Our version of frugal

My partner and I subscribe to a different lifestyle than most of our peers. (Hint: we are more frugal kitty than fancy kitty).

We are both in our early-mid 20s, we own our cars, we rent our apartment, and we have no debt.

And right now, we don’t have a kitty. Or any pet. At least not yet.

Unlike many of our friends, we aren’t buying a house right now. And while we envision a future for ourselves where we can afford a beautiful home to share and grow our family in, it’s not on our radar right now.

We take trips and enjoy traveling. Usually, to visit family, run races, or just to get to the beach for the day.

We are also frugal with our time. We give it up reluctantly. This may seem cold, but in reality, there are a few very important things in our lives that require our quality time and devotion. Like family. Our relationship. And our careers.

A more recent ‘important thing’ is our finances. Crafting financial independence out of a graduate student stipend is not easy.

“Frugal Kitty”

Time is on our side right now, though. And as part of a natural progression towards financial independence, we have begun making several changes in our daily lives. We don’t have a ton of experience with all of these changes. We are just trying to get creative and see ‘what sticks.’

We use one kind of water

Whatever comes out of the sink. We turned off the water heater to save money. We want to soak up whatever residual cash we were spending on heating the cold water and save it for other purposes. Like the move. Or investments that will generate future income, basically turning our water into cash. Turning off the heat may turn out to be a drop in the bucket.

This has actually worked out ok for us over the past two months. We live <5 minute walk from our gym, which has hot water. Do we want to live this way forever? Of course not. But the numbers are enticing. Say we save $200 over the course of a year.

Even $200 in annual savings could compound into over $40,000 at 7% in 40 years.

Another way of looking at it: it would take an extra $6,700 in income to pay that $200 in annual fees, at a 3% yield.

We turn off electricity to unused rooms

This was another recent change we made. There are a couple circuits in the apartment that get fed unused electricity. Since we turned off circuits that we don’t access, we haven’t noticed the difference. Although electricity costs aren’t too bad here, our apartment building was built in the 1960’s, so this bullet and the first make a difference.

Our future kitty is going to thank us for all these smart, frugal moves when we were younger. Or, maybe just for the fancy feast.

frugal kitty
This is how frugal kitty looks when fancy feast is deeply discounted.

We use gym showers

I mentioned our gym has showers. With hot water. Since we both workout in the mornings, we get a shower in right after. Evening showers are usually at home. In addition to cutting costs on heat, we are cutting some on volume, too.

We wash clothes in our bathtub

This is probably the least convenient and most time consuming. Since we live in an apartment with no washer/dryer, we were taking our dirty clothes and quarters to the laundry mat each week. We spent about $5-6 (or more) between washing and drying. I would say we spent close to $300 easy per year. 
Now, we spend a fraction of that just to keep the water on and for detergent. Not our most glamorous hack, but it does the job.

We shop by unit price

Until we started looking at unit prices on price tags in our local grocery stores, we didn’t realize how much we were overpaying for certain basic goods and foods. We’ve learned that the cheapest ground coffee gets priced is close to 17 cents an ounce. When it’s this cheap, we usually buy 5-10 units. This is a rarity, as most weeks, the price hovers close to 23 cents – 25 cents an ounce, and usually it is higher. We always get the cheapest, which is usually Folgers, but can be Maxwell House, too. In contrast, Starbucks coffee is usually 50 cents to 90 cents an ounce. I’ll take 50% savings anyway, especially for a regular purchase like coffee. (If anyone knows of bulk coffee distributers, let me know…)

We look for deep discounts

Second to rent, food is our single biggest expense. It is also our most enjoyable expense, and our time in the kitchen is some of our happiest times. We usually go to Sam’s and Wal-Mart to buy the cheapest we can get across the two stores, and purchase the rest of our food at Publix.

