Author Topic: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally  (Read 1935 times)

mm36

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« on: April 23, 2018, 09:46:53 AM »
I'm ready to embrace frugality and simplicity in my lifestyle, but saving money doesn't come naturally.  I don't even budget my money and it's starting to show.  How can I learn to be frugal to the point that it becomes second nature?  Should I do a complete 180 or gradually phase in changes?

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3651
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2018, 09:55:12 AM »
Start tracking your money. Whatever way works for you. Just record everything you spend. After a month or 2 of doing that, start looking at it. Think about how it makes you feel to have spent $x on restaurants or cell phones or whatever. Think about how you WANT to spend your money. Then think about how to start shifting from where you are to where you want to be. It'll take time, but you'll get there.

MDM

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9610
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2018, 09:56:32 AM »
There are many ways to do this, none any better than another except in how they work for you.

One way is "pay yourself first."  E.g., how far down the list in Investment Order can you go before you run out of money to buy food and shelter?

plog

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 214
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2018, 09:59:43 AM »
Your problem isn't a knowledge problem, its a discipline problem.  What you need can't be taught.  Or even learned for that matter.  It just has to be done. 

It's not like you don't know what you need to do, you just lack the will to do it.  We can't give it to you.  Like losing weight, there's no trick or pill or side door into this:  Just do what you need to do.

canisius

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 44
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Dallas, TX
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2018, 10:33:19 AM »
I always thought I was frugal . . . . And then I saw my monthly expenses . .  . . Yikes.

The two biggest things that helped me are:

1.) A budget.  I know a lot of people swear by YNAB.  If you’re not disciplined then that works.  If you are then, I simply made a year budget in Google Sheets.  I didn’t want to pay for something that I could do for free.

2.) It’s okay to make mistakes.  If you’ve never budgeted or been frugal in the past, you probably will go out of budget for the first few months.  Don’t give up and look at that not as a “failure,” but a learning experience.  For me, I realized that I was a stress eater.  However, the food never made me feel better and now I’m poorer.  So, instead, I go for a bike ride, save money, and feel better.

3.) Your budget should not be static.  IT needs to change during the month.  If you have a car emergency.  See if you can shift money that month, don’t just let it go into the next month if you can avoid it.  Also, look at your budget in two month blocks, especially if you use credit cards for points.

mm36

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 15
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2018, 10:35:51 AM »
Thanks for all of the advice.  Now it's time to roll up my sleeves and get to work!

shadowmoss

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1082
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2018, 10:38:47 AM »
Start reading the original blog on this site.  Start with the first blog entry and read until you catch up.  The first year or so dealt specifically with what you are going through.  Concrete steps.  Another source is Your Money Or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (may not have spelled Joe's last name correctly...).  It is a book that gives concrete steps to figure out where you are so you can get where you want to be.  A bit dated, but the ideas never go out of style.

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2310
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2018, 02:30:48 PM »
Your problem isn't a knowledge problem, its a discipline problem.  What you need can't be taught.  Or even learned for that matter.  It just has to be done. 

It's not like you don't know what you need to do, you just lack the will to do it.  We can't give it to you.  Like losing weight, there's no trick or pill or side door into this:  Just do what you need to do.

I'm going to disagree with this, because boy, this makes it sound like a hopeless case, and that really couldn't be further from the truth.  The reality is that each and every one of us has personality quirks that keep us from becoming our version of whatever "perfection" is, and so our success or failure depends in large part on our ability to manage our failings.  Despite what many say, success is not about developing discipline in the face of constant temptation -- it is about structuring your life in a way to avoid the chronic temptations in the first place! 

Toward that end, the specific suggestions above are very very helpful.  #1 is tracking what you spend, in whatever way works for you.  And then force yourself to pay attention to it, whether that's weekly, monthly, etc.  And as yourself hard questions, like do you even remember what you ate at that particular restaurant three weeks ago?  If you are at all like me, you will find that a ton of money is just sort of disappearing on stuff you don't even remember.  By paying attention, what you are really doing is training yourself to learn what really brings you happiness and what does not.  This will also help you identify your spending triggers -- e.g., is it going out with the gang Saturday, is it mindless wandering through Amazon when you're bored, is it coming home exhausted and ordering takeout because you just can't face cooking, etc.

