Confession: I Don’t Track Every Penny

Sometimes my personal-finance articles make my friends feel guilty.

“I read your article about saving money, and now I feel bad about the shoes I just bought,” says Guilt-Stricken Friend. “I don't need them. I think I should return them.”

Perhaps she's waiting for me to tell her that she's right, that she should return them. And then she should take that money she almost blew on something fun and put it into her 401K.

But my actual reaction is more like this: “Why do you want to return them? Also: Tell me about those shoes!”

Because here's the thing. While no, the purchase wasn't a need, and yes, it's more logical to not spend the money, there's no reason she shouldn't enjoy a fun purchase that's well within her means.

Guilt is a Killjoy
The problem was that my friend wasn't enjoying her purchase. She thought it was somehow “bad” and felt guilty about it. She thought she should have saved that money instead. As someone who feels a lot of guilt over the things I should or shouldn't be doing, I know how it can suck the joy out of life. Guilt can undermine any good feelings a purchase (or a piece of chocolate cake, for that matter) might bring.

And if you look at the Big Picture, my friend has healthy savings, doesn't have credit card debt, and is saving for retirement. One purchase doesn't make her a bad person.

Call me Irresponsible
As a personal-finance writer, I'm exposed to a lot of money advice, tips, and tactics. Sometimes I feel like I'm not perfect enough when it comes to handling my own money because I don't follow more of the advice I read. I feel like I should be more frugal. More minimalistic. I feel irresponsible because two months ago I was double-billed for my Internet service, and I just caught the mistake last week. “Maybe if I tracked every penny in a notebook, that wouldn't have happened,” says the little voice inside my head.

Also, I realized that when I do follow frugal, minimalistic advice, it isn't because it saves money (although that's an added benefit). For instance, I like having a small, functional wardrobe, so I scrutinize clothing purchases. I don't really like or watch much TV, so I don't pay for cable. I enjoy cooking, so 99% of my meals are home-cooked. I don't like big gyms, so I work out at home. These things might make me sound frugal and responsible, but in truth I do them because they're personal preferences, which happen to save money over their alternatives.

So I've finally come to grips with something: There's some personal finance advice out there that could save money or make me more responsible according to the financial gurus, but I'm never going to do it. Ever.

Want a few examples? Here are the eight that top my list:

    1. Write down every penny you spend and every penny you make.” I've tried so many times. So many. I've tried a notebook, Quicken, and various apps, and it just doesn't stick. The only thing that's worked for me is automated savings into targeted savings accounts. That's how I was able to build an emergency fund, take a trip to Europe, and make sure I had enough money to pay the irregular gas bill. I've about given up on maintaining a detailed budget, even though I've advised other people to do it in the past, and even though I want to be able to do it myself.

 

    1. “Drink tap water; it's free.” If you're buying water or you've purchased a home filter, there's probably a reason for it. Your water smells like chlorine or you're a health nut like me who's concerned about what's in her water. So advising people to drink tap water is pretty worthless money advice. And while we're on the subject of beverages…

 

    1. “Drink water instead of coffee.” Seriously? I go to bed excited that I get coffee when I wake up. I can't even deal with this one.

 

    1. “Buy everything secondhand from garage sales or thrift shops.” I can't tell you how much I wish I could do this. The problem is that I hate shopping. Sorting through a bunch of stuff for hours just to find a pair of used jeans that actually fit is kinda my idea of hell. I've also bought secondhand things that were “just okay” just because they were so cheap, and they wound up in my donation pile a few months later. These days I do buy some used things, especially antiques, but usually it's because my mom found it for me.

 

    1. Start a garden and grow all your food.” This is great if you know how to garden and have the room. But to amuse myself, I like to imagine people reading this tip who have zero gardening know-how. They go to the plant nursery and buy mulch and dirt and fertilizer and seeds and shovels, spend days making garden beds and starting seeds, water every day, weed the beds, transplant seedlings, then harvest their overflowing bounty. All to save exactly how much money? And that's only if the squash vine borer doesn't decimate your crops. Little jerks. I like the idea of growing all my own food, and maybe one day I'll get there, but right now I'm just proud that I've kept my tomato plants and herbs alive all summer.

 

    1. “Instead of buying books or paying for Netflix, use the library.” I know it's free, but I never go. I got as far as getting a library card, which expired. Then I renewed it, and now it's expired again. Also, I'm pretty bad at remembering to return books and movies on time. Blockbuster made mad late-fee money off of me.

