20 Habits Of A Debt-Free Frugal Family (Free Budget Binder Printable)

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You Have To Do More Than Just Save Money To Pay Off Debt

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and not have a financial care in the world?

Don’t say yes and then it’s never going to happen because IT CAN HAPPEN.

We are living proof of that but with debt, freedom comes a host of challenges that you must be ready to embark on.

frugal living checklist

It seems the new trend to becoming debt-free is to live a frugal family life and I’m not opposing that one bit.

Canadians want to get out of debt and move past the creditors calling and worrying about living pay to pay.

However, how much effort are we putting into the goals that we set in terms of actionable debt reduction plans?

Household credit market debt as a proportion of household disposable income rose from 175.6% to 176.9%. In other words, there was $1.77 in credit market debt for every dollar of household disposable income. – Stats Canada

It’s a situation that is common however it’s not one that has to last forever with simple budgeting and frugal living ideas.

No one is going to get rich from using a budget but what you will get is freedom from being burdened by debt.

Frugal Family Wake-Up Call

I’m not going to lie but Covid-19 scared the crap out of me especially relating to my employment.

Like most people, I was laid off and sent home to stare at the walls before coming up with a game plan.

I honestly didn’t think we would need one since we were debt-free however this is NOT the case.

You always need a plan B whether you have debt or not because the bills still need to be paid.

It wasn’t until March that we realized that we needed to do more for our contingency plan, so we did.

One of the projects we are slowly working on is creating an Emergency Binder that connects with our legal WILL.

In the event one of both of us passes away it’s a binder that is filled with all of the important information that our power of attorney (POA) needs to know.

This can be included with your legal Will or put in a fireproof safe but make sure to let your POA know where it is and how to get access.

Now, What Are We Going To Do?

Since Covid-19 I believe that Canadians have had a better opportunity into the “Now what am I going to do?” reality.

By this I mean some of you may have lost your job, were laid off, or living on less than what you earned before Covid-19.

  • What if I lost my job? – Oh no, I lost my job, now what?
  • I might get laid off – Oh no, I got laid off, now what?
  • My hours were cut – Oh no, I’m not earning as much, now what?
  • I’m sick and can’t work – Oh no, I’m unable to go to work and earn a living, now what?

The above factors alone put many families into survival mode and they are still wrenching their way out.

The good news is that for those of you who are ready to take the flying frugal leap there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I could argue all day with people who believe I’m wrong and I’m fine with that but here’s the thing, I’ve been there.

We’ve all lived our version of being less fortunate, low-income, and smothered in debt.

No one is better than the next person but the obvious debt problem must come with a solution.

A solution that the user(s) agree to uphold to finally say goodbye to debt that follows them like a bad smell. (that’s how I see it).

Starting Our Frugal Family From Scratch

I’ve lived at the bottom of the money pit and worked my way out without any financial assistance or inheritance.

On top of that, I packed up my life and moved to a new country and started over from scratch, credit score, and all.

I had no job, zero income, and some savings in the bank from selling my home but remember I started from nothing.

We make mistakes like everyone else in the finance world because that’s how we learn to make better choices.

Often times it’s easier to live in the moment than it is to envision what the future holds.

Unfortunately, that’s not the best mindset to have if you plan to stay on top of your family’s financial health.

Basement Living To Homeownership

When we started on our financial journey as a couple we were a frugal family of two.

We lived in a one-room basement that wasn’t even a designated apartment, just a room.

In the laundry room, we had a full-size refrigerator and there was a bathroom that I renovated after landing in Canada.

I did the renovations at the cost of my landlord but offered free labour for letting me stay for a reduced rent.

The deal was that I would do some work around the house and only pay an extra $100 a month to live there with my fiance.

At the time it seemed easier to save money because it was just the two of us and easier to control our wants. 

Envision in a large room with a bed, couch, and treadmill with a television crammed in one corner and food packed on a ledge.

The closet was bursting at the seams with clothing and there was a small space on the floor that would become our area.

Affordability and Saving For Future Expenses

We didn’t need to live in a room however the $500 plus savings a month made it worth it for us.

It wasn’t a gross, dark, dungeon either, however it was just a room and that can get boring.

After years of saving, returning to school, graduating, and finding a job while I was at school things were looking up.

We finally had enough Canadian money to put down a 25% downpayment on our first home.

The joy we had when we signed on the dotted line for our mortgage and getting the keys to our home was evident.

Spending years living as a frugal family of two just to get ahead meant we gave up lots but it was part of the plan.

Frugal Family Of Three

Then came along the missing piece to our frugal family and that was our son and boy was he a financial eye-opener.

Having a baby is costly and to be honest, we spent the first 4 years of his life clipping coupons and using coupon apps for savings.

If there was a deal on diapers or a Shoppers Optimum points event we were there with open wallets ready to save.

Often times our friends joke about how we have near 6 Million Shoppers Optimum Points, and now you know why.

Is Being A Frugal Family Smart?

family time

Being frugal simply means you simplify or delay gratification or economical in the use of consumer resources.

