How to Live Frugally: Simple Changes – NSC Series

How to Live Frugally:
Simple changes that can make ALL the difference

 My wife and I were sitting down this past weekend and thinking about our future together. As you all know, we are working to pay down our debt and live our lives to the fullest. We want to live debt free, but there’s more to it than that. We also want to learn how to live frugally. 

I had just sat down on the couch with a stack of cookbooks in my hands when my wife walked in. Of course, we were preparing for our No Spend Challenge starting in January. She sat next to me and started idly skimming the Breads section of the Betty Crocker Cookbook on top of the stack.

She told me about when she was younger and her mother would wake up early to bake a fresh loaf of bread. Her and her brother would come downstairs in the morning to the smell of homemade bread and they would lather it in butter. I told her about how we would have homemade bread once and a while after school. We both could remember the scent, the taste, the texture. There’s absolutely nothing better than homemade food.

As we were talking, we realized that in our childhood we probably asked for and wanted many processed foods, candies, etc. In fact, we probably begged our parents for them often, though now we can’t really recall them. What we can recall though is the smell of homemade bread when we walked into the house and the taste of warm butter melting on top.

We had already wanted to learn how to cook homemade foods in order to learn how to live frugally, but after our talk this weekend we added a new goal. We decided that we wanted to learn as many homemade foods as we could so that when we have kids, a few years down the road, they will have memories of warm breads, homemade pasta, fresh vegetables, and delicious desserts. 

So, we are making a list of simple changes we are making that will help us to learn how to live frugally and aid in our future.

how to live frugally: the no spend challenge

If you are new to our NSC Series, start here!
-If not, you can skip this section-

As some of you may know, we are preparing for our first every No Spend Challenge (NSC), starting January 1, and holy cow, it is approaching quickly.

The short story is that my wife and I racked up a ton of debt (read how HERE) and want to pay it off as quickly as possible so that we can live our dream lives (read about our goals HERE). This challenge will help us learn about living frugal, saving money, and paying off our debt faster.

Visit our post, Frugal Living at its Finest: the No Spend Challenge, to view why we are doing the challenge, what the challenge entails, and the rules.

The hardest thing about budgeting and frugal living is doing it alone and that’s why we want to invite you all to join us on our NSC. Sign up below to opt-in to our email community, filled with exclusive tips and tricks for saving money to survive living frugal during your NSC month.

Follow our rules or make your own! Join for one week or the entire month! We know that not everyone is in the same situation we are in. Stick with the No Spend Challenge for as much or as little as you are able in your situation and don’t be afraid to hop on after the starting date (it’s never too late to join in on the fun!).

We’ll be taking the challenge right alongside you – with daily blog posts, encouragements, and exclusive email information and communication: this will be the single, greatest choice you make to jump start the New Year.




Why we are learning how to live frugally

You may be wondering why we choose to live frugally.

Our first reason for learning how to live frugally is that we want to pay off our debts as soon as possible.

That’s not the only reason, though. We also want to ensure that we are always able to live within our means. After our debt is paid (which will hopefully be before we expect), we will be saving our money in multiple areas – retirement, children’s college fund, investments, etc. We also hope to pay for a house without taking out a large mortgage (more debt).

There are many other reasons that YOU may choose to learn how to live frugally as well: perhaps you want to focus your money on traveling and fun items for your family, perhaps you have heavy medical bills or are concerned that you will be unable to work soon.

Whatever your reason, here is a list of simple changes you can make that will make a huge difference in your lifestyle (and your wallet).

Here goes:

  • Making homemade foods: as I said earlier, we are learning as much as we can about how to make homemade foods. So far, we are working on perfecting the art of pasta-making, but over Christmas we are going to receive a bread maker (for yummy homemade breads) and learn how to can foods.
  • Buying in bulk: it’s no surprise that the more you purchase of an item, the cheaper it is. Over our Christmas break, we hope to visit stores such as Costco and Aldi’s in order to save money by buying in bulk.
  • Utilizing cash back programs: we are taking advantage of apps like Ebates which give you cash back each time you shop. Not only are we saving money on our groceries, but they help us to make money on the side which all goes toward paying off our debt (and maintaining this website).Read more about them by visiting the Make Money Online Series tab at the top or by clicking HERE.
  • Purchasing cleaning supplies online through ePantry or making our own: on ePantry, my wife and I are able to get most of our cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels, and hygiene products for free. For cleaning supplies that we can’t get for free or cheap there, we are working on learning how to make our own.
  • Living with only one car: learning how to live frugally means learning how to get by on less. For us, living with one car isn’t that hard. Many times I will walk to work, but when the weather is bad, I go to work early and catch a ride with my wife on her way to work. In the evening, she picks me up after she is done. Not only do we save gas money by only driving one car, but we save money on related costs as well such as: insurance, registration, title, taxes, car payments, oil changes, repairs, tires, and general maintenance.
  • Live healthier: learning how to live frugally can also mean learning how to live healthier and there are so many facets to this. Saving money by living healthier includes, but is not limited to, not purchases pre-packaged, processed foods, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, limiting snacks, walking more often (or biking or skating), exercising, and drinking more water. I’ll write a full post on this during the challenge, so stay tuned!
  • Look at where your money is going currently: take a few minutes to examine your current bank statement and find where your money is going. Most likely, you’ll find a lot of subscription costs that are unnecessary. Consider whether a newspaper, magazine, cable, or home phone subscription are necessary costs when the internet is readily available with news and entertainment sources. Then look at your next biggest spending area: do you sneak out for a soda at the gas station or do you make a ton of small purchases that are unnecessary? If you do, perhaps it’s time to revise your budgeting strategies.
  • Focusing on a cash budget: this tip is possibly one of the best that my wife and I have implemented over the past few months. Every two weeks when we get paid, we take out a set amount of cash that we are allowed to spend on everything. For us, we spend $200 every two weeks on groceries, gas, cleaning supplies, fast food, restaurants, clothes, and anything else we may want. It all has to fit into our $200 limit. When the cash is gone, it’s gone. We aren’t allowed to use debit or credit cards for any purchases. I’ll be writing a full blog post about how this works during the challenge, so keep checking back!
  • Save energy, water, and gas: cut down on maintenance expenses in whatever way you can. My wife and I purchased remote controlled outlets to help us save electricity in our home. Remember simple tips as well: keep your house at a warm temperature, but don’t overdo it, turn the water off and only use it when necessary, take shorter showers, don’t leave lights on when you leave the room, etc. We also purchased and individual washing machine that saves hundreds on water and electricity each year. I’ll write about it during the challenge – don’t worry!
  • Become a DIY fanatic: as you may have noticed here at DIY Jahn, we love DIY projects and crafts (hint: the name gives it away). However, they aren’t just fun to make – they can also save you a ton of money. Consider our DIY Christmas Gift Guide for Friends and Family which saved us a bunch of money as we prepared for Christmas this year!