We put everything we can on a reward points credit card

We charge things that we already owe to the card, in addition to groceries. We pay the balance in full at the end of every month, so we are left with the points generated by the spending. We recently stopped charging our rent to the card, because the online vendor that processes the charges adds a small 2% fee to the charge. Since that fee obliterates any additional income we save (for example from turning off the heat), we decided it would be best to pay the rent in cash. This is typical for university-based graduate-housing situations, unfortunately.

With the move coming up, we’re hoping these changes towards frugal will make a difference. I’ll have to keep the changes going after he moves in order to crunch the numbers. I’ll share those as soon as I can. I’m very excited to see them. Thankfully, I have a partner that is extremely supportive and willing to participate.

Take care,

Dylan

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  • AbigailP

    Hey, if the gym is willing to give you free hot water, who are you to turn it down? And just think how much you’re saving the environment during evening showers: I bet without hot water those things are awfully quick!

    • http://www.mrmodernmillennial.com Mr. Modern Millennial

      Hi Abigail,

      No kidding! I’ll take it where I can get it, I’m just glad that it’s so close.

      And I sort of skimped over the added value in having one kind of water! Showers are shorter. Probably under 2 minutes. I have to be real speedy (to avoid hypothermia!).

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Dylan

  • http://dividendlegion.blogspot.co.uk/ Dividend Legion

    Hey Dylan,

    Those are some very impressive frugal tactics! I don’t think I could live without my morning shower, so I find your methods even more impressive.

    PS. I’m liking your blog so far. Great quality content. Keep it up!

    Dividend Legion

    • http://www.mrmodernmillennial.com Mr. Modern Millennial

      Hey DL,

      We are trying to do what we can now, given the resources we have available to us. Some weeks are better than others.

      There is life on the other side of hot showers! haha.

      And thanks for the encouragement!

      See you around,
      Dylan

  • http://anythingyouwantblog.com Ali

    Wow – washing your clothes in the bathtub shows intense dedication to frugality! I really like the idea of showering at the gym as a way to save money. I’ve never thought of it that way, but it makes sense and might even help me get to the gym more often!

    • http://www.mrmodernmillennial.com Mr. Modern Millennial

      Like I said, it’s absolutely my least favorite frugal hack. But it’s a surprisingly good workout, twisting and squeezing all of our clothes.

      Another upside – I love the smell/feel of sun-dried clothes.

      And I never thought of it that way, either! More gym motivation ftw! haha.

  • http://www.mynerdylife.com Master Nerd

    Yes for unit pricing! I’ve started paying attention to that a lot more lately as well. Not all grocery stores do it, but many include $/lb in small print in the corner of the tag, which makes it easy to quickly see just how expensive something else. Companies can be quite deceiving by using a large package that’s mostly empty to make things appear cheaper than competitors until you realize there’s half as much stuff in the bag.

    Buying in bulk is awesome too. My partner and I love wine, and there’s nearly always a weekly deal at the store, so when one we like goes on sale we just buy a whole case.

    • http://www.mrmodernmillennial.com Mr. Modern Millennial

      I’ve noticed that not all grocery stores do it as well. Even within a store, not all products are labeled this way. It’s rather unfortunate, because it really lengthens the shopping experience for us.

      It’s why I have my phone out and my calculator on when I’m shopping.

      We love wine, too. When I met my partner, I would only drink reds. Usually merlots. Now, I’m in love with chardonnays. We’ve gone to a few tastings over the years and I’ve had the chance to expand my horizons a bit, but I keep coming back to the chardonnays.

      And there’s one that we like that we can get for 14 cents an ounce. Which is cheap in our parts. Not too long ago, there was a sale for a new brand at about 11 cents an ounce. It was the cheapest we had seen in years. So we bought 4 bottles. I wish we had bought 40!

      How many bottles come in a case? We haven’t tried buying this way, yet.

      • http://www.mynerdylife.com Master Nerd

        Oh really, even within the same store? Safeway (at least in Canada) does it for nearly everything. Another large discount chain called Superstore does it too. Superstore also has many items that are automatically cheaper if you buy in multiples (usually 3 or 6).