By this, I mean saving money wherever possible on food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and just about anything costing money.

If you’re asking me if being frugal is smart I’m going to say, yes.

As a 40-something-year-old who has been 100% debt-free, I feel everything we did was worth it to get to this point.

Related: How We Became Mortgage Free in 5 Years

Although after many years of blogging about finance I’ve learned being frugal is not for everyone.

Why? Because you can’t change the mindset of someone who views being frugal as being poor.

Can Being Frugal Make You Rich?

You can’t just start a frugal journey and then flush that mindset whenever you feel like it.

Getting rich or even becoming debt-free doesn’t work that way.

Think about all of the times you wanted to lose weight but ended up at the donut shop.

Becoming a frugal family is a process and one that needs to be planned with goal-setting tactics.

Your rich might be paying off your credit card debt or owning a home.

Whatever goals you set that gives you that rich feeling is worth exploring.

Frugal Family Goal Setting Checklist

You can print or save the Frugal Family Checklist by going to my Free Budget Binder Printables Page.

Frugal Family Checklist For Debt Freedom

No one said a positive journey can’t follow small wins along the way.

Again, that’s how you’re going to make bigger leaps as your frugal family goals increase.

For example, in 2021 you may set a financial goal to save $5000 extra in the bank for emergency savings.

The following year you continue saving that same amount and put the money into a tax-free savings account.

Eventually, if you continue the life of a frugal family and cutting costs and wants you’ll find even more ways to save.

Trust me, we need far less than what we consume and purchase.

I created a budget binder printables for those of you who want to join us for a frugal family goal-setting session.

Completing The Frugal Family Checklist

Here’s what we did.

I printed the Frugal Family Checklist and after dessert one evening both Mrs. CBB and I sat around the dining room table.

We both filled out the checklist separately and then again as a couple to see where we were at..

This allowed us to independently consider areas we could save money and increase our financial awareness.

What did not shock us was that we both set goals to work on grocery shopping.

That’s always been a downfall for us and one that we continue to work on to keep costs low.

Together we both decided to embark on a no spend month in September just to see if we could do it.

We’ll document any problems that we had along the way and what we can do better the next time.

In the For Us category, we both agreed that we need to consider setting a time to meal plan each week.

Currently one of us has been taking charge of this duty and it can get frustrating trying to figure out what to eat.

We try to involve our son in this process to so he gets an idea of why we meal plan and how we include him on the grocery list

Another area we’ve been slacking on is using coupons or even sourcing coupons for that matter.

There are many coupon apps and deal websites along with paper coupons available that we often miss savings.

The last couple of years has been hectic for us and we fell off the savings bandwagon in a few of the categories.

Our plan is to continue with our frugal family mindset and that means making decisions independently and as a family.

By doing so we are not only accountable for our actions but those goals set as a couple.

If you have older children who can participate in this exercise please do include them so they understand their role in your frugal family.

Unless they are paying the bills and buying groceries everyone in the household plays a crucial role in frugal living and savings.

Twenty Frugal Family Habits

Family kitchen photo

Besides anything I’ve mentioned above below are twenty ways we continue to build financial awareness as a family.

These are not the only frugal family habits we have however they are the most prevalent and used on a continuous basis.

The most obvious one would be that we use a monthly budget and something I strongly suggest.

  1. We pay ourselves first including our Canadian life insurance coverage
  2. Shopping online or in-person is on a needed basis, not a want or daily outing
  3. We save for big and small purchases using projected expenses (a must)
  4. Credit cards are always paid in full and without paying interest
  5. Gardening is a must whenever possible throughout the year
  6. Source Used Clothing and household items first before buying new
  7. Always use price comparison websites
  8. Take advantage of Canadian online cashback and discount codes + rewards programs
  9. Meal prep using grocery flyer deals and reduced items followed by cooking at home instead of eating out
  10. We are given a monthly adult allowance
  11. Projected expenses are part of our budget
  12. Sell or donate household items and clothing that we don’t need or use any longer
  13. Make time to do the work ourselves before hiring outside help (unless it’s a job that requires a professional).
  14. Share and network with other frugal families so we help each other out
  15. Investments are a must for us before wants that we must save up for
  16. Allow ourselves to appreciate the space we are given in order not to compare with others
  17. A sewing kit is your best friend
  18. Foraging and finding new ways to can and freeze foods for less that last the entire year
  19. Swap skills or time with neighbours and friends to save money
  20. Mindful or utility consumption, negotiate telecommunications and reduce our carbon footprint


There’s always going to be a benefit when you sit and discuss how your frugal family will spend and save money.

If anything this small exercise may open your eyes to the way things are financially lop-sided in a relationship.

Take caution, if this exercise works out you may be on your way to debt-freedom.

Can you handle that?

Discussion: How have you incorporated a frugal family goal setting in your house?

Leave me your comments below. If you do participate in this exercise I’d love to hear the results and what you determined to be crucial for your frugal family to thrive.


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