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Finances Frugality Happiness

The Diderot Effect

The Diderot Effect has been used as a lesson against mindless consumerism since the minimalist movement began. The moral of the lesson is always the same: buying something nice will lead to us buying other nice things until we’re broke and miserable.

I was right on board with that thought from the beginning. Why should we strive to buy better things when we’re all poor in the first place? I reasoned. Wouldn’t it be better if we used what we had instead?

It would definitely be cheaper, I thought.

So that’s what I did for years. I scrounged around for free or cheap stuff and made do in order to save money. I kept it clean, used it till it died, and scrounged replacements as time went on.

Diderot’s complaint was that a gift of a fancy robe caused him to upgrade his entire home to match. He spent far more than he felt was appropriate and regretted his decision. His rant has been used as an argument against consumerism ever since.

Let’s poke at him with a stick. If we strip away the consumerism aspect his theory is simple: if we allow ourselves to upgrade one aspect of our lives, in time we will upgrade other areas to match.

Does this work in both directions? Let’s use my life as an example. Here are some pictures of my home before I became extremely frugal:




 


 

 

This is my bedroom now:


new bed

Note that every single item in all of those photos was paid for in cash. I purchased the furniture in the first photos secondhand. I didn’t break the bank to achieve the first look; I used what I had and accentuated it when time and money allowed.

And if I allow myself to be honest with myself, the first set of images suits who I am inside much better than the photo of what I’ve become.

In short, I am a living example of the Diderot effect. By focusing solely on what I could scrounge and exploring how low I could go financially, my external environment deteriorated as well.

What Can We Learn From the Diderot Effect?

We can see from my example that the Diderot effect works in both directions. In the first set of images, I started out by purchasing a bedroom set from a friend and accentuated accordingly. In the second…

…I’m not so sure how to explain the last photo.

While there is a risk of allowing ourselves to buy more than we can afford, if we curb the temptation to overspend, I believe that we can harness the Diderot Effect to improve our living circumstances over time.

An upgraded wardrobe, purchased used (or new when money allows), would provide improved job opportunities.

An upgraded home would improve our quality of life and allow us to attract, not only a different set of friends but a completely different lifestyle than the one we currently have.

So repeat after me:

There is Nothing Wrong With Improving Your Life

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your financial circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with affordable luxury.

We need money in order to live. That is a fact of life that, try as we may, we cannot escape in our modern society. There is no sin in improving your wardrobe bit by bit to gain a better paying job, and there is no sin in upgrading your home as you can afford it.

I’m preaching to myself as well here. Until I started this post, I’d no idea how far I’d fallen.

Oddly enough, my income hasn’t even changed much between the two photos. I had changed, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Harnessing the Diderot Effect

I’ve decided that it is time that I went back to the woman I was when I snapped those photos. She wasn’t ashamed of owning nice things; she bought what she could afford when she could afford them and savored those luxuries in her life.

She didn’t tolerate useless clutter but she allowed herself occasional treats. She enjoyed scented candles, incense, and a monthly box of inexpensive bath salts that she split with her kid.

She didn’t feel guilty when she went out to eat. She didn’t feel guilty when she bought a pretty dress at Goodwill. She carefully budgeted her money but allowed herself the little splurges when money allowed.

She wasn’t perfect; she allowed herself to be persuaded to live above her means around the time those photos were taken. She took out some credit cards and financed a washer and dryer that caused her to struggle. I suspect that attempt to move too far and too fast is what started her on the journey to where I stand today.

But if I learn from that experience, if I harness the Diderot Effect in a responsible manner, I should be able to improve my life dramatically.

I can go back to who I was again.

Confession and Challenge

This post ended far differently than how I originally envisioned it. I imagined that I would rant against consumerism like I have so many times in the past as I sat down at my keyboard. I worked myself up to a white-hot rage against my previous self…

…until I looked at the date on the original photos.

I wasn’t a mindless consumer back then. I had started down the path of minimalism, true, but I had used the philosophy to curate my life for the better. I had stumbled upon minimalism before it was a thing and I used it to better my life before I got swept up in the pissing contest of less is more.

I don’t like what I see that I’ve become. I’ve allowed myself to settle for less and less until I lost sight of who I truly am. I was so driven to live on less that I forgot that there is value in moderation.

Maybe Katie was right. Maybe I did deprive her in my desire to live cheap. I did it with the best of intentions but I can’t argue with the truth I see in those photos.

Seeing these photos made me realize a truth I’ve avoided facing for far too long. This post is the reason I decided to press the pause button on my blog and my life in order to rethink things.

I can’t change the past but I can learn from it so I’ve set myself a challenge. I am going to identify one item that I’ve denied myself for ages; an item that I could never justify purchasing under my previous mindset. An item that cheapskate me would never buy because it was far too expensive and served no practical purpose other than to provide me pleasure. I am going to buy it, just because, in order to prove to myself that I am worthy of owning beautiful things once more.

After that, I will begin to use the Diderot Effect to reclaim my life.


