Freeing frugality

If you can find ways of spending less, you don’t need to earn/work as much (but it’s still a good idea to have plenty of savings for old age or a rainy day). For example:

  • Live in a poor area/country and work in/for a wealthy area/country. Rent or buy outright a tiny place, to minimize mortgage interest, utility, and maintenance fees.
  • Own only 1-2 of the things you need (i.e., one primary and one backup).
  • Keep pictures of things you’ve had/enjoyed in the past, instead of storing and moving things forever. Sell or donate more.
  • Shop at thrift stores.
  • Use prepaid cellphones, avoid long phone conversations, and find the free public wifi hotspots near you (and use HTTPS, Tor, and/or a VPN for protection).
  • Replace large things that use a lot of electricity with smaller, more pinpointed things or well-designed locations (e.g., 1-watt USB fans and LED task/reading lights; phones, tablets, and laptops instead of desktops; put your computer to sleep when not in use; choose a house or apartment that gets good cross-breezes between the windows; etc.).
  • Recharge small electronics from public places (malls, airports, etc.) or buy a small solar panel, if possible.
  • Use free/open-source software instead of expensive proprietary software.
  • Natural gas cooking and heating is usually cheaper than electric.
  • Get in the habit of picking up a few groceries on your way home from work, so you don’t have to use a refrigerator as much or at all, and so that you eat fresher food.
  • The body can adjust quite a bit to summer heat and winter cold, if you limit your exposure to heating and air conditioning systems. Also, fans, sweaters, blankets, and the like can go a long way before air conditioners and heaters really become necessary.
  • Bathe in cool or lukewarm water.
  • Handwash your clothes. Use clotheslines instead of clothes dryer machines.
  • Bicycle or walk if you can. Use buses instead of subways, unless they are the same price (as in NYC). Use taxis and rental cars, instead of owning a car, unless owning a car is cheaper for your profession. If you must own a vehicle, consider a scooter/moped or motorized bicycle. I prefer motorized bikes, because if a scooter or motorcycle breaks down, you can’t pedal it home.
  • Fill the empty spaces in your freezer with ice and fridge with cold water, so it doesn’t use as much energy to stay cool.
  • A dark, thick, or reflective umbrella can protect against both rain and sun, and will probably last much longer than a tube of sunscreen.
  • Watch and take care of wild animals (birds, trees, etc.), which live free and natural lives, instead of keeping pets, which often have genetic/breeding problems that can cause them pain and you high vet bills.
  • Watch videos and listen to music from the public library or FM radio stations, instead of paying for streaming video and audio.
  • Boil and maybe filter tap water, instead of buying bottled water.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle, so your healthcare expenses are likely to be less.

A few things I’ve learned over the years about saving money

  • No matter how low something is on sale, buying nothing is cheaper. The quickest way to save money is not to spend it — to mostly buy what you need, and rarely/barely buy what you want.
  • Anything that is likely to depreciate in value over time is probably a bad investment (e.g., cars, electronics, furniture, etc.), and should be minimized.
  • Regularly using a credit card, only if you pay it off every month, seems to increase one’s credit rating. Leaving unused credit cards open with a $0 balance also seems to be good for one’s credit rating.
  • When considering whether to buy or rent a home, don’t forget to consider the costs of mortgage interest, property taxes, property insurance, condo/HOA fees or maintenance, improvements, and the time required to sell it (could be many months or years). There is often a net loss over time, when investing in a house or condo. Renting a small place may be cheaper than buying.
  • At least in the US, the stock market tends to outpace inflation over the long-term. Choosing some funds that invest in mainstream companies, and just letting the money sit there for years, usually beats inflation and offers much better capital appreciation than savings accounts or CDs at banks.
  • As Warren Buffett recently showed, usually the way to make the most in the stock market over the long-term is to invest in index funds, but the most profitable index funds require that one values profit over ethics (i.e., include investments in war, oil, animal testing, tobacco, etc.). Socially responsible investment (SRI) funds usually make less, but may be more ethical. Probably the most ethical thing is to continuously do your own research of, and investing in, individual companies, but few people have time for that. I wish there were Buddhist SRI funds available in the US (if you know of any, please let me know).