 

    1. Make your own laundry detergent. I tried this for a few months because I thought it was kind of fun. But it doesn't save that much money and the novelty wore off the second time my husband had to say, “Uh, I need to do some laundry and there's not enough detergent…”

 

  1. “Have a no-gift policy.” I don't care about gifts personally. Instead of buying anniversary gifts, my husband and I splurge on a really great meal. But if my nieces want a popcorn machine for Christmas, they're gonna get a popcorn machine. Gifts are a social norm I just don't want to disregard.

I've read that I should do each of these things, but the fact of the matter is that none of them work for me. And I've decided that that's okay. I say we shouldn't let the “shoulds” make us feel bad anymore.

What are you “shoulds”? What money advice have you tried to follow, but couldn't keep up in the long-term? What are examples of personal finance advice that doesn't work for you?

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Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
6 years ago

I think you’re exactly right. Each person needs to find their own path to savings that works for them.

For me, it’s keeping a log of all bills and accounts that I update once a month. I can keep track of where money is going, how much I’m saving, and see how major purchases impact this.

For me, the cash money (envelope) system does NOT work at all. I spend money way easier if I have cash vs. an empty wallet and just use credit cards. Kinda the opposite of most people…

Dee
Dee
6 years ago

I’m with Derek–cash in hand is a dangerous, dangerous thing for me! It disappears and I don’t even know how and where! I much prefer using my debit or credit card because I can track where I spent. It makes me much more accountable to myself.

Lucille
Lucille
6 years ago
Reply to  Dee

THIS! Case in point, I needed cash for the cafeteria and I left what I believe was maybe $13 from the weekend in my jeans pocket at home. So I took $$ out of the ATM. At this point, 2 days later, I have just a bit left and I’m not really sure where all it went. Debit cards are much better for me. I know the money is coming out of my cking acct so I am technically paying for it just as if it was dirty hard cash, but at least at the end of the day (or… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
6 years ago
Reply to  Lucille

I am moving towards using my debit card more, too. Cash seems to just disappear (I think on some level, when I take money out of the ATM, I think of it as having already been spent, so I’m not that careful with that). On the other hand, credit cards lend themselves to too much impulse buying, for me.

Christine
Christine
6 years ago
Reply to  Dee

I agree with the no cash. If I spend cash I don’t know where it went at the end of the day and no I am not going to right everything down. I’ve tried but I’m just too busy. If I use my debit card, I know exactly where it’s going. From there I can make adjustments or change bad habits. I really did relate to this post and think we need to allow our selves some leeway on what we spend our money on and not beat ourselves up all the time. If your watching what you spend then… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I’m the same way. More than coffee and emergency transportation money (cab, bus, etc) is dangerous for me. I also don’t like to carry a lot of cash on me anyway for safety reasons.

Sam
Sam
6 years ago

Let’s see: 1) We track most of what we spend, we use Quicken but it super easy because we just download the data from Wells Fargo. We don’t track every penny b/c if one of us withdraws cash it is simply reflected as cash and I don’t go back and categorize it. 2) I do drink a lot of water but my fridge has a filter. 3) I drink coffee but mostly at work so its free (or I’ve earned it). But right now I’m drinking a cuban coffee that I bought, I think occasional splurges are okay. 4) No… Read more »

Stephen Kratcoski
Stephen Kratcoski
6 years ago
Reply to  Sam

To Clinton,

You are very organized. I had all the financial education but hard times forced me to develop frugal budgeting habits. No one is perfect but anyone can develop the right budgeting system according to their needs. My favorite saying is: “I still afloat on my Lifeboat”

Stephen Kratcoski: http://www.facebook.com/skratcoski

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 years ago

Oh, I can totally relate to this post! Given my height, I rarely find used clothes but I sometimes have good luck buying wardrobe basics on sale or clearance. The tip about gardening makes me laugh too — I know how to garden, but my apartment just isn’t cut out for it! 🙂 I do use the library a lot, however, because I live and work near libraries and my area has a great library system. We have an electronic system that emails you the due date and sends you reminders as the due date approaches, so that really helps… Read more »

Kretek
Kretek
6 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Elizabeth, as someone who is 6’4, I can attest to the difficulty of finding clothes that fit that are on sale. Also, I buy clothes that I intend to wear for 3-4 years, so I buy select extremely durable clothes. Namely jeans and shirts. I buy raw denim jeans and that’s my splurge.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 years ago
Reply to  Kretek

The men in my family have the same problem! Sometimes you have to buy new in order to get your size because it won’t go on sale. If you look at clothing on a cost-per-use basis, it makes sense to buy good quality items that will last.

