Today’s guest post comes from M, a blogger and writer living in San Francisco. She keeps a fascinating personal blog, as well as Bay Area Love Letters, a site devoted to San Francisco and Northern California.

Decide how much to save in an emergency fund…Research how to determine amount of life insurance coverage needed…Brainstorm ways to save on health insurance costs…Increase 401K contributions to take advantage of company match…

All these items and more are on our financial to-do list. You know what I’m talking about, right? Whether you are just starting to try to control your finances, as my husband and I are, or you are a seasoned pro at personal finance, you probably have a list (written or mental) of how you can improve.

But in the midst of all this progress, it’s important to not lose sight of the things you are doing right. So often, we turn our attentions toward what we need to improve and forget to acknowledge what we’ve been doing well along the way (and thus need to continue doing).

Here’s to an end to that pattern: a post all about my longtime personal finance and frugality habits that I’m happy with and proud of. Because what we do well is just as important to recognize as what we can improve.

Though I am still learning about personal finance every day and always finding new ways to improve, there are lots of things I already do right and have managed to do right all along. For example:

  • Dye my hair with drugstore brand dye. No salons, ever (except for occasional cuts. Come on, I’m a girl, and I have curly hair).
  • No mani/pedis, except done by me at home.
  • No regular spa or massage sessions.
  • No gym fees. Exercise at home or outside for the cost of a pair of running shoes (replaced once or twice a year).
  • Share one car between two people.
  • Rely almost exclusively on public transit for commute to work and many other trips.
  • Save on hotel costs and other travel expenses by taking mostly day trips instead of overnights.
  • Take the Greyhound instead of a train/plane for short trips (4-5 hours).
  • Live in cheapest housing available in decent neighborhoods. (Two people + large dog + small studio apartment? Check.) This makes a huge difference to the bottom line at the end of the month and allows for a little more discretionary spending without guilt.
  • Used furniture for most of my adulthood. (Only recently did we buy some new furniture — all at good prices, though).
  • No — or close to no — vacations except short road trips or, occasionally, places where we could stay with friends instead of in hotels.
  • No trips abroad, no major vacations.
  • Stay at lower cost hotels when traveling, except for a few special occasions (such as wedding anniversary). And recently, we have been leaning toward skipping pricey hotels in any circumstances, even on special occasions.
  • Bring packed lunch daily.
  • Make coffee at home every day rather than buying out.
  • No microwave, and no frozen foods (which are usually costlier than making a meal).
  • Eat at home regularly. Make meals mostly from scratch. (This is good for health, too.)
  • Split one meal between two of us when eating out.
  • Mostly order (free) water at restaurants instead of other beverages.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Rarely drink alcohol.
  • No/few concerts and other expensive entertainment. Find low cost entertainment, such as watching videos at home, and, on occasion, attending low price community theater and dance performances.
  • Make special occasions cheaper by sharing dessert or appetizers instead of having a full meal. We may go somewhere pricey that we’ve always wanted to try, but we’ll have just a drink and an appetizer there, instead of a full meal.
  • Free/cheap recreation such as hiking, swimming, galleries, etc.
  • Make own popcorn for movies. Bring candy and drinks to avoid paying high theater prices.
  • Limit junk food.
  • Miss weddings and other occasions (unfortunately) due to travel costs.
  • Return items we don’t like/use/need (in unused condition).
  • No expensive beauty services: waxing, eyebrow shaping, highlights, etc. All but cuts done at home. Husband cuts own hair.
  • Drink filtered tap water. Avoid buying bottles of water. Bring own water when going out.
  • Keep lights off when not needed.
  • Rarely use heat or air if not absolutely needed.
  • No expensive hobbies or collections.
  • Buy used books.
  • Make own protein shakes, no Jamba Juice, etc.
  • Buy only what is really needed: Skip high-priced electronics and trendy, new gadgets. Buy necessary items with only the features we need. Don’t splurge on luxury add-ons.
  • Keep items for as long as possible (I’ve had, for example, the same comforter and TV, and more, since high school. More than 15 years later, I still use these items regularly).
  • Buy quality (doesn’t have to mean pricey) and keep it. Save on having to buy regular replacements.
  • Make greeting cards instead of buying.
  • Planned low-cost wedding without compromising quality and preferences.
  • Pay bills on time. No late fees.
  • Good credit = good interest rates, better luck with housing and other areas.
  • And, a new habit: Once-a-week “meeting of the minds” with my husband about our finances.

What do you think of my frugal habits? What good financial habits do you have that you’re happy with and proud of?

Addendum: M dropped me a line to say that she’s posted two responses to this discussion at her personal site: We are so much richer than you may realize and Response and thoughts on my Get Rich Slowly post.

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