The Simple Life

Awhile back my bff/twin, Megan, and I spent the day shopping. As I frivolously spent money on the new short prairie skirts at Nordstrom’s, she shopped mindfully only purchasing items she really needed. She even introduced me to the Dollar Store, and the bargain books at Barnes and Nobles. I was amazed at her frugality and ability to find awesome things at a great price. Every time I go to her house I’ll see an adorable 1960’s suit case, or a retro recipe box, items that could be sold at Anthropologie for an unreasonable price. But no! She finds these wonderful treasures at the swap meet or a thrift store, both places I’m completely unfamiliar with. What am I doing wrong? Why am I paying 60 bucks for a brand new yet looks “retro”, recipe card holder? How come I’m purchasing items at full price, when no doubt I could find a similar item at a discount store? After that day of shopping, I started to examine my financial habits.

For those of you who may not know my mother she is the prettier, non-lesbian, better dressed version of Suze Orman. She often gives me the “Suze Smack-down” on my spending habits, which she rightfully should. She and my father raised two children, in a four bedroom house with high quality furniture, excellent food, and a vast stock portfolio, all under one income.  They aren’t in debt, they aren’t upside down in their house, and have paid off cars. It’s quite the inspiration, and I realized that I’m not going anywhere with my habits. Although I’m not in debt (aside from student loans) and I have a steady income, but my savings is quite shameful. That’s when I decided to become a penny-pincher, frugal, and a cheapskate. I want great stock portfolio! I want to have over $10,000 in savings! I want a paid off car! I want to buy real estate at my young age! I want, I want, I want….

My mother first suggested that I write down every single penny I spend and earn. Being the frugal missy that I am, I reused an old school notebook to maintain my financial records in. Aside from the bills I have to pay each month (IE: car payment, student loans), I noticed I spend most of my money on spray tans, pedicures, haircuts, and magazines.  Yikes!

Then she handed me a stack of simplicity movement/frugal inspired/money saving books. From Henry David Thoreau to The Tightwad Gazette, there was a wealth of money knowledge in front of me, and so I began my money saving journey.

My first book is “The Simple Life: Thoughts on Simplicity, Frugality, and Living Well” which is a book that features a bunch of essays “about saying no to the conspicuous consumption and wasteful spending. Instead of scrambling to ‘fit in’ and ‘keep up’ they’re fighting back-avoiding the vicious cycle of debt and stress that lies at the end of advertising’s lure.”  It gives tips from people who have managed to pay off their entire home and retire early to a man who saves money by finding loot in dumpsters.  Some of the information is inspiring, but others make me downright mad. One man saves money by eating a bologna sandwich out of the dumpster, another takes two-ply toilet paper and makes it into one-ply, one lady buys oats at a feed store for animals and uses it for her oatmeal in the morning… ummm, ew! There has to be better ways to save than living in squalor!

So here are my favorite money saving/frugal tips from the book:

  1. Think small. Most people think small expenses don’t count. They do- especially the small things you do every day. If you change a habit and save $1 a day, that adds up to $365 a year. A change that saves $10 a day adds up to $3,650 a year.
  2. Stop trying to impress other people. They are probably so busy trying to impress you that they will, at best, not notice your efforts.
  3. Define your needs, wants, and goals. Only you can say what is important or trivial. The simple life is not solely about frugality, but about making wise decisions that allow you to have the things you care about while cutting loose from the things that stress you.
  4. Be realistic about material goods. People differ in emotional makeup. Assess your feelings about buying. One reader wrote to tell me that “the more you have, the more you have broken.” Learn to see each purchase not in dollars and cents, but in terms of how it impacts your life. Each dollar spent represents a dollar earned in exchange for a portion of your life. What is an item’s true worth when measured as a piece of your life span? ***I loved this one. Are the new clothes I bought at Nordies really worth the hours I spent stressed at work? Nope!
  5. Say no. The biggest obstacle to downscaled living is an obligation-cluttered life. Maybe a bridge club or golf dates enriched your life at one point, but if time now means more, reassess.
  6. Don’t go shopping. If you don’t “go shopping” you won’t spend money.  Ignore advertising that whets your appetite for stuff you don’t need.
  7. Live within your means. Buy only what you can prudently afford, avoid debt unless you are sure you can pay it off promptly, and always have something put away. Buying on credit often results in paying three times the purchase price. This doesn’t mean you have to cut up all your credit cards, just them judiciously. Wait until you have the money to buy things.
  8. Take care of what you have.  There is one thing we all have that we want to last a long time-our bodies. Simple attention to the proven preventive health practices will save you lots of money. Extend this principle to the upkeep of all your possessions.
  9. Take all the little refund checks, dividend checks, recycle refunds, birth gift checks and put them in your investments instead of checking account. Pennies, dimes, and dollars add up to a great amount when you add in interest and reinvestment.
  10. Keep holidays simple. Make your own gifts and set a budget. *** The twin did this for Christmas and made the most amazing gifts. She made me the most beautiful quilt for my room!
  11. Always pay yourself first. At least five or ten percent of your gross income.

Some of my money-saving lifestyle choices include: only dating rich men, watching my cat play with an old elastic hair tie on a Saturday night instead of going to the movies, and drinking 2 Buck Chuck from Trader Joes instead of Opus 1. If you have any tips, or a book suggestion, I’d love to hear it!

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Comments

  1. Hi Chelsea! Great post– I’ll probably check out a few of those books myself. I wanted to suggest another one for you: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Personal Finance in your 20s & 30s. It’s a good reference book to have around because it focuses on things that are relevant to us younger folks like student loan debt, moving out, buying your first home, investments (in layman’s terms, thank God!), budgeting for everything, and more. It’s clear and concise, yet comprehensive. The latest edition is about $13 on Amazon, but they might have it at the library, too. I hope you get a chance to check it out!

    • That sounds like the perfect book for me! Thank you for that suggestion. Although a lot of the books my mother handed me are nice, they are aimed towards people who have a family and those sorts of expenses, like the Tightwad Gazette. Your blog and Meg have been quite the inspiration!

  2. I think those are great tips… i am definitely a frugal spender. As for swap meet and thrift stores… YES that is what it is all about! Besides I know you are a crafty B… so any treasure you find in a second hand store just needs a little TLC which i am certain you can provide 🙂 More luck to you with spending less! You can do it! And if you ever need a thrift store shopper Let Me Know 🙂 hahah

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