Mom of five
Mom of five
6 years ago

I’m with you on most of these. The only one that really jumps out at me as something you probably could do is check out e-books from the library. You do it from the comfort of your own home. It was a little bit of trouble to set up an account (I mean like 10 minutes worth of trouble, but I do feel like it should have taken 30 seconds) but once it’s done you read a book, and you check it back in. Piece of cake.

Juli
Juli
6 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

And the benefit of checking out e-books (at least the e-library I use) it is impossible to have overdue books. When my 3 weeks are up, it automatically gets returned if I haven’t already done so. I love it!

Debi
Debi
6 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Love, love, love e-books from the library. Now I can “go to the library” and never leave my house! I carry a book with me wherever I go. Now I don’t have to worry about losing or damaging books. Why buy a book if you’re only going to read it once?

April Dykman
April Dykman
6 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I’ve heard that libraries are doing this now! Definitely something I’ll look into. Thanks for the reminder!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I’ve noticed some libraries in Canada and the U.S. now subscribe to Freegal. The service lets you download three songs per week for free and you get to keep them. (No returns, no illegal copying!)

The selection isn’t as broad as I would like, but it’s a great way to try out some new music or downloading something popular from the radio.

nicoleandmaggie
nicoleandmaggie
6 years ago

If you have all your ducks in order (no high interest debt, reasonable low interest debt, healthy retirement savings), then personal finance says you shouldn’t feel guilty. It isn’t a he who dies with the most money wins kind of game.

It’s about maximizing lifetime happiness.

You don’t make those kinds of purchases when you’re in danger of mortgaging your future or when you have something that you really want to save for (like early retirement). The purchasing choices aren’t made in a vacuum.

Rebecca
Rebecca
6 years ago

I always struggle with the pay the least amount possible for what you are getting advice, because I feel that mentality has lead to the proliferation of Wal-Marts and the loss of small businesses and jobs here. I would prefer to purchase American made if good quality, shop locally if possible, and get my groceries from the co-op. Maybe not the best for my family from a financial standpoint, but good from a societal well-being one.

Jane
Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca

Does entirely American made apparel or shoes even exist anymore? I’m being serious. Even some of the companies who built their brand on being American made like Chaco have now moved their production to China. A few years ago my brother in law bought some baseball gloves online that proclaimed that they were “Made in America”. When he received them, written clearly on them was “Made in China.” If you’re paying more for something that declares itself to be made here, I would double check that it is actually the case. And at any point, a company might move their… Read more »

EMH
EMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Everything I am wearing today is made in the USA but you do have to do your research. Some Citizen for Humanity jeans are made in the US. Same with AG and of course American Apparel items are made in the USA. IBEX, Hanky Panky, Todd Shelton, and many others are made in the states. If you shop at ModCloth.com, you can filter by “Made in the USA” and they have free returns if the label says something different. Shoes and undergarments are the most difficult for me to find made in the USA but companies do exist. I have… Read more »

Missy
Missy
6 years ago

I don’t know about you, but the minute I hear or read something that says, “10 Things You SHOULD Do” my comprehension turns off. I get all full of attitude with, Who are they to be telling me what I SHOULD do? They don’t even know me. lol I have 4 boys all at different sizes and a couple of them are old enough to actually care what they’re wearing. I probably could go to thrift shop after thrift shop and a ton of garage sales, but the truth is my time is worth more than I’d save. I wish… Read more »

Pauline @ Make Money Your Way
Pauline @ Make Money Your Way
6 years ago

I have only started tracking my spending recently because we have a joint account and otherwise I can’t claim half of what I spent to my BF haha. How I manage my money is all the bills are automatically paid at the beginning of the month and so are the savings goals with a wire transfer, then whatever is left I can spend freely. Sure I could be doing even better but as far as my savings goals are met I am happy.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

I would only feel guilty if I wasted my precious time counting pennies!

