Frugality and financial independence

When I first started reading Get Rich Slowly in 2007 or 2008, financial independence was only a dream. At that time, my husband and I were struggling financially. We had:

  • two mortgages
  • one car payment
  • no emergency fund
  • nothing left over after each paycheck
  • a zillion home improvement projects to do — and no money to do them

I hated living like that. Some financial pains were our fault, but some things weren't. I wondered if we would ever get to the point where a financial emergency felt less like an emergency and more like a minor annoyance.

Financial Transformation

To get out of the hole, I read this site along with many others and devoured personal finance books. I tried to learn everything I could about cutting expenses. And cutting expenses helped, but other things happened to give us a boost.

We sold one house. I got a promotion. All spare money went to pay extra on our car loan, and, once that was paid off, to an emergency fund. I started a personal escrow account to budget for our yearly expenses. As things improved, we gained confidence, and our financial progress snowballed.

We've now progressed enough on this journey that financial freedom no longer seems far-fetched. It won't happen any time soon (at least, I don't think so), but at least it seems possible now.

Now that it's more real, I've been thinking about the options that would be available once we achieve it. And I want it earlier rather than later. To reach this goal, I need to do several things:

Though all four things will be (and are) part of our plan, this article is about frugality.

When financial freedom seemed impossible, I concentrated on saving money. While I know I need to make significantly more money (and invest that money) to gain early financial independence, I still think frugality has a place (after all, you must spend less than you earn).

Even though frugality has a purpose, as we started making financial progress, saving time and energy seemed as important as saving money.

I began to question my actions: Would reusing aluminum foil or plastic baggies make a difference to my goals? With unlimited time and energy, discerning the difference between worthwhile (and worthless) actions to save money is important.

Frugality, Kicked Up a Notch

So here's what I did: I categorized our entire budget into three categories, each one with different advantages and disadvantages.

Fixed expenses. Bills in this category include phone and insurance. My husband and I shopped around for new insurance policies, raised deductibles, dropped services, and picked a new cell phone plan.

Verdict? We are saving $300 per month, and we invested little time. Totally worth it.

Variable expenses. Food, utilities, clothing, and transportation costs make up this category. I waste food, because I still think buying in bulk is less expensive. We also save $1000 annually by heating with a woodstove. Much of our clothing comes from thrift stores.

Verdict? Sometimes I put a lot of effort in, and I'm not sure it's worth it. For example, even though we get free wood to heat our house and it saves us $1000 annually, I think it takes us 100 hours per year to split and stack the wood. We've “earned” $10 per hour with manual labor, but maybe our time is better spent elsewhere,especially since both of us earn more than that in our full- and part-time jobs.

Variable, big expenses. We approached our biggest purchase (our house) with a mix of optimism and stupidity. (So much stupidity that the topic deserves its own article.) We did everything wrong, and I estimate our mistakes cost us an additional $30,000. Oh, and we didn't negotiate at all when we purchased our last car.

Verdict? When huge amounts of money were at stake, we wasted it. So unfrugal of us.

Evaluation Time

I'm not sure how much money I've saved this year by not buying cooking spray and reusing foil and plastic baggies…maybe ten dollars?

Compare that to our house-buying debacle, the $30,000 mistake. That's a lot of aluminum foil.

Sure, we probably won't buy a different house for a long time, but that's not really the point. If I'm truly looking at frugality as a method to conserve time, energy, and money and achieve financial independence, I've been concentrating on the wrong things.

So what should I focus on? Well, when large sums of money are involved, I need to spend my money carefully, in an informed way. That should be obvious, but I think I thought, “We're spending so much money already, what's another two thousand dollars?!”

And if money-saving tactics (aluminum foil, I'm looking at you) take too much time, I would be better off using that time to educate myself to make better investment decisions, or earning money in a different way.

That's just one way to financial independence. But it's still hard to throw away perfectly good piece of aluminum foil.

More about...Frugality

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Savvy Scot
Savvy Scot
7 years ago

It’s all very well categorising expenses, but you have to ensure that you place relevant importance to the different categories. For example (as you admitted) when you messed up with missing out on negotiating the car, that was worth FAR more than monthly savings on a cell phone bill. My advice is to categorise then prioritise!