Have you noticed the Diderot Effect in your life? Has it been a positive or a negative change? Are you happy with the results of the effect? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Investments

Unjustifiable Luxury

I want a washing machine. I really do. I would like few things more than to be able to sit at home and do my laundry whenever I desire.

With this in mind I pulled out my trusty ledger and checked to see just how much I spend each month at the laundromat in hopes that I could justify the purchase.

I spend $15-$20 a month.

A new portable washing machine ranges in price from $100-$300 depending upon size and features. The cheapest model that I like (that would fit in the small space I have) costs $173.00. It would take approximately nine months of laundry savings to pay it off.

That’s not bad, not really. If the machine held together for a few years I might even come out ahead in savings. I could wash what I wanted, when I wanted. Of course, knowing me I’d eventually splurge on a little dryer to match. In roughly 20 months I would have paid for them in laundry savings and convenience.

But can I justify it in light of my goal? If I spent $300 on a washer and a dryer I would gain convenience, but if I invested that money I would be almost a day’s wage closer to freedom, even more as I reinvested the dividends.

In light of this I am forced to ask myself which do I want more? Do I want the convenience of washing my laundry at home, or do I want my freedom? As much as it stinks, I am forced to make this choice: convenience now or freedom later?

And you know what? I want my freedom. As much as I would love the convenience, I want to go back to the days when my time was my own once again. I want to wake up when I want to wake up. I want to immerse myself in my writing or my house cleaning without having to stop in the middle to go to work just to pay the bills. I want to work because I want to work, not because I have to work. If that means that I have to suck it up and drag my tired butt down to the laundromat and deal with a bunch of screaming kids then so be it. If that means I have to wash my laundry in the bathtub and dry it with a box fan then I will do just that.

I will do whatever it takes to achieve financial freedom. The rich buy assets; the poor buy liabilities. I have to remember that. As much as my tired, ornery butt dislikes dealing with my laundry I will suck it up and move on. I will allow the owner of the laundromat to deal with repairs, maintenance, and higher utility bills while I invest every penny I can spare to regain my freedom.

That said, there’s a spoiled little girl deep inside of me stomping her feet in frustration. She wants a washer, dammit! She wants a washer and a dryer and while I’m at it I need to throw in a couple of pink unicorns for her as well because nothing else will do. She’s tired of being poor. She wants to have at least some of the things that normal people have.

But the voice of logic reigns. I won’t be poor forever, not if I apply myself each and every month to my future. If I focus on my writing, rebuild my book royalties and invest the funds I will have a much safer, better future than the one in store for me if I surrender to contemporary pleasures.

In the meantime I’m not in the mood to deal with people today so it’s time to dump another basket of laundry in the bathtub. Mama needs a clean pair of panties.

Is there a desire in your life that you can’t currently justify or afford? How does that make you feel? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

Categories
Finances Frugality

Rock Bottom

I do believe I have now officially hit rock bottom as far as expenses go. With my daughter as my official roommate, she splits half of the household expenses with me. Here is a breakdown:

Rent: $250 a month
Electric: $50 avg. in summer
Water/Sewage/Trash: $39.88
Internet: $30.59

Total: $370.47

My Half: $185.24

As usual, I am not including the amount we spend on food. We buy in bulk during sales and stock-up periods and then don’t purchase much of anything for quite some time until we use up what we have. On top of that my daughter now takes turns with the grocery expense; I have no idea how much she spends when she pays for groceries on her own.

I’m not going to calculate how much our bills go up in winter at the moment because, let’s face it; they are half of what I was paying previously. Even worse, I know that they will go up once the kid moves out.

I still don’t own a car. I walk to work, the store, and order online when it makes financial and physical sense. I currently use Google Voice for my phone, though my daughter has a cell phone that she pays for herself. If I went with her route I would pay $50 a month for phone service.

I know of no one else on the Internet who lives on less than I do unless they happen to be homeless. I rent a home, I have basic utilities, I never go hungry and I have money left for small extras every month. I am able to live comfortably on the $600 a month I earn in my public job, which now allows me to save every penny of my book royalties to invest in my future.

Let’s face it: there’s only so low you can go on your monthly expenses before you negatively affect your quality of living. I have no desire to go any lower than I already have. That said, I’ve no intention of going on a spending spree and buying everything in sight. I am taking advantage of my current situation to put money away to regain my financial freedom.

Out of curiosity, if you happen to know of another frugality writer who lives on less than I do, please point me in their direction. I’d love to learn their secrets.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Frugality is Not Enough

As I write this my home looks like there was an explosion in a clothing factory. I’ve spent the past few days washing laundry in my bathtub to save a bit more money this month. It is times like this when I dream of owning a washer and a dryer; it would be absolute heaven not to have to drag a heavy cart to the laundromat or wash things out by hand.

After I rinsed out the last round I sat down and priced some simple, small washing machines. I could probably buy one next month but if I did so my investment goals would suffer. Do I really want to delay my financial freedom for this? I asked myself. Every hundred dollars I invest brings me an hours’ wage closer so can’t it wait?

Yes, it can.

