Frugal Living – Is It Too Time Consuming?

Print Friendly

Is Frugal Living Too Time Consuming?

When people ask me about getting out of debt, they often ask “Doesn’t frugal living take quite a bit more time than not living frugally?” Of course, doing work yourself does mean you spend more time doing certain things, but frugal living also means that you will spend a lot less time and money working to pay someone else to do it. Many people work more hours to pay someone else to do a job than it would take them to do it themselves. Of course, if you make a million dollars a year and have no manual dexterity, this article is not for you.

Here are some practical frugal living examples based on my own experience with a family of 4. Because your household income is probably not the same as mine, some things that make sense for me will not make sense for you. I suggest that you read my examples and consider your actual costs.

Example #1: Buying clothes- One great way to save money on clothes is to go to garage sales. This seems very time consuming to many people, but it really isn’t. In the summer, I usually spend 3-4 hours every 2 weeks (May – September) going to garage sales. That may seem like a lot, but if you compare that to how much time the average person spends shopping at the mall, it really isn’t any longer.

Example #2: Meals- Frugal living can really save you money and stress when it comes to meals. I usually average an hour and a half each day preparing and cleaning up from meals. Compare that to going out to eat: It takes the typical person 20 minutes to drive to the restaurant and 20 minutes to return home. That is 40 minutes. Then you spend 15-20 minutes ordering and waiting for your order. You are now up to one hour. If you plan an hour for eating, you are up to two hours total. Don’t forget the 2-3 hours you had to work to pay for it! This assumes an income of $30,000 per year and a $40 family meal.

If you go to fast food restaurants instead, you could cut your time down to 40-50 minutes and 1-2 hours working to pay for it.

If you stay home and cook, it will cost you 15-30 minutes preparing the meal and less than $5 paying for it. I’m not saying that you should never eat out but, that if you do it regularly, it will cost you a lot more (in time and money). Is it really worth it?

Example #3: Buying a car- If you buy a new car with $500 a month payments for 5 years, you pay $30,000. Let’s say you earn $30,000 per year at your job. If you assume 25% income tax, you must earn $40,000 to pay for your $30,000 car. This means that you have to work 1 year and 4 months for no other reason but to pay for that car. Is it really worth working over one year just to pay for a new car? If you decided to buy a $7500 car instead, you could afford to take a vacation from work for a year. Haven’t you been saying you need more free time? (If you didn’t get that, get out your calculator and do the math. This is important.)

Always consider the hidden costs, too. Would you feel more inclined to buy a security system for that $30,000 car? How much will that cost? Are the parts more expensive for the $30,000 car when it breaks down? Trust me, your new car will still break down almost as much as a used car. Ask my brother…

Be very careful when you start saying things like “Doesn’t frugal living take too much time?” or “I can’t seem to find time to be with my husband or children” or “I don’t know where to start saving.” Often, those are excuses that you have created to ease your guilt. If you think about it and do the math, living simply will give you more free time. If you’d rather not, you can always keep spending money and wishing you had more family time. It’s your choice! But take heart- if you have read this far then you get and A+ for taking the first step and trying!


For more easy and practical frugal living tips to help you save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.


photo by: Robbert van der Steeg


  1. says

    Absolutely love this article! Especially the part about the car, I am always badgering the hubby about paying less for our vehicle but just for reducing or getting rid of the payment, I never thought to add up how much he, not me, actually has to work to pay for it, especially when he always wants a nicer vacation! I bet he looks at it differently now! Thank you so much!