My Financial Independence Journey
My Financial Independence Journey
6 years ago

I can agree with you in writing off 2-8. Not really my style and not tickets to building real wealth. 5 and 7 often cost more than they save. But not tracking your money is a recipe for disaster. It takes me something like a whole 10-20 minutes per month to track my finances. I can pull in all of my banking and credit card information with a single mouse click. I know where all my money is going and I where I can cut back or increase as appropriate. I don’t adhere to a strict budget, but I know… Read more »

Kirk
Kirk
6 years ago

#7: I’m surprised that no one else has stuck up for this one yet. Someone even commented that making your own laundry soap can OFTEN cost more than it saves?!?! If that is the case, you’re doing it wrong! I can make 5 GALLONS of (very effective, scented) laundry soap for under $5. That is a tiny fraction of what they charge in the store and it only takes about 20 minutes. As a bonus, it’s easier on my family’s sensitive skin. We’ve been doing it for years and will never go back!

Scondor
Scondor
6 years ago
Reply to  Kirk

Please share your recipe! We switched from disposable diapers to save money but now spend a ton on “baby-safe extra-gentle-and-expensive” detergent…

Peggy
Peggy
6 years ago
Reply to  Scondor

We use homemade laundry soap for our clothes, but not for cloth diapers, because the soap in the recipe, combined with hard water, can leave a residue on the diapers that reduces their absorbency and is hard to strip off. So we use Tide Free for the diapers.

The laundry soap recipe I use is from: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/laundrysoap.htm

Jamie
Jamie
6 years ago
Reply to  Kirk

Recipe, please?

TEB
TEB
6 years ago
Reply to  Kirk

I am with you on this! It takes so little time,money,and effort that I can’t imagine buying it at the store anymore. I also like that that I can reuse the 5 gallon bucket. No more oodles of plastic bottles to contend with.

HKR
HKR
6 years ago

She didn’t say she doesn’t track her finances; she said she doesn’t track every penny. It sounds to me like she’s working on a zero budget, where she automatically sets aside money for all her savings and recurring bills, and she knows exactly how much goes to each every month. Then after all that comes out of her paycheck she has $X left to spend on whatever she wants, and she knows exactly how much $X is too. What she maybe doesn’t track is whether $5 was spent on ice cream or a trinket, because either way that $5 came… Read more »

April Dykman
April Dykman
6 years ago
Reply to  HKR

Yes, that’s exactly what I do. Also, the problem with tracking every penny is that my husband would also have to do it, then we’d have to reconcile our expenses. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the habit never stuck, and that’s the real problem.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago

I’ve never agreed with the premise that if everybody in the world doesn’t do X, doom will happen. It always feels like the poster is suggesting their way is the only “right” way to do something. The world is too wide, the diversity too great, to suggest one way is the only right way. Even with finances and tracking. For example, with regard to tracking expenses, there are some people who are incredibly frugal and hate spending money, but earn plenty. I cannot understand how the failure to track would suddenly doom such a person to being “out of control”… Read more »

Kathy
Kathy
6 years ago

I find that my library usually does not have either the latest books or videos. I donate my already read books to the library and find that most of what I have is newer that what it has.

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago

A bargain is only good if it works for you. I have shopped at thrift stores and found great stuff, but we have a water filter system and I think it’s a bargain. The system offers bottomless water and we never have to lift bottles or find space for a water cooler. I’m a big fan of the library. I love reading, and I can search for books from home using the internet, and have them delivered to the library branch I designate, but while they have many DVDs, they never seem to have what interests me, so Netflix (and… Read more »

Debi
Debi
6 years ago
Reply to  Priswell

What kind of water filter do you have? I hate our tap water. It smells skunky. Does the one you use get rid of bad smells?

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago
Reply to  Debi

We have a Reverse Osmosis filter through Hague Water Systems – I’m sure there are similar companies local to you. We’ve both rented and purchased our system at different times, but currently we are renting. Someone comes out every year for free and changes the filter and sees to it that everything is well. When you purchase, you buy the system, and pay for yearly maintenence. Each way has its advantages, but currently, we’re paying $30 per month for “all we can drink” water that covers whatever we use for cooking and drinking. The tank is about 2.5 gallons, and… Read more »

FI Journey
FI Journey
6 years ago

I agree with this post in essence, but where my thinking differs is on tracking every penny. I feel guilty if I DON’T know what I’ve allowed myself to spend, and spend it anyway. To me a carefully tracked budget is freedom from guilt, because I’ve already allocated that money.

