Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cutting Back till it Hurt!

My husband and I have gone through some really hard times, financially I mean.  Both of us grew up in homes were frugality existed in all things, so in part this made it easier for us to accept our new state and exist with what we had.  We were both frugal through our early years, but along the way we developed new ideas and attitudes about spending money and buying and having stuff. We had crossed over and become mainstream consumers. We had to cut back, then we cut back some more, until we were only spending our income on what we had to have to exist daily.  At first I felt ashamed that we were not out there like Joe American spending, putting on credit cards what we didn’t have money for, and not being able to buy what I wanted on shopping trips. I would go window shopping at my favorite stores and be sad and pitiful, lovingly touching what I couldn’t have then going home with a long face.  Oh and stopping along the way to give myself a “treat” for being good.

I was always coming up with some project or craft around the house, that I needed to go and buy something for.  Or some event that I needed new clothing to wear to or a gift to take along. I needed something for the house or yard. All that had to stop. But the story doesn’t end there thank goodness! I learned all over again how to save money, mostly by not spending any to begin with and how to be happy about it!  We took a hard look at our situation and made the cuts to the budget where we could. Let me explain what I mean by that last statement. We needed food, a roof over our heads, gas and insurance for our cars, and utilities. And even in those few areas there are ways to cut back, sometimes in big ways. There are many things we spend money on that are simply not necessary.
Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious and nutritious. You don’t need to have the new car, you can continue to drive your old one.  We are working on putting 200,000 miles on ours before we consider another one and then it won’t be new, it will be a gently used one. Do you really need to drive as much as you do? Probably not, save the wear and tear on your car and save the gas, don’t drive so much. Insurance you have to have but you may be able to cut back there too, call your agent. Utilities? Remember mom and dad or grandma telling you to turn off the lights and TV when you are not using them? How about not standing in front of the fridge with the door open? Don’t leave the front door open and let all the heat/cool out? Shorter showers? Do you always need to have the hot water on when you turn on the faucet? Do you leave the water running in the kitchen sink?

There is a multitude of ways to cut back and save money.  The thing about being frugal, or a tightwad, a penny pincher, a spend thrift; is that in the process of being frugal you usually are also helping to “save the planet”, or being green. Often it is also a healthier way to live if only by reducing the stress over money. So it works in several ways for good. I want to show you how I do just that; really it is how our grandparents and their grandparents lived. It does take some thinking; you will have to stop entertaining yourself some and do more productive things. It will be good for you. You may lose some weight over it, you will hopefully save money and time.
One thing I realized had to change immediately was how I thought about our lives and our new position. Your thoughts can determine your success here. I needed to look at my situation as a new chance to grow and expand my knowledge base. I could find contentment and satisfaction in doing my part to help myself. I had to stop buying and reading home and landscape decorating magazines, entertainment magazines, style and beauty magazines. I started going to the library and checking out books on frugal living. I started looking at all the ways I spent money; was it out of need, desire, and could I do better.  This is where change began and it grew into a new life style, one I had left behind me when I jumped on the “let’s be like everyone else” bandwagon. I now have a new sense of accomplishment.  I have skills and knowledge and self discipline that I can use to better my life and my families lives. I am more peaceful, I have more time to do things I enjoy, I have more quality time to give my family. My home is cleaner, healthier, we produce less waste, I’ve lost weight without much effort, and I have more to show for what I do day in and day out.

I can put a $10 bill in my purse and still have it a week later. I don’t carry a credit card or use one to purchase anything. I pat myself on the back instead of buying myself a treat. I look around my home and yard and at my car and smile because it is enough and I am content with where I am and what I have. It’s a good place to be.  I would like to share with you how I live now, debt free except for our mortgage, verses back then, up to our eyeballs in debt and stressed to the breaking point.
At first when you start on your money saving journey it seems as if you can never achieve your goals. I like to think about small savings over several areas like this; it works like making a patch work quilt. A little piece here, a little piece there, the time it takes to put it all together, then one day if you keep at it, you have a completed thing of beauty. It’s comforting, it feels good, it gives back to you and you are so proud you did it your self!  


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