My wife and I are frugal. We don’t buy fancy clothes or fancy cars. We don’t shop at the high-end clothing stores to be dressed in the latest fashions or own the cool gadgets*. In my 20’s, I bought two new vehicles, had the first iPhone, a big TV, traveled, and generally spent my money on whatever I wanted. Life was good then. Now our vehicle is 15 years old and we bought it used, we don’t have the coolest phones or a large TV, and we don’t spend money on extravagant vacations. Life is just as good now. We generally save our money, but we have decided some things are worth spending extra money on. These include our health and our relationships. We limit our spending in some areas in order to increase our spending on these important things in order to maintain a good budget each month.
Pay now or pay later, and your health is no exception. When it comes to our health, my wife and I think about the stuff we put into or on us. I also make sure I exercise. I walk for my exercise, so that doesn’t cost me more than my shoes, but when it comes to our health, my wife and I have decided that we will spend some extra money on some food items and skincare and cleaning products that we use.
My wife has some dietary issues where certain foods hurt her stomach or give her headaches. I also have noticed certain foods, or at least certain ingredients can stuff me up. Soy is one of those ingredients for both of us, so we try to avoid soy. Almost everything in the store that doesn’t have soy in it costs more from what I have observed. We balance this by buying other inexpensive foods like brown rice, black beans, and whole grain pasta. Besides, burritos and spaghetti are some of our favorite meals.
My wife has also done extensive research into food additives in processed food and has suggested that our family try to avoid these. Even The American Heart Association suggests limiting highly processed foods. My family buys non-processed meats, eats lots of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and eats very few things out of a can. We make most of our bread from scratch, and very seldom eat at a restaurant unless we are on a vacation. We buy very few products that are packed full of added sugars.
My wife and I spend extra money on a few food items like peanut butter with no added sugars, snacks for the kids with no added sugars, and 100% maple syrup, just to name a few. Any processed foods we buy have a handful of ingredients and no added fillers or preservatives. Buying these products adds about $50 to our food budget each month. However, my wife and I discussed that if we just bought the “normal” highly processed foods with added sugars and other additives, we would probably buy whatever we wanted to, and our food budget would be hundreds of dollars more each month. I would also weight quite a bit more.
Eating Healthy and Spending Less
My family of five spends around $500-$600 a month on food from the grocery stores, which is about half the normal family of five. Our kids are young, so that helps, but included in that price are diapers and wipes, snacks, and milk for them. These are things we wouldn’t buy if it was just my wife and me, and it’s $50-$100 a month, depending on what we need. In either case, even after we buy the higher-cost items without the cheap, added sugars, we are still on the low-end of what the average American spends on food. We waste very little food, so that helps keep our grocery budget low, also.
Skin Care and Cleaning Products
Besides additives in food, my wife has noticed that fragrances give her headaches. She started looking at companies who sold fragrance-free shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, and cleaning products. There are a lot of small businesses that sell these products, but even those businesses don’t have all fragrance-free products. My wife couldn’t find a one-stop-shop for these items, so she started her own business to sell them. These products cost more than the more common products on the market because most of them are hand-made, made in small batches, and not made with cheap fillers. We exclusively use the products that she sells, so this adds to our overall budget. Even in this case, I estimate that we spend only $40-$50 a month more than if we used the cheapest products in the stores for our skincare and cleaning needs.
We also spend more money on some other higher quality items. My wife bought some twin mattresses for the two boys that cost about $100 more than what your regular run-of-the-mill mattress would cost. She got them because of the materials they are made with. Even in this case, if they last for 10 years, it’s going to add only $1 a month to our budget.
Family and Friends
My wife and I knew when we moved to Florida that we would need to spend money on traveling to see our parents and siblings. We love our families, and we try to see them at least once a year. Our moms and dads love seeing the grandkids. When our family and friends come to visit us, we make sure the pool is heated for them (in the winter), take them to the beach, and offer them whatever they want to eat and drink. We manage our monthly budget during the year so that we can have fun when we get together with our family and friends.
These are some things that my family does. These might not be the same things that you should do or want to do. The bottom line is if you want to build wealth, and if you want to spend extra money on certain items because of your lifestyle, then you need to reduce your expenses in other areas. My wife and I have decided that spending a little more on our health, family, and friends is money well spent.
*We really don’t do much shopping at all and wear out our clothes. This makes it easy to track our zero-based budget. And one of our laptops is nine years old.