how to live frugally - the no spend challenge

How to Live Frugally: Learning to be Content

This is perhaps the most important lesson when learning how to live frugally. Many people ask my wife and me why we don’t go out and drink, eat at restaurants, and buy whatever we want. They ask how we can be happy when we live off practically nothing and the answer is simple: we are learning to be content with what we have. We both know that we don’t have everything and that we may never have everything we dreamed of, but that’s not our goal.

Our goal is to live our lives to the fullest right now: here, in this moment.

And we do. Each and every day we are grateful for all that we have. Sure we don’t have a 60” television, money for endless vacations, and our dream home, but we do have what’s important. We have a roof over our heads, food in our fridge, and family and friends who love us. And that’s more than enough for us right now.



38 Replies to “How to Live Frugally: Simple Changes – NSC Series”

  1. I think I will be joining you in January for the no spend challenge as much as possible. We’ve spent way to much for Christmas, and now our washing machine is broken, my husband’s car needs to be fixed, and I’m sure we will have other expenses. No extra spending going to happen!

    1. Woohoo! I’m so glad that you will be joining us this month for the No Spend Challenge! Not so glad about all the expenses you have, but I certainly understand them… This will be a great chance for you to get your budget back on track and really save for those big expenses. I hope it helps! Don’t forget to sign up for the email list for exclusive content! 🙂 Thank you for the comment, Shann

  2. I definitely could do with a no-spend-January after all the expense of Christmas! I love your story about the bread too — totally true isn’t it? Who fondly remembers the smell of processed food when they were growing up?! A lot of my lovely memories of home involve my mum baking in the kitchen! 🙂

    1. Lol! I love how you put that – fondly remembering the smell of processed food. That’s great! 🙂 I’m so glad you found the post helpful, Caro. I’d love to have you join our challenge if you’re interested – just sign up for the mailing list above! Thank you so much for the comment

    1. Thank you, Tori! Even though you aren’t joining us, it’s great to have your support! I hope you get a lot out of the upcoming series 🙂 Thank you for your lovely comment!

  3. I think if you want to cut your debt this is a brilliant challenge. I can live on a budget if I have to, and in fact I don’t spend much day to day but I do like to eat out and go on holiday. To do this I live in a flat and save every penny I can.

    1. That’s wonderful, Mellissa – it certainly makes a difference when you can get your rent for cheap and save your money! When you don’t have debt, that can all go to fun things like you stated 🙂 Thank you for commenting and sharing!

    1. It’s so helpful to use cash. When we first started we used debit and would just buy everything on it, but cash makes it more real. Certainly easier to keep track. Let me know how the transition goes for you! Thank you for commenting, Ashley!

  4. Some great tips here and some we already follow. We couldn’t live with one car though sadly – we had to for a year or so but found it really stressful as both hubby and I need them for our work

    1. Thank you, Kara! 🙂 I’m glad you found this post helpful. I know how stressful it can be with one car – it’s REALLY hard if you both need it for work. Our way is definitely not the way for everyone, but I hope you can find other ways to save some money 🙂

  5. I really do have to change my money mind set. I can start a day thinking, ‘I’m not going to spend any money today’ and by lunchtime I’ve blown it. This sounds like a great challenge to get me focused

    1. Thank you, Kaz! I hope you’ve signed up to get our exclusive bonus content 🙂 but even without that, you’ll get a TON of information in our blog posts! Get ready for savings 🙂

    1. That makes a big difference too, Laura. You have to know where the money is going to understand how to cut it back. I hope you come up with some great solutions for 2016! 🙂 Thanks for the comment

    1. Hey Liz, Thanks for the question! 🙂 I’ll be sharing updates on what we are eating every Sunday here on DIY Jahn. I also send exclusive emails (sometimes with recipes!) in our daily e-newsletter than you can sign up for above (in this post). I hope that helps! Thanks for the comment!

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