Mastering Frugal Living- Becoming More Self-Sufficient

by RC on December 29, 2008

This is the third part of a 4-part series on trying to “master” what I consider the key components of frugal living. They are delaying gratification, reducing waste, developing self-sufficiency, and simple living and avoiding consumerism.

In today’s world, it is easy to pay someone to do things that 50 years ago no one, unless you were ultra-rich, would have dreamed of hiring someone to do for them. We have become, for better or worse, a society of specialists, so to speak. Our overall lifestyle in the U.S. has become more affluent, as well as more complicated and crowded with all sorts of entertainment, electronics, and other choices and distractions for our time and money. While many of these items increase the quality of life, others are more “convenience” items, that may make our lives seem easier, when in fact they may make them more complicated instead.

Problems with an affluent lifestyle

While some aspects of an affluent lifestyle, such as better health care or education opportunities do increase the quality of many people’s lives, the increased convenience and increase in income may cause us to think we should just pay someone to do things instead of doing them ourselves.

This has become the norm, in fact, but it leads to problems:

  • We forget or never learn how to do certain tasks
  • Paying someone to do chores or tasks becomes routine
  • We become averse to performing certain tasks ourselves

Take cleaning your house, as an example, but it could easily be something else such as mowing the lawn, changing your own oil, or planting a garden. I know several people who have hired a cleaning person on a temporary basis, only to tell me that they can’t believe they didn’t do it sooner, and that they have hired the person on a regular basis now.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are paying someone to do things for you temporarily, and then having that service or task you are paying for become a routine part of your life.

The fact of the matter is, hiring someone to do tasks for you costs money. If you are more than comfortable financially, or you are earning income in the spare time it would take you to perform the task yourself, then maybe it makes sense to pay someone.

But if you are in debt, or not where you want to be financially, it is probably a good idea to try to do as many things yourself as you possible can.

How can you become more self-sufficient?

  • Start doing things yourself- Do you really not have time to iron 4 or 5 work shirts per week? Instead of taking them to the cleaners, set aside 20-30 minutes on the weekend to iron all of your shirts for thew upcoming workweek.
  • Educate yourself and learn new skills- Routine car maintenance, for example is not too hard and can be learned from a book like a Haynes automotive manual. Learn how to repair all sorts of things around your house. You can also learn how to make things, too.
  • Cut back on some of the unnecessary luxuries you pay someone to do for you- Eating out for example, is basically you paying someone to prepare food for you. Do you eat out too often? Start cooking at home more.

Certainly, there are some things may be beyond the reach of people with a limited amount of time to learn new skills, or that may be dangerous, such as electrical work. But there are many more examples of types of do-it-yourself repair or maintenance, cleaning or yard work, fixing things, or other skills we all can learn to do ourselves instead of paying someone.

As an added bonus, you can perform tasks or fix things on your timetable, instead of waiting for a repairman to show up at your house or a mechanic to fix your car, and have the satisfaction of being more self-sufficient.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie December 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

These are some great ideas for saving a little extra money here and there. I would really like to learn how to change my own oil … it would beat spend upwards of $40 for someone else to do a job that takes like 20 minutes. Plus those waiting rooms always smell funny.


Monroe on a Budget January 6, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Look into the community education programs in your area. Sometimes they are sponsored by school districts, sometimes by colleges, sometimes by a city recreation department. The community education in my area usually include practical life skills among their topics.


RC January 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

@Carrie- The price of oil changes does seem to have gone up a lot recently- I may work on a post for changing oil, although there are some good resources available on the web. Here is one:
How to Change Your Own Oil



RC January 6, 2009 at 11:11 pm

@ Monroe- That is a great tip, thanks! There are some pretty good courses offered at some of those places, like car maintenance classes, etc., some of which get pretty detailed and can make you almost an “expert”.


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