Frugal Made Easy: Part Three

Becoming more frugal can seem challenging for some.  It is definitely a lifestyle, a mindset, and an intention.  When a more frugal lifestyle is applied, however, it becomes involuntary and is highly rewarding.  It can even be liberating.

Our family’s path to frugality was born from a sheer hatred of our day jobs.  Let it be clearly understood that we are extremely thankful to have jobs, but that does not mean we have to like them.  Working everyday in a passionless pursuit makes punching a clock for “the man” heartbreaking at times.  But, we soldiered on…

Until one day…

We realized that we were indeed, very green and sustainable in a recycling kind of way, but we were sort of missing the “reduce and reuse” component of that circuit.

We took a HARD look at our lifestyle, which at the time we thought wasn’t all that compulsive; but indeed it was and there was a lot of room for change, growth, and efficiency.

So we set out to find frugality, wherever it was hiding, and we chased it all about our lives until we finally understood it, caught up with it, and became friends with it.

Friends with frugality.

Being frugal does not mean being cheap.  Being cheap is for jerks who are greedy and self-interested.  Being frugal does not always mean buying a lesser quality.  Sometimes it is frugal to buy the highest quality item with the knowledge that it will last 10 times longer than the inferior product.  Being frugal does not mean shivering all winter in your unheated house, eating only rice and beans and ramen.

Being frugal does mean making thoughtful and intentional purchases and making your own products when it is practical and prudent to do so.  It is reusing and re-purposing items before recycling them, creating a budget, and fine tuning your household to achieve more cost savings. Being frugal is being creative and making due with what you have, and sometimes it means intentionally going without. Being frugal can be gleaning, gardening, bartering and labor-trading. It can also be shopping around, saving up, and spending wisely.  Collectively, being frugal means celebrating all of your efforts because generally your time spent on frugality is less time spent ‘working for the man!’  Hooray for that.

I will ‘attempt’ to describe some frugal tips and tricks we have applied to our lifestyle over the years, and when I say ‘attempt’ I truly mean it, because it is hard to bottle up our whole life in a few blog posts.  We are not perfect, nor do we strive to be.  We have found a system that works for us, and if you are at a point in your life where you are interested in making a few small changes, some of these tips may be right for you.

I promise to do my very best if you promise to be patient…

I have put together a series on frugality with 5 installments. I hope you take away from them something you find helpful. If you are already solvent, perhaps you might share these tips with someone who isn’t?  That would be the frugal thing to do 🙂

Part Three: Frugal Finances

Frugal-finances

Here I go, writing the blog post that no blogger, or anyone for that matter, wants to write…

No one wants to be told what to do with their money, nor should they be.  Money is such a weird and tricky fact of life, and for most is a necessity.  It has always baffled me, even as a young girl, how money, or the lack of, can be so decisive, prolific and complicated all at once.

Growing up with just enough, and often not enough, (by American standards), has provided me with insight I now deem valuable as an adult.  Dear Husband and I decided a long time ago that we would revere money just enough to keep it at bay.

frugal-finances-glass-piggy-bank

What does that mean to us?  It means understanding that in our current society we need money to live, but money will never make us happy.  We will work just enough to pay our bills and have a little extra to save. But we will not work to have things we could never afford to begin with—because our time is important to us and can’t be bought.  Would we like to have more money?  Maybe.  Will we sell our souls to get it?  You had better believe not.   That is not to say that are not willing to work hard.  We do so every day.  But we don’t have big fancy jobs making the big bucks, so we make the most with what we have, recognizing our boundaries.

That is perhaps the key in beginning a more frugal financial future.

Know what you are capable of, and work within those boundaries.  Always strive for better, even though you might feel like it can get no worse.

I understand completely when you say you don’t want to hear someone wax philosophical about money.  Yes.  I totally get that this isn’t psychology class.  I do want to stress, however, that DH and my first step toward a more financially frugal lifestyle started with our outlook on life, budgetry and the pursuit of money.  (Budgetry?  Ya… I just made that one up).

I also understand that in certain situations, like when your back’s against a wall, there is not much flexibility for change.  I totally get that, and have been right there too.  This is not a judgey-mcjudgerton blog post with pointed fingers and crass boasting—all are welcome here.

Things that have worked for my family may not be realistic for another.  Things that other families manage may not work for me.  That’s just the way it goes…

frugal-finances-old-coins

I aim to share our ideals, and I hope you will share yours too.

