Walking The Fine Line Between Frugality And Austerity
Every year as the New Year rolls around, the news media are rife with bleak stories about millions of families being forced to cut back on essentials such as heating and clothing in order to pay their rent or mortgage. The beginning of 2016 was no different, with a report by the housing charity Shelter that found one in 10 parents were worried about being able to afford their housing payments for the month of January. As well, separate research from the National Debtline around the same time showed that more than five and a half million Britons reported falling behind in their finances as a result of Christmas spending.
Though the problem seems especially poignant in the dead of winter, not having enough for essentials is a perennial problem for millions, and those so-called New Year’s “financial hangovers” can last well into the spring, summer and fall. For many, life is a continual struggle for the basics of survival – food, clothing and shelter – that so many other people take for granted. But even many who are not constantly struggling to afford the basics can easily find themselves in financial difficulties because of overspending on some of the “essentials.” It’s not a problem without a solution, however. A more mindful approach to shopping for some of those essentials can save hundreds of pounds a year. And you don’t have to live a completely austere life in order to save significant money.
Forget Being a Fashionista
Take clothing, for instance. There are many ways to save on clothing purchases and to be reasonably fashionable and well dressed without breaking your budget. The first thing you need to do, of course, is to be clear with yourself about your preferences in style. Do you prefer traditional dress, or are you more inclined to adopt the latest trends? While you can find some relative bargains as the latter, your choices – and potential savings – will be far greater if you opt for the traditional. And by traditional, we don’t mean just wearing three-piece worsted suits unless that is what your professional image requires. As a man, you might fit better into your professional and social circles garbed in khakis and button-down collared shirts. As a woman, you might opt for classical pants suits or skirt and blouse, rather than a typical business suit.
Whatever your style preference, look for quality materials and workmanship, even if the purchase price is a bit higher. Such items will retain their appearance and last longer than cheaper items that show their age pretty quickly and have to be replaced. This is particularly applicable where shoes are concerned. Cheap shoes not only deteriorate quickly, they tend to be less comfortable than quality shoes. And if shoes aren’t comfortable, you will be more prone to find excuses not to wear them, and the money you spent on them, no matter how little, will have been wasted.
Buy for your actual body type, rather than the body you wish you had. If you purchase a great looking ensemble that will be flattering once you’ve lost 20 pounds, it will likely look great on the hanger in your closet, but never see the light of day otherwise. In short, buy for function, not fantasy. Buy what will please you now, rather than sometime in an elusive future.
Don’t Be Such a Foodie
Food is another area in which you can really save significant money whilst eating healthier to boot. Especially in the last few years, what (and where) we eat has become every bit as trendy as what we wear, if not more so.
Natural is the new wholesome – It seems that we are deluged with new food pressures on a daily basis. Words like natural, cage-free, hormone-free, organic, and sustainable have flooded the common lexicon, but at the same time, lost much of their meaning, thanks to the absence of commonly-applied definitions and readily applied loopholes. It has gotten to the point where such definitions differentiate in the marketing and price of the products, rather than in accurate descriptions of the products themselves. If you want to feed your family nutritious meals and save money at the same time, you need to look beyond the marketing hype and pay for quality rather than trendiness.
Frozen is the new fresh – We would all prefer to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but unless you live close to a true farmer’s market, it is likely that frozen fruits and vegetables will actually taste fresher than the “fresh” items in the produce section of your supermarket. Contrary to what many shoppers believe, there will likely be weeks or even months separating the harvest of “fresh” produce and their appearance in the store. Many frozen products, on the other hand, are quick frozen within hours after being picked, the result being that not only are they more economical, but they will likely offer better flavour and nutrition as well. This is particularly true about out-of-season produce, since the “fresh” products probably had to be shipped a great distance.
Cook it yourself – As our lives grow busier and busier, the temptation to buy pre-made, heavily processed foods is great. But you should realise that the additional effort required to prepare those foods often adds more to the final cost than do the ingredients themselves. By simply bypassing the”middle man” and preparing your own meals, you can improve the nutrition and enjoyment of the meals you serve, in addition to saving a lot of money. And there are ways to make preparing your own meals almost as easy as buying the prepackaged foods. Slow cookers and pressure cookers can turn even inexpensive foods – especially meats and poultry – into delicious dishes, while cutting preparation time significantly.
Taking a more budget-conscious approach to clothing and food purchases can leave more money to take care of that other big essential – shelter (along with the means to heat it in winter of course) – and possibly even leave enough left over for the occasional luxury. Life is all about tradeoffs, and sometimes there is a fine line between frugality and austerity. But with careful planning you’ll find that you don’t have to live a life of deprivation in order to save money.
The content and opinions in this sponsored post were provided by Readies