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Wondering how you can save more money? Looking to see how you stack up to the average American? Or how you compare to us? Check out this frugal quiz to see how you match up.
Please note, the purpose of this frugal quiz was not to compare one person to another or to disparage anyone for not being a frugal badass. (In fact, our family didn’t even score in the frugal badass category). Additionally, I realize that the frugal quiz is far from an all-inclusive measurement of frugality. The point is to get the conversation started and go from there.
So how did you do?
I created the frugal quiz because I was interested in researching some of the basic, everyday money decisions we make, and looking into the averages. The goal is to provide some education on common money spending tendencies and let you, the reader, do a self-assessment. Then, decide for yourself whether any of these spending categories are worth lowering.
Each monetary value on the frugal quiz is based on monthly averages. Let’s dissect the topics.
What is your daytime weekend thermostat setting in the winter?
63 or below – Frreeeezzing but frugal $+45
64-65 – Still freezing but you can at least feel your toes $+36
66-67 – Layer up, solid work $+18
68-69 – Feeling pretty good $0
70-71 – Heating up $-18
72 or above – Downright tropical $-36
According to the Department of Energy, the ideal temperature for a house is 68 degrees. At our house, we hold steady at 65 during the day and 62 at night. My wife complains about this just about every day, so some days I wonder if it’s a battle worth fighting. Speaking of worth…the Department of Energy estimates that each degree difference results in approximately a 3% increase or decrease in a home’s utility bill. Once the math is understood, it really comes down to preference and priority. We have grown accustomed to a colder house, and we enjoy the extra $36/month that we generate from it. Others might not look at $36 being worth it if the consequence is doubling up on hoodie sweatshirts.
What can you do?
- Lower your heat – Obvious, but effective
- Lower your heat at night – You can save a decent amount of money over time by simply lowering your thermostat a few degrees at night. Get under that warm comforter and thrown on an extra blanket if necessary.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat – Programmable thermostats allow you to set the temperature for multiple times during weekdays and weekends. Some have more settings than others, pick what’s right for you. These are ideal for people with a fairly set schedule.
- Invest in a smart thermostat – Smart thermostats are much more expensive, but will adjust to your movements within the house. They are ideal for people with variable schedules.
How many of your lights are LED, CLF or any other energy efficient bulb?
All of em $+4
Half of them $0
About a quarter $-2
Zero or I have no idea $-5
It was difficult to find data on the exact percentage of average energy efficient light bulbs per household, so this is an estimate based on the statistics I was able to gather. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 86% of Americans reported having at least one LED or CFL bulb, so most people are at least headed in the right direction. Homes can save an average of $4/month when using all energy efficient bulbs. Energy efficient light bulbs can pay for themselves within six months.
What can you do?
- Replace all of your bulbs with energy efficient ones.
- Request a home energy audit from your utility company. It’s free! And although free isn’t always a good thing, in this case it is! A home energy assessment will normally provide free light bulbs to replace traditional ones along with checking your house for insulation and air leaks among other things.
How many miles per gallon (MPG) does your car get?
More than 40 MPG – Toyota Prius or similar $+59
35-40 MPG – Honda Civic or similar $+48
30-34 MPG – Mazda 6 or similar $+37
25-29 MPG – Nissan Maxima or similar $+22
20-24 MPG – Chrysler Town & Country or similar $0
15-19 MPG – Chevy Tahoe or similar $-35
Less than 15 MPG – Ford F250 or similar $-98
The good news: automobiles are consistently becoming more fuel efficient. Some SUV’s miles per gallon are well into the twenties and 22 MPG is the average for cars on the road today. The bad news: people are buying larger and larger cars that will always use more gas than their smaller counterparts. Just recently, Ford, Chevrolet and Chrysler have all announced that they will be eliminating some of their sedans. The above numbers were calculated assuming a gasoline price of $2.57/gallon and an average of 12,000 miles driven per year.
What can you do?