I know I could go to the laundromat; I’ve enough money in my pocket to pay for it easily enough but I’ve gotten to the point where my dream has become real to me. I’ve realized that I can really, truly achieve financial freedom through investments. Unfortunately, my income is so low that, in order to achieve my freedom, some sacrifices must be made. I am literally stealing from my present in order to finance my future.

This has caused me to realize that frugality is not enough. When your income drops below a certain amount immense sacrifices have to be made if an emergency arises or you would like to acquire something that would make life better.

I am tired of living at that level of forced sacrifice. It’s time to make some changes.

What do you sacrifice when you want to save money? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Housing

Winter Worries

The kid will be moving out this winter. She plans to get married once her fiancée graduates BASIC training and move on base with him once he gets things sorted. Here’s a picture of him in training:

The demon Fear has raised its ugly head since I’ve received this notice. She will probably move out mid-winter when the bills are at their highest. Should this come to pass I might have to suspend my investment plan until spring returns just to survive.

Sometimes working for minimum wage sucks.

I’ve gotten rather spoiled with her sharing our household expenses. As a result I’ll have to limit my spending just to make the bills. Since I only bring home about $600 a month from my public job I’ll have less than $100 a month to buy food and supplies while I wait for spring to come back around. I might have to use my book royalties to make things easier, at the cost of my future.

I don’t like that thought. Every penny that I invest takes me that much closer to achieving financial freedom. I miss my freedom. I also don’t like the thought of having to tighten my belt once more. The memory of those two lean years still haunts me.

But that’s okay. I know I can make ends meet regardless. It might be tight but it’s not impossible. Some way, somehow I’ll not only scrape through, I’ll figure out how to continue investing at least a little bit towards my future.

One bright spot: I’ll be able to sleep in a bedroom for the first time in over seven years once the kid moves out. I’ll even be able to rearrange a bit to make this place more usable.

Look on the bright side Annie. 

Maybe I’ll stumble across a way to increase my income so things won’t be so tight. Who knows? Anything can happen. In the meantime I am thankful that my daughter is on the verge of a brand-new adventure. I am also thankful that I know how to live extremely cheap. It allows me to survive in situations that would make the average person choke, so despite my fears I know that I will be just fine. I just have to ride the emotional wave.

How do you encourage yourself when fear raises its head? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Car-Free Finances Frugality Housing

Frugality and the Pareto Principle

According to the 80/20 Principle, 20 percent of actions will provide 80 percent of results. This is especially true when it comes to frugality.

When you break it down the majority of money I personally save falls into two main categories: housing and auto. By renting a one-bedroom house in a less than ideal area, I saved $200 a month back when I first moved here in 2011. Since rental prices have went up slightly since then I’ve saved even more.

By allowing my daughter to become my roommate instead of simply encouraging her to move into her own place I increased my savings even more by halving my already low expenses. While this also has the added benefit of providing my daughter with a safe place to live at a price she can definitely afford (while teaching her how to manage money), that is simply an added bonus.

Eliminating my vehicle saved me another thousand dollars a year. While I didn’t have the burden of a car payment (or the cost of the full-coverage insurance that comes along with it), that savings has added up as well.

I manage to save $5,000 a year on just these two expenses alone. The other little frugal decisions I’ve made pale in comparision. To be blunt, I would either have to take a second job (I would need to work an additional 34 weeks a year at my current $150 a week public job income) or locate a position that paid twice the hourly wage that I currently earn if it were not for the money I save in these two areas if I didn’t want to reduce my standard of living.

If you are serious about saving money I urge you to give these numbers serious consideration. While eating out less, eliminating phone service, cancelling subscription services, and other things do save money, you will receive higher savings if you focus on just these two areas of your life.

Running the numbers has shown me that making your own laundry detergent and simply living on less is not enough if you want and need to save serious money. It’s the big expenses that really destroy your budget. However, if you are interested in paring your expenses even further, I urge you to check out my books The Shoestring Girl and The Minimalist Cleaning Method.

Have you ever analyzed where the bulk of your money goes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Why Bother Saving Money?

A common question I receive from family and friends is “why bother to save money?” Their reasoning is that, if they can afford it, they should enjoy every penny they have to spend.

There’s nothing wrong with this logic on the surface. We’ve been trained to believe that we no longer really need to save for retirement or for protection in the event we become seriously ill or injured. Social Security was created to take care of us in those cases.

The truth is far different. Social Security was designed to replace only half of our earnings. My $600 a month employment income translates into roughly a $300 Social Security retirement benefit. While programs like SSI are in place to raise your monthly income to a more livable wage, in order to qualify you can’t have much at all in assets like money in the bank. For instance, a family member was recently informed that she had X amount of time to spend down the $5,000 she had managed to save before she would lose her benefits. She had been so proud of her savings! She had scrimped and saved in order to afford a down payment on a house but the government didn’t care. She was forced to give up her dream of home ownership and bought a car with the money since she couldn’t qualify for a mortgage with such a low down payment in her area.

If you are injured it can take years for you to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you qualify at all. The odds of being able to survive financially during this time are slim without extensive support from friends and family.

This is the reality that we live in. The safety nets we have been taught to believe in are not as safe as we believe them to be. As a result, we need to save money not only to survive while we recover from an injury but to supplement the limited retirement benefit that Social Security provides.

