Be A Frugalist

MSN Money has an interactive slide show “Be a frugalist: Small changes, big savings” demonstrating how frugality pays. What they demonstrate: “Sometimes, it pays to sweat the small stuff. Here’s a look at minor changes you can make that add up to big budget savings.” I agree. Going through a list of 10 changes, they demonstrate how how a consumer could save $1,710.59. Of course, this calculation is “based on prices we found on Web sites and at retailers across the country, or, when noted, on a specific average price we selected. Prices may vary by region. However, if anything, they underestimated the savings. It is possible to save even more money by being even more frugal.

  • In the first slide they do this calculation: “Buying a $3 latte five days a week for a year: $780. Buying a one-pound bag of Starbucks French Roast coffee each week for a year: $543.40. Savings: $236.60” The idea is good but they overestimate how much coffee a person will consume. I buy two-pound bags of Colombian coffee beans at my local Save-on-Foods. Cost: between $8 and $12 depending on whether there is a sale on for one brand or another of coffee. I then grind the coffee at home. This two-pound bag of coffee will last my wife and I close to a month, and I drink a LOT of coffee! I brew a pot of coffee in the morning, and I brew coffee at work. So, unless they are drinking 5 to 10 espressos per day that they brew on their own, then I doubt whether they will go through a pound of coffee beans per week. If they do drink that many espressos per day, then they certainly would have been spending more than $3 per day at Starbucks, and the savings would be even greater.
  • Their next slide: “Buying Us Weekly at the newsstand each week for a year: $207.48. Subscribing for a year: $51.48. Savings: $156.” How about just reading US Magazine online? Given that most Americans and Canadians have the internet, why pay for something you can get for free?
  • Water: “Buying one 79-cent bottle of water each day for a year: $288.35. Buying one Brita water filter and three replacement water filters: $39.01. Savings: $249.34.” My city has great water straight from the tap, and we have no need for any filters. Having traveled overseas, and had water with a slight smell of diesel, I can attest to the fact that most North Americans have great water. When there is a smell/taste to it, it is invariably the chlorine that was added to the water by the city. To get rid of this, simply put a pitcher of water in the fridge overnight. The chlorine that remains will be released from the water and this water will be cool and won’t have a chlorine aftertaste. Try this, before buying either bottled water or a filter.
  • Soda pop: “Buying one 65-cent can of soda five days a week for a year: $169. Buying the same number of soda cans in 12-packs from the grocery store: $129.58. Savings: $39.42.” I agree, this is a good solution, but they ignore another obvious one: drink less pop! Rather than drinking a pop a day, drink it only on “special” occasions (i.e. next to never). This will save you even more money and will be much better for your health.
  • Junk food: “Buying one 80-cent bag of chips five days a week per year: $208, Buying the same number of bags in 24-bag packages: $98.89. Savings: $109.11.” As I have already confessed, I am a junk-food-a-holic. However, I have managed to cut back to once per week. There is no reason why anybody couldn’t do it.

I have therefore recalculated their savings using a truly frugal approach to spending. Given that the real coffee consumption would be closer to one-pound every two weeks, given that you could get rid of buying US Magazine altogether by reading online, given that you likely don’t need a water filter, given that you could easily cut back on pop and chips to once a week, that would give another $386 in savings. This would bring the savings up to close to $2,097 per year. Plus, if you were to start making homemade pizza  instead of buying frozen (slide 6), you could certainly save even more money, and yet some more if you were to get movies for free from the library instead of renting them (slide 7).

In other words, there are always ways of pinching those pennies even tighter. Now, imagine what you could do with all this extra money. You could pay off debt, notably nasty credit debt with usurious interest rates, saving you even more money. You could put it away for a rainy day if you have no debt. Or, you could use that money to buy something that you really need. Frugality pays!

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