        Haha, I’m the opposite. I’ve always drank white, but every now and then I try to expand my horizons and try some reds, or get fancy and go for scotches, whiskeys, vodkas, and such. I find if I over indulge with red though I get a nasty hangover the next day. My partner and I have a bad (yet delicious) habit of polishing off a bottle while cooking dinner (aka on an empty stomach) so we’re well on our way by the time we actually sit down to eat. We tend to be more Pinot Grigio/Sauvignon Blanc drinkers, though I do like a good Resiling as well. We also quite enjoy cider and recently discovered Angry Orchard, which goes down dangerously easily.

        Wow, that’s incredibly cheap! Sadly alcohol is substantially more expensive in Canada due to the taxes. So the bottom of the barrel wines start at around 23 cents/ounce and anything actually worth drinking starts around ~35 cents/ounce, although you can go a little cheaper if you can find one that’s offered in larger “family size” bottles or a box (though I’m still questioning those). The cheapest wine I’ve ever bought was in Greece, where it was 2 Euros a bottle (26 oz).

        Typically cases have 12 bottles. Superstore often offers a deal if you buy 6 or 12 at a time, and Safeway gives 10% off if you get 6 or more (of any wine) at a time. It’s definitely the most economical way to go if you find something you like! If nothing else you’ll save on the gas/time going back and forth to the store. We have a weird system in Canada where liquor has to be sold in a separate external building than groceries, so there are tones of independent liquor stores in addition to the grocery chains.

        • http://www.mrmodernmillennial.com Mr. Modern Millennial

          A little hard to respond to several lines of thought, but here goes 🙂

          –Yeah, even within the same store, which is why it takes so long for us to shop because we wind up calculating some things ourselves. We have Super Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, both of which sell in bulk. It’s not always cheaper to go that route, though. A lot of the things we would buy are just as expensive, larger versions of the same product. But occasionally we bump into items sold in bulk that are cheaper because of it.

          –Haha, well I am known to occasionally indulge in some rum. I like mojitos. But as of late, we’ve trimmed down on the alcohol simply because of the added expense. Except for special occasions, like dinners at places that he wants to eat at before going to TX, we’ve been avoiding alcohol.

          –2 euros! That’s great. And we have always been suspect of those boxed wines. Even the frugal me cringes at what may sit inside those boxes. We haven’t tried them, yet.

          –The next time I’m at Sam’s I’ll have to look at the boxes more carefully. I think I’ve opted to steer clear of them because having so much wine in the house scares me a bit 🙂 I’d need to be **really** good about rationing…. And that would definitely save on trips. We’ve made several trips exclusively for wine because we are out of it right before or after dinner. And we hate making that special trip, especially because we’ve usually wound down for the night.

          • http://www.mynerdylife.com Master Nerd

            I’ve never actually purchased groceries at Walmart although we do have the Super-Centers here too. We rarely buy any food that’s prepackaged/processed and we find the quality of fresh items better at Safeway, but Walmart does have some bargains on non-food items. My partner’s not a big fan of them though as he works for an independent business, and on items that they compete it’s frustrating for him because the quality at Walmart is awful compared to his.

            Mmmm mojitos! I’ve actually been trying to switch more to hard liquor lately as it’s substantially cheaper than wine on a per-ounce basis. Even if you make yourself doubles every time, you should be able to get 13+ drinks out of a 26 oz bottle of liquor compared to your standard 5-ish for wine.

            Yeah, we’ve been guilty too of making trips exclusively to get more wine.

            Ps. Go us for turning this into a conversation about the economics of wine! 🙂

  • agunrunner

    could you put a washer in your apartment,a free one can be had on craigslist.it will save lots time. would cancel gym membership and turn back on the hot water,
    biking and jogging is free,as for turning off circuits if nothing is plugged in no electricity is used,use 23 watt cfl lamps,it will save big,you probably have an old refrigerator that costs a lot to run,stop using the credit card,you will spend less