It is not always fun to scrimp and save when everyone around us spends money like mad. It’s not fun to turn down invitations to spend time with friends or catch their condescending looks when they show off the things that you know you can’t afford.

It’s not fun being poor, period. If your assets and finances are so low that you qualify for public assistance people judge you for every move that you make. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard someone behind a person on food benefits remark negatively about the fact that a mother purchased snacks for her kids or bought some microwave meals to eat at work, and I’ll never forget the time a worker at a dental office commented on my daughter’s brand-new shoes.

They were the first pair of brand new shoes my daughter had owned in years.

I’ve lived an extremely frugal life for over 20 years. I deliberately worked lower-paying jobs and saved my money so that I could take periods of time off and savor the fleeting childhood of my children or be home for them when they got off the bus after school. While I have no regrets, I didn’t always enjoy the experience.

So why save money?

You need to have money to live on in the event you get hurt. You need to have money if your roof springs a leak or your car needs repaired. You definitely need to have money saved up when it comes time to retire unless you want your income sliced in half.

Most importantly, you need to save money if you want to have any hope of escaping poverty. There are a number of ways to invest your savings that will help you climb the financial ladder but that option is completely closed to you if you don’t have any money to invest. While you may have to hit the books in order to learn how, it is possible to escape poverty by learning how to invest in precious metals, the stock market, opening a small business, or other areas. You might not get rich but you’ll end up making a lot more than you would by leaving the money in savings at current interest rates. Ask Chris Gardner if you don’t believe me. He was homeless when he started out.

If you want to survive in this world you need to save. If you want to improve your lot in this world, you need to save. If you want to have any hope for a better future, you definitely need to start saving.

Starting now.

If you are new to saving money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl. I’m one of the few frugality experts who actually knows what they’re talking about when it comes to saving money

Categories
Finances Frugality Investments

Frugality is Essential for Success

Everywhere you turn these days one can find ads touting this investment or that business as the way to “get rich quick.” Just buy this course or whatever and money will flow into your life like a raging river.

Bull crap. There’s no such thing as “get rich quick.” It’s all a scam to part us with our hard-earned money.  Study the success stories of others and you will discover the truth: it can take years for one to achieve success.

After doing a lot of research I decided to invest in the stock market in order to increase my wealth and financial freedom. This avenue appealed to me because it doesn’t care about your race, your gender, your education–or even how much money you have to spend.

You can literally start from anywhere in the stock market.

The hardest part to any type of investing is acquiring the money to invest. This is especially hard for those of use who live on minimum wage. How can you save up any money to invest if you’re living at your financial limit?

The truth is that you can’t. If you want to buy a house, invest in the stock market, or just save up for a rainy day you must live beneath your means.

Frugality is essential if you want to improve your financial status. You need seed money in order to save or invest; the only way to get that is to live on less.

You can save money no matter what your income level. So far I’ve managed to invest around $1,200 into the stock market and I make less than $800 a month between my royalties and my day job. If I can do it, you can too. I managed this by watching my expenses like a hawk and making savings my primary goal because I know that, in time, I’ll be able to loosen the purse strings a bit as my investments start to pay off.

In summary, know that you don’t have to be wealthy in order to save and invest. You can start right now with what you have. Financial Freedom is accessible to all of us if we learn how to play the game.

If you want to learn how I personally save money read the older posts on this website or buy my book The Shoestring Girl.  I don’t want to bore you here by repeating myself.

Categories
Frugality

I Hate Modern Furniture

I detest modern furniture with a white-hot passion. I’d rather set my money on fire than to buy the worthless crap that they call modern furniture these days. When I was a kid, you bought a piece of furniture with the knowledge that it would outlast you. My parents bought used furniture back in the 1960’s and 1970’s that would still be here today if a flood hadn’t destroyed it. I’ve still got an old coffee table that I salvaged from that flood and it’s still going strong!

Modern furniture isn’t designed to last. Unless you buy hand-crafted furniture from the Amish or at a flea market (or can afford an artesian piece), the rest of it is all mass-produced, composite-wood crap. It’s more glue and plastic than anything!

I’ve spent the past few months in a continuing debate with some friends over my furniture preferences. They posited the argument that I would be better off (and have nicer-looking stuff) if I allowed them to take me to a furniture store to search for a new bed or another couch to replace the one the kid traded me out of since my current bed sags in the middle.

I grew madder and madder as I examined the selections at this “high end” store. Every single piece was cheaply-produced garbage that wouldn’t hold up for a year, much less a lifetime, and these idiots wanted a fortune for it!

Metal bed frames? Forget it. The metal was so thin it would warp if my kid jumped on it or more than one adult sat on it. Wood was a complete joke. The pieces that used “real” wood used wood that was so thin I could snap it over my knee. There is no way in hell that crap would survive more than a year in an active household and I told them as much.

