Melissa Tosetti

on Frugal Living
Editor and publisher of Budget Savvy magazine

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Exclusive Interview

Melissa Tosetti on Living Frugally

As the editor and publisher of Budget Savvy magazine, a free online lifestyle magazine geared for frugal-minded women, Melissa Tosetti’s sole purpose is to help people think differently about how they spend their cash. Here, Tosetti shares her favorite tips and some sound advice for living frugally.

What’s the hardest part about living frugally?

Living a frugal life is 70% attitude. If you look at it as a hardship, it’s going to be miserable and you’re going to drag your feet. If you look at it as something that allows you to do the things you really want to do, you’re going to open up your mind and see things you wouldn’t normally see—like opportunities to save money here and there.

What’s an easy way to start living frugally right now?

The first place I would start is your bank statement. Look for hidden fees—paying for online banking, paying for checks, and look for other recurring charges, like paying for a gym membership you’re not using—and cut them off. Cancel what you don’t need. Cut out what you’re not using. You can save hundreds of dollars in a year by doing that.

I’m also a huge fan of shopping at thrift stores, not only because I can get clothes at 90% off, but also I won’t look like everyone else. You have an opportunity to bust out your style and try all different brands and designers.

What are some things people should NOT skimp on when living frugally?

Do not skimp on your car maintenance. Be militant about it, changing the oil, rotating tires, etc. If you take care of your cars, they will save you on everything—having to buy a new one, extended maintenance. Don’t skimp on insurance either. Also, don’t skimp on healthy food. A lot of people tend to think that it can be cheaper to use coupons and save on groceries that way. The problem is coupons tend to be for packaged or processed foods.

What are common mistakes people make when they decide they want to live more frugally?

Hands down it’s doing too much at first. It’s like crash dieting. I do financial coaching, and one of the things I see is people want to pay down all their debts and save 20% from their income right now. They’re forgetting about the little expenses they have and they get frustrated and think they’re not going to do it at all. I believe that it’s great to focus on one habit a month. For one month I’m going to focus on cooking at home more. For next month I’m going to focus on cutting down my clothes expenses.

Once people have begun a frugal lifestyle, how can they keep their momentum going?

You make it into a habit. It becomes such a part of my life, I forget that certain things I do are a part of this lifestyle. It becomes very second nature.

What are some of the rewards of frugal living?

One of my mentors in frugality is Benjamin Franklin. He was very conscious of how he spent his money, but he reaped the benefits of that conscious spending later in life. He loved it—the man ate well. You can see it in his portraits. You live this life from the start, and as you grow older and your income and assets grow, you’ll reap the benefits later on. So be excited that you’re taking control of your finances. You’re the one making decisions and you’re making smart ones.


What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?

I am not religious, but I am very spiritual.

“The best thing about change is...”


What is the best change you have ever made?

The best change I ever made was moving from my hometown of Fresno to the San Francisco Bay Area. While in Fresno, the company I worked for shut down and I took a temp job that I hated. My friends were all moving and I felt like one door after another was closing on me. When I moved to the Bay Area to be with my now-husband, it was a spur of the moment decision and leap of faith. I didn't have a job and knew just two people in the area. Very quickly I realized it was the best thing I could have ever done. It's now thirteen years later and doors are still opening for me here.

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Advice on Change

1. If you find yourself continuously pulling money from your savings account, you are probably trying to save too much for your current financial situation. Reduce the amount you are saving for a few months and see if you can go without having to touch it. If you are successful, then try saving a little bit more the next pay period. Like any habit, saving money takes time to perfect. Don't be too hard on yourself.

2. Take proper care of what you already own. We live in a disposable society. When something breaks or needs repair, our instinct is to throw it away and buy a new one. Resist the urge and see if you can repair or repurpose it before you replace it. You will save money and the environment at the same time.

3. Cooking at home is one of the fastest ways to make a positive impact on your finances. If the thought of cooking overwhelms you, try cooking just one or two meals a week. Choose simple recipes. Little by little your cooking skills will grow and you will feel confident too cook more and more of your own meals.

4. Think before you spend. In this day and age we automatically whip out an ATM or Credit Card at the drop of a hat. Each time you reach for that card, think about whether you really need the item you are purchasing. Stop consuming on autopilot. It will take some time to make it into a habit, but it will be worth it. You will be amazed at how much money you can save just by thinking twice before making a purchase.

5. Get excited about the idea of saving money on the things that aren't as important to you because it will allow you to afford to spend money on the things that are important to you. Being Budget Savvy isn't about doing without. It's about being smart with what you have.

About Melissa Tosetti

As the editor and publisher of Budget Savvy magazine, a free online lifestyle magazine geared for frugal-minded women, Melissa Tosetti’s sole purpose is to help people think differently about how they spend their cash.