Coupon Shoebox has a piece up on ways to “increase your frugality” that range from the questionable to a couple that are okay.

Television programming: I have high speed Internet. I have Netflix. This means that I have access to TV shows the day after they air, and that I have access to movies — some of them using instant play with my TV via my Web-connected PS3. So, why am I paying more than $70 a month for TV service?

This one is fair enough… for the time being. But, as I will state more thoroughly in a future post, this model only works because others are paying for cable. If people start cancelling cable en masse, what do you think the odds are that the makers of television programs will take the hit and allow people to consume their product at lower prices? They are already hitting up Netflix hard and Hulu’s free offerings have diminished. Television programming is expensive at least in part because it is expensive to produce. The free (or cheap) ride will only take you so far. If you want TV programming, in the longer run, you’re going to have to be willing to pay for it.

Magazines: We are in the process of culling our magazines. Most have online versions, and there is no reason to be paying for magazine subscriptions when so much of what I read in terms of news and commentary is online anyway.

The same applies here, though to a much lesser extent. Content is not nearly as expensive to produce in the text form as the visual. Given this, I do believe that one way or another, it’s the content-producers that will have to make the adjustments and people in general are going to have to make due with lesser quality. So this one works, more or less.

Paper books: I love reading and I love books. But my husband recently pointed out that electronic versions of books for readers like the Nook, Kindle and iPad are much less expensive than buying hard copies. With the amount of reading I do, it would be relatively easy to recoup the initial cost of buying an electronic reader. Plus, electronic books would reduce the clutter in our home.

Errr, no, the electronic versions are not “much less expensive” than the hard copies. Unless you’re looking specifically at new release hard covers. A much better way to reduce spending on paperbacks is to buy used. Of course, buying used paperbacks won’t let you buy a neat new gadget under the banner of frugality, now will it?

Clutter: Speaking of clutter, we’ve got more of it than I like. I could definitely live without it. We’ve been practicing more mindful spending, so that we aren’t bringing in more clutter, but we could get rid of a lot of the stuff that we have.

Unless you think you’re going to make a lot of money getting rid of the existing clutter, this has little to do with frugality. More mindful spending does, of course, but that’s a thing unto itself.

Meat: I’m not saying I’m going vegetarian. But I have found that I don’t need so much meat. Meat is expensive, and it can affect your health if you eat too much of it. We’re looking into preparing more meatless dishes. This should lower health care costs down the road, as well as mean more money in our budget now.

This strikes me more as health sanctimony as it does frugality. McDonald’s hamburgers can be the cheapest food around.

Christmas presents: With the holidays just around the corner, many are already preparing for holiday shopping. But do you really need more stuff? You can save money by purchasing fewer, more thoughtful, presents. It’s hard to resist the consumer call of Christmas, but we are trying.

Well yes, spending less on gifts for others will save money.


Category: Market

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11 Responses to Frugal Chic

  1. Mike Hunt says:

    this model only works because others are paying for cable

    This is true even for the broadcast networks. Even though they are nominally free, they are all part of cable conglomerates that subsidize their operations. Also, $70 per month for TV is steep, unless you have the package with 40 HBOs and 28 Showtimes. She should start by getting a more reasonable package.

    If everyone switched to watching TV online, then ISPs would start to charge more to make up for all the bandwidth being used.

    Magazines

    I don’t bring my laptop into the bathroom, so you need a paper based product at some point. Also, to me, reading off of paper is more pleasureable asthetically.

    The thing about both magazines and newspapers is that what you pay for them doesn’t even cover the cost of distribution and the actual raw materials, namely paper and ink. The actual content has ALWAYS been for free.

    Clutter

    If you make a point to reduce clutter in your home, you are less likely to buy useless junk in the first place. It is more of a mindset than anything else.

    Meat

    I have to agree with her on this one. After all, Hamburger Helper was invented for that very reason. And people have been adding bread to meat loaf since forever. McDonald’s is not cheaper than making your own hamburger at home.

    Xmas presents

    Only full-time students 23 and under should get presents. Everyone else: Grow the hell up.

  2. kevin says:

    On the presents thing, it’s actually kind of funny. My wife’s family went from “buy for everybody” to “buy for the kids and the adults will pick one other adult to buy for.” On my side of the family, my parents sent us a letter asking us to please forego adult Christmas presents this year and my brother sent an email asking for the same thing. I feel bad for retailers but, sorry, we just don’t need all the crap you produce.