The salesmen were offended but I didn’t really care. I didn’t even feel bad for my friend. It was her idea to go there to prove her point–and her point failed miserably upon examination. I had tried to explain in advance that I’ve purchased modern furniture in the past but she wouldn’t listen. It was gorgeous when you first put it together but if you actually try to use it you will watch your hard-earned cash go to waste when it starts to sag or breaks entirely.

I’ll never forget the two-hundred-dollar chest of drawers I purchased for my kids back in the day. In less than six months they had it destroyed, while the used chest of drawers my parents gave me during my childhood is being abused by my grandson to this day. It is being used by a third generation after miraculously surviving a flood while I owned it!

I’ll never forget the $1,500 sectional my cousin purchased a few years back. She was so proud when she had it delivered. It was going to be the last couch she ever purchased.

Four months after she bought it they heard a loud snap as one of the kids sat down on it. A piece of the frame had broken. She tried to keep using it but it continued to deteriorate until she was forced to replace it. Fifteen hundred dollars straight down the drain.

To my friend’s immense annoyance her trip proved to me that I was right in hating modern furniture. I’ll just go to a lumberyard and have a thick piece of plywood cut to the size of my 1960’s-era Roll-Away bed frame. It’s not only cheaper but it will last a helluva lot longer than the furniture on the market today.

Do you detest modern furniture? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Organization

Moratorium

Everyone’s needs change over time. You may slow down or stop using an item, or you may start to use something else instead. It’s just a part of life.

For instance, I was a big fan of pencil and paper. I not only write copious lists, I also composed my book/blog drafts and kept a journal in paper format. To save money I stocked up on pencils and notebooks the other year when I caught them on sale.

Since then my needs have changed. My journals are now stored electronically, written in plain text format and stashed on my computer. I save photos, scanned papers, and other relevant items in an annual folder with the file names sorted by date. While I still use pencil and paper for my lists, my usage of these items has went down drastically.

While I’m delighted at the lower cost of maintaining electronic records, the change in my habits left me with a small stockpile of pencils, pens, and notebooks. Instead of having a year’s supply on hand as per my plan, I have a tote of supplies now that won’t get used up for several years.

Since the items will get used eventually it doesn’t make financial sense to eliminate them. In fact, I’m sure my daughter and grandchildren will make a dent in them over time even if I don’t. Even so, it would be stupid for me to add to my stockpile this year. A stockpile is only worth the time and expense when it actually gets used in a reasonable amount of time.

As a result I have now instituted a spending moratorium on certain office supplies. No more paper, pencils, or similar items will be purchased until we use up what we have.

Period.

It doesn’t matter if we stumble upon a cute little notebook with a funny little saying or a crazy-cheap sale during Back To School Season. I refuse to buy what I don’t actually need.

Spending moratoriums can apply to all areas of your life. If you have a sizeable collection of books, music, movies, video games, or whatnot that you haven’t used, it makes sense not to purchase any more until you’ve actually enjoyed what you already have.

If you have food in your pantry that is in danger of going bad, don’t buy more until you use it up.

If your closet is overflowing, stop buying more clothes!

That’s why we stay broke, folks. We spend money on crap we don’t need when we have more than enough already. It’s one thing to stock up on stuff we need and actually use, but when it gets to the point where we have more on hand than we can use up in a reasonable amount of time, we need to stop.

Buying for the sake of buying is stupid.

What areas of your life do you need to impose a moratorium on? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Food Frugality

Living Large on a Shoestring

I might live cheap but I do live well. I like to take advantage of sales in order to enjoy life as much as possible. One of the major ways I do this is on food.

I am a huge fan of quality meat. I enjoy a nice steak as much as the next person but I rarely treat myself to them.

Unless I catch them on sale, that is.

The other day my store offered T-bone steaks at $3.99 a pound. In the year I’ve worked there I’ve never seen such a bargain. Normally the steaks cost around $9 a pound though occasionally they offer them on sale for $4.99 a pound.

After work I looked over the selections so we could have a treat. I purchased two thick steaks and carried them home to surprise my daughter.

It was a simple meal. We marinated the steaks and served them with mashed potatoes. We even had enough for leftovers the next day and the mutts got some bones to chew on. Life is really good.

Have you scored any serious bargains lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

How I Made an 82.82% Investment Return on $7.56

One of the smartest decisions I have ever made was to take business classes in high school. I learned how businesses save a fortune simply by buying the items they use in larger quantities instead of as they use them. Unfortunately, this teaching runs counter to how many people manage their finances. They only have so much money until payday that they need to spend on A, B, and C. While they’re at it, they also want to eat out a time or two so instead of stockpiling something they use every day (like bathroom tissue) they purchase just enough to last until their next paycheck arrives.

This is why so many people stay broke. They think short-term instead of long-term in regards to their purchases.

The truth is this: when you purchase items in bulk you can save a small fortune. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do this, either. All you have to do is select a single item that you use regularly and purchase a larger quantity when you run low. Eventually you will amass a stockpile that will save you a LOT of money in the long run.

For instance, I am a big fan of melamine sponges (magic erasers). Add a little water to these beauties and you can clean almost anything without a lot of scrubbing or unhealthy chemicals. Despite the fact that they tear up easily, these little sponges are an essential part of my cleaning arsenal since my time is limited these days due to working a public job, volunteering, and writing.

