Frugal Living Is A Family Affair

I receive emails quite frequently from readers that ask me what they can do to get the rest of their family to eat more frugally and spend less money on anything from groceries to other household items, cars, entertainment etc. Last week a reader asked me what I recommended she do. She would like to cook more frugally and include plenty of beans and rice in her cooking, but her husband won’t eat it and ends up grabbing fast food instead. I’ve been pondering the issue for the past week or so, trying to figure out what to tell everyone that approaches me with a question along those lines.

Sure, I could come up with some tips to make homemade inexpensive meals more palatable, but those would only work occasionally, and probably not for long. Instead, I decided to approach the issue from a more general angle. What it really boils down to is the simple fact that you can’t force your family members to embrace a frugal lifestyle. Instead it should be a decision that is made by and includes the entire family.

Happy family watching a movie togetherFirst, I recommend you sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write down exactly why you want to live more frugally. And don’t just write down “to save money”. If that’s your first thought, think about what you want to save the money for. Come up with all the reasons why living more frugally is good for your family and what it will do for you. For example, you may want to live more frugally so you can get out of credit card debt which would eventually allow you to worry less and even have some money for fun things like toys, new bikes or a vacation.

Another reason may be that money has gotten very tight because of a job loss or the likes and living more frugally will allow you to keep your home and put food on the table. Another great reason may be to simplify live and spent more quality time together as a family.

Take the time to get very clear about your WHY. Then it’s time to start talking to the rest of your family. I recommend you start with your spouse and then when the two of you are on the same page start discussing it with the kids.

A good starting point for the discussion with your spouse is to how much money you have coming in each month and how much is going out. Track your income and expenses for a month and write them down in a notebook or a spreadsheet.  I like to group my expenses in related categories (i.e. all utility bills etc.).

Next go over the budget with your significant other and see where you can save, or what expenses you can cut out altogether. Don’t forget to talk about what you will use the “extra money’ you are saving for.

Be willing to compromise on certain issues. That high-speed internet package may not be worth the money to you, but it may be to your spouse. Allow for some give and take, but keep your goal of living more frugally in mind.

Once you and your spouse have a good grasp on how you want to change your lifestyle, it’s time to bring the kids on board as well. Find some little ways they can help make the change and find a way to compensate for anything you are “taking away” from them. Cutting out the cable bill might be a tough one for kids that are used to coming back from school to watch their favorite cartoons. Plan to spend some extra time with them instead, read some books or allow them to have a friend over to play.

If you are cutting “Eating Out” from your budget, have some fun with dinner and throw a pizza party one night a week, or set up a taco bar. Just have fun with it and come up with some fun alternatives.

When it comes to food, work with your family and try various different frugal dishes. There is an abundance of them out there. A good start is the frugal recipe section right here. Try new things, get the kids to help you cook and then have everyone rate the new dishes. Before you know it, you’ll have quite a few new family favorites and some other recipes that your loved ones can live with.

If there is a particular dish that you used to have at a restaurant or bought at the store, search for it by name with “copycat” or just “recipe” in your favorite search engine. You can often find some great recipes that will allow you to make the same or a very similar item at home for a fraction of what you used to pay for it.

Just keep in mind that frugal living is a family affair. Get everyone involved, listen to their ideas and don’t forget to remind them (and yourself), why you are making the change to this simpler, less expensive life and before you know it, it you and your entire family will have adjusted to this new lifestyle.

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