all about the numbers! If you can lower your cell phone bill and make it a smaller part of your budget, you’ll have more money on hand to hit your goals each month—whether that’s throwing more at your debt or saving for your future.Cutting back on your cell phone bill is just one of the many things you can do to free up some extra cash in your budget.” Dave Ramsey

Comment below if you have other ideas to save your cell phone bill. If you need help getting started with your budget, just start somewhere. E-mail me at erin@e3accountingsolutions.com if you have questions.