A two-pack of these sponges costs $1 if you purchase the generic brand at my local Family Dollar so I usually stock up whenever I make it to WalMart since they cost 88 cents for a two-pack there. I realized that I might be able to apply the bulk buying principle to these erasers. I went online and discovered that I could purchase 100 of these sponges at Amazon for $7.59 with free shipping.

I saved almost a day’s wage just by buying them in bulk! If I were to purchase 100 of these sponges at my local Family Dollar I would have spent $50 before tax. If I had bought them at WalMart I would have spent $44. I saved $42.44 and $36.44 respectively as a result.

I don’t know about you but I love having an extra forty dollars in my pocket. I would rather have that money to spend on other items instead of spending it on a single item. This one purchase earned a whopping 82.82% return on my initial investment. Considering that you’re lucky to receive 1% interest on a savings account these days I consider this a major win!

While it might take several years for me to use up that supply of sponges they neither eat nor drink so they will cost nothing to store on my shelf. Even better, I won’t have to worry about the cost of these sponges going up for some time in the future.

Today I have a challenge for you. Instead of spending seven bucks at your local fast food dive for a bunch of unhealthy junk food, why not invest that money by buying something in bulk that you use on a regular basis instead? Shop around for a good deal on an item you use regularly and stock up to maximize your savings. When you’re done, calculate how much money you saved and share it in the comments below.

You will save a fortune.

Categories
Car-Free Frugality

The Luxury of a Vehicle

A few weeks ago a friend asked for some help. He needed to locate a vehicle that would start and run for $1,000 or less–in two weeks.

Considering that my days off rarely match up to the friend in question I considered this an almost impossible task. Not only can it take months to stumble on the perfect deal, the absolute best bargains are on vehicles that need immediate repair before they can be driven.

My friend vetoed those outright.

As we inched closer to the deadline I found myself having to reject vehicles that I would personally buy if I were shopping for myself. Vehicles that need some work can be bought for a song if you know how to do it. That was how I acquired the last van I owned. I paid $500 for it when the transmission went out and had a rebuilt one installed. For $2,000 I ended up with a vehicle that blue-booked for twice that amount and drove it for many years.

"You know, you may not be able to afford the luxury of a vehicle right now," I consoled after the last round of inspections failed to locate something suitable. "You could always walk to work and save up some more money while you look for something you like. It would be tough but you live close enough to your job to manage it."

He gave me the look that one reserves for the crud on the bottom of their shoe. "Cars are not luxuries," he sniffed. "Not if you actually go places."

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted. While I understood that my friend was scared, what he didn’t understand is that in some cases a car is a luxury. When you live in town within walking distance to work and stores you can live without a vehicle, especially in this age of Internet commerce. I know; I’ve done it for years.

Unfortunately, most people have been brainwashed into believing that a vehicle is a necessity regardless of circumstances. I’ve seen folks go without food or hit up charities just to make their car payment.

"Well unless you get really lucky you might just have to," I countered gently.

Fortunately for my friend a few days later we struck paydirt. We located a car being sold for a song that was in desperate need of some tires and cosmetic work. We limped the car to a repair shop, scored a used set of rubber, and went on with our lives.

"You know, you should really buy yourself a car," my friend counseled when he caught me walking to work in the rain several days later. "It makes no sense to walk in the rain when you can afford not to."

"I’ll think about it," I replied as we said farewell. I would rather save money for the future instead of spending it on repairs, insurance, and the myriad other costs that come hand in hand with vehicle ownership. While I might buy another car some day, for the moment I am content.

What is the one thing your friends consider essential that you do not? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

Bargain Food

One of the ways I stretch my dollars is by taking advantage of the fact that I work in a grocery store. Every single shift I look around for good deals and take advantage when I can. For instance, when my employer issued coupons for a free 24-pack of bottled water with a purchase a while back, I bought some groceries and squirreled away the water in our assigned area so I would have something to drink on my breaks–completely free.

One major way I save money is on milk. I wait until we mark down the ones that are nearing the expiration date to buy as much as possible. Since a gallon of milk costs $2.49 here that saves us quite a bit! I keep our refrigerator on the coldest setting so that the milk doesn’t spoil before we use it.

We do the same with eggs and other items. 

This is one reason why I am very thankful that my daughter and I work in grocery stores. We both do this routinely in order to save money. While I’ve not calculated exactly how much we save doing this, I’ve no doubt that we manage to pare down our expenses by a couple hour’s wage at the least. Over time that adds up.

Does your current situation allow you to save money on things you need and use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Evaluating my Decision to Stockpile

I had a bit of a panic attack the other day while I was cleaning my house. As I was rearranging the stockpile of food and supplies I’ve acquired over the past few months I froze in shock over the sheer volume of what I had acquired. Oh, my goodness, I thought in dismay, have I become a mindless consumer?

I’ve preached against mindless buying for ages so the thought was more than a bit disturbing. I tore through my house, evaluating all of the purchases I’ve made over the past year to discover the truth of my actions.