  3. Samson says:

    I get a kick out of these sorts of articles. Isn’t everyone with the sense and self-discipline to want to save money already aware of these strategies? If any of the above concepts are novel to you, you probably aren’t the type to put them into practice.

  4. Abel says:

    Errr, no, the electronic versions are not “much less expensive” than the hard copies. Unless you’re looking specifically at new release hard covers. A much better way to reduce spending on paperbacks is to buy used. Of course, buying used paperbacks won’t let you buy a neat new gadget under the banner of frugality, now will it?

    This really depends on the author. When it comes to top selling authors like Lee Child or Michael Connelly the answer is no, you don’t save much money. However, there’s a growing number of mid-list authors who are taking control of their writing careers by going Indie (self publishing) or partnering with Amazon. Their new releases tend to be MUCH cheaper than even paperback versions of their books (generally priced $5.99 or so).

    Also, there’s plenty of books out there priced from $2.99 or less. Yes, there’s lots of poorly written crap in this price range but for 99 cents, it’s a great and inexpensive way to find new authors.

  5. trumwill says:

    Also, $70 per month for TV is steep, unless you have the package with 40 HBOs and 28 Showtimes. She should start by getting a more reasonable package.

    Mine is actually over $70/mo (not counting GamePlan and SportsPack). I don’t have HBO, but I do have a large plan. I plan on downgrading any day now. FX and that other channel isn’t worth all the channels I am paying for but almost never watch. It’s certainly the first place I would look if I were looking for ways to cut down on expenditures.

    If everyone switched to watching TV online, then ISPs would start to charge more to make up for all the bandwidth being used.

    Very good point. And they would charge more because they are as often as not owned by content-providers that would want you paying for their cable channels.

    I don’t bring my laptop into the bathroom,

    Well there’s your problem…

    More seriously, I don’t really do bathroom reading. If it’s a short visit, there isn’t the time. If it’s a long visit, chances are I will be distracted during the heavy-duty excavation.

    If you make a point to reduce clutter in your home, you are less likely to buy useless junk in the first place. It is more of a mindset than anything else.

    Fair enough.

    McDonald’s is not cheaper than making your own hamburger at home.

    It is if your time is worth anything.

    Only full-time students 23 and under should get presents. Everyone else: Grow the hell up.

    It depends on your finances. If it’s not a problem, it’s nice to be able to get something for someone that they wouldn’t get for themselves but you think they could/would use.

  6. trumwill says:

    Kevin,

    We still do gifts for immediate family and spouses every year, though we’ve stopped with the birthdays. As I mention to Mike, it’s nice to be able to get something for someone that they won’t get for themselves. But it’s certainly not the big deal it used to be when I was young. I usually get my father and brother books. I found an old beer 1970’s beer can with the logo of his alma mater and another with the logo of mine. He likes that sort of thing and is probably unaware it exists (but even I know where he will put it). This year I will be getting Dad a texting phone because I don’t think he fully appreciates how not-difficult texting has to be. I’m veering towards audiobooks for Mom, which she enjoys but bends over backwards not to buy.

  7. trumwill says:

    Isn’t everyone with the sense and self-discipline to want to save money already aware of these strategies? If any of the above concepts are novel to you, you probably aren’t the type to put them into practice.

    It’s not that hard to take a step back and figure out where your money is going. That’s one of the ways that credit cards are (or can be) quite conducive to good money management.

    If you haven’t bothered to look and see where your money is going, though, you’re probably not going to do a great job in cutting expenses. I can see people cancelling their cable and then turning around and rewarding themselves with DVDs, for instance, the same way people consume 500 calories to reward themselves for burning off 175 on an exercise bike.

  8. trumwill says:

    Abel, you’re comparing ebooks to new books, though. If you really want to save money, used bookstores are where it’s at. Actually, the library is, but I understand why people don’t go down that route.

  9. Abel says:

    Agree that used books can save one a bundle. The trade off is that its difficult to find the book you want, unless you buy used on Amazon.

  10. trumwill says:

    Which is, of course, why you should buy used from Amazon 🙂

  11. Scarlet Knight says:

    [McDonald’s] is [cheaper] if your time is worth anything.

    If you look at any of these sites, you will see that these people value their time at close to nil.

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