Frugality Basics

The hardest part about achieving financial freedom is changing your habits. Before tackling those student loans, working on that emergency cash cushion, or contributing to your retirement fund, you have to acknowledge that your attitude  towards money must change.

Most of us aren’t so fortunate to receive a windfall that will solve most or all of our money problems in one fell swoop. Therefore, getting to a place where you’re financially independent will require some sacrifice. As a result, feelings of deprivation are bound to crop up. If you’re not adequately prepared when you’re going through withdrawal symptoms of a mindless spending addiction, you’ll end up abandoning your goals to retreat back to your old way of living.

In order to be successful, you’ll have to change the way you think. Here are the basics.

Be grateful. If you live in the United States – I suspect the majority of SistersSpace members reside in this great nation or another developed country – then you probably have it pretty good compared to sisters in most other countries. During the day, take a moment to be thankful that you have access to clean water, a variety of foods, political freedom, luxury vehicles, modern medicine, infrastructure, education, etc. Sometimes I lie in bed at night under my comfy covers and thank God that I have a roof and four walls to protect me from the elements. Meditate on all you have to be grateful for – even the things money can’t buy.

Understand that consumption only produces fleeting happiness. Even after living on approximately 50% of my take home pay for over a year and a half, I still get an emotional rush from buying stuff. The sensation I feel at the check out counter vanishes as quickly as it arrives. After I get home away from the beautiful fixtures, delightful aromas, and colorful knick knacks in the retail stores, I come to my senses. More frequently than I’d like to admit, I say to myself “What was I thinking? This shirt is hideous” or “I already have one of these” or “I could’ve used that money to buy something I actually need.” Have you ever thought that? I know I’m not the only one.

Are there any items in your house that you’ve purchased more than three months ago and haven’t used? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you probably never will. You made a bad purchase decision. If you’re broke, you probably have a habit of making bad purchase decisions. Admit that to yourself. It’ll set you free.

Stop wasting money. Money is generally wasted on about three things: stuff, experiences, and people.

Today, we’re only going to deal with stuff. Take a look around your living space. Can you honestly say everything in your house reflects money well spent? No? What about most things? If you’re anything like me, the answer is still no, and you have some purging to do.

There’s not a more effective way to admit that you’ve wasted your money than by getting rid of the stuff you’re not using. While going through the process of getting out of debt, I was extremely particular about the things I brought into my living space. This was important because the things I already had were cluttering a place that I wanted to retreat to peaceably.

The crap spilling onto my floor space continued to remind me not only of the money I wasted, but the work required to get rid of it. In the meantime, I had to clean it, organize it, and store it. Even after deciding on what had to go, I still was saddled with the responsibility of Freecycling it, donating it, recycling it, or trashing it. Before accepting the risk of more work, make sure the purchase is worth it.

Find something to do besides spend money. Many people treat shopping as a recreational activity. If shopping is a hobby, you’ll feel deprived when you have to drastically cut back. So, find something else to do with your time. Read a book, complete a Sudoku puzzle, try some new recipes, start a business, expand an existing business, volunteer, take up knitting, exercise, or invite friends over for a card game. For additional ideas, check out The Simple Dollar’s 100 Things to Do During a Money Free Weekend.

Get over the sense of entitlement. The two most overused excuses for overspending are “I deserve it” and “I work hard for my money.” To that I say, you probably haven’t made any contributions to this world that logically support your first argument, and you probably don’t work that hard for your money.

Even if I’m wrong, I know you don’t deserve to die penniless, your family doesn’t deserve to bear the burden of supporting you, and your kids don’t deserve to graduate college with student loan debt because you lack the discipline to get your finances in order.

Avoid temptation. You wouldn’t lie on the couch all day watching the Food Network if you were trying to lose weight. Likewise, if you’re prone to living beyond your means then stop watching television shows, e.g., Life in the Fab Lane, The Real Housewives, My Super Sweet Sixteen, starring people who live a ridiculously lavish life. Well, at least until your desire to live a life of hyper consumption doesn’t trump your good sen.

Don’t wander into the mall just to look. Remove your name from the mailing list of those glossy catalogs. Whatever your vices are, avoid them.

Focus on what’s important. If you hate your job, customers, coworkers, whoever/whatever, fantasize about what your life would be like if they weren’t in it. Is some junk you don’t need and can’t afford worth giving up the life you envision? Do you want to work the rest of your life maintaining some garbage we already determined you shouldn’t have bought in the first place?

Stop caring what people think. They’re broke. You have to accept full responsibility for taking care of yourself. Share ideas and experiences with people who are trying to accomplish the same financial goals. SistersSpace is a great place to start. Staying on track with any goal seems easier when you have someone to discuss your successes and failures with and who’lloffer you encouraging advice.

Be open to new ideas. It’s amazing how many lame excuses people come up with to avoid changing their habits. Albert Einstein defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you disagree with everything I’ve said, then I implore you to just do things differently.

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