I found:

  • Bathroom tissue
  • Paper towels
  • Soap
  • Vinegar
  • Pinalen (like Pine Sol, only cheaper and actually smells like pine)
  • Odoban (the best disinfectant and deodorizer I have ever found)
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo (I don’t always use baking soda to wash my hair)
  • Toothbrushes
  • Pet supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Books
  • FoodfoodFOOD! My pantry is stocked and my chest freezer is full.

Those were my major acquisitions over the past year. Every single one of these items will get used in time. None of it will go bad before I use it.

I do need to curtail my spending on groceries but other than that I can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not mindlessly consuming things, I’m doing the exact same thing I did for years before I started my hard-core minimalism experiment.

I’m stocking up.

The primary way I’ve managed to survive during the hard times of my life was by stockpiling the things we use when money allowed. Since we don’t switch brands or products frequently (if at all), we don’t have to worry about switching brands before our supplies run out.

Fortunately I’m nearing the end of my stock-up phase. That means I’ll be able to save even more money towards my goal of building my savings account.

Even better, by stockpiling items that we use when I find a really good deal I’ve saved several weeks’ worth of wages that I would have otherwise been forced to spend on these items.

For the record, however, I’m kinda glad that the stockup phase is almost finished. I’m tired of spending so much money.

Do you ever evaluate your purchases to see how you’re doing financially? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Panic Attack

Earlier this month after paying expenses I decided to get a jump on my new goal. Instead of absorbing my current round of royalties into my life I decided to transfer the amount into my brokerage account instead. While I had planned to start next month, I was anxious to begin. I sat down at the computer and logged into my accounts. After calculating exactly how much royalties I had received last month, I started setting up the transfer.

I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart beat a staccato in my chest and I started shaking. What the hell? I stood up on wobbly legs and staggered out to the front porch. I needed to breathe, I needed to stop trembling, I needed to think, dammit–what in the world was wrong with me?

It took several moments of deliberate breathing for my mind to function again. It dawned on me that I was having a panic attack at the thought of saving the source of money I had relied on for several years. The reaction made no logical sense; I’ve ran the numbers so I know for a fact that I can afford to live exclusively on the income that my public job provides, especially now that I’ve gotten the bulk of my house sorted for the long haul. To make things worse, I’ve spent the past couple of decades relying on every single penny I could manage to earn.

I closed my eyes and just breathed. I knew that the reaction was illogical. I wasn’t blowing the money; I was simply shifting it into another account. I would have it available to use should a need actually arise. In the meantime, that money would earn a bit more money for the future.

Bit by bit I regained control of my body until, still trembling, I went back in the house, sat down at my computer, and finalized the transaction. Wiping away the tears from my weakness I finished getting dressed and headed to work.

My boss was confused when she saw my upset and promptly gave me a hug. We talked for a moment about how the mind can play games with us before I clocked in to work. I forced my emotions aside and focused on my duties.

Guess what? I lived. I not only lived, I arranged for the transfer to be as automatic as I could make it in the future. While I’ll have to manually transfer the money some of my distributors pay (since they only pay by PayPal), the bulk of my royalties will be automatically deposited into my brokerage account each and every month. In the meantime I am growing accustomed to having a lower balance in my checking account.

Sometimes you have to face your fears head-on in order to grow.

What fears have you faced lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Getting Serious About Finances

While many of the so-called experts are crying, I’ve discovered that my decision to enter the stock market could not have come at a better time. The US Government has decided that inflation is out of control so they’ve started to raise interest rates to “cool off” the economy.

According to my research, every single time the Fed raises rates, stock prices take a hit as emotional investors panic and others move out of the stock market into safer investments like government bonds.

This is very good news for me, because it means that I’ll be able to buy stocks at bargain basement prices.

In order to maximize my long-term profit, I need to take advantage of this dip. The more I can invest now, the better off I’ll be in the future. That means I have to get really serious about my finances.

I picked up a copy of Your Money of Your Life in hopes of some pointers. The book is filled to the brim with helpful information, but one thing I gleaned from the text was the fact that I need to account for every single penny I spend in order to learn where I stand financially and keep track of the progress that I am making.

I tried to do this on the computer at first, using my knowledge of Excel, and I fell flat on my face. I spent more time trying to use the darned program than actually entering information. I switched around to several free finance applications, only to run into the same issue. I ended up being so frustrated that I was ready to toss my computer against the wall!

So I went back to what I know. I understand the basics of paper accounting. I used that method to keep track of my budget for years during the early days, until my budget became so low I didn’t need to bother. I invested in a ledger and got to work.

Every single penny I spend is documented accordingly. It’s a bit of a chore, but it has made me more conscious of how I spend money. For the first time in my life I’m actually documenting how much I spend on food, books, and other items. I intend to use that knowledge to target areas where I can save in order to maximize the amount I have to invest while the market is in this slump.

Once I have a few months’ of numbers available, I’ll even go into parts of my budget that I’ve never discussed before–like groceries. Perhaps that will help you learn a bit more about controlling your finances, as well as show you a bit more about how I spend my money on a daily basis.

If you’re interested, that is.