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

This is a great article~! It makes an important point…that saving on the “big stuff” is way more important than trying to save on little things.

When we first started our frugal lifestyle, I was a bag reuser as well. I have lightened up some, and have found that keeping my eye on the big stuff saves a lot more money. I still hate throwing things away and I try not to if at all possible.

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago

I think you nailed it toward the end of the post: start with the big decisions first. Major on the majors, not the minors. For most people the biggest expenditure is housing. And in housing the biggest way to save is to watch the economic cycle. Don’t buy when money is foisted on you – in fact, that usually is the worst possible time. House prices go up and down, usually in a 7-10 year cycle. It puts tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket if you wait and buy at the bottom of the cycle (and it doesn’t… Read more »

Karen
Karen
7 years ago

I came here to comment on the stacking wood thing as well; it’s all in how you think about it. Before I worked from home, instead of driving 40 minutes to work, I drove 20 minutes, took the train for 20 minutes, and walked for 20 minutes. The cost came out slightly less because my employer reimbursed my train pass, but when you added up the time it wasn’t cost-effective. Yet to me it was great because I got 40 minutes/day to read on the train and it guaranteed that I walked at least 2 miles/day.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago

That depends on how they are splitting it. If they use a hydraulic splitter (Which you can get used…) there is way less exercise. It is, however, much more efficient so you can get back to your higher-paying work.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

We use a borrowed hydraulic log splitter, so still some calories burned, but not as many. Still, I like the points about the exercise, something I didn’t think about.

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

I think it’s a matter of energy. You’ve only got so much energy and determination, and if you use it all up focusing on reusing baggies and aluminum foil you won’t have any when the big decisions need to be made. When we’re making big decisions like buying a property, we tend to let ourselves slack on some of the little stuff. It sounds counter productive to let ourselves eat more convenience foods and cook less when we’re going to be spending so much to buy and fix up a property (why increase both budgets at once!) but I think… Read more »

Lance@MoneyLife&More
7 years ago

I think you are learning an important lesson. While some frugality makes sense some frugality goes so far. How many Ziploc bags would you have to reuse to save the amount of money you could earn from staff writing an article?

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
7 years ago

First of all, pop-up ads? Really? When did this become THAT kind of site?

Not much detail on the variable expenses saving. I think the value of a lot of that frugality depends on the ‘how’. If the wood is free, and splitting stacking and hauling keeps you physically fit and saves you a gym membership or additional exercise time, then yay you! I wish someone would pay me $10/hour to work out.

Adam Hagerman
Adam Hagerman
7 years ago

You had a great “aha moment” Lisa and I think it sometimes takes people a lot longer to realize what you did.

Michael Rubin has a great tagline for what you discovered and he called it “Major on the Major”. In other words, focus on the major expenses and try to cut costs on them vs. recycling your aluminum foil and saving yourself $5 for 5 hours of work.

Best of luck to you!

Jennifer Gwennifer
Jennifer Gwennifer
7 years ago

What happened to Tim? I will miss his articles. It was nice to have a younger person writing about their issues. Not all of us have kids and mortgages and retirement plans yet.

CB
CB
7 years ago

I would also like to know what happened to Tim. I can’t find anything on the site announcing his departure.

Kimberly
Kimberly
7 years ago
Reply to  CB

There was a note on one of JD’s reposts about a staff member missing ‘his’ deadline. I’m going to assume that the sudden departure had something to do with this…

Jon
Jon
7 years ago
Reply to  Kimberly

Sad to see him go as well… Tim was one of my favorite writers here.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago

I liked Tim’s voice too, and I thought it was valuable. But his output was unreliable. I need writers who turn in quality work on time.

CB
CB
7 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

That answers it, thanks for the follow up JD.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago

I understand that the wood chopping is a big time investment and so you wonder if it’s worth it; but I think you’re looking at that wrong. Chopping wood is GREAT exercise and being physically fit and in good health will save you bundles of healthcare money down the line. Keep chopping that wood!

