Becoming a frugal Jedi- “teaching” frugality without really teaching

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Do you have a friend or family member that could totally benefit from a frugal lifestyle but just doesn’t try? Or, they need it badly but you don’t know where to even start when it comes to teaching them?

A few weeks ago, I asked my readers questions similar to these, and I was so surprised at the amount of responses I received. It seems as if we all “know a guy/girl” that is living close to rock bottom, but has no clue or no intention of starting to be more frugal. Worst of all, they could benefit most from cutting their grocery bills down to size but decide not to. There are ways to “teach” them without YOU becoming stressed over their situation.

Here are a few tips that I picked up over the years when it came to helping those that either claimed they didn’t need help or “didn’t have the time” to start shopping responsibly.

Stick with like minds and like situations
There are always friends and family members that see what you are able to accomplish at the grocery store, but come up with excuses of “we have more(or less) family members than you, so there is no way I could do that.” Or, “with everything that we do, I just don’t have the time to work on the grocery budget.” Likely stories to hear, but easy to avoid when you feel like teaching. Try to stick with families that are similar to yours and friends or family members that are in the situations you are in. If you are a family of 3 with car payments and renting an apartment, gravitate to those that you know in that same situation.  Also, you want to make sure that they live in your area, or at least shop at some of the stores you frequent for deals. It may be hard to do this when you know a family of 6 that is struggling and could really use your help, but you have to start small. By starting with a family similar to yours, you can (mostly) dodge those excuses, and get down to business with them. They can see that you are in the same boat as them, but are able to provide more for your family. It will intrigue them and make them a bit jealous of you. Those are 2 great feelings to inflict before you pull out “the big guns.”

Boast….a lot
This is one of the easiest ways to get someone motivated. Haven’t you ever had someone just go on and on about a great show they were able to see for pennies because they got the tickets for free, or an awesome, expensive bag they found at a store you frequent all the time? It made you a bit envious and got you thinking “why can’t cool things like that happen to me?” Well, by boasting about your grocery conquests in their presence, you’ll get them all fired up and ready to ask you how you did it. This is a vital point in frugal teaching. You can easily scare them off by offering to show them how to coupon, taking them shopping, pulling out the circulars for that week and going overboard. You can also under-sell what we do by dismissing everything too quickly, and moving on to another subject. The best way to pull them in is to “leave a tease.” Mention a few items you were able to get for really cheap or free at a local store that you know they shop at. DO NOT mention coupons or complex deals that you did to get them, just mention the price YOU paid. I guarantee, once you end your conversation, they will be looking through their circulars for the price you paid. When they don’t see it, you will be getting a phone call. Do this for a few weeks, to get them really interested. This is where the learning starts.

Be charitable but don’t be a personal shopper
I think this has been the tip that I have benefited from the most. As frugalites, we are able to be quite charitable with the extra purchases we may make at the grocery store. It’s hard to pass up free or cheap pasta boxes, whether you get 2 boxes or 10. You know that if you can’t fit those 10 in your house, someone you know would appreciate them.  Our biggest issue is constant charity to friends and family. At that point, you are becoming their “personal shopper” and that’s not what you signed up for. You want to “teach a man to fish” not spend 5 hours fishing, trying to get enough for your family and theirs, while they sit on their bums and do nothing. That’s not the frugal way. But, in order to catch their attention, you’ll have to provide that first fish. I make sure to do this on big holidays when lots of friends and family members will be around. I pull out bags and bags of items I got for cheap or free from the stores and let them have at it.  I also make sure they are, for the most part, name brand items that are very expensive without a coupon and sale. These always turn out to be someone’s “favorite” item, and they then want to know how I was able to get so many for so cheap. This is when I can revert back to steps 1 and 2.
By doing this for the past 2 years, I’ve helped my Aunts stretch the EBT cards they get from the government, encouraged my married cousin (and mother of 3 teenagers) shop more responsibly, and even got my own mother back into couponing, and away from the warehouse clubs. I’ve also gotten a 20 something friend who was out of a job for a long while realize how easy it is to find deals, even on her “organic or natural products only” diet. The goal here is to bring them to you with lots of questions on how you do it, and have them ask more than once. If they ask for help more than once, then you know that it is something they are serious about.

Take care of the ankle biters
A big soft spot with those needing to become frugal is that they don’t want to deprive anything from their children, pets, spouses and lastly, themselves. They feel that if they become frugal about spending, that they will cause the other members in their family to suffer a loss of their favorite things, thus causing everyone to be unhappy and then having to revert back to spending more money.  When you become frugal, you realize that this is just silly, but this is in the minds of most Americans. With the economy the way it is, the little luxuries that we now provide to our family seem so much more important.  By getting them to see that these items can be purchased at a rock bottom price, and better yet, stockpiled, you’ll be able to bring them their “luxuries” on a budget. I always start out with the kids in the house. This will take a big of memory from you, but you’ll have to recall what “little Tommy” likes or has to take to school everyday in his lunch. Once you see that item on sale for a great price that week or coming up in the next week, give your friend or family member a call. Point it out to them. If there is a limit of 4, make sure to point that out too, and encourage them to stockpile the item so they don’t have to worry about buying it again for a while. Is there a coupon that would go well with the product? Make sure to mention that too. Also, say something to the effect of “I’m going to pick up a few for us here, but if I have some coupons left over, maybe I’ll drop them off to you so you can use them.” Don’t make it a definite thing, but get them hoping that you’ll be able to help them out with those extra savings. Yet again, if you get a call asking if you used up all those coupons, you know you’ve got them really interested.
Do they not have kids? Lean towards products that their spouse(or DGF, DBF, DF) loves as a luxury or treat.  Or, focus on the pets in the house.  Just make sure to stick with those items that aren’t a real necessity, but they think that they have to have in their household.

Stay tuned for part II of this post….also, please feel free to leave a comment about the tips so far! Have you tried any of these tips with someone you know?

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

Plan Your Year Now!


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  1. 1.28.10

    Thank you for posting this – I can see so many areas where I went wrong with my “student”. I never thought of it in the same terms you mentioned here – but I have to admit – it really makes sense!

  2. 1.29.10
    Precious said:

    Nice post! 🙂

  3. 1.29.10
    Noelle said:

    Love the post.

    One of the neat things I have taught myself and my children in the process of becoming more frugal, is to be open to new things. Since we only buy on sale, our snack foods, in particular, are rarely the same. We have our favorites, but when there are no good deals on goldfish, we eat cheese nips!
    In this process, my kids have become less picky eaters. My 3YO (almost 4) even understands the concept. We have taught her that we save our money for more important things(like her dance class and helping those in need) and she really seems to appreciate that.