  2. says

    I have never thought of the things we do and the way we live as being frugal.
    We live with in our means and owe no big bills. We own both vehicles, and boat free and clear. We do have a visa card which is our only bill and it rarely goes above $3000.
    I 99.9% of the time cook from scratch even on holidays which we take close to home and camp and boat for most of them.
    One year we needed a smaller vehicle than the big van we had and we had gone to Toronto to a convention. We had a couple hours to kill so we went looking for a car. Now Toronto is way south of where we live and hot. So the salesmen kept showing us very nice cars with all the bells and whistles plus air conditioning. North of Superior we rarely get the heat that people south of us do. Well we bought a brand new Grand Am for half the price because he couldn’t sell it without air conditioning and he wanted to get rid of it. Had it paid for in 1 year. It lasted us 15 years and then we got another deal on the present Sun Fire.
    My advice is when looking for a new vehicle look for one with things you need and not what you don’t need.
    4 years ago we were looking for a truck or van so we could go back in the bush hunting camping and hauling our dirt bikes. They wanted as much as we paid for our house for a bare bones model. We finally bought a used van that had just been overhauled the man selling it wanted to buy one with a dvd player since his girlfriend had children. We got it for $2000. because the girlfriend didn’t want a portable DVD player. which might have cost $200.
    We don’t mind if people want to be idiots. It still runs great and we call it our beater because vehicles for the bush and back roads get beaten a lot.

  3. Jenni says

    I had to forward this information to friends and family – it was so insightful. Thank you for a different and eye-opening perspective!

  4. Jaime says

    I think people should also consider if they really need any car at all. For example, if you live in an area that has buses then maybe you could take the bus and not have to pay for a car and insurance and car maintenence and gas. That money can add up very fast. If you don’t work and have access to a bus then you really don’t “need” a car. You may want one, but you don’t “need” one. Also consider how often you need to go out. If a bus is not an option in your area consider a taxi cab. If you only need to go out a few times during the month then a taxi would still be cheaper than paying for a car and all the extra costs of owning a car.

    • Tricia says

      I agree with Jamie 1000%!! I recently resumed my career as a home C.E.O. and have put my car up for sale. I am saving about $50.00/mon. in insurance and at least $100.00 in gas and repairs. We also live less than 1/2 mile from town,so on nice days walking is great exercise!

  5. says

    being frugal is not really time consuming.

    window shopping and spending a Sat. afternoon.
    not shopping and saving money you have time to do things with your family or getting meals prepared for the coming week.

    cooking supper using a crock pot 10 min. tops first thing in the morning.
    come home toss a salad set the table and eat. No time lost at all.

    cooking from scratch when you get home. Stir fry the meat you cut up on the weekend when it is cooked about 4 min toss in some vegetables and a bit of stock or sauce from the bottle. Cook some pasta or noodles while the stir fry is cooking set the table Drain the pasta toss with the stir fry and you are eating no later than 20 min. after you start cooking.
    Pizza delivery takes at least 20 min to get to the table.

    Enlist help. they live there so they help with the living conditions.
    say no tv, phones, games or computer until.
    lynda you make the salad, alan you set the table, heather you help me with the cooking and beth you get the coats and shoes in the hall all organized. You will be surprised how quickly these jobs get done.
    clean up one person clears the table. another dries dishes or rinses them for the dishwasher, someone else sweeps the floors in the dining room and kitchen.
    About 1 hour total from the time you walk in the door and children are free to do the fun stuff.
    You are more relaxed and feel like sitting and talking to your husband for an hour or just relaxing together.
    so no being frugal does not have to be time consuming.

  6. grizzly bear mom says

    Clothes-sort yours by color and not item like top or blazer you will see how many you have (an be ashamed that you wasted that much money!)

    Meals-eat all of your veggies. I paid for those white ribs in my pepper, the strings in my pumpkins and the seeds and eat them. They taste fine and are less work than chopping them out. Use half as much meat in spaghtti, stew and chili. It’s more healthy anyway!

    Cars-if you live in the city don’t buy a car, take public transportation. Grocery shop ?weekly? and take your bags home in a taxi. Rent a car for vacation or use one of those car sharing clubs. Much cheaper.

    • says

      I live in the city;'( have not driven in 29 yrs. I have used public transportation since I gave up driving. Believe me when I say I do not miss the drivers on the road. I’m often amazed when drivers try to out run a huge city bus. I love looking out the window to see how the city is changing.