Paularado
Paularado
7 years ago

I don’t know. I’m on the fence about the wood. Nobody has mentioned the cost of chainsaws and chainsaw blades. They charge around $80 around here to tune one up. Ours always seem to be breaking. Last winter I faithfully built a fire every night and turned down the heat. We have a huge woodburner, so it was a lot of wood and a lot of work. I figured it saved us about $30/month, or $1/day. I’m not sure it was worth it. I’d rather go for a hike any day than play lumberjack. Nevertheless, after cutting down around 20… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Paularado

You can get a chainsaw sharpener for around $20 and sharpen your own blades.

Jean
Jean
7 years ago
Reply to  Paularado

“I’m on the fence about the wood…”

Ooo, I see what ya did there! 🙂

Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
Bryallen @ The Frugal Graduate
7 years ago

Hi! I like that you re-use foil and bags, even if it doesn’t save you much. It’s beneficial to the environment, which means it’s worth doing! 🙂 That been said, I know that a lot of people keep watching the pennies but the big expenses cost them far more than they save. For example, I don’t think our rent is as cheap as it could be, but we were so rushed to find a place that we had to settle with the best we could find at the time. I think a lot of people find that. It’s good to… Read more »

AR
AR
7 years ago

Totally agree about doing things just because they are good for the environment. Also I believe we should do the things we find enjoyable, so if you like chopping wood or thrift store shopping, do it regardless of the money.

Great points though about focusing on being informed and careful about the big purchases. Those are the choices where we have the potential to really mess up.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago

A lot of people chase the very “best deal” they can get, and dither so long on making a decision that they lose out. We learned a long time ago to “go with good enough.” That avoids paralysis by analysis.

An annual re-evaluation is an excellent idea, though. Then you can chase the “best” at more leisure.

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago

Loved the article Lisa!

Give yourself a break on the house and vehicle purchases, you’ve learned a great lesson that most people never learn. It took about 3 of each before I got it hammered into my head to buy low and sell high where I could on the big things like that. It’s partly because we make those purchases so infrequently that we don’t really know how to play the game.

George
George
7 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I disagree, that’s like saying “well black ice is only on the road sometimes, so drive the same speed all the time and when you wreck your car, don’t worry about it”

Yes, housing and car purchases are infrequent, but they’re massive investments which should involve a massive investment of time, as well as money.

Kristen
Kristen
7 years ago

I appreciated this article. She owned her mistakes and sounds open to growth.

As for foil and baggies – a good set of Tupperware (or similar) can go a long way toward avoiding both 🙂

BC
BC
7 years ago

It just depends on your situation. I have always been pretty frugal with the big stuff: cars, home, college education, clothing, and insurance. I thought that we were doing so well and so didn’t understand why my husband and I weren’t getting ahead financially. It turned out that we were degrading our chance at financial independence at the grocery store and restaurants on the weekends. We’ve moved to cash for pocket spending, eating out and grocery shopping and now we are finally on our way. We cannot get over how much these smaller, innocent expenses were really hurting us.

Malcom
Malcom
7 years ago
Reply to  BC

I review my fixed expenses once or twice a year. It takes maybe two hours each time. Everyday I work at being frugal because saving a little each day adds up at the end of the year. These savings can be used to invest. Overtime with the right investments these little daily savings becomes a nice nest egg.

Robyn
Robyn
7 years ago

$10 an hour tax free, isn’t a bad part-time job. What would you be doing with your time if you weren’t chopping wood? Watching TV or reading a book?

Tracey H
Tracey H
7 years ago
Reply to  Robyn

Or even funnier, paying for a gym membership somewhere instead of getting the exercise that pays you?

Anje
Anje
7 years ago
Reply to  Tracey H

There’s an old saying here: wood warms 3 times: when chopping down the tree, when cutting into firewood, and finaly in the oven. 🙂 Pluss, many find it relaxing as well as good exercise.