Emmy
Emmy
6 years ago

Oh God, the thrift store guilt! That’s frugality guilt PLUS environmental guilt. But honestly, I have such a hard time finding clothes that fit decent and look decent, and so if I were to shop only for used clothes I’d probably spend waaaaay more time doing so. People who have an easy shape to fit, have fun at Goodwill. I’ll be at the mall.

Debbie M
Debbie M
6 years ago
Reply to  Emmy

I have lots of trouble finding anything good in thrift stores, but it’s even worse at the mall where there is a much smaller selection. If I don’t like that season’s colors or styles, there’s no point at all. Also, most things at thrift stores have made it through several washings, so you get an idea what you’re in for whereas sometimes things from the mall don’t wash well at all.

Marsha
Marsha
6 years ago
Reply to  Debbie M

I completely agree with you. I rarely visit the mall because I’m unlikely to find something I want. The thifts have a much wider selection of styles, colors, and sizes.

But it also depends on where you live. I’m fortunate to have about a dozen large, well-run thrifts within 10 miles of my home.

jim
jim
6 years ago
Reply to  Emmy

Emmy,
My wife is very petite – 5’1” and 98 lbs on a good day. She hates shopping ’cause she has to buy professional work clothes and they never fit so she has to then pay to have them tailored. One day she stumbled upon goodwill.com – online and she can set the “settings” for her specific sizes and designers. She loves getting clothes from there. Altho she does pay for shipping, it’s still way cheaper and she doesn’t have the hassle of having to go out to shop. You might want to look into it.

Barb
Barb
6 years ago
Reply to  Emmy

I know I’m a day late and a dollar short here, but my experience is the mall doesnt have any greater selection or choice than the thrift store, and often less-and I dont have an average figure. I get much better fitting clothing and more options by sewing or thrifting.

Phoebe
Phoebe
6 years ago

I completely agree that everyone has to find what works for them and there is no “right” answer out there. I will say that for me personally, becoming more and more frugal has been a gradual process. At first I said I would never be able to make my own laundry detergent, shop at thrift stores or use washable cloth rags instead of paper towels. Now I use cloth rags and regularly shop at thrift stores, but haven’t yet jumped on the homemade laundry detergent bandwagon. Changing your lifestyle is a hard process and so you can’t turn around and… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
6 years ago

1. I’d only do this if money was extremely tight. Counting every penny makes me obsess over money instead of living my life. 2./3. I don’t drink coffee but lots of tea (home-brewed) and diet soda (store brand). Not giving either up for tap water. 4. I have a thrift store addiction, but I can’t buy everything there. I mend/alter/refashion so I can have a large wardrobe for very little money. 5. I have a large back yard, but I hate to garden. My husband wants to replace the grass with astroturf so we don’t have to mow. 6. I… Read more »

Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body
6 years ago

What works for one person might not work for the other. I’m pretty frugal generally speaking but when it comes to food, that’s another thing. I work hard and I work out hard and I want to eat and fuel my body right. Food is one thing I do not skimp out on. Does that mean I spend money on extravagant dinners at high end restaurants? No. But it does mean I shop carefully but there’s definitely no shortage of low nutrient foods.

Robert Jacobs
Robert Jacobs
6 years ago

Personal finance is not all about the math. It is a behavioral thing. People win with money if they live on a budget, save, and invest. If you can do those three things, then it doesn’t matter what method you use as long as you arrive at the same destination.

Debbie M
Debbie M
6 years ago

Things I don’t and won’t do: * Start my own business(es). I have done some self-employment, but it’s just little jobs; I hate marketing, so I’d never want this to be my main income. * Max out all my retirement funds. I am not that rich–I want to eat every day and live indoors. I have a pension and max out my Roth IRA. * Take vacations locally. I think a lot of people like to take relaxing vacations–this advice might make sense for them. I like to have active educational vacations, so I prefer to plunk down in some… Read more »

SavvyFinancialLatina
SavvyFinancialLatina
6 years ago

I don’t track every penny because it is a pain in the butt, and causes more troubles than not. I would probably save more money but honestly, would be less happy. I can be a tad obsessive. I automatically put away money into our savings. This is the best way to save money for me.

No Waste
No Waste
6 years ago

It’s all credit card for me so that I don’t HAVE to write everything down.

#9 – Reusable diapers. Tried it. Quickly stopped trying it.

Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth
Cindy @ GrowingHerWorth
6 years ago

My mom always used to laugh as kids when we’d talk of “renting” books from the library. Until she got the bill, that is. I’ve never been good at returning things on time. I love renting things online for this reason. No late fees! Call me a snob, but I just can’t do the whole thrift store thing. Having to sort through disorganized racks and piles actually makes me claustrophobic. My sisters have both always loved the thrift stores and clearance racks. But then they have tons and tons of clothes that never get worn. I’d rather spend more money… Read more »

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
6 years ago

Would I love to buy more stuff used from thrift shops? Sure! But when? Seriously, when?
Around here, thrift shops are generally open 9-5 M-F, and maybe 10-3 on Saturday.
With a typical M-F office schedule, plus my (absolutely necessary for destressing!) yoga on Saturday mornings, there’s just a small window of time in which I *might* be able to browse a thrift shop or two in the hopes of coming across something I “need”.

So I don’t beat myself up if we buy something new that might have been located in a thrift shop. Life’s too short.

Drew Tracy
Drew Tracy
6 years ago

I completely understand the thrift store aversion. My wife HATES to go into them (shes a slight germaphobe) but i walk in and out within 2-3 minutes.

I make it a point to look for those high dollar items that would really break my budget (that I will invariably buy anyway) like expensive shoes. I know, I know… gross. But i only buy the new used ones that are worth between 200-500 dollars. People give away so much money in dress shoes in my town!

AP @ Finance with Reason
AP @ Finance with Reason
6 years ago

I’m concerned about the statement “it’s more logical to not spend the money” when referring to buying the shoes. Why is saving more logical than spending? Money is simply a means to an end; it is something that we can trade for goods and services to obtain happiness. Money itself, saved or spent, does not give us happiness. I don’t think it is correct to say that it is more “logical” to save rather than to spend. It is really just a question of how much happiness a dollar saved will bring you versus a dollar spent. That saved dollar… Read more »

Slackerjo
Slackerjo
6 years ago

I find the “gadget shoulds” tiresome. Yes my cell phone is old and scratched and not at all cool/hip/smart but it works and costs me $80/year. Yes it’s true I read a lot but I don’t need an e-reader. I get so many paper books from the library I can’t always keep up. Yes my television is terrible as it is ONLY 22″. Well I’d have to move to a bigger place if I wanted a bigger TV because my living room is too small to see a big screen TV properly. So no thanks. I am sure I can… Read more »

Babs
Babs
6 years ago
Reply to  Slackerjo

Thank you!

Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia
Mr. Utopia @ Personal Finance Utopia
6 years ago

I’d be shocked if that many people followed all of the personal finance advice out there. Not only would it seemingly be nearly impossible to keep up with, but even if you could doing so would likely drive you nuts! People pick and choose the advice that’s most applicable to them.

I don’t track every penny either. Why? The accounting concept of “materiality.” Sometimes the smaller things aren’t enough to have a significant overall impact.

Anne
Anne
6 years ago

I loved this post. I agree on all except the library. I read a pile of books each week, no way would I buy them.

However, I hate thrift stores for clothes. I love clothes and I love shopping for them. And sometimes feel guilty that I’m not doing it in thrift stores. I try to make up for it by donating all my used clothes/goods to my favorite local thrift store.

Michelle
Michelle
6 years ago

This is my first comment on this blog, though I’m an avid reader/lurker. 🙂 One of the things that stands out to me with a lot of financial advice is that it seems to be for people who live in urban areas. There is a lot that is assumed. Not everyone can utilize the standard financial advice simply because of geographical considerations. I think that the thing about frugality is it being a mindset and examining your expenses. We are 4 miles from a town with a population of 628 and a cop with an itchy ticket finger, so we… Read more »

Ely
Ely
6 years ago

I love this post! Guilt over a pair of shoes is useless no matter your financial situation, but especially when the situation is just fine thank you. I mostly agree with your list – I too have tried and failed to track every penny, and switched to auto savings instead. It’s been great. I however love my library. If I bought everything I read I would be broke in no time, and buried in books besides! But my library system is excellent, has everything, and is convenient to my home and work. I go at least once a week, more… Read more »

The Norwegian Girl
The Norwegian Girl
6 years ago

I rarely use the library; mostly because they don´t have much of the types of books that I like, but also because you usually have to be on a waiting list for months if you want something in particular. But I really don´t feel bad about it. I love books (I did major in Literature…) and there aren´t many things that can beat that feeling of buying a new book!!

