Tips from the frugal queen

By Marelize Potgieter
30 December 2015

Living on the cheap doesn’t have to mean giving up what you love. Blogger Jordan Page shows how to do more with less.

The turning point in her life came when she and her husband found themselves in a financial crisis. They’d run up huge bills after a planned project fell through, leaving them with huge credit-card debt. 

Jordan Page (28) had always known how to live frugally but her changed financial status meant it became crucial. And instead of adapting her life only to improve the pressure on their bank balance, Jordan decided to share her new-found wisdom with the world. The mom of four of Utah in the US discusses ways to live “fun, cheap or free” and describes herself as the Frugal Queen on her website, funcheaporfree.com.

She sees it as her mission to redefine the concept of thrifty living and to teach people to have more, do more and live more in fun, cheap ways, she says. “Being frugal isn’t about giving up everything you love but learning to get everything you love the smart way.”

It took her and her husband, Brandt, better known as Bubba, about three-and-a-half years to pay off debt of almost $15 000 (R172 500) while raising Hutch (5), Priya (3), Beck (1) and Daivy (two months), so Jordan knows what she’s talking about. They also had a car loan of $105 000 (R1 207 500) they got rid of by selling the car and walking to work for a year.

One of the reasons her advice is so popular – she’s often a guest on the US talk-show circuit – is the fact she’s a regular mom  running a household of six who uses her own family problems to help others. Her topics range from feeding her family and hosting dinner parties for friends without breaking the bank to having a great budget beauty regime. She also discusses “luxuries” such as buying gifts and going on holiday – all with a frugal touch.

And most importantly, she realises how difficult  it can be to live on a budget. “Budgeting can be complicated,” she says. "Frustrating. Hard, even. When my husband and I went through our tough financial time we learnt one glaring fact about budgeting – simplifying works.” page The Page family – Priya, Beck, dad Bubba, baby Daivy, mom Jordan and Hutch – are learning how to “get everything you love the smart way”. There are many ways to live frugally – we look at some of Jordan’s advice. 

Bank on it

You may have to fork out a bit but look for the most cost-effective bank accounts and in the long run you’ll have a more streamlined budgeting system that could help you to save overall. Opening as many as seven bank accounts worked for the Page family.

1 Family emergency savings account Deposit five to 10 percent of your income into this account every month to be used in case of serious emergencies.

2 Family savings account This account is used to save for things such as a new couch or car.

3 Family cheque account Put the rest of your income into this account. From here you can transfer money to other accounts.

4 Wife’s cheque account Money for everything the wife pays or is responsible for goes into this account.

5 Husband’s cheque account Money for everything the husband pays or is responsible for goes into this account. 6 Health account Money for medical expenses goes into this account. 7 Slush fund Any leftover money goes into this account and it may be used only to have fun.

Break it down

Jordan keeps a long envelope in her wallet. On the back of it she’s drawn two columns – one for necessary expenses and one for other things – and divided them into four weeks. You could include the dates of the weeks in the respective blocks.

The reason for the blocks? You work out your exact budget for your essential expenses for the week with another amount for other

things such as entertainment, and you keep track of spending on your envelope.

Suppose you have R4 000 for Necessary and R2 000 for Other expenses a month. That means you have R1 000 and R500 a week  respectively. Every time you spend money you list the amount in the appropriate block on the envelope. Keep the slip and deduct the amount you’ve spent from the amount at the top of the column to see how much you have left for that week. If you find bargains in the supermarket and spend more than your column allows, you may borrow from the Other column of the same week – but never from the week to come. As Jordan puts it, “That line [between the two weeks] is like a concrete wall: you can’t break through that wall.”

Stick to it

If in a certain month you make extra money through commission or some other form of income, don’t adjust your budget, Jordan warns. Rather put that extra money into your slush or savings account. Being consistent helps you to become disciplined and makes living frugally a way of life – adjusting your budget breaks the habit and could lead to you wanting to adjust constantly even when there isn’t extra income.

Plan, plan, plan

Jordan and Bubba found it helps enormously to plan your budget for the upcoming year.  They use Google Calendar and diarise birthdays, holidays, long weekends and their wedding anniversary as well as their weekly date night. Donating to charity  and spiritual activities such as teaching Sunday school lessons are also entered, along with their annual medical checkups. This means they know exactly when they have to spend a bit extra. It takes lots of creativity to feed a family of six every day, Jordan says. She believes in planning meals, cooking large amounts of food that can be frozen, using leftovers in interesting ways (her site has plenty of examples) and knowing how to store food. She recently used a container of frozen cottage cheese instead of  ricotta cheese to make lasagne, for example, and to keep bananas from going bad fast she breaks up the bunch because they ripen more quickly when attached. She keeps opened cheese in tinfoil to prevent it from going mouldy and when the kids ask for fruit juice she adds water to make it go further.

Think no-name

Jordan doesn’t believe in buying branded food products when no-name products are available. “People often don’t realise that both products are made in the same factory,” she says. “The other thing you have to understand about name brands is that you aren’t paying more for quality; you’re paying more because they spend millions on commercials, packaging, marketing and market testing.” She keeps a notebook in which she notes the prices of certain products so she knows when something really is a bargain. She  compares them when she checks newspapers to see what the retailers have on special and buys the ones that have been  significantly marked down. But, she points out, be aware the prices of certain fresh products such as fruit and veg fluctuate often.

Quick tips

Excellent exercise programmes are available on the internet that you can do at any time at home.

  • Clean the basin when you wash your hands to save on cleaning products (you won’t need as much if your basin isn’t that dirty).
  • You don’t have to buy all the things you want at once if you don’t have the budget – start with an item here, another there. “Trust me, if you’re always searching for more money, the money you find will never be enough. You must learn to do well with what you have rather than use the ‘notenough’ excuse.”
  • Buy out of season – for example, get Christmas wrapping just after December when it’s on sale.
  • Sign up for daily discount-deal emails and batch out for big annual sales.
  • Don’t shop aimlessly – “You’ll end up spending money you don’t need to spend.” Do grocery shopping only once a week.
  • Don’t write off beauty options such as beauty schools – they usually offer great deals so their students can have training. “They’re students and are still learning but are closely supervised, so don’t worry too much,” Jordan says. “Just ask for a senior student if that’s an option.”
  • Ask your kids to make a list of gifts they want (Jordan focuses on Christmas but this could easily work for birthdays too) that would fit your gift budget. Their list can include one big item or many smaller ones. And be firm, she advises. “Now that we make a steady income, saying no is so hard! But just because we can afford it doesn’t mean we need to [buy it].”

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