Frugality. It's a word that, for many people, screams deprivation and even poverty. I get letters from readers who say they've had it with trying to live below their means and never having anything they love. "What's the point if all of this deprivation if it just makes me feel even more miserable?" was the way one woman closed her letter.
Look, I can't know your particular situation. But I do know this: If you adjust your attitude, get a plan and then let nothing stop you from reaching it, you can have the things you love.
Frugality isn't only about cutting costs. There has to be a specific reason involved. And it can't be something nebulous like, "Because I want to be rich."
Frugality is about scrimping and cutting like crazy on the things you really don't care about so that you can have the things you love. It's a matter of deciding what's really important and what's not — on a daily basis and as a way of life. You have to get out of your "coma spending" and into conscious spending where every expenditure counts and every dollar matters.
The secret is to see every dollar as a kind of personal employee. They work for you. But you have to supervise and manage them, as every good employer does. If you see needs, you assign staff to meet those needs and get those jobs done.
I could give you all kinds of examples of how this might work, but let's take something as simple as paper towels. A couple of rolls tucked in with the weekly groceries may not seem like such a big deal. And they are convenient. But do you really love paper towels? Enough to sacrifice things that you really do love in order to have that roll of paper always at the ready? I sure don't.
Experts say the average household uses 1 1/2 to 2 rolls of paper towels per week. At a going rate of about a buck a roll, that's $100 a year. Since I don't love paper towels, that's $100 I can divert to something that I do love or cannot live without. Now multiply this principle across paper napkins, paper plates, paper cups and plastic utensils, and we're talking a lot of money I choose to not spend on these things that I neither love nor need.
SET A GOAL
No matter how frivolous, you need a goal that is going to make your trade-offs worthwhile. Giving up paper towels might be a pain for a while, but if your goal is so much more glorious, it won't be difficult because you will know that you are working toward something specific — something you love.
CREATE AN ACCOUNT
This is mandatory. I suggest setting up an online savings account at Ally or Capital One because that just makes saving money brainlessly easy. Now you can transfer any amount any time into your goal account.
Saving with a goal puts all of your decisions into perspective. It makes cutting costs mercilessly on things that don't matter worth the effort because in so doing, you're affirming and moving toward having the things you love.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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