Thrift is back: 10 tips for living frugal

“Use it up, wear it out; make do, or do without.”

The generation who lived through the Great Depression was very good at wasting nothing; but living frugally was not a new idea, even back then.

In his book 'The Wisdom of Frugality', professor of philosophy at New York's Alfred University Emrys Westacott, says “simple living has been recommended and praised for over two thousand years by people with a reputation for wisdom.

“Philosophers, prophets, saints, poets, culture critics and just about anyone else with a claim to the title of ‘sage’ seemed generally to agree about this,” Westacott writes. “Frugality and simplicity are praiseworthy; extravagance and luxury is suspect.”

And it seems, even in this consumer-driven age, thrift is making a comeback. The web is fertile ground for websites, blogs, how-to videos and podcasts devoted to the ideas of frugality, simple living and “living slow”.

For some, being frugal is about saving money, for others it’s about managing resources and saving the planet and for others it’s simply a lifestyle choice.

Here are a few simple tips that were a way of life and that we can easily adopt in today’s throw-away world.

1. Fix it – Before rushing out to buy a replacement, ask yourself if it can be fixed?  With so much information out there these days, you’ll find how-to’s on just about anything and there is something satisfying about getting that old coffee maker working again.

2. Everything old is new again – A coat of paint, some new upholstery, shiny buttons, using what you already have and giving it a new lease on life is limited only by your imagination. If you need some inspiration, check out some of the great ideas at the Instructables.

3. Try second-hand – from Gumtree, Ebay, op-shops to local buy, swap and sell groups, there are heaps of wonderful bargains out there and you may even be harbouring someone else’s treasure among your own unwanted goods.

4. Grow your own – Nothing beats going out to your garden for fresh vegies and they always taste so much better.  Many are quick and easy to grow and don’t need a lot of space.

5. Cook your own – Now that you’ve grown all those beautiful tomatoes and zucchini, create some magic in the kitchen. Instead of takeaway pizzas, make your own.  Get the whole family involved.  Let the kids come up with their own wild creations and make up a family recipe book.

6. Eat out less – Eating out at restaurants used to be a special treat, cut back and plan nights out to make them special once again.

7. Save up – Forego instant gratification, keep your credit card in a drawer and return to the pocket money days when you had to save for something special, you’ll appreciate it so much more. No matter your age, saving a small amount each week, builds a lifetime habit which is a great one to pass on to your kids.

8. Think before buying – Is it a need or is it a want?  A bargain is only a bargain if it is something you really need and will be useful.

9. Compare and save – Shop around.  For major purchases ask for a discount and even for minor ones, ask if they are likely to go on sale soon.  They can only say no and you can always walk away and wait.

10. The best things in life are free – Not everything costs money.  Check out your local community papers; visit the many “what’s on” online newsletters and drop by your local library where you can borrow much more than just books.  Markets, walks, picnics, games in the park and good old scrabble are all activities that don’t cost a fortune.

This article first appeared on the website of Mercer, our superannuation partner.