Lucille
Lucille
6 years ago

I have a little garden, but a suggestion like gardening to grown your own food implies a lot, like living in an area where you can grow year round (or where you’re willing to can and pickle everything so as to eat all winter). As a New Englander who works full time and isn’t much of a green thumb, I have a small garden and I get about 2 months worth of cherry tomatoes, a 1/2 dozen cucumbers, an eggplant or two, and a daily handful of string beans. Not enough to feed my small family and certainly not enough… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

I find that I only track to the penny recurring expenses. I know I don’t have the habit of making small impulse purchases (except food…I still struggle with buying everything I want to eat, at the same time). If I impulsively buy something large, it’s because I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and just say “to hell with it, I’ll just get it now and be done with it” lol. I’m in a unique position in my life where I can afford much more than what I spend, as I am currently living on about 35% of… Read more »

The Warrior
The Warrior
6 years ago

In the end, we should do what leads to what we truly want. If shoes is what we truly want then do what is needed to satisfy that. If financial freedom is what we want, then we should do whatever is needed to achieve that. With that said, a small percentage of other things that do bring about brief moments of pleasure should be worked into our budgets, IMO. There is no right answer beyond the one that comes from asking ourselves, “Am I doing what I want to achieve my goals?” I could never track every penny, but I… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

1. “Write down every penny you spend and every penny you make.” That’s the one thing I fail at. I’ve tried small notepads, spreadsheets, etc but I just can’t seem to stick with it. 2. “Drink tap water; it’s free.” I just so happen to live in a city with some of the best drinking water in the country. No fluoride! I filter my water at home but when I’m out I just drink tap water unless I’m desperate and don’t have any available. I rather spend $1 on a bottle of water than get a headache because I wanted… Read more »

April Dykman
April Dykman
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Out of curiosity, do you live in Portland? I read that citizens successfully blocked fluoride from being added to the water, which was really inspiring.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

@April – I do live in Portland and we recently voted to keep fluoride out of the water supply!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/water-fluoridation-vote-portland-oregan_n_3316627.html

Aryn
Aryn
6 years ago

I would so love it if my garden was big enough to feed us all, but this year I’ve produced just a handful of tomatoes and some potatoes that I planted two years ago! And I’m sure I spent far more than I got in return. I garden for fun, not to save money. Don’t drink coffee, so that’s an easy one. I will never make my own detergent. I do love my library, but not for movies. I have a very large library system that will deliver books to my closest branch, which is 1 mile away. It’s the… Read more »

Zoë
Zoë
6 years ago

Guilt is a total killjoy and not just financially. I made this really awesome tofu dinner and the first comment out of my friend’s mouth was “I hope that tofu is made of GMO soy.” ARG! I even read about this organization that wants to put warning labels on the gas pump handles to remind everyone how evil buying gas is.

I agree, moderation is important but if every action we make is filled with guilt, then what’s the point.

Ely
Ely
6 years ago
Reply to  Zoë

I think that kind of labeling is actually counter-productive. Our local utilities starting sending out these mailers that tell you how much energy you use compared to your neighbors. Ours is high; we have a hot tub & 3 refrigerators, and more square footage than a lot of similar homes. None of those things are going to change. The attempted guilt trip just leaves me wondering why bother.

Ed
Ed
6 years ago

Hallelujah! You’ve just alleviated all of my guilt. Your list is almost word-for-word what mine would have been (just sub in diet coke for coffee). Also, automated savings are the only thing that has keep me saving (though I do freak out once a month that I might not have enough funds available for when the auto transfers come – it’s never been a problem, but I still freak out, the rest of the month I am pretty carefree). I almost unsubscribed to this blog because I thought none of the advice was for me and I am a budget… Read more »

janelle
janelle
6 years ago

Amen to items 1 thru 8. So many personal finance articles tout these items as the road to wealth. I get it, frugality works, but its not that simple. I think if you were to ask a cross section of the wealthy, it wasn’t the homemade laundry detergent that put them on top. They found ways to make their money make them MORE money. So tell me about that. I’m not trying to hate, but I just want to think bigger. And seriously, some mornings before work, the only thing getting me out of bed is the thought that I… Read more »

Kestra
Kestra
6 years ago

I don’t pay myself first (transfer a percentage into savings immediately) because I find it easy to save money.
I will never use all cash or the envelope system.
I won’t search for coupons, drive extra to get a good price, or otherwise fiddle with how much food costs. I won’t eat more carbs and less fruit and vegetables just to save money.

krantcents
krantcents
6 years ago

I don’t track every penny either! I do watch my pennies and and expenses to keep them inline. I make savings a priority and have it deducted from my payroll check. I always look for the best price and will negotiate any service or product.

