I recently received a request to answer a few questions about frugality. The request came from CESI Debt Solutions who had posted quotes from 19 other personal finance bloggers that you can read here. That article was then picked up by Time magazine and as a follow up CESI Debt Solutions wanted to publish even more tips from more bloggers.
So here’s my little contribution.
Question #1 – What’s your “frugality story?” In other words, how and why did you become frugal?
My wife and I had recently moved into a house, adopted a child, had a number of surgeries, and transitioned from two incomes to one, all within a year. We were forced to get control over our finances quickly or have a major lifestyle adjustment (like moving out of our house). We had a strong incentive and knew we could survive by taking control of our finances. As a result, we worked our way through it and created our own system that has allowed us not only to survive but to reach our financial goals with increased speed and focus.
Question #2 – What, if anything, tempts you to overspend, and how do you resist?
I’m always shifting from one hobby to the next so there’s always an excuse to spend. My two biggest weaknesses right now are books and board games.
One general technique I use is to imagine what will happen after the purchase is made and I’m at home. For example, if I buy the book, will I read it when I get home or will it go into my pile of unread books on the bookshelf? Just getting that picture in my mind helps clarify if I REALLY want it and will use it or if I’m just in the moment and getting sucked into a purchase I won’t get any real enjoyment from. This trick works particularly well with board games since they’re social. Sometimes I almost get sucked into buying a game that I know my friends and family won’t be interested and will never get played. Projecting into the future helps me make a good decision.
Another trick I use is to see if I can rent or borrow the item. With books, you can borrow them from a library. With board games, you can often find a friend that has the game you can borrow. My local game store even has rental games you can check out for 10 days and the rental price goes towards a purchase when you return it. I’ve often taken that option and find after playing the game that I don’t really care to own it.
One interesting side note is that I bought a Kindle last year and have made no physical book purchases since then. In fact my overall book purchases have gone WAY down. I attribute this to the fact that I can get any book I want instantly through my Kindle. This eliminates the psychological response of wanting to get a book just to have it when I need it or because I’m afraid it won’t be there later when I want it. I only purchase the books I’m ready to read NOW which is a much smaller number than the books I WANT to read. It has probably saved me a couple hundred dollars in book purchases.
Question #3 – What personal finance or frugality habits were the hardest for you to adopt and why?
Using cash was probably the hardest because credit cards are so convenient. But whatever inconvenience you suffer on the front-end making purchases is more than made up for on the back-end when reconciling your transactions. One cash withdraw entry vs. 40+ miscellaneous purchases and entries.
Cash has also been the single biggest thing that has helped us to control our spending. It’s an instant, compelling feedback mechanism. It makes you feel a much stronger connection to the money you spend versus credit cards which make you feel disconnected and therefore make you more likely to overspend.
Question #4 – Have you ever taken frugality too far? How so?
You know, I don’t think I ever have. I tend to always push the limits of spending more than I should. My wife used to do things like rinsing out ziploc bags to use them later, but I convinced her it’s an unnecessary if not unsanitary habit.
Question #5 – What resources (blogs, books, websites) would you recommend to someone who’s newly frugal?
- Anything by Dave Ramsey but, in particular, his Financial Peace University program
- The Richest Man in Bablyon
- The Millionaire Next Door
- Rich On Any Income
- My 12 Weeks to Fiscal Fitness program, of course
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