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago

Basically trying to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish. Big wins first then go for the smaller wins as fits your lifestyle. I think the problem is people like wins. So when you see something often, say weekly or monthly, that you can address and see progress in you feel good, even if it’s small progress, because the proof is right in front of you and realitively easy to measure. But with larger one time or infrequent purchases, part of the problem is no matter what great deal you think you got, someone will tell you how they got… Read more »

AMW
AMW
7 years ago

I think the way you have to look at frugal/diy activities is how much it nets you per hour. Ex: I spend an hour a week cutting coupons…it saves me $50-$75 at the store that week. That’s at least $50/hour. I’m going to keep doing it. Washing baggies nets me $8.00/hour. Not going to do that. Washing and reusing plastic food containers nets me about $19/hour. That is enough for me to keep doing it. It all depends how much you’re making and how desperate your situation is. I find that this is a continually changing target and has to… Read more »

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago
Reply to  AMW

How did you come up with these figures?

AMW
AMW
7 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

WWII Kid…the way I come up with to find out what my wage would be is to see how long it takes me to do something and see how much money it saves me. EX: It takes about an hour to cut coupons and look up my coupon service (www.thegrocerygame.com). I save $60 or more each week on groceries. Then I deduct the cost of the service for the week ($3.75) and the cost for my 2 extra Sunday papers ($4.00), it comes to a savings of $52.75 for an exta hours worth of work. In the case of th… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Teaching the kiddos to wash the reusable plastic containers = priceless… 😉

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

The big expenses, home and car, are the most important because they drive other big expenses like insurance and real property taxes. I think lots of people, myself included, focus on the small expenses because more often than not, people have already committed to the big expenses. Yes you could sell your expensive car or home but often times it doesn’t make sense to do so, but if you are going the radical way it may make sense to do so. And if you’ve made a not so smart home purchase, perhaps you can now take advantage of the super… Read more »

Cortney
Cortney
7 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I agree. I think another reason that people focus on the small stuff is because it’s easier. Everyone knows how to watch plastic bags or drink fewer lattes; it’s just a matter of if you decide to do so. With the big stuff, it’s harder. You have a car salesman whose career is negotiating, real estate agents who want commissions, etc, etc. And the skills you need to be effective in this area – negotiation, market research, etc – are not things you use regularly.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

Good points, Cortney. If I can free up some time to do things like market research, the time I spent would pay off in money saved.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago

I like this article. I can’t say that about many of the current GRS pieces, but I think this one will strike a chord with most readers.

Obsessing over the little things (like, should I make my own pizza after breaking down the price of each ingredient not to mention my time and cooking fuel vs. picking up an $8 pie after working 3 hours OT) makes being frugal so unpleasant.

And yes, I still hesitate to throw away perfectly good foil, too.

Beth
Beth
7 years ago

I just have to jump in here because I’m so shocked that only one of you has mentioned the environmental value of re-using plastic baggies and foil. I try to avoid foil because it’s one of the most environmentally unfriendly things going. Whenever you throw out a piece of foil, it’s going to sit as landfill for years and years and years – roughly 400, in fact (http://voices.yahoo.com/environmental-health-problems-caused-aluminum-6708696.html). The baggies are nearly as bad. I appreciate this blog is about frugality, but when *preventing* this kind of environmental damage also saves you money, I really think you should take that… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Do people throw out foil? It’s recyclable.

beep
beep
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Most recycling centers don’t take foil, apparently because it can jam their machinery. If they do take it, they want it in two-three inch diameter balls to prevent that.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  beep

Huh. I went and checked my city’s recycling criteria (because I HATE the people who bag their recycling when it is against the rules) and they take foil, no restrictions (though I do ball it up anyway cause it’s kinda fun).

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
7 years ago
Reply to  beep

Honey, I’m with you on the bags! I live in a condo, and we share recycling bins on each parking level. It drives me crazy that I see so many non-recyclables tossed in there, corrugated cardboard mixed with general recylables, and many other conspicuously posted rules broken, etc. I just want to tell my neigbors, like, if you don’t want to participate in recycling, then don’t, but don’t ruin the efforts of the rest of us! Sigh.

Kevin
Kevin
7 years ago
Reply to  Beth

“Whenever you throw out a piece of foil, it’s going to sit as landfill for years and years and years”

Uhm…. so what?

Who cares?

It started out in the ground, we mined it, refined it, used it, put it back in the ground, and buried it with dirt, back where it started. What’s the problem?

Rose
Rose
7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

An extra landfill costs 93 million to build. Our landfill is going to fill up 5 years ahead of schedule. Is your extra trash really free Kevin?

