A frugal life often has a nice “honeymoon”. People dive deep, find plenty of ways to spend less, and revel in the amount that remains in their checking account at the end of the month. The problem, of course, is that such behavior is often unsustainable. After a month or two more, you will begin to experience many of the new frugal practices and be tempted to revert to old spending habits.
One effective way to keep frugality present in your life is to turn it into a game. You set a “high score” by minimizing the expenses in a certain area of your life for a month and then try to break that “high score”. You can reward yourself for it (ideally in a non-financial way) or just enjoy the success of a new high score.
This is known as scorekeeping. It’s simply a matter of setting a “score” over a period of time – a month is a great goal – and getting that “score” over the next period. It is something we use to maintain frugal habits in many areas of our own lives.
Why practice scorekeeping?
The greatest benefit of Scorekeeping is that it gives you a short-term frugality goal that is always on your mind, but long-term frugality strategies are also highly rewarding.
For example, you might find that changing your own spending can bring you down a certain area of spending in your life to $ 200 a month, but getting below that is difficult. If you want to beat that high score, you need to come up with better long-term strategies. Maybe there is a project you can work on over a weekend that will permanently cut that bill by $ 10 per month. Then next month, that bill can get you to $ 190.
The upside is that even if you take a month or two off the scorekeeping exam, the type of long-term projects you’ve completed is still keeping your expenses lower than usual, and scorekeeping provides the short-term motivation.
Another benefit of the scorekeeping function is that it encourages budgeting and careful tracking of your own expenses. So, finally, keep the score. By practicing budgeting and tracking your expenses, you will get a lot more exposure to where your money is really going, and that knowledge can lead to smarter decisions.
Four examples of scorekeeping
Monthly food costs
Here you can keep track of every food or drink that you buy in a calendar month. At the end of the first month, your total spend on that category is your “score,” and then you want to beat it. Your goal is to keep eating fun and not feeling miserable, but rather to keep reducing costs by trying new strategies.
In the short term, you can eat at home more often, especially if you prepare meals using simple, inexpensive ingredients. A slow cooker menu with lots of beans and rice will get you there! Eating leftover food, be it for lunch the next or second day or as a “mixed plate” for dinner in a few days, also keeps costs down.
In the long run, the strategies to help you get consistently high scores are “Meal-Prep Days” (where you cook and freeze many meals at once so you can easily cook at home) -Perishable Ingredients in Bulk ( like big bags of rice) and just cook more at home so it feels a lot easier.
Monthly energy costs
When it comes to energy costs, your goal is to keep your house energy costs as low as possible. The best strategy is to compare your monthly energy bill to the bill for the same period last year, as this takes into account changes in weather.
In the short term, if you’re just aiming for low energy consumption this month, energy-saving steps like turning down the thermostat in winter or turning it up in summer can really help. Wear warm clothes indoors on cool days. When it’s hot, instead of turning on the air, open a window. Keep your ceiling fans running in a seasonally appropriate direction all year round.
In the long term, there are many steps you can take to lower your energy costs permanently, or at least for the season. Add more insulation to your home or install waterproofing strips. If you really want to kill it, consider things like geothermal heating and cooling or solar panels.
Monthly maintenance costs
For entertainment and hobby expenses, just keep track of all the money you spent on that type of expense per month and compare that number to the previous months. Light enough!
In the short term, deciding to take advantage of cheaper options is a great strategy. Hit the library instead of the bookstore. Use something you already have instead of buying something new.
In the long run, try some new hobbies that don’t cost that much. Keep trying new things until you find the ones that click. You can try hiking for a month by walking in a local park, or you can try disc golf, knitting, or reading. These are all inexpensive hobbies that can replace much more expensive ones. Don’t stick to just one, though, because it’s “cheap”. Try lots of “cheap” ones until you find one that really clicks.
Monthly transport costs
How much does it cost to get from one place to another in a given month? What about fuel, maintenance, insurance, and parking? You should also consider the depreciation of your car. Don’t forget things like Uber and bus fares and plane tickets. The lower you can get this cost, the better.
In the short term, the most effective way to keep costs down is to ride less and use your feet, bike, or local transport more often. All of these options are cheaper than driving to and from your destination. There are also many improvements you can make to minimize the cost of your car, such as: B. Avoiding hard accelerations.
Check long-term whether you can turn off one of your cars completely, which eliminates ongoing costs such as vehicle registration and insurance. Try to identify more efficient commuting routes. If you enjoy cycling, you should invest in a pannier that allows you to use the bike for trips to grocery stores, for example.
How we use scorekeeping
We use scorekeeping from time to time in each of these categories, but my main focus is on energy costs. I am constantly trying to reduce our energy consumption at home without making anyone feel uncomfortable.
Over the years I have weatherproofed doors, determined the optimal temperature for our thermostat so that everyone feels comfortable in the different seasons, installed ceiling fans and made countless other improvements. Even with energy costs rising, we now spend less on energy in an average month than we did in our first year in this house, and it is after this Adding a room and almost all changes are completely invisible.
The desire to beat our energy bills helped fuel this, and it has saved us many thousands of dollars over the years.
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