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The Fundamentals of Frugality

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 [3] 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 [4]). 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 [5].

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?