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My Story: The Frugal Living Investment

contributed by Lew

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I was reading a "get rich quick" book that was quite critical of frugality. I was trying to come up with ways to earn higher interest on my investments. Currently, here in Canada, safe investments guaranteed by the banks are paying interest rates lower than the rate of inflation. It dawned on me that living frugally is actually an investment and one that pays interest much higher than what I earn from financial institutions.

Practicing frugality seems to break down into two areas: physical skills and acquired knowledge.

I find that a do-it-yourself skill, such as repairing window screens, is very simple and saves me more than the one or two percent that the bank would pay me on the cash saved.

Cooking from "scratch" not only provides better food but saves me a lot of money. Our monthly food bill for two people averages $150 per month. We make our own bread, and although I have not done a cost breakdown, I know we save money. Bread here usually sells for $2 to $3 for the cheapest loaf. The last time we bought bread we paid $1 a loaf.

We buy groceries once a month and try to keep a three months supply on hand. It takes very little storage room and allows us to sail past the periodic spikes in prices caused by short supply or other inflated price cycles. Being tea drinkers, we buy it by the case when it is on sale. Currently, the brand of tea we like is selling for $4 to $5 for a box of 72. Ours cost $2.

They say that knowledge is power and I believe that it also true when it comes to being frugal.

Being a pensioner on a fixed income, I make it a point to check for government and utility programs aimed at seniors. This also applies to non-seniors who wish to supplement their income. Recently our natural gas supplier installed a high-end thermostat at no cost to us. They benefit by having the ability to adjust the central air conditioner through Wi-Fi during extreme heat alerts. This has no downside to me since I was honest and told them we do not use our central air but instead use ceiling fans to cool the house. The government has various grants and tax reductions available but often they must be tracked down. Therefore, my research time on the internet for these "perks" becomes an investment.

Negotiating is both a skill and a form of knowledge that will bring cash back to you. Stores want to sell their products, and by negotiating the best deal, you both can win. When I bought our last vehicle, I got a fair price and negotiated the installation of a high-end trailer hitch. It was a win-win situation for both of us.

Routine maintenance pays dividends. The dividends are much higher than the sub-inflation interest currently being paid by banks. A regular oil change extends the life of an automobile and saves making premature car payments. A good mechanic will point out repairs needed before they become critical, saving money. Plus, my mechanic has talked me out of purchases I thought I needed for my car but didn't. This is a rare person indeed.

The next time I bemoan the low interest paid by bank investments, I will try to remember that there are many other forms of investments that don't always show up on my financial records.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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