TFW Contributing Writer
Tightwaddery isn’t for sissies. I know. I come from a long line of them. My family handed down a key ingredient to being a tightwad — gloating.
Good tightwads delight in saving a dollar off a can of frozen orange juice. Good tightwads will secretly chuckle to themselves about the additional 30 percent discount they got off the tires simply by asking/haggling with the salesperson. Good tightwads instill a sense of pride when teaching their children to turn off the light when they leave a room.
Being frugal is a challenge. It’s not an insurmountable one, but it is a challenge to be met and overcome. Tightwads view saving money as Formula One racers view shaving a second off track time. Instead of climbing Mount Everest because it’s there, we save money because we can.
For all frugalistas, there are three surefire ways to save:
▲ Spend less money.
▲ Make your stuff last longer.
▲ Use it less often.
If you ask yourself how you can do this at whatever cost you’re facing, you’re going to save money. Take my automobile: It’s a 1997 truck of Japanese decent. I bought it used in 2000 for $10,000 when it had 8,000 miles on it. Now it has 88,000 miles on it, and through regular checkups, oil changes and avoiding deer on the road, will probably last me until I retire. Yes, sure, there are times when I’d really, really, really like a new car. Then I think about monthly car payments and the contest I have with myself of just how long can I drive the truck, and I get over it.
Here are just a few simple ways that you can start yourself saving some money without injury to yourself or others.
▲ Packaged food is for sissies. Yes, I know that cooking macaroni and cheese with real ingredients takes more time, but it’s less expensive than the powdered stuff in a box, and you get to control what’s in the dish, and, frankly, homemade simply tastes better. I’ll take taste over convenience any day.
▲ Soda? Sodon’t. I know that the packaged beverage is a hard habit to break. Keep track of how often you go to a vending machine during a week and you’ll see the cost add up. Yes, water might be boring to some, but it’s clean, fresh, necessary to sustain life, calorie-free and as cheap as you can get. Wean yourself off the carbonated, caffeinated pick-me-ups and view them as an occasional treat, not a daily drink.
▲ Dine better. Bring your lunch to work a few days a week and you can feel virtuous as well as full. Leftovers can be the foundations of wonderful new creations. You can get more fruits and vegetables into your diet (apples, bananas and oranges all come in their own handy containers). And at home, join the craze of Meatless Mondays and whip up a vegetable lasagna to start your week right.
▲ Healthier is cheaper. By eating a healthy diet, you might lose some pounds, stop having to buy bigger and bigger clothes, feel better about going outside for walks, watch less television, miss the ads for the over-priced gizmo or unhealthy food, and save more money while becoming more healthy. It’s a delightful cycle.
▲ Stop smoking. You know that if you stop you’ll save instantly on the cost of cigarettes, and, gosh, aren’t they expensive these days? You’ll also save in the long run by being able to breathe. And insurance companies hate smokers like a bad bet. Stop giving your money away.
▲ Plan a garden. Talk to the friendly folks at the local extension service. They’ll tell you what to plant and when. In the summer, you’ll have more zucchini than you can deal with so give some to the neighbors and share the wealth.
▲ Hit up the local library. Books on CD make housework go faster. Rent a classic film. And here’s another secret: most librarians are friendly people who want to help you find something you’d like to read. Ask a librarian for some advice and you’ll make his or her day and get a good selection to boot.
▲ Go armed. Have a plan and a backup plan anytime you’re going to spend money. Buying insurance or choosing a bank, make a list of important questions, ask around to different sources, and compare your answers. If you’re going shopping, make sure you have a list to avoid the impulse buys (which are also diminished if you don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry).
▲ Budget. Sure, you can make a budget for your expenses. That’s easy. Now, how about a budget for your things? How many pairs of jeans can you get away with? Will you wear that jacket once a season? Do you have too many mismatched coffee mugs that clutter up your cabinets? Do you really need more stuff? Next time you go shopping, try this trick: If it’s not something on your list of things that you absolutely need, wait before you buy it. Try waiting 48 hours. Next time, try waiting a week. Feel up to a month? You’ll find that there’s a lot of stuff out there that you don’t really need.
▲ Do what your parents taught you. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Turn off the light when you leave a room. Donate to the thrift shop and shop there, too. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth. Close the front door. Jeez, were you raised in a barn?
▲ Check out the Internet. There are oodles of blogs and websites with advice on how to spend less money. Take advantage of the information out there and make it your own.
Turning frugal has more surprise benefits than one would expect. With less stuff, you’ll find yourself being more organized. You’ll start looking at costs as experiments with different solutions and begin to think more creatively. You’ll probably become healthier. And you’ll actually scale down your problems.
If you learn that every cent saved is a personal victory and you can gloat about your victories, then saving money can be kind of fun.