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The Fundamentals of Frugality

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Coffee, Cigarettes, Alcohol, Bottled Water, Manicures, Car Washes (full detailing), Weekday Lunches, Vending Machine Snacks, Interest Charges on Credit Cards, and Unused Memberships… do you know what all those items have in common? They are the top 10 money sinkholes according to Bankrate. Now, one could try to commit that list to memory and see if they can cut out any of those items to find a little extra cash (cut out a one-pack-a-day smoking habit and reclaim, on average, $1660 a year), but what you should be doing is looking at that list and seeing what all those items actually have in common: they are all wants, not needs, and they can all be reduced without significantly impacting your standard of living (in theory!).

The fundamental idea behind frugality is to reduce how much you spend while still maintaining a sensible standard of living (some folks take this to the extreme). There are two parts to achieving this. The first part is trying to find cheaper ways of getting the things that you want, such as making your own cleaning solutions (which, coincidentally, may be much better on the environment than the industrial chemical stuff). The second part is cutting out the things that are not absolutely necessary to your life.

Coffee, bottled water, manicures, car washes, weekday lunches, vending machine snacks, interest charge on credit cards and unused memberships fall into category 1 – things that you can find cheaper alternatives for. Cigarettes and alcohol fall into category 2 – things that you can cut out that are not necessary to your life. You could argue where each of those stands but you can’t honestly dispute that any of those items wouldn’t fall into one of those two categories. Now, the trick is to find the things in your life that aren’t on that list that you can trim from your life.

The hardest part about doing something like this, trimming the fat so to speak, is to muster up the motivation required to keep cutting that coffee from Starbucks or that beer with lunch every single day. A great way to do this is to take that money saved and put it towards something and constantly remind yourself of that. What do you get for cutting out that pack of cigarettes? You don’t get an extra $5 in your pocket for something else, you get an extra $1660 for your week-long cruise for two to the Caribbean. Would you rather smoke a pack of cigarettes or go on a freaking cruise?

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6 Responses to “The Fundamentals of Frugality”

  1. Good post, as a frugality blogger I always love to hear (uh read?) people talking about it.

    To me your description of the point of frugality is spot on. I always look at it as “Concious spending-saving money on the things that don’t really matter to you so you have enough money for those that DO!”.

    Now, what is important is different for each person. For example, we are motorcyclists. The amount of money that we spend on that is totally worth it to us, it is one of dh’s main hobbies, and we compensate by rarely spending money on new clothes for ourselves or meals out. For someone else eating out might be their big thing. . . . The real key is that EVERYTHING can’t be important.

    And of course the entire story changes if their is a true shortage of cash or great debt that needs to be gotten out of.

  2. Rev says:

    Specialty coffee can add up quick. Back before I quit smoking I always used to get a kick out of people with their 4-5 dollar latte telling me that if I quit smoking I’d save so much cash. You drink 2-3 of those coffees and a person would have to be a seriously dedicated smoker to keep up with that spending.

    From my experience I’d say the top 5 are:
    Coffee, Cigarettes, Alcohol, Bottled Water, Weekday Lunches.

  3. This list pretty much covers it! My big 5 have been Coffee, Cigarettes, Alcohol, Weekday Lunches, Interest Charges on Credit Cards.

    I haven’t paid for a coffee outside of my home in almost a year. I’ve dropped cigarettes and greatly reduced alcohol, weekday lunches, and credit card interest.

    Its funny how little you miss these habits once you break them.

  4. Michael says:

    The ‘Car Wash’ entry was a little misleading. Turns out, when you read the article, that they’re talking about the full inside and outside detailing ($58 cost per expenditure….I agree that’s way too extravagant).

    However, routine washings are important, especially during winter months for those that are exposed to road salt. If you don’t rinse that off, it can lead to premature rusting and corrosion, especially on bottom of the car, which you don’t see but has the most important stuff! Not getting that taken care of will cost you big time in the long run.

    Just thought I’d clarify to make sure nobody reading this gets the wrong idea and starts skipping regular washes. Definitely skip the $58 detailing, but don’t skip the $2 to $5 washes, your car needs those!!!!!!

  5. jim says:

    Excellent point Michael, I updated the post to reflect that. Thanks!

  6. vh says:

    Right on about the routine car washes. Come to think of it, I need to take the Dog Chariot to the car wash today!

    A friend rewarded himself for kicking tobacco by using a year’s worth of savings that would otherwise have been diddled away on cigarettes to buy himself a beautiful fine-furniture stereo console with top-of-the-line (this, obviously, was some years ago, well before the iPod era). Decades later, he still has it, it still makes beautiful music, and he is still free of the cigarette habit.


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