  7. says

    This was a fantastic article, because I don’t think people really take into account how much time it takes to do the stuff they think is “easy’ For me, being frugal is a time/money saver :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  8. Nancy says

    I am throughly enjoying all your information. Being a family of 6 we are always trying to find ways to cut down our debt. I enjoyed the part about vehicle purchase it’s so true. If you purchase a more expensive vehicle it depreciates before you drive it off the lot. I do have a couple of credit cards I’m trying to payoff. One by one I’m getting there. Thank so much for you’re wonderful advice!

  9. Birdie says

    Thank you for another wonderful post! Grandma, your postings are at the top of my favorites list. Thank you for sharing such wisdom.

  10. Dee says

    Since reading your newsletter I have changed in so many ways. First, I came to the realization that being poor is a mindset & I was going to change that. I struggled as a single mother not receiving child support, but now my kids are grown.
    For the first time in my life I have become a saver! I started by working the occasional overtime shift at work & stopped spending money on things I didn’t need.
    Saving is now a priority. After the bills are paid, I put money away every pay check. On a mortgage check that may only be $25, but I look at any amount as a victory. The next check of the month I put away as much as possible, this month I’m trying to save $500 or more if possible.
    I have a goal to buy a car from a co worker who is moving away. I have already told my kids that Christmas this year is going to be about spending time together. We don’t need really need anything. I used to spend an entire paycheck on gifts, then fall behind on the bills. Now, I’m focused on buying the car, so things will be different this year. I hate car payments, so if I can buy this car outright, it will also save me a lot of money in gas & interest costs for a loan. I’m currently driving a used van that I’m going to give to my son.
    I read your newsletters faithfully to stay on track with my savings. It has completely changed the way I handle my money.

    • says

      Wow Dee you really are going for it. That is so great. Sounds like you have made up your mind to get serious about your money and I always say that is half of the battle and you are really on the right track. Congrats!!!! and good job. Holler if you have any questions or something we can help you with.

  11. CJ says

    I love getting garage sale clothes. We frequently get hand-me-downs from friends and cousins, but my oldest girl doesn’t get as much due to competing for sizes with some other cousins. So often I fill out her wardrobe with garage sale finds.

    I find the richer/more affluent neighbourhoods are the best bet, as they often have the best selection and the best condition. This year, I scoured the ads first thing in the morning to find one that advertised girls clothes, and hit paydirt the first sale! In 20 minutes, I had spent $20 and filled 3 grocery bags of clothes (her summer wardrobe basically), bought a pair of barely-used snow-pants for next season, a few board games and some books. I even picked up a few dresses for my younger daughter. The girls were thrilled with their “new to them” finds!

  12. RanchWife says

    Love this post. Yes, I would actually say it does take more time. Time with your kids to teach them basic skills of cooking and shopping. Time with hubby catching up on our day, goals & dreams.
    We have been 100% debt free for 2 years now and prior to that, only had a small house payment. When the economy tanked, we were fine…even when hubby was laid off as we had built up our emergency fund.
    We have a lot of people ask how we do it, because to look at us, and then see what we have amassed, it just doesnt make sense. But that is exactly it. We save bread bags. We have older cars. We bake from scratch and we grow a few of our own foods. We didn’t have “smart” phones until just recently and we dont have cable. Priorities. We wanted to have a great retirement and be able to travel as well as enjoy our – one day – grandkids. :) We sacrificed early to enjoy later. Easy? Nope, not at all – especially when our friends were on nice vacations and had luxury cars. But … we’re the ones enjoying now.

  13. Mary Jane says

    Interesting article. In the past, we have butchered a hog or a cull beef bought inexpensively from a farmer. We take an afternoon to get it home and then hang it up to age. When the ageing is done, we take a weekend, (three days, if it is a beef) and devote it entirely to cutting and wrapping the meat in our back porch, and kitchen. It is a lot of work, and many have said it is too much. I agree that it is a huge job, but once the meat is in the freezer, I never have to buy meat again,for up to a year. Week in, week out, I get to walk buy the meat counter and not worry about the cost, lugging it home, or re wrapping any item. So really, the butchering season saves me a lot of money, time and peace of mind. I know that this is an unusual example, but frugal people do frugal things and keep doing them because the pay off is so good, in more than one way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 5 = twelve

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>