Being Frugal Without Depriving Yourself

Peter's picture

If you've ever heard someone argue against the benefits of being frugal then you've heard the "I-don't-want-to-deprive-myself" argument. It's always the first one to come up. However much we might disagree, there is an element of truth to the deprivation criticism. A lot of times, being frugal means passing up something you'd like to have but don't really need.

Today I'll show you a couple of places where you can exercise your frugal muscle without coming anywhere close to depriving yourself.

When Paying More Doesn't Get You Anything

With most financial transactions, paying a little bit more will usually get you a little something extra. More polish, extra colour, bigger size, bonus features or better service. Generally, the more you pay the more you get. It's for this reason that being frugal can sometimes feel like deprivation.

My personal view is that you aren't depriving yourself when you pass on something that is totally unnecessary. If you disagree, then you likely have a tough time being frugal on occasion. Luckily, there are a couple of places you can reduce your expenses without losing any of the benefit.

Reducing Interest Charges On Debts

If you've got any amount of debt hanging around, you are likely paying a certain amount each month in interest expenses. Now, if you could get a lower interest rate on some of that debt, you'd reduce your interest charges accordingly. You would still have the same amount of debt, only it would be costing you less each month. Exact same benefit at a lower cost. Not bad.

Credit card debt is one of the best places to look for savings. No matter what your interest rate is on your credit card, call up your financial institution and ask them if they can give you a better rate. I can't guarantee that you'll get a better rate, but you might. I can guarantee that you won't get a better rate if you don't ask though.

Other places to look for savings on interest expenses are mortgages, lines of credit and purchase payment plans. Always be sure to shop around for the lowest rates. Also, don't be afraid to ask for a lower rate than what you are initially offered. Sometimes the agent you are dealing with is allowed some room to negotiate.

Take Advantage Of Tax Incentives

Depending you where you live and who collects your taxes, there are more than likely several financial actions you can take to give yourself a tax break. By taking advantage of tax incentives available to you, you'll end up paying less tax.

The nice thing about reducing your tax bill is that you still get all the same services as everyone else, only it costs you less each year. Again, this is a great way to reduce your expenses while still maintaining the same benefits.

In Canada, you can look into:

  • RRSP contributions which will reduce your taxable income in the current year and will also grow tax free until you retire.
  • Adding some dividends to you income. Dividends are favourably taxed in Canada and in the lower tax brackets you can even reduce your overall tax burden by having some dividend income!
  • Start a home-based business. By setting up an office and working out of your home you'll be able to write off a portion of your household utility bills and mortgage payments as a business expense.

If you dig into the tax laws for your area I'm sure you find a few others that you can take advantage of as well.

Your Turn

Are there any other areas that you know of where cutting back doesn't mean making due with less? Let me know if you have any tips for the rest of us.


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One of the measures I like

One of the measures I like to use on if something is a necessary purchase is whether or not it is a need.

If you are withholding buying clothing/food/cleaning supplies, for example because you are trying to save, then this is probably not so good.

However, if you withhold buying expensive (not utilitarian) clothing, fancy dinners and paying a house cleaner, then this good because these are "wants." The trick is to cover your needs and question whether or not the wants are worth it. The fewer the "wants" purchased, the more saved. This is a pretty healthy attitude I would say. Good post!

Peter's picture

Great point Mike. While I

Great point Mike. While I agree with your tip about limiting spending to "needs," I think a lot of people feel that cutting back on "wants" feels like deprivation. However, I don't know of anyone who feels like they are depriving themselves when they take advantage of a tax break or a lower interest rate! Can you think of any other areas that people can reduce expenses without depriving themselves of a "want?"

One of the easy ways to save

One of the easy ways to save money, and still enjoy some "extravagance" is rather than eating out, trade nights cooking with friends. For some time in the area in which I live there was a group of folks who traded dinners with others at least once a month. This way we get to enjoy someone else's cooking, and the cost only appears when it is your turn to host, which is still far cheaper than eating out.