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“Who care?” I do even more now that I’ve read this at the “Facts About Aluminum Foil” site (link after)!

“It takes 95 percent less energy to make aluminum from recycled aluminum, versus using bauxite ore (virgin materials). For example, recycling one aluminum can will save enough energy to run a television for three hours.

Also saw on this site that: Some landfills incinerate aluminum, which releases toxic metals and gas into the atmosphere.

From: http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/aluminum-foil/facts-about-aluminum-foil/.

Lulu
Lulu
7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Troll much?

Betsy
Betsy
7 years ago
Reply to  Lulu

We take our aluminum foil in with our aluminum cans to the ‘scrap yard’ they don’t care and we get $, we also take our ‘steel’ cans, soup cans etc and we get $, we store them outside so no bugs etc and take them about every two weeks. We cook the right amount of food so we don’t have leftovers, I tried the plastic container idea and all I had was science projects in the refrigerator.

Juli
Juli
7 years ago

Why does it have to be either the big things or the small things? You prioritize what makes the most sense in your life. We don’t use many plastic storage bags (go through maybe a couple boxes a year) so for me washing them is not a priority. But switching to cloth napkins and using dish rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels has saved us a ton of money because we use a lot of them. Yes, it is obviously very important to make sure you are making wise decisions on big purchases like a mortgage or buying… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Juli

You do have to factor in laundry costs, especially in a dry state where water is expensive.

Juli
Juli
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

But you are already going to be doing a load of laundry, so just toss in a few more towels or dish rags and you are not increasing your water or energy usage at all.

Ivy
Ivy
7 years ago

This is a great point of view. You have to value your time and efforts (the opportunity cost). Unless things are desperate, I do think it’s not worth wasting time on small items. Of course this doesn’t consider whether you think cutting coupons is easy and fun, or whether chopping wood is a good form of exercise. We review expenses a couple of times a year to reevaluate our needs and we also watch out for bigger opportunities. This year only we – appealed property taxes (after a refinancing appraisal ended up lower than expected) – $1000 annually – moved… Read more »

Russell
Russell
7 years ago

When working towards financial independence, focusing on frugality has a triple benefit.

1. It increases the money you have to invest
2. A penny saved is more than a penny earned, because you don’t pay tax on a penny saved
3. Reducing expenses reduces the amount of non-job income you will need to reach and maintain financial independence

Keep up the good work, Lisa!

DD
DD
7 years ago

Excellent article. I agree there are different buckets of expenses and variations on what we each consider the fixed necessities and what is up for debate. I think when folks initially decide to get on the frugal bandwagon it’s always easiest to start with the obvious spending offenders – you know the usuals, fancy coffee, extended cable packages, salon treatments, entertainment, restaurants etc. When you are new to the game those are easy targets and you get the immediate gratification of being able to cut a measureable amount of unecessary spending out of the budget on day 1. Don’t go… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago
Reply to  DD

I agree completely re: cleaning a big house. My mom is always asking when we’ll buy the “big” house, and I say “never”. Who wants to vacuum 3,000 square feet of carpet every week??

DD
DD
7 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

Or worse, vacuum 1000 square fee and then vacuum and wash another 2000 square feet of hardwood…. Beautiful sure, but not where I want to put my time at this stage in my life. After putting in a long week at work, I’d much rather go for a hike or read a book.

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

I have a roomba and a mint and about 3000 s.f. of floor – both are somewhat non-frugal items but were my Christmas and birthday presents to myself last year. OTOH, I did find them both in the 50% off bin at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
But generally yes, I do want a smaller house.

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

No kidding, right? I really like a tidy living space, but I can barely motivate myself to keep up with 1500 sq feet.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

Right? And it’s not just the carpeting. It’s the increase in wood fixtures and furniture to dust, it’s that many more windows, and more toilets and bathroom sinks to scrub. No thank you.

