There are people who are born with the frugal gene. You know those people who are natural savers, always find the best deals and don’t seem to care for luxury cars or brand name clothes. All they care about are the total digits before the comma on their bank statement. There are others who weren’t born with the frugal gene but were able to gain smart money management skills through their upbringing from budget-minded parents.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with that gene nor did I grow up in a budget-minded family. I truly enjoy going to restaurants, would love to drive a new luxury car, and I can’t stay away from window shopping at designer stores. However, gradually I have made progress in restraining my spending and embracing frugal habits. As a person born wired to feel happy and joyous when shopping and spending money, it hasn’t been easy and has taken time for me to adapt to this new habit. I knew I had to get rid of the mindset of trying to keep up with the Kardashians or every Instagram celebrity. I would never be able to keep up! With today’s social media it is difficult to not compare our material possessions with others. To be honest, I still struggle and have setbacks. When I do, I am able to jump back on the frugal train by taking some simple measures.
- Maintaining a Budget. By keeping a budget, I have been able to control where I spend my money. Before I started the budget, I made all my purchase on a guess-timated decision on whether I had enough fund. Although after college I hardly got into any credit card debt, I was living paycheck to paycheck. With a budget, I am able to save more. In my budget, I have my savings as an expense and it is the first expense that comes out of from my monthly paycheck. This is so I will not be tempted to spend my savings.
- No Impulse Purchases. I never impulse-buy on things like clothes, shoes, accessories or big-ticket items such as electronics or home furniture. I have a tendency of getting buyer’s remorse after buying things, especially, if it was a high ticket item. I mostly compare items on quality. I have a saying that Amir hears very often “buy cheap, buy often”. That is because he compares items based on price while I compare on quality.
- Shopping Around. Always look to see if another store has a better price. The internet has made it so easy to price compare that a minute spent searching is worth it, even if it only saves a dollar. If you have time, always go into the stores to check prices. I have often found that prices in stores vary from their own online prices. Often I’ve found a cheaper price at the store.
- Knowing My Habits. I try to stay away from online shopping because I know I am too lazy to re-packaged items that need to be returned and then drive drop them off to the return shipping location. In the past, I have forgotten to return items within the allowable return date. Because of my laziness and forgetfulness, most of my shopping is done at retail stores that have a physical location near me; even if I pay slightly more. I frequently have buyer’s remorse, so I always shop at places that allow returns and I stay away from stores/online retails that have inconvenient return methods.
- Maintaining a Clutter-Free Life. Always ask yourself whether you really need the item even if it only cost 50¢, it’s 90% off, or seems like an amazing deal. Maintaining a clutter-free life will save you money because it will keep you from purchasing extra items you would have bought otherwise.
- Watching Videos and Reading All Things Related to Frugality. During this journey, I have spent countless hours reading books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, online articles/blogs; listening to Clark Howard on Podcast and Dave Ramsey on YouTube, and watching a million YouTube videos on money management. This has kept me motivated and it constantly reinforces the frugality ideology I want to maintain.
- Cut Cost Where Possible. At some point, I thought that using and carrying around a prepaid phone was like carrying around a knockoff Rolex watch. Yes, I know how snobbish of me. I worked at a cellular service store during my high school years and from that experience, I thought prepaid phones were for people with bad credit and though prepaid services were inferior. About two years ago, I traded the $100+/month Verizon bill for a $20/month prepaid phone and guess what? I didn’t even notice the difference.
For me, maintaining a frugal lifestyle has been like trying to maintain a diet; sometimes I derail and go on a binge shopping spree (return policy to the rescue). Just like a diet, I force myself to get back on track. This journey requires work and “sacrifice”, but I know it will be worth it one day when I am able to retire to some small town in Italy.