Frugal Living Tip - Giving yourself a Reason to Save Money

by Adamheist - Date: 2007-07-09 - Word Count: 915 Share This!

In the US and much of the Western world, we equate money with happiness, even though our personal experience seldom gives us reason to believe that the old saying "you can't buy happiness" is anything less than true. We assure ourselves that if we only get a raise or get a better job or win the lottery, all of the stress of daily life will disappear and we'll have time for those things in life we really enjoy.

This would be true, at least partially, if making more money allowed us to have more money in the bank. However, each raise in pay also raises our desire to spend, so a promotion at work can actually put us farther into debt. How many people do we know who bring in over $100,000 a year who are still living paycheck to paycheck? How many lottery winners end up in bankruptcy court, wondering where all the money went and how they managed to make such a muddle of this windfall that should have set them up for a lifetime of financial security?

An option to spending as much or more than you make every month is to live frugally - and it's refreshing to see the increase in interest in the voluntary simplicity movement. Being intentionally frugal can actually bring you the financial security that a high-paying job cannot. In fact, if you go one step further to voluntary poverty, as I have, you may be able to quit that job and actually do something that could really make you feel fulfilled.

The one frugal living tip that makes the biggest difference is to simply keep track of everything you spend for at least a month. You probably won't keep it up for much longer than that, but it will give you an idea of where your money is going, and whether or not the money you spend on each item is really giving you the satisfaction you're paying for.

However, just keeping track won't help much unless you have a vision of another way of life that would really give you pleasure or contentment. Saving money for it's own sake feels like a sacrifice, but saving money so you can retire early and start that little farm you've always wanted would be a goal worth working for. Creating that goal may take some true soul searching and many deep conversations with your family.

When you come up with a goal you all agree on, decide how much time it will take to get there - this time frame is important, and you should be as realistic as you can. Do you want to own your own home without a mortgage? Will it take 5 years of frugal living? Or 10? Would you like to retire all your credit card debt? How long will it take?

Once you have that goal in mind, the best way to start putting money in the bank is to notice where you're spending your money now.

One thing most people discover is that the simple act of jotting down the $3 you spend on coffee every morning, plus every other small or large expenditure, will magically cause you to have money left over that you ever had before. Keeping track causes us to be mindful of our choices, and even without adding up any numbers or making any deep decisions, we save money by spending more consciously.

Once you have at least a few weeks' worth of figures, you're ready to get out the calculator. Divide the items on your list into any categories that seem reasonable - such as lunch at work, utilities, dog food... Then add up the columns to see how much you really spend.

Then, go one step further to give yourself a true shock - multiply the amount you spend on each unnecessary category, like your morning coffee at Starbucks, by the number of months you think it will take you to reach that long-term goal.

If you spend $3.50 each working day at the local coffee shop, it doesn't seem like a very big deal. Multiply that by the average of 20 working days a month, and you may be startled to realize that you spend $70 a month on coffee that you could make yourself in your own kitchen. But the real eye-opener comes when you multiply that $70 times the number of months you need to reach your goal of financial security.

If you are willing to spend 5 years in frugal living to pay down the mortgage on your house or pay off all your credit cards, multiply your monthly coffee money by 60 months, and you'll see $4200 on your calculator screen. That 's enough money for a down payment on a reasonably priced house, or to buy a good used car for your teenager. It's also enough to pay at least several month's mortgage payments, or to put in the bank for a medical emergency. $3.50 isn't an important amount of money, but to almost anyone I know, $4200 is a serious amount of cash.

Do the same calculation for everything on your list that isn't truly necessary, and you may discover that you can reduce the amount of time you need to reach your long-term goal by several years or more. If your credit card debts are weighing you down and causing daily stress, this simple frugal living tip could lead to a complete elimination of debt in just a year or less. In my mind, that's more important than a fancy cup of coffee.

Related Tags: save money, voluntary simplicity, eliminate credit card debt, frugal living, frugal living tip

Jonni is the author of the new ebook that shows exactly how she went from being flat broke to owning her own home in just 5 years. Learn how to buy a house without going into debt at

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