Hilary
Hilary
7 years ago

As a 25 year old, I really enjoyed Tim’s perspective and loved his articles. I am sad to see him go. 🙁

KSR
KSR
7 years ago

The concept of frugality, like anything else, can be taken too far and often reduces real opportunity. You can clip coupons or rinse and reuse baggies until you’re blue in the face while it provides little in the way of real opportunity. Live and learn is right. Set your mind big and don’t get caught in the little. Live below your means, have a solid budget that you follow to the penny, and the frugality and good decisions will arise by regular tweaking of expenses for even greater savings. That’s opportunity. The safety of a savings account/ER fund doesn’t require… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

Unless your auto insurance will pay for a new transmission, engine, or other major repair, you need way more than $1000 in your account. Ditto with the house. A new furnace is way over $1000 and in December or January it isn’t exactly optional.

KSR
KSR
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

The $1000 *is in addition* to the amount of the highest deductible. For instance, I keep liquid 7000 for our health insurance deductibles (separate but equal policies)+ $1000=$8000. We also have a HSA but that’s besides the point. 8000 covers a pretty serious ER or atleast buys time to get to other assets or cash on hand. I think it’s just crazy for people to have 6 months cash in their ER fund earning less than 1% Nuts!

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

Thanks for clarifying. I’m glad to see that you “get” that!

DD
DD
7 years ago
Reply to  KSR

Years ago when we finally got serious about revamping our finances. We made good salaries, we only had a mortgage, but we weren’t getting ahead and figured there must be a lot of stupid spending going on. We assessed the current spending, and cut out everything nonessential with the idea we’d gradually add back in only what we truly missed. Turns out we didn’t miss any of it. We also started building an emergency fund because we heard it was the sensible thing to do. At some point we tried to imagine a scenario when we’d actually use it and… Read more »

CincyCat
CincyCat
7 years ago

Ditto all the feedback about recycling/reusing the foil/baggies & environmental stewardship. You may not be saving money by tossing it in the bin, but you are saving space in a landfill. That said, I think the author has made a great point. The single biggest change that helped our household financially was setting up a personal escrow account. At first, we had little historical data, so we were just taking a stab at how much to set aside. But over time, it became MUCH easier to absorb a $25 “oops” in calculation errors one month, versus a $300+ “forgot that… Read more »

Tyler
Tyler
7 years ago

I don’t post often, but I felt the need to say that this site is on the verge of losing a daily reader for the past 5 years. I’m going to assume many readers feel the same. This has nothing to do with Lisa’s writing, but with the in-cohesiveness of the site recently. There is no direction, just a “community” of writers that seems to be exponentially growing. As an example, sorry Lisa, but, why do I care? She’s a new writer. I have no history or relationship wit her. Why do I care she figured something out about frugality… Read more »

Evan H.
Evan H.
7 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

Give the new writers some time and you will build a relationship with them. There was a time when Robert Brokamp and Donna Freedman were new and now they are part of the community. All friends were strangers at some point.

Tyler
Tyler
7 years ago
Reply to  Evan H.

True. However, Robert and Donna were established financial writers prior to joining GRS.

I don’t mind new writers, occasionally. My point was that GRS is losing its cohesiveness and it is just becoming another financial writing conglomerate.

snerk1
snerk1
7 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

I so agree with you Tyler. I still read GRS everyday, but it has lost its spark. Even when JD had contributions from other writers the site had a cohesive voice. That now appears to be gone. I am giving it some time to morph into whatever it will become, I am just not that optimistic.

AwkwardlyLivinginSF
AwkwardlyLivinginSF
7 years ago
Reply to  Tyler

I agree – I’ve also been reading this site for over 5 years and just don’t feel like it has a voice for anyone under 30 anymore. While I respect the writers who are sharing their perspective it just seems there are too many writers focusing on the same topics. I’ll miss Tim’s articles and hope that JD (or whoever is editing) will be more open to considering younger writers.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago

Unfortunately (for me, mostly- haha!), I am over 30, so I probably won’t be your favorite writer. However, we don’t know how old El Nerdo is, and I would guess that Kristin is in her 20s. I’m betting there is at least one under 30 for you!

Pauline
Pauline
7 years ago

If you value your time, education is your best bet. Invest in yourself, study things that you like, and ask for a raise at work, or start freelancing on the side. That extra money can go towards your mortgage and help you achieve financial independence quicker than by reusing bags or foil.

