- Personal Finance»
- Frugal Living
My Journey to Frugal Living - Why I Stopped Wasting Money on Junk and How You Can Be Frugal Too
The Moment I Realized My Spending Habits Had To Change
Some people live frugally because that's what they've always known, and they accept the sensibility of it. Others have to come to a realization to see the value in not wasting your money. I had a definite moment in time where I realized that my spending habits had to change:
I was living in a small apartment, with not much of anything, really. I was unemployed and living in the city with the highest unemployment rate in the country, which didn't help, either. Money wasn't just "tight" for me, it was pretty much non-existent, and I was incredibly unhappy.
One day I was sitting in my apartment and just looking around. I realized I had been working full-time jobs my entire adult life, and now had nothing to show for it. Not only did I have no idea where all that money went, but I didn't even possess any reminder of having had it. You'd think there would at least be a lava lamp or a blacklight or something left over from my more colorful spending sprees. But, there wasn't.
I got to calculating how much money I had made over the last decade. I don't remember that figure now, but I remember it was a pretty big number. I sat there and tried to figure out where that money went. After a time I finally managed to account for most of it... And what I discovered changed my perspective on money from that day forward.
My "Frugal Living" Epiphany
You've probably heard the term "disposable income". Well, I sure managed to dispose of my income like a pro. I figured out that I had literally disposed of most of my money in the most direct and destructive manners possible. I had spent a decade of poisoning myself with cigarettes and junk food, and that's where the majority of my money had gone. I might have single-handedly been keeping the local convenience stores in business, and somehow I never even noticed at the time.
What I didn't spend on cigarettes, fast food and junk food, I had spent buying products on a whim that I would trash within a few months and chalk up their purchase to another phase I must have been going through. I recalled the several months in a row where I had cell phone bills over $500 a month, because I was unnecessarily using my cell phone like a home phone and making long distance calls on it that were costing me 50 cents a minute! It didn't matter to me, because I had more than enough money, and no real direction or purpose for it.
I had smoked, ate or drank most of my income. When I looked around the room the only possessions I could find that seemed valuable to me were things I received as gifts and a leather jacket I had purchased. Perhaps one of only a handful of product purchases I had made over that period that wasn't a total waste.
Boy, times sure had changed. It wasn't that long ago that the overdraft on my bank account was higher than some people's credit cards. And speaking of credit cards, back in the care-free disposable days of the past, I had actually phoned Capital One to complain to them about their "insulting" offer they had mailed me for a credit card with a $500 limit. They apologized and sent me a much better, one, by the way. I didn't find out until years later why I didn't receive that card. It turns out my mother had intercepted it and thrown it away, because she was worried I'd end up in debt.
A Decision To Change Directions
So there it was. I had spent a decade working. I wasn't on the path to any great career, I didn't have any savings, I barely had any assets at all, and I was in debt. Even the first Capital One credit card was looking pretty good to me at that point.
It was a tough realization. It was hard to confront, but I learned a valuable lesson: It's a lot easier to save money than to make money. I still astonish myself with how much shopping for food at the grocery store instead of the convenience store makes a difference. I realize that probably sounds crazy to many of you, but I never learned how to save money until it actually mattered to me to save it.
I've come to see living frugally as not only the smart way to spend money, but as a sort of science and art. I spend time researching coupons and sales, and I focus on things of high quality, because I've seen how they outlast the "cheap" alternatives. I'm now empowered by my spending habits instead of crippled by them. As much as I regret the silly spending patterns I used to have, I'm grateful that they led me to a realization still pretty early in life, that some people never make.
I know now that how much money you make isn't really what matters. It's what you're doing with your money that makes a difference. I might be a bit late in the game, but I'm dedicated now to using money to improve the quality of my life, and part of my method with that is in cutting costs and investing that money for the future, so that 10 years from now, I won't be sitting in a small apartment and wondering where all my money went.
How About You?
How frugal are you?
Do you think it's common to not worry about how you spend your money when you don't have a plan for it?
Do you have a story or experience about spending habits to share?