I wholly embrace this idea that one can be very frugal and still enjoy life, including luxuries. For my entire adult life I have lived near or below the poverty line, yet I enjoy high speed internet connection on a nice laptop, fine wines (almost all under $6 a bottle!), aged cheeses (one area I do splurge occassionally), and other luxuries. I do it by making deliberate choices. So I give up the fast food solution, which is not on my diet anyway, and the savings goes into better food at home. I give up the "prestige" of a new car, for incredible savings. The things I give up are things I do not need nor value anyway. By living intentionally, by living deliberately, we can live a varied, comfortable, and enjoyable life without spending much at all.

Peter's picture

I see we share a taste for

I see we share a taste for wine and strong cheeses TXTStorm. That is one of my few splurge items as well. I'm interested in which wines you enjoy for $6 per bottle.

I can't say that we've ever made any formal dinner sharing arrangements with friends, but it does sound like a great way to add some variety to meal time without the expense of eating out. Great tip!

Our arrangement was more ad

Our arrangement was more ad hoc than formal.. it more or less just came to be. That said, it stuck with me that if/when I am again living around those whose company I enjoy, this will serve as a good model for "dining out" as well as a fine excuse to see friends more often than we might otherwise in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

As for wines, I search the discount bins, and explore the double bottle sizes. Given the advances in winemaking many of these are quite nice, and in my opinion often better than higher priced wines. I have noticed that prices do vary greatly across the country, so I am not certain how much particular suggestions will matter, but here are a few:
Trebbiano by Citra (dry white italian)
Santana Tempranillo (fairly bold spanish red)
Most of the wines from Ste Genevieve (Texas whites and reds. 1.5 liter bottle can often be found locally for $6 or slightly more)
It used to be that Avia was very inexpensive, but locally I have seen the price rise and it is not commonly found. I believe it is from slovenia.
I also came across a blog which listed an organic red for $6.99, though I have not tried it:

I also do make a distinction between special occassion wines and everday wines. There is one special occassion wine on which I will go over my near absolute $10 max (wines above $6 are sort of special occassion wines) that being Becker's Claret. This is a Texas red, and will be the one consumable I will most miss when I move in a few months.

BTW as for cheeses, I am terribly fond of gouda aged 5 years.. That said, I have to plead woeful ignorance as to the many many types of aged cheeses. I have been slowly enjoying the exploration.

Peter's picture

I'll keep an eye open for

I'll keep an eye open for those wines you suggested. I'm not sure if some of the local ones would be available in Canada, but you never know. I've heard is said (and I think it is true as well) that a good wine is a wine you enjoy. So regardless of the price, if you like it, it's a good wine.

I had forgotten that you are

I had forgotten that you are in Canada. I recall from my annual visits that inexpensive wine seems to be unfound. The ones I enjoy while there run at least $8-$12 (Canadian) a bottle. Even so, the 1.5 liters tend to be a better bet. That said, have you considered making your own? I know that down here that is much cheaper and the quality of kits has improved tremendously.

Peter's picture

Ah, the $8 - $12 matches

Ah, the $8 - $12 matches what I see up here a lot better -- that's why I was originally interested in the $6 varieties that you mentioned earlier. I suppose there are some import taxes or something similar that is increasing the price up here. I haven't yet but I'll have to look into the make-your-own option sometime. Thanks for the tip!

A good way to save without

A good way to save without depriving oneself is to become a secret shopper or buy restaurant gift certificates at discounts. There are many reasons people don't do this instead of paying in full. I think a lot of people are really scared of depriving themselves of the feeling of being able to buy things, rather than depriving themselves of things. I know that when I used to spend lots of money on makeup I didn't need, the buying was much more enjoyable than the having.

It seems to me that anytime

It seems to me that anytime you get the same item for less than you otherwise could have paid, you're being frugal without depriving yourself. Under this definition, lots of frugal activities--shopping around online for the best price, couponing, buying "like-new" stuff at the thrift store, or even choosing to buy the same item at Joe's Discount instead of Macy's--count as being frugal without depriving yourself.

It's also being frugal without depriving yourself when you realize ahead of time that you're about to buy something you're never going to use!

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