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Living a frugal green lifestyle

The Star Online - by Carol Yip

By Carol Yip
Saturday Dec 25, 2010

TIRED of keeping up with the urban lifestyle? You keep spending and never seem to have saved anything at the end of the month?

If that's the case, consider making major changes to your lifestyle. Give yourself a chance to live a frugal lifestyle. Frugal living isn't about sacrifice and deprivation; it's about smart and wise living. Neither does it mean that you are stingy and being cheap if you take control of the amount of money you spend.

People often have different perspectives about frugal living. Unless you are clear in your purpose, embarking on a frugal lifestyle can prove challenging since it requires some basic life changes.

To save money, one can get the cobbler to replace the shoe sole instead of buying a new pair.

Strange but true one of the cruel ironies of life is that only when forced to make a life-changing decision after we experience a major loss of income, a career, business or investment failure, do we really appreciate the true value of money.

Think about it. Prior to a life-changing experience where substantial finances might be lost, material things and fun experiences seem most important. But after a financial disruption, we find ways to make do with what we have and accept situations that we might not have accepted in better times.

This acceptance indicates that we have found financial enlightenment and peace, and have rejected the notion of financial struggle to make ends meet. Often we end up happier like this.

Frugal living means living below your financial means. This implies that you are capping your spending and assuming a ceiling on your earnings. This perspective begins with establishing the amount of money you earn and work towards making your spending fit the parameters. When you live below your financial means, you will tend to concentrate on strategies to curb your spending. You will fuss over your budget and become creative in your spending patterns by working around your money limitations.

Smarter spending and better savings

When we live through life, we are consistently confronted with unforeseen situations and experiences. Hence, a possible “self-protective mechanism” is to adopt a saving approach to living, accept minimalism as a virtue and just be more down-to-earth. Then, stretch your remaining money as much as you can. Learn to get the best deal on what you buy. When you adopt the habits of a frugal shopper, you are in full control of your spending and can increase your savings. You'll find tonnes of frugal spending ideas on the Internet.

Harnessing your creativity

You will become creative to get what you want without spending much. Every day presents new opportunities to be creative and save more money, and it takes a creative frugal person to recognise these opportunities.

You may even enjoy the challenge and fun it presents. For instance, you enjoy getting the cobbler to replace the shoe sole instead of buying a new pair; you like to wear old dresses tucked away in the closet instead of replacing them with new ones; you enjoy planting vegetables instead of buying from the market; you either consciously reduce the portion of cooked food to avoid overeating or cook extra for tomorrow's lunch at work; you purposely take the LRT to avoid the traffic jam and to get some walking exercise instead of heading to the gym.

Don't be surprise that you will privately recognise all these as small steps will soon reap big rewards at the end of it not only financially but for our environment too.

Added bonus of frugal living

There is an ancient Indian proverb that says, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” The proverb implies that unless this generation takes care of the earth, the next generation won't have much to work with when it comes to natural resources.

If you accept the law of nature, then every one of us has a responsibility when it comes to conservation and protection of the environment. Realigning your consuming behavior by reusing, recycling, recreating and sharing what you already have instead of creating clutters and wastage only means you are being eco-friendly to our planet earth.

When frugal spending and appreciation of mother nature go hand-in-hand, we are living a “frugal-green” lifestyle. For instance, living “frugally green” means you are practical, hands-on and creative with ideas to save electricity and water even though your utility bill is not a major expense. You become environment friendly and appreciate Malaysia's weather by:

lCollecting rain water and use it to water the garden, wash the car porch or use for your home's toilets.

Installing sky-light panels on the roof to allow sunlight into the house and use energy-saving light bulbs.

Installing an air vent and fan instead of an air-conditioning unit to cool the house.

Installing solar-energy panels to heat up the water tank instead of using an electric or gas water heater.

At the end of it, eco-friendly home living means you are helping to preserve mother earth for our children and future generations. It is also a nice transition towards frugal lifestyle with a purpose of helping you to achieve financial sustainability. Wouldn't you want to consider this proposal as your new year's resolution?

Let's all start the year 2011 with a new “frugal-green” lifestyle. It's a cool attitude.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Merry Christmas and prosperous new year.

Carol Yip is a personal financial coach and also founder and CEO of Abacus for Money.

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