  • Quit your bank!  Go Credit Union!  One of the best financial decisions I ever made was quitting my bank.  These are FOR PROFIT institutions!  Huh?  Somebody else gets to make money off of my money?  That’s not fair.  No, it’s not fair, and neither are the fees that come along with all of the b.s. banking that happens in those places.  (I understand there are exceptions to every rule, and perhaps your town has a lovely, caring and financially empowering BANK.  And if that’s the case, great!  I *might* want to move there).  🙂 Just kidding.  I am in love with my credit union and all of the people who work there.  I am more than just a bank account number.  I am a new mama, with a baby that everyone wants to hold and know her name.  I am a dog- mom to Venus, a sock-drawer-apoccolypse-cash hoarder, and a person who is curious on how to make better financial decisions.  That is how they KNOW me at my credit union, and no matter what they know about me, the key is that they know me!  Credit unions often offer free financial education and you can learn a lot about how to clean up your finances, get out of debt and how to save smart for the future. They offer better rates, dividends, and and a wealth of other services. And as for all of the knowledge?  It’s freeeeeeee.  My credit union cares about me and my financial health, and the model makes sense.
  • Sell your car.  Ouch.  Did she just say that?  “This is America, we won’t sell our cars!”  No, I don’t mean walk everywhere.  I just mean, if your car is not paid for, you could sell it, pay off your loan, and buy a cheaper car outright.  Craigslist is king.  Think of it this way, if you had, say $20,000 cash right now, and you had to work very hard for years to get that money, would you drop it all on a car? It’s doubtful.  After a stern talk with myself, I admitted that I wouldn’t, so why would I ever pay that much and more (in installments with interest), for a car?  Maybe your first new-to-you ride is less than desirable.  But at least you own it.  The money you SAVE from not making car payments will quickly buy you something closer to what you had in mind.  And it’s true what they say.  Money talks—it is the language of Craigslist!  If we had car payments right now, I would have to work more and have less time with my baby.  My baby is worth more than a car.  When you start to weigh it all out, it begins to make sense.  Maybe you are one of the fortunate urbanites who doesn’t need a car.  Even better.  Build up your $emergency  fund$.
  • Get out of debt anyway you can.  Getting out of debt can seem impossible!  It is so discouraging always making a minimum payment and feeling like you have gotten nowhere!  What helped us was to focus on our smallest bills first.  We made the minimum payments on everything, and hit our smallest bills first with all of our extra money.  I mean all of it.  No fancy lattes and only cheap beer. No micro brews. I’m not kidding 🙂 We revitalized  our household budget and took up extra work to get the job done.  We focused very single day on paying down our debt until it was gone.  Did it suck?  Absolutely.
  • Sell your junk.  Your junk is my treasure!  Do you have mason jars, vinyl, or tools?  I will totally buy that!  Sign up for ebay, (or Craigslist—again), and weed out your stuff.  Seasonal items excluded, if you haven’t used it the past 6 months, you probably could part with it.  Unless you’re a hoarder, and that’s a whole other blog post 🙂  DH made an ebay account and sold some pretty obscure stuff of ours.  Yard sales are a great way to make a bit ‘o cash as well.  You would be surprised what fun it can be to get funds.
  • Reduce your expenses.  This one should be easy but it’s not always intuitive. Do you really NEED that gym membership?  Can you do the same exercises from your living room with a dvd?  Can you meet with friends for a walk, yoga, or a, gasp, jog?  (I hate jogging).  Can you carpool?  Can you quit buying single serve beverages?  Can you eliminate a vice or two, and gain a frugal hobby instead? Can you pack your lunch (and save a boatload of cash), and can you record all of your expenses so  your frivolous spending is staring back at you?  I record every purchase we make in our checkbook. (Seriously!) So I know exactly where our money has gone.  In the age of clicking-and-swiping to pay, it is how I hold myself accountable.  If I have to reconcile the purchases, I am more apt to consider them completely.  Consider every little output and it’s necessity.  There is usually some fat to trim.
  • “Go without” on purpose.  Have you ever challenged yourself to not spend any money for a day, a few days, or a week?  I have never made it a week, but hope to one day.  Some say this is not realistic because you spend more in the period beforehand planning for your money strike.  I kind of disagree and think that any focused spending strike is worthwhile, because it helps you gain perspective on what you really need.  I have personally enjoyed these instances and have turned it into a personal challenge/game.
  • Buy second-hand first.  Not only is it the green thing to do, but the “price is (usually) right!”  I especially opt for older items in good shape whenever it’s prudent to do, because in today’s age of planned obsolescence, well, I just don’t want to get duped.  There is an art-form to thrift store shopping though, and my super-frugal and amazing bestie has had it mastered for the past 25 years.  Tips I gleaned from her are to shop the sale on sale days, ( a color-coded tag corresponds to whatever color of tag is on sale that day), and that some thrift stores sell clothes buy the pound!  You’ve got to dig through the bins, but the price is so cheap it makes the adventure worth it.  Happy hunting 🙂
  • Make repairs.  Maintaining your vehicle, household and tools can seem tedious and costly, but it really SAVES in the long run!  If something breaks, price the repair man before you splurge on something new.