Dwayne Thomas
Dwayne Thomas
7 years ago

Great Post. My wife and I started couponing and we’re finding it hard to balance the time we spend couponing versus the money we save. As we get better at it, hopefully it will be worth more of our time in the future.

Windy
Windy
7 years ago

I am the daughter of a tin-foil hoarder. Frugality is a noble impulse, but if not kept honest it can lead to bad habits and hoarding behaviors. It takes quite a bit of effort from me not to keep things “just in case” I’ll need them later. I think a good corollary to your piece is “Be Frugal, Not Cheap.” Don’t skip home maintenance, or oil changes, or dental check-ups, in the name of frugality! My parents, bless their hearts, are a prime example. They bought their house in 1982, and my mother made the last payment last month (hooray!).… Read more »

Jason Clayton | frugal habits
Jason Clayton | frugal habits
7 years ago

I can definitely relate. I am always looking to save money and live more frugal. In the past making frugal choices saved me some cash in the range of $200-300 a month by selling a car and cutting unnecessary expenses.

It was great to save this money, but didn’t compare to getting a new job that paid me $1500 more per month.

Focusing on the big things like houses and cars make a huge difference. But… sometimes you need to just earn more – which was true for me.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago

I agree with earning more money. I want to write several articles about earning more, because that’s been a huge part of our financial improvement.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

Oh man, don’t I know about this. I now am focusing on the larger items and only deal with the smaller items that aren’t a PITA. I’ve made major decisions in the last few months to meet my financial goals of the next coming years. I started by reducing my cellphone bill and getting a prepaid account for $30/ month, I reduced my utilities usage which included taking cold showers out of a bucket(not too bad in summer,in FL), and unplugging unused appliances. Big whoop, right? But I got frustrated at the (maybe) $150/ month I was saving. So instead… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

You should be very proud of your successes, lmoot.

bethh
bethh
7 years ago

I also tend to save/reuse baggies and foil, mostly because it seems dumb to chuck something that’s perfectly reusable. But I do take your point that it makes sense to look at the big picture. I’ve recently started considering streamlining my convoluted banking process because I’m not sure I’m using it as I intended to. We’ll see.

I’m looking forward to the house-buying debacle post!

Edward
Edward
7 years ago

Good article!! I think shopping around (for any item) is extremely important. Reminds me of a point I read in the “Wealthy Barber” the other day. If you were shopping for an expensive TV, say $600 and then found out another one across town was $560, would you bother? Most people they survey wouldn’t but of course you should! If your boss said, “Stay an extra hour tonight and I’ll give you $40 cash?,” most of us would jump on it. After all, $40/hour isn’t a bad salary.

Michelle
Michelle
7 years ago

“Compare that to our house-buying debacle, the $30,000 mistake. That’s a lot of aluminum foil.”

This reminds me of a situation that one of my parent’s friends are in. This individual has been in a poor financial situation for a while now. However, they’ve refused to make the big, lasting changes that would probably help their situation (things like reducing their housing and other large, fixed expenses).

Now they’ve had an unexpected, major financial emergency, and they’re probably going to have their home foreclosed because of it…

Carol
Carol
7 years ago

I liked Tim, and I’m from the older age group. I will miss him.

Shilpan
Shilpan
7 years ago

I agree with William. If you buy a house at the bottom(current market) and learn to embrace minimalism by removing physical and mental clutter, you can accelerate your journey towards financial freedom.

Julie
Julie
7 years ago

I just don’t understand how anyone could NOT negotiate on a car….unless you are buying an advertised special. I would be very curious to read an article on this topic. That being said, I guess it is ultimately in my best interest that some people don’t negotiate because if everyone negotiated as well as my husband, the dealer might not stay in business for long.

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago
Reply to  Julie

See, it would never even occur to me to negotiate on a car, nor do I have any desire to. I realize this costs me extra money and it would do me good to do it. But I find dealing with people tiring and stressful (introvert), and apart from saying “I saw this vehicle priced for this much less” at this other dealer (which wasn’t an option last time we bought a car, because it was the only Suburu dealer within 5 hours of our house), I don’t really know HOW to haggle (I understand it is a skill that… Read more »

Angie
Angie
7 years ago

I was just thinking the other day how I am so focused on the small things but have let some bigger saving slip through my fingers… thousands of dollars over the years I’m sure.

