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As a federal employee that makes less than $35,000 a year, my frugal living 101 skills are at level Yoda.

The chances of acquiring a higher paying job are slim because I love being a Park Ranger. However, the smaller earnings doesn’t mean I don’t have big goals of early retirement!

To achieve this big dream of retirement in 15 years, I need to squeeze every ouch out of my finances. Over the years, I kept what worked, dropped what didn’t, and learned new hacks.

It’s kind of like the lifestyle of rich and famous in the sense that it’s the lifestyle of the frugal and unknown.

Growth Mindset

Of all the things I do to save money, it all stems from having a frugal attitude. Not in the sense that there isn’t enough money but in the sense that I haven’t tapped all the avenues of money-making. This view is compliments of the growth mindset.

I was reluctant to adopt a growth mindset because a fixed mindset is easy. I can say things like, “I am the worst at math and that is just how it is.” This is logical and easy. Accepting that means I don’t have to change.

Whereas, with a growth mindset, I have to say things like, “I am not good at math now, but I plan on beating my husband in secret math challenges in the future.” Having this mindset is powerful, but it’s also challenging.

If I want to be better, I have to do something about it. It’s the same feeling I get when I see a hyperactive toddler running around the store, touching all the shiny things. That little guy takes a lot of time, energy, and mental fortitude!

Even with the effort, it’s worth it. Because now that frugal habits are engaged, they run on autopilot without thought. What to do with extra holiday pay? It’s going on parade from my checking account to savings and investing. What to do with extra money from my budget? It’s going to excel itself over to savings and investing. Found change on the street? It’s going to receive extra sanitization as it makes way over to a jar for savings and investing.

Lean Housing

Since the Coronacation started, I spend much of my life at home. It is just another opportunity to practice frugal living 101.

I reduce energy costs by turning off lights and unplugging all the things, from the TV to the toaster. I cancel phantom energy.

Coldwater is the default option from washing clothes to washing a face. I save heat for showers and dishes!

These little adjustments didn’t seem big until I calculated a years worth of utility bills. I received a little jolt when I realized more is spent on internet than gas AND electricity.

Honed Hobbies

Frugal living 101 has a special spot for hobbies. My hobbies were shopping at the mall, partying, and shopping at stores other than the mall.

My view of hobbies started to change when I was an unhappy receptionist. I had defined myself by my career, and when I couldn’t do that anymore, my hobbies became more important than shopping. It changed into how I define myself.

I started revisiting reading. It was my gateway drug when I was a kid.

I moved a lot, and books were one of the few constants in my life, at least until high school. It took a while, but ever since, I have been devouring books. Initially, it was books that I bought, but I wised up and began borrowing library books. The nice staff at the libraries are much better caretakers with their fancy dust covers and catalog system.

Books are also where I learned a wide array of frugal hobbies, from drawing and writing to investing and personal finances.

Each year I try a new hobby. I have tried a bunch of things, and not all of them are successful. Knitting, coding, and picking locks were unsuccessful hobbies. Juggling, investing, and drawing are all winners in my frugal hobby book.

It’s a short book.

Frugal Living 101

Accepting a frugal lifestyle means that I agree to saving money, helping the planet, and focusing my values on things that don’t involve money, which seems ironic.

I am saving money, but I am also happy without it.

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