While I’m sitting around the campfire outside my tent pitched in the 50,000s, I started thinking about all the subtle changes that have brought me to this point. How have I shifted my behavior from spending and feeling entitled to shop to recognizing I don’t deserve a thing and have to clean up my financial mess?
Being frugal. That’s how.
It’s not something that just happens over night. Like eating an elephant one bite at a time, it takes time.
While you can feel yourself thinking differently over night, it takes longer to put it into action. No one thing that is done out of frugality is all that earth-shattering. It is the momentum it creates when paired with congruent actions that make it unstoppable.
Since I was raised by good, wholesome parents, I share like a civilized human should. Oh, and I also love lists. So here is another one to get you thinking about ways you might be able to hone in your frugality.
Cable – I can’t believe I’m even listing this, honestly. If you haven’t heard by now that you can save a LOT of money by “cutting the cord” then you must be getting a sweet deal on satellite beneath that rock. We went from paying $105 for the most basic cable/internet package to paying $15 for internet only. We were already being somewhat “frugal” with the $105…it came with no frills. But we went into overdrive and cut it out altogether. Haven’t looked back since. Challenge yourself to get over TV. Be bold.
Disclaimer: my husband is a HUGE sports guy. Our agreement was that we could go watch the important games at a bar and still spend less in a month than what cable costs. Compromise is beautiful.
Consume Your Stuff – This also feels silly to type. How many times do we buy something we already have at home whether it’s soap, clothes, or office supplies just because we don’t love what we have at home? Grow up and train yourself to first wholly consume what you already own. Ask yourself if you have something at home that will get the job done. That’s all you are trying to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be perfect. When this happens you will realize two things: 1) off-brand or used is often times just as good as new and name brand and 2) you are cleansing your house of un-used goods.
Keep It Simple – From what we eat to how we entertain ourselves we keep it simple to keep the costs down. From personal experience, the more complex a plan, recipe, or even social life is the more likely it’s going to cost more. We see no reason in cooking fancy meals for the two of us when we are only hurting ourselves. We plan out our monthly schedule when we budget so we can anticipate days we will be in a situation where we’ll need to eat out or have to pay for entertainment. It’s a basic concept but can take some serious discipline to follow. Our proudest month we spent $19.97 on dining out. For the entire month! It IS possible. Practice the word “no” – it’s a game changer.
Start Small – Drastic change often starts with the smallest shifts. Creating habits that evolve are your friend. Like ordering water when you’re eating out, or cutting back on the daily Starbucks. It won’t instantly change your life, but it is infectious and a great place to start.
Buy Used – Let me tell you a story. When my husband and I moved into our current place of living we did not own a washer and dryer. We did the usual price comparison shopping to see where we could buy a set and what they would cost. It turns out that even the lowest-end washer/dryer set was still set at a high price. Higher than we wanted to pay. We decided it was time to look at used sets. By doing this we were able to buy a 2 year old set that had hardly been used (it came with a couple’s house when they bought it and didn’t need them because they already owned a set). It would have retailed for $1400 brand new. The best part? We paid $400 for it! When you make purchases really think about whether it is absolutely necessary it be new. Buying used isn’t as inconvenient as it may seem. At some point you must ask yourself if it is “convenient” to be in the mess you are in. Or could you put in a little effort and save a lot of money?
Focus On Now – This one may be a little controversial, but it’s how we roll in our household. When we go shopping we buy for the now. We do not buy things in bulk because we’ll need more in 10 months. I am not going to pay interest on debt when I’m out buying a skid of toilet paper. That’s stupid. We spend what we need for the current month (sometimes two) and keep spending to a minimum so we can maximize the total dollars paying down debt. Some might argue that you’re saving money in the long run but I see more value in the momentum built up by paying down the maximum possible amount each month on debt. Momentum, like behavior, should not be underestimated. We could be debt free before I even tap into the stored goods from my bulk purchases. Not to mention the times we found that what we thought we’d use within 5 months is no longer useful to us because we changed our minds, got sick of something, or forgot we even bought it.
Get Over Yourself – Sounds sassy, but it’s true! How much of what we purchase and waste is because we couldn’t admit to ourselves that we would be just fine without it? That paying off our debts is responsible and the primary goal? Stop being so dramatic and feeling like you need, want, and have to have everything. Stop being weak and tell yourself “No!” It may sound cute to brag to your co-workers or friends about how you had a rough day and went and dropped half a paycheck or more at your favorite store because “life.” You know what isn’t cute? Debt.
Through practice you’ll find yourself feeling different when presented with the opportunity to buy something or go somewhere. As though your instincts re-calibrate over time and it won’t feel right to spend money as you used to. It becomes second nature to put stuff back in the store you don’t need or get by with something you already have. This is frugality at its finest.