One of the first things new immigrants in the US notice is that it is easy to spend your money here. The use of credit cards to buy things you don’t even really need is woefully common. As an immigrant you are expected to absorb as much of the local culture as you can. However, you may find the following ideas on frugality beneficial.
Free stuff and discount deals
In the US you can sometimes get free stuff simply for sharing your opinion as a consumer, such as for participating in surveys or writing reviews. Some online groups will start sending you gift cards merely for taking a free membership. Sometimes companies will send you gift cards simply for liking them on Facebook or for supporting them on other social media. You can use these gift cards to shop for free stuff. Often times you can find deals wherein you’ll get cash-back, discounts or freebies for spending more than a specified dollar amount. Subscribing to loyalty programs offered by stores and supermarkets can give you access to surprisingly discounted prices and special ‘member-only’ offers. At times you may find retailers giving out ‘free samples’ that you are eligible to receive. You may also be able to get free samples from salespeople promoting new products on supermarket shop floors.
By cooking yourself you can avoid much of the cost associated with processed foods. By buying raw ingredients instead of meals you can save sizable amounts each month. Cooking can enable you to eat exactly what you desire and to help you preserve an important part of your home culture. It can also help you avoid the adverse aspects of canned and convenience foods. You can cook large batches and freeze them for future use, or start a food exchange with friends, thereby enriching your social life. If you have some space to start a garden you can enjoy the freshest organic produce to enhance your diet.
It is common for immigrants to quickly become adept at many of the things that need to be done around the house. Fixing a leak, changing a doorknob, mending clothes and doing many such minor tasks around the house soon becomes like second nature. These skills are almost always self taught, and rely largely on common sense. Before long you may accumulate a small set of tools, and the thought of calling a plumber or carpenter may become remote.
Recycle, upcycle, avoid waste
This comes as second nature to most immigrants. Empty food boxes and other containers made of metal and plastic often find a use in the kitchen or elsewhere around the house. Glass containers and jars can be used to preserve food. Plastic and paper bags can easily be reused for packing, or for a variety of other purposes such as to line bins.
The purpose of credit cards is to make you spend money you don’t have. That is the exact opposite of being frugal. If you want to be sensible in your spending, avoid all forms of credit and operate strictly within your means.
It may be a surprising idea to consider, but saving is strongly linked to being frugal. This is because the reasons for being frugal are the same as for saving. The opposite of being frugal is being wasteful. To ensure that you have a good life you must save regularly so that your savings can grow and you may enjoy peace of mind. An important tip on being frugal therefore is to pay yourself first by setting aside for savings before any of your other considerations. After all, if you have no reason to save, you have no reason to be frugal!
Assess your needs
Do you really need that fast car, flashy jewelry and expensive phone? Is it fulfilling to compete with your friends and neighbors in their excesses? With a little introspection you may find that true and lasting happiness isn’t gained through competition, but by adding value to yourself. Having a social life does not have to cost much money; neither does eating out or entertainment. A library membership can add infinitely more value than a cable subscription. Strive to be frugal without being cheap. It is much easier than to be wealthy without being wasteful.