Jeff
Jeff
6 years ago

Probably one of the better posts I’ve seen here in a while, once again makes me almost feel like starting my own counter-blog to the same-old advice that everyone seems to be cribbing from somewhere. I’ve been on the lookout for new, decent personal finance blogs but it feels like there is nothing new under the sun, just a lot of no-duh advice and especially a lot of advice that assumes that everyone lives in an urban environment just like the writer. It’s fine and dandy if you can just bike to work or take a bus but a lot… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

And it seems no one want to understand that not everyone can ride a bike, especially in traffic. Though I am exceptionally strong, my disability leaves me less than coordinated and I can totally see myself getting hurt – even in a so-called bike friendly city. There are many things preached in PF blogs that are either not practical or takes a certain skill, space and time to master (i.e. gardening). I know you can take what you like and leave the rest but as you mentioned, there is too much of the same thing. I think a counter-blog is… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

That’s another of my issues: a lot of PF blogs I’ve checked out have come across as rather preachy. That has more to do with the author’s style than the content but I do not like it when it sounds like someone is trying to indoctrinate people, even worse when it comes across like you’re being shamed for they are frugal’r than thou.

keithrow
keithrow
6 years ago

During the well paid years of my youth I found it hard to find motivation for saving, as anything I could save paled beside the huge chunk of my money taken by tax – usually three or four times the amount I might save.

Elena @ Funny Jokes
Elena @ Funny Jokes
6 years ago

I completely agree with you on everything you said here. It’s great to be frugal but I would not go too crazy about it. Set a budget and try to stick with it. There is budget for bills, entertainment, gifts, etc. And don’t feel guilty if you spend a little more once in a while. We are only human!

Skint in the City
Skint in the City
6 years ago

sometimes?Ha ha ‘I go to bed excited that I get coffee when I wake up’ – that’s me too! You just put it into words better . . .
And a no-gift policy – seriously? People do that? I’m with you – what are we saving and being smart with our money for if it isn’t to treat our loved ones

Jeff
Jeff
6 years ago

I don’t like the “no gift” suggestion either, that just smacks of being cheap rather than frugal. I do like to have limits on gift spending and who gets gifts: for example on Christmas I only give gifts to my parents, sister, and girlfriend. Also since I’m buying 4 gifts I spend less on each person than I would on their birthdays when I’m just buying 1 gift at a time.

Clinton Skakun
Clinton Skakun
6 years ago

There are always going to be the penny-wise, pound-foolish out there and for them, too bad. When you resort to making your own soap or drinking water instead of coffee to save money that’s when you have to rethink the strategy. I save around 600-1000 dollars a month. And it’s not because I’m obsessed with every single penny that leaves my wallet. It’s because my financial focus is on raising my income and tossing chucks of it into various savings accounts. The rest, gets spent. And I’m not wasting too much energy on stressing over small spending when I need… Read more »

Kim
Kim
6 years ago

I ghostwrite for a financial website and boy, it’s killing me. Every time I write an article about financial planning I remember that I don’t do any of the advice I’m giving. I think being guilty while writing your own articles is even worse than making your friends guilty!

Impatient
Impatient
6 years ago

With all due respect, this article is pointless. Simply set a target for saving, then eliminate the expenses that will prevent you from hitting that target.

This article assumes you’re taking the opposite approach: eliminate all possible expenses and then see how much you’ve saved. That is a recipe for madness. The article should save its breath on the blow-by-blow and instead talk about why the first approach is better than the second.

Cindy @ Growing Her Worth
Cindy @ Growing Her Worth
6 years ago
Reply to  Impatient

Actually, your comment is proving the whole point of the article. The items she is referencing are all common advice given in the world of personal finance. April is stating that it is possible to save while doing it your own way, and leaving some (or all) of that advice behind. Although your statement is a bit too simplistic. You can’t just arbitrarily set a savings goal, and then cut until you meet it. First, you have to understand where your money is going, how much money you are bringing in, and what is and is not possible to cut.… Read more »

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