frugal-finaces-antique-bank

  • Start an Emergency Fund.  Once you are free from debt, build up an emergency fund.  We (finally) have one set aside that will help us in the event of job-loss, septic-system failure, medical emergencies, etc.  This small cushion helps to keep us from having to take out a line of credit with interest in the event of an emergency.  It was hard to save it up, but, in the long run, it will save us money.
  • Ask for help.  If you are hoping to make some changes in the way you manage your finances, but don’t know where to start, don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Many churches offer assistance in this area, or can point you in the right direction of your community’s resources.  Libraries are another great option, hosting free lectures, offering free tax help, and a host of other resources to help you along. There are also debt consolidation programs at credit unions to help you along. Electronically, the sky is the limit on the internet for budget planning tools, ideas and tips, and goal worksheets.  Be cautious though.  Not all advice is good advice.  The financial guru we look to and trust is Dave Ramsey.  He has a radio show and a great book!   In true frugal fashion, we borrowed the book from the library, and it has changed the way we managed our money forever.  Thanks, Dave!  😉

Obviously, I’m not a financial planner.  But, if you know a good one, let me know  🙂 I’m just a girl with a few goals and a half-wit plan to achieve them.   My status symbols are things that you can’t see, like my savings account, my time spent as a family, and finding innovative ways to use less, go without, and to make it and grow it myself.  Not everyone uses the same hallmarks to measure themselves against, but these are the ones that have fueled my passion for frugality.

As for other frugal financiers, I know you’re out there!  Please share your frugal finance tips.  Just don’t get too technical, because I suck at math…

{This post is third in the series, “Frugal made Easy.”  You can find Part One here, and Part Two here}

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that provide a small commission to me when purchases are made through that link–-at no extra cost to you. I only affiliate with companies whose products I personally use and can whole-heartedly recommend. Thank you for supporting Sustain, Create and Flow.

 

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This post was shared with:  Wildcrafting Wednesday, Your Green Resource, Adorned From Above Blog Hop, LHITS DIY Linky, Natural Living Monday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Your Green Resource, Frugal Crafty Home

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. You are so good at summarizing a complex topic! I appreciate your oppenness, it makes me feel like I am not alone in my struggles with money. I will try some of these ideas….first step, the credit union! I’m thinking of AlaskaUSA 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, Quorri! Talking about money is not easy to do and people are very sensitive about it. I thought it was important to touch on this in the Frugal Made Easy series 🙂 Have a good day! Jerica

  2. I love your ideas. We do many of the same things. At the end of Nov 2011 we were in a head on collision thanks to a young man who was driving while high. It was frustrating between our injuries and him being uninsured, thankfully we had a small uninsured motorist claim so we weren’t suck with high medical bills. We decided not to replace the van, it’s been 17 months now and there have only been a few times where we have wished we had a second vehicle. It’s been really nice not having any vehicle payments for the past 16 months, we paid off our other car the month after the accident, and we’ve been able to save up a fair chunk of money. Our new goal is to pay cash for a house and pay off our massive student loan debt in the next 5 years.

    • Amy, thank you very much for sharing your story! It is really touching. Although the accident was terrible, it sounds like you have embraced it as best as one can. Nice work on your successes!! I too, would love to pay off my house. Paying cash for one would be such a trip 😉 Good luck to you both! Jerica

  3. I am so glad you wrote about money! The whole thing about writing down every penny you spend…yeah, it works! I got in the pattern of doing it while I was in voluntary service and we were required to and it has served me well for several years since.

Speak your mind! But, be kind :)