Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to live more frugally

I have been called frugal.  I have also been called cheap.  However, one thing that I have not been called is wreckless with my money.  When I had student loans and car payments I used any extra money that I received to either save for something or to pay off debt.  I have zero debt. (OK, my husband has the mortgage under his name.) My student loans are paid in full and neither of us have car loans. I also pay off my Visa in full every month as well as any other monthly bills, like phone, cable, internet, cell, etc.   My husband also pays his share of the monthly bills in full too (heat, hydro, mortgage payments).

I have watched so many episodes of Till Debt Do Us Part and its spin off, Princess.  I am a HUGE fan of the host of both shows, Gail Vaz-Oxlade, and her ways of helping people to grind down their personal debt.  Gail's website offers a whole pile of articles and resources that you can look at to help you get on your way to living a healthy debt-free lifestyle.

Another person that I admire is Suze Orman, a financial guru who has great financial advice for people in all finacial brackets.  You've probably seen her on the Oprah show or her own show, The Suze Orman Show.

I am proud to say that I have been good with my money since I was about 18.  It was around that time that I realized that I had to stop spending all of my money earned from my part time job in order to save for college since my parents could not afford to help pay for me to go to school.  From that point on, I really understood the value of money and how hard it is to keep it. 

We are constantly bombarded with marketing telling us that we deserve this or we deserve that.  There's also so many buy now, pay later commercials everywhere.  And the sad thing is that millions of people actually fall for these snares. 

I am not going to lie.  Money stresses me out.  With that said, it is also one of the biggest motivators in what I do in my life.  I am a workaholic.  I will work and work and work to do whatever I can in order to help myself to make more money.  Some people may read this and think that that is greed, but it is not.  Having grown up pretty poor with a single mom trying to raise three children with very little (if any, at times) money given in child support, I remember living on welfare until my mother got remarried when I was 17 years old.  I still remember when I was six and being at the grocery store and watching my mom having to put back some groceries at the checkout because she didn't have enough money to pay for all of them.  I also remember sitting in a tiny apartment in Alberta and we were only able to eat one jam sandwich each for dinner and being SO upset that my older sister decided to take a bite out of my sandwich because there was no extra food to replace it.  Due to the hardships that I faced while growing up, I try to do whatever I can in order to make sure that that does not happen again to myself or my own family.

I have never had a job in which I made a lot of money, so I have to really think about where each dollar is going.  For example, there have been SO MANY times over the years in which my coworkers wanted to go out for lunch on payday and I simply told them that I could not afford it.  Of course, I would get the response that it is payday, so I should be able to afford it.  However, I have already allotted where my money would be going (car payment, rent, charity, groceries, RRSP contribution, visa payment, etc.) that going out for lunch didn't fit in with my weekly financial plans.

Here is a list of things that you can do in order to save money:
  • Eat out less
  • Make your own coffee at work (or bring it from home).  There is a book I read called The Automatic Millionaire and it explains this as the Starbucks effect.
  • Buy most of your clothes at second hand stores and buy some new accessories and other clothes to mix and match with them. (You'll be surprised at how new looking a lot of the clothing looks at second hand stores.)
  • Buy previously owned cars (1-3 years old) since new cars depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot
  • Pay yourself first, which means treat your retirement savings as a bill payment that you MUST pay every month.  When I was working full time, I set my RRSP contributions to come out automatically from my bank account every pay day.
  • Pay your credit card(s) in full every month.  OR
  • Only use debit or cash to keep yourself from relying on credit.
  • Buy items on sale
  • Use coupons whenever you can
  • DO NOT tell yourself that you deserve it to justify splurging.  (The ONLY things we truly deserve are food, shelter, and love.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.)
If you do not have enough money to pay for your lifestyle you must either find a higher paying job, work more to make more money OR cut back in order to save money.  I was taught to not go into debt (except for school, a house or a car) and have worked to live by that rule.  Also DO NOT expect others to pay your bills or give you money.  To me, that is the ultimate in selfishness.  I get so annoyed to hear when friends tell me that family members are giving them money to help pay their bills, yet they still have their cable, cell phone, buy new electronic gadgets, new clothes, booze, etc.  To me, if I can't afford to pay my bills, I get rid of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that I can in order to cut down on my monthly expenses.  Cable, cell phone plan (unless you need it for work), a car, gym membership, new clothes, eating out and going to the movies, vacation, etc. are all considered luxuries that we can get by without.  Yes, it may be less convenient or less fun than if we had all of these items, but you will not die without them and there are other ways to still be able to get the benefits of these things as if we still had them.

Take a bus or ride your bike to work, go jogging or bike riding in order to keep in shape.  You can also do yoga at home, etc.  Before the days of the internet, I used to sign out a lot of movies from the library in order to save on movie rental expenses.  Now you can watch movies and tv shows on Netflix for $7.99/month. 

There have been times when I have had to really live a lean lifestyle (lean in North American terms).  I went five years without a car in order to pay off my student loans. (I rode my bike to work and took the bus to other places that I needed to go.)  I remember back in 2007 when I started to go to a chiropractor again, it was costing me over $200/month, but I really needed the care, so I cut back as much spending as I could, including cutting my own hair and also doing small repairs myself to my car (ie. changing bulbs) instead of taking it to a garage to get fixed.  It was so hard for me to even do this since I was already living a frugal lifestyle, that I realized that I needed to work for a chiropractor in order to get free care and save the $200+ per month.  Thus, I applied for a job to be a receptionist at a chiropractor's office.  Nothing like getting free chiropractic care and saving money.

Savvy money people do what they can to make sure that they can afford their lifestyle as well as save for things that they really want.  If you are not used to living within your means, try some of my suggestions and see how it goes and then try a few more suggestions.  It is actually easier than your think.  You just need to change your mentality from looking more at your needs than your wants and you will find that you will not only be able to pay your bills, but be able to save some money too for retirement as well as for things that you really want to have or do.  This is coming from a woman who has paid her own way to visit 20+ countries without going into debt. I hope that you find this post helpful in some way.

Great books to read:
The Automatic Millionaire
The Wealthy Barber
Money Rules
Debt Free Forever

Great Reads:
7 Signs you are living beyond your means
Wants vs. Needs

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