- Keep your tire pressure high – this increases MPG
- Try hypermiling – Put simply, adjust your erratic driving. Accelerate at a controlled level, coast as much as possible, reduce the amount of braking and watch your MPGs go up.
- Downsize to a smaller car than what you currently own – Typically, the smaller the car, the better the fuel efficiency.
- Buy an electric or hybrid vehicle – This can bump your MPG above 50, but some models are fairly expensive, and the extra cost of the car can outweigh the money saved on gas.
How much have you spent on clothing in the last 30 days?
More than $250 $-150
That’s right, the average American spends $150 per month on clothing. This number can obviously vary significantly from month to month. I very rarely spend any money on clothing, but there have been months when I have needed a bunch of things and have spent well over $150.
What can you do?
- Think about whether you actually need the article of clothing
- Avoid impulse purchases. Take the 24-hour delay strategy to clothing purchases (or any purchases for that matter).
- Try not to make shopping a habit. Spend free time outdoors or with friends rather than at a mall or the outlets.
- Try mindful consumerism instead of a strict budget
How many times in the last 30 days did you go out for/order lunch or dinner?
More than 30 $-256
These numbers really surprised me, and this is clearly a great spot for people to save money. Americans eat out for an average of 16 meals per month and the average meal comes out to $16. Sure, some take out meals would only cost $5 or $10, but sit-down dinners in restaurants when you add in a few drinks can easily rise up above $25 per person. The real shocker for me was doing the math on how quickly these totals added up. Making a habit of eating out for lunches and dinners could be costing you thousands of dollars each year. The average American spends $3154 per year on restaurants and fast food.
This is the one question on the frugal quiz that we would really like to do better on. We almost never order lunch and rarely go out for dinner, but many of our restaurant dinners are a direct result of not having anything in the pantry or refrigerator.
What can you do?
- Grocery shop consistently – We make it a priority to grocery shop every Sunday regardless of how much we actually need. This usually keeps us from ordering out because we don’t have anything in the house.
- Meal plan – We admittedly need to get better at this, but meal planning can help with grocery shopping and also reduces the itch to eat out.
- Take lunches to work every day – If you go out for lunch each day, take a moment to add up the cost. Even a $5 meal each day balloons to over $100 each month.
- Make nights out at a restaurant a unique occasion, not the norm. We shouldn’t feel guilty about going out to dinner, but it should feel special, not habitual.
How much do you pay each month for cable and internet including Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc?
More than $300 $-150
Ah, the old “cut the cable” speech. The average household spends approximately $160 on their cable and internet bills. Cutting cable has become much easier recently with the rise of streaming options such as Netflix and Hulu. In my opinion, the biggest drawback of these services is the lack of sports programming. We have, however, ditched cable and cut our bill down to $85 so we’re doing alright on this part of the frugal quiz.
What can you do?
- Cancel your cable – This will save the most money, but means giving up the most as well.
- Downgrade your cable and/or internet – Do you need all 481 channels? Do you need the fastest internet connection on earth? Do all seven televisions need to have a HD/DVR cable box?
- Call your providers to negotiate a deal – It can’t hurt to ask. Cable and internet companies will often lower a monthly bill if you ask, especially if they fear losing a customer to a competitor.
So how did you score on the frugal quiz?
Badass $+376 to $+664
Master $+126 to $+375
Intermediate $-125 to $+125
Learner $-126 to $-375
Beginner $-376 to $-695
There are so many things that can be done to reduce spending. Some of them are more drastic than others, some will thicken wallets to a greater degree. The purpose of this frugal quiz and post is to get you thinking about the large and small money decisions we make on a monthly basis. There are no right or wrong answers. Personal finance is exactly that: “personal”. Become more mindful of the financial decisions you are making on a daily and monthly basis, and decide if there is a need for change or improvement. Just the fact that you took the time to take this frugal quiz is a sign that you are headed in the right direction.
What are some of your frugal wins? What are some aspects that remain a challenge to you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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