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The Lazy Person’s Guide To Frugality

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I write articles like “Minimal-Commitment Ways to Make Money,” and “How to Avoid Permanent or Full-Time Jobs.” I try to work as little as possible to earn a buck.

I’m lying in bed with a laptop writing this, and I like the idea of doing things like lying in a plasma center getting paid to donate blood.

I’m not exactly lazy. I’ll work hard when necessary. For example, I regularly hike many miles to find hidden caves and waterfalls. But to have the energy for my desired activities it helps to keep other efforts to a minimum. Let’s call it “strategic effort-avoidance.”

Okay, call it laziness if you like, but maybe you share my predilection for getting things done with the least effort possible, and having as much work-free time as possible. And you might already suspect that frugality is an important part of these goals.

Being frugal means less work is needed to earn sufficient money, and being “lazy” means finding easier ways to be frugal. So I’m going to share some low-effort strategies for saving money, along with some tips for indulging your “laziness” by cutting the right expenses.

Here’s lesson one in this lazy person’s guide to frugality…

1. Save Money By Doing Less

Being frugal can involve work. For example, I’ve spent a fair amount of time, planning, and effort to get the right hotel credit cards and to earn points from them.

Then I’ve spent hours searching for hotels in locations my wife and I want to visit, and which are available using the points in my account. All that to save $100 or so!

And then there was yesterday, when my wife and I simply cancelled a road trip we had planned. Instead, we soaked in the hot tub for a while, and went out for lunch. That was a much easier way to save money, and it suggests a powerful frugal maxim: Do less to spend less.

I’m not suggesting you do nothing (although that would be very inexpensive). But it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and find yourself doing things you really aren’t enjoying. In our case, my wife and I realized we would enjoy staying in town even more that taking that trip. Save your efforts for the things that matter most, and you’ll save money too.

Doing less can be as simple as waiting to do things, which brings us to our next lesson…

2. Procrastinate To Save Money

Procrastination can be the result of laziness, but it can also be a powerful way to cut down on expenditures. I’ve covered this subject before in my article, “Six Different Ways Procrastination Can Save You Money.”

Waiting can result in finding a better price or better value. Waiting to pay cash can also save you money that would have gone to interest payments.

But the biggest savings from procrastination come from the fact that you’ll often change your mind and not buy the product or service you’re considering. In fact, a scientific study found that, “Procrastination predicts if a consumer will effectively buy or not.”

Get lazy! There isn’t a much easier way to save money than to just wait.

3. Buy Less To Save Money

What’s easier than simply shopping less to save money? Save the effort of buying things and save the effort of making the money to buy them. Enough said.

Well, there is one more important point: Especially avoid buying things that add ongoing costs to your life, which brings us to one of the most powerful lessons here…

4. Keep Your Fixed Expenses Low

If you can’t easily get out of paying for something, it’s a fixed expense. For example, if you rent a boat it’s a one-time expense. But if you buy a boat you buy into regular expenses that include insurance, licensing, storage and docking fees (as well as gas, oil, maintenance and repairs if you actually use the boat).

As expensive as renting may seem, it almost always costs less to rent a boat, snowmobile, jet ski, or RV when you feel the urge, rather than to buy one. It’s also safer financially, since when you rent, you have no fixed expenses to cover if your income drops.

Did I mention that there is also a lot less work involved in renting versus owning a boat or RV? That might appeal to some of you who seek strategic effort-avoidance.

And by the way, my wife and I would never directly own that hot tub we soaked in yesterday. It’s part of the common facilities that come with our condo. It’s cheaper and simpler that way.

The most important point here is that having higher fixed expenses means you have to work more to earn enough money. It’s so obvious that almost everyone misses it.

5. Keep Your Housing Simple and Cheap

This is partly an extension of the last point, since housing expenses are the often your biggest fixed expenses.

For some ideas on how to put a roof over your head for a lot less money, read my article, “40 Cheap Housing Options.” But you might also want to see my article on ways to save on rent and the one that asks the question, “Are you ready to own a home?

As a homeowner, I can tell you that owning is always more work than renting. It’s true that our simple condo doesn’t require yard work, outside painting, or roof repairs (all of these are the homeowners association’s responsibility), but in the last few months we’ve repaired the garbage disposal, and replaced a refrigerator and hot water heater.

As for the cost, recent statistics suggest that in most parts of the country it costs less to rent than to buy, and that’s comparing similar properties. You can save even more by renting a small place, and it’s easier to find a small place to rent than to buy.

Whether you rent or buy, cheap and simple housing gives you a roof over your head for the least amount of work.

6. Find Maximum Savings For Minimum Effort

Call it laziness or just working smart, but when you put forth the minimum effort to accomplish a given goal, it usually means expending minimal time too, and those two factors mean you have more time and energy for other goals.

To apply that to frugality, look for the maximum savings possible with the least amount or work. As explained in my article,, “What’s Your Minimum Savings-Per-Hour Rate?” it probably makes more sense to spend an hour getting new car insurance quotes (potential savings $50 to $200 per hour) than clipping grocery coupons (potential savings $2 to $10 per hour).

Always start by searching out the biggest savings for your  time. Put off the rest for later. If you never get to that minimum-wage coupon clipping, that’s just fine.

7. Look For High-Value Freebies

I’m a sucker for freebies. My wife and I have done new home tours just to get the swag bags, and we regularly hit the free food samples at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

But it’s easy to waste time and/or work too hard just to get something of minimal value for free. A lazy frugalist looks for maximum value for minimal time and effort, and that goes for freebies too. For examples of what’s possible, see my article, “A Dozen High-Value Freebies You Probably Didn’t Know About,” which includes tips on where to get free stuff like…

  • College Education
  • Dental Care
  • Business Mentoring
  • Hotel Nights

Just think of the time and effort you’ll save by getting that degree for free versus working to pay for it (of course you could avoid the effort of college altogether and get paid to get educated). Look for those high-value freebies.

8. Get Lucky

I’d rather be lucky than work hard — and I have been. To do the same, see my post on “10 Ways To Get Lucky With Money.’’ It covers some serious research on luck that’s been done in recent years.

Some people will quibble with the term, “luck,” since cause and effect are always in play. But whether you call it luck, strategic positioning, or just working smart instead of hard, there are ways to arrange for more good fortune in your life.

9. Develop The Right Habits

The thing about habits is that they make doing things easy. You work to develop those habits, but that upfront effort lets you work a lot less going forward.

In my article, “9 Frugal Habits That Can Save You Thousands of Dollars,” I explain how my wife and I, when eating out, are in the habit of going to the restaurant bar during happy hour. We eat the specials and/or split a meal, saving us 50% versus eating at a table in prime time.

There are many other habits you can develop to save money with minimum effort. Examples include eating a meal before grocery shopping, turning down the thermostat when you leave the house, delaying purchases (see #2 above), and paying off those credit cards in full every month.

Once you establish a frugal habit, you do it more-or-less automatically, so you save money with a minimum of effort.

10. Do A Bit Of Mental Work To Save A Lot Of  Physical Effort

All of the suggestions above point to one basic maxim for those of us who want to take it easy and still have a good life at a lower cost: Work smarter rather than harder.

Call it laziness if you like, but I’ve worked full time only a few months in the last 35 years, and I quit jobs whenever I felt like it. That was made possible by consciously choosing to be frugal in order to reduce the necessity of work.

Put your brain to work to find time-efficient ways to save money. That mental effort will save you thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of much harder work.

If you have your own low-effort ways to save money, please share them with us below … and keep on frugaling!

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