Have you ever kept track of every penny you spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Life

It Doesn’t Cost a Fortune to Look Nice

The older I get the worse I look. My hair has started greying and things have started sagging that never sagged before. I’ve never really been self-conscious about the effects of aging but over time I noticed a difference; not in me, but in my customers.

While some of my customers appear to be ageless, others appear considerably older than they are simply due to the lack of care they give their appearance before they go out in public. Looking back on some of my older photos I realized with dismay that I was just as bad and resolved to find a way to improve myself.

But how? I’m not exactly a beauty guru and I didn’t want to spend a fortune either. I continued watching my customers as I searched for answers.

I quickly realized that regardless of social class, females my age can carry off a variety of simple wardrobe choices. Even an old, faded tee shirt can look nice when presented a certain way. While an old tee shirt and messy bun can scream slovenly, if you add a bit of cosmetics and a touch of bling that same outfit is elevated to a completely different level.

I had cosmetics already so that wasn’t an issue but bling? I hadn’t purchased jewelry for myself in years! I stopped wearing dangly things when my kids were babies since they liked to tug on them, then passed my collection along to friends so the items wouldn’t go to waste.

Undaunted, I started wearing cosmetics when I went out as I began searching for some budget-friendly bling. I wanted something cheap, timeless, and a bit dangly since I wear my hair up frequently. I eventually stumbled across some costume jewelry that had been placed on clearance. The simple hoops and studs met my needs without destroying my budget.

I’ve now clipped my nose hair, plucked my stray eyebrows, donned a bit of cosmetics, and added a bit of bling to my everyday wardrobe of jeans and tee shirts. Now, to my delighted surprise, I actually receive the occasional compliment as opposed to the indifference I’m accustomed to receiving so my self-confidence has received a boost as well.

Not a bad haul for the cost of a dollar and a little time!

What little things do you do to improve your appearance? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Clearance and Coupons

The other day my daughter and I decided to visit a local store and search for bargains. While many times we don’t find anything that we need, occasionally we come across a really good deal.

This occasion we struck pay dirt. The store had clearanced four boxes of Alka Seltzer Night Time Cold Medicine for $3 a box.

This is one of our staples in the winter when we don’t feel well. We typically spend $6 or more a box during cold season since local stores occasionally raise the price in winter. The normal price at that store was $6 a box so we knew we would save at least $12 on the purchase. We grabbed all four boxes and headed to the checkout.

My kid happened to have an app on her phone that will apply any available coupons to purchases made at that store. She did her thing on the two I purchased (we split the expense in half since we both use the stuff) and to our surprise saved another dollar per box!

We ended up purchasing four boxes of our favorite cold medicine for $2 a box instead of the regular $6. That ends up being a savings of $16.96 once we add in the sales tax we would have had to pay on the higher price. We saved 2.32 hours of income (more if you calculate taxes) simply by watching for bargains, buying in bulk, and applying available coupon discounts.

Two hours’ of wages, folks! That’s two hours of our lives we won’t have to spend working to purchase something we need and use. Since we split the cost we both saved over an hour’s wage each.

We’re rather chuffed about that. Even better, we now have the supplies on hand for the upcoming winter so we won’t have to walk to the store while ill to purchase what we need.

Have you scored any real good deals lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Personal

What I Really Want

I’ve done a lot of thinking as my Katie’s graduation approached and even more now that I know she will leave the nest in a few short months. What next? What do I want to do now that I know I’ll be on my own?

I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I want to remain here, relocate, or do something entirely different. I mull over the possibilities and I come up blank.

I do know one thing, however. I don’t want to ever struggle financially again. While I enjoy my simple, frugal lifestyle, I want to build up a larger margin of safety than I’ve had in the past. I want to know that I’ll be okay whether I work a public job in the future or not.

I could do this by marketing my books more aggressively but to do so would compromise my morals. How can I in good conscience market to a group of people who are already struggling financially? I started writing to help people, not rob them blind!

The answer is I can’t. Not if I want to sleep at night.

So I’m going to have to do some research. I want to build up another source of passive income that is unrelated to this website or my book sales. I want to build it to the point where it can not only support this website in the event my book sales completely tank, but to the point where it can support me whether I work a public job or not.

Now, there are a lot of scams out there that promise to do that. I want to avoid them, so instead of following the crowd I’m instead going to study those who have managed to do what I want to do. Since the Average Joe doesn’t get much press, I’m going to research wealthy people, those who started with very little and ended up rich enough that someone wrote a book about them.

Hopefully I can figure out how to apply what I learn to my own life and develop a system that will allow me to not only build a better nest egg for myself but to give you an idea of something you can do to improve your own financial picture.

To start, I know that Chris Gardner was homeless and somehow managed to get a job in the stock market to build his wealth. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and others started their own businesses. Robert Kiyosaki made his fortune in real estate as did many of the people who were featured in the “Millionaire Next Door” books written by Thomas Stanley. At the moment I don’t have the resources to even consider real estate as an option so I’ll have to read, and keep reading, until I figure out something that I can start from where I currently stand.

Any suggestions you have concerning research would be extremely welcome. Thank you.