Like another commenter said, “penny wise and pound foolish.”

I hate it, but on the other hand it makes me feel glad I’m not alone in that.

Scott
Scott
7 years ago

Good post. My wife and I try to be quite frugal and pay ourselves $25/wk pocket money for spending on books, gadgets etc. If we dont have the pocket money, we don’t buy. For bigger items (new couch maybe) we dwell on the purchase for a while to (probably) prove to ourselves that we actually do need the new item. We too overlooked several things when buying our house several years ago. It wasn’t obvious then, but with our son arriving recently, we’re really going to notice that our bathroom doesn’t have a bath (just shower). To remedy that will… Read more »

Nihongo Dame Desu
Nihongo Dame Desu
7 years ago

Pay a neighborhood college student or older teen, or struggling family $6/hr to split and stack your wood. You are still coming out ahead but you don’t have to put in the time and work. That seems like a much more sensible solution than abandoning the use of wood for heat.

Mo
Mo
7 years ago

I’m currently fighting off student debt and decided to sell my car as an act of frugality. In a matter of just a couple of months, I’ve eliminated over $20,000 in debt (the car loan, plus some other debts). I’m now at a point where only half my take home income goes toward expenses. It’s fantastic!!

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

I’d challenge you to rethink the ‘small’ stuff. Your example of spending 100 hours to save $1000 on firewood is a common example of people disparaging frugal tactics. Yes, $10/hour is less than you make but let’s face it, those aren’t hours you were likely to be paid for otherwise. Most people would have squandered those hours on more TV, more internet time, more ‘fun’. Even if you wouldn’t have wasted them, think of the inherent value of the task; physical activity, enjoyment of the outdoors (both of which are proven to enhance fitness, mood and overall health), and the… Read more »

Barb
Barb
7 years ago

I’m coming a day late to this discussion. That said, while I appreciate the point about concentrating on major expenses, there’s something lost here. First, the little things do add up. Second, most so called small frugalities can be done without taking away from other money making tasks. Third, it’s easy to turn those small frugalites into daily habits, and fourth, many of those little frugalities can be done at the same time as other things. In other words, I do my hour of coupon organization while I’m watching the football game, at the same time that I’m cooking a… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  Barb

Barb, good thoughts. The little things do add up, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on for most of my adult life. While I am still doing them, I’m trying to make thoughtful, informed decisions when it comes to major expenses. The areas where I am still struggling (food mostly)…that’s where I really need to develop frugal habits, so I don’t need to think about it. I don’t have a lot of down time (my jobs consume about 75 hours per week), so I like how you “batch” your frugal tasks together.

Alan | Life's Too Good
Alan | Life's Too Good
7 years ago

I really don’t like the word ‘frugal’ – it implies compromise. I do really really love the idea of living within your means (and that’s what we – my family and I) do. Live a simple life (not scrimping and saving but just making wise choices such as cooking at home rather than eating out, driving a modest car, eating more fruit and veg, cut down the amount of ‘stuff’ you have…) and total freedom at very little cost is entirely possible and should be for most people whatever your situation. Then if you want things you can’t afford, DON’T… Read more »

Grayson
Grayson
7 years ago

This is exactly how I got out of debt. Most of my debt was my fault, so I had to bear down and dig myself back out of the hole. Now I am working toward fully funding my retirement, saving more emergencies and many other projects that I want to accomplish. Unfortunately, now my wife and I are looking to move and our first child should be coming around Christmas. This will be a fun time to learn how to redo our finances.

Eileen
Eileen
7 years ago

I think all those things help because they change your behavior. (Behavioral finance!) They curb a lot of bad $ instincts like, ‘I have to run out for foil, and I may as well pick up 10 other things while I’m there.’ Saving water/electricity, even in tiny bits, makes us very conscious that energy is in fact an expense. And shopping at thrift stores definitely helps curb the desire for new and designer clothes. Learning to live without is a muscle that needs to be toned like the willpower muscle. (One of my favorite GRS entries of all time: https://www.getrichslowly.org/empower-your-willpower/… Read more »

Lolita Broermann
Lolita Broermann
7 years ago

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