#2, for someone with your predilection, is to pay yourself first -- have your company automatically pull out a bunch of money to put into your 401(k) for starters.  Set up automatic transfers to an investment account, etc.  If you tend to spend thoughtlessly, the best way to guard against that is to create a little artificial poverty, because if you don't see it, you don't spend it.  [This works at every stage, btw; we are FI, and I still manage some of DH's spendy proclivities by sucking so much out of our bank account every month that our account balance actually goes down until we get the annual bonuses!]

Then I would say read MMM, front to back.  What is most important is the attitude:  that you are not what you own; that being able to do things for yourself makes you powerful; that needing fancy stuff actually makes you weak, not cool or attractive or whatever.  You don't need to go anywhere near to the level he does.  But you do need to feel the power in yourself to manage this stuff and do the right thing for yourself and your future.  Seriously, even something like fixing your own faucet can make you feel like a badass, and that carries over.

Finally (for starters), figure out some goals and rewards.  People respond much better to incentives than punishments.  So set a particular goal, and then figure out something that feels like a treat if you achieve it.  Note:  I am not talking about financial goals here -- I am talking about behavioral goals.  Because what you are trying to do is to train yourself to build habits to overcome your fears and weaknesses, most particularly those weaknesses you identified above.  It's basically like animal training, where you are the dolphin, and you are figuring out what trick you need to do, and what particular version of fish you get when you master it.  So for ex., if you are scared of/intimidated to put money aside, set a goal of completing the 401(k) contribution paperwork, and then reward yourself with a hot cocoa or something.  If your weakness is boredom-related, carry a book, or a device that is NOT connected to the internet, and then do something special on the weekend if you make it a whole week.  If it's going to the mall or Target on the weekends because there's nothing else to do, find a club or something to join, just for the heck of it, because it'll get you out of the house and give you something better to focus your time and attention on.  Etc.  The key here is to start very small and simple -- you want to make that first goal so easy that you are almost guaranteed to succeed.  Once you have that one down, then you can push the bar a little further and a little further.  That series of small successes will grow overtime into confidence -- and more importantly, that confidence will be based on real, actual competence.

Aunt Petunia

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 904
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2018, 02:52:57 PM »
What is your motivation? Think about your reason for being frugal: e.g. biking doesn't just save money, it is also better for the environment and your waistline. Ditto for cooking your own food, hanging clothes outside, not buying a bunch of consumer crap, etc.

astralweeks

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2018, 03:03:03 PM »
Here's what I did, in this order:

1. decide we needed to spend less and pay off all our credit card debt ASAP (this became a reward in itself)
2. google frugality
3. stumble on MMM profile in the New Yorker
4. read the blog, become obsessed. (Seems like you made it this far already!)
5. Imported everything into mint.com.  It's fussy, but it's 100% free, unlike YNAB.  I made sure to categorize all transactions and created budget categories.
6. Within 1 month, just by seeing where the money went in visual format, we went from spending 4300 in addition to rent to less than 3000 -- almost $1500/month difference. 
7. My first goal was to live only on my paycheck (80% of our income) and save my husband's income (he works part time).  We were able to do that within a month, so I then went hardcore.  We're up to 35-40% savings now (depending on how you calculate it).  That's about our comfort threshold until we make more money/start maximizing tax savings and investments.
8. Cancelled netflix, spotify. (Never had cable anyway.)  Got cheaper internet, cheaper cell, cheaper car insurance. Saw were we spent the most money—dining out, groceries—and set a firm restaurant budget and grocery budget. 
9. Started buying in bulk for groceries, shopping at Costco. We still eat very well.  Double the grocery budget of many hardcore MMMs here, but down from $900/month to $400 a month with no sacrifices in terms of quantity/quality. (I'm gluten-free/paleo, so that's part of the expense.)
10. Stopped buying clothes (unless absolutely necessary).  Started cutting my hair, the dog's, my husband's ($1500/year saved).  (Cutting my own hair kind of sucked, so now I get it cut 2x/year at a cheap salon instead, but still do my husband's and dog's.)
11. Gave myself and my husband each a monthly allowance.  Mine is $50; his is $150.  (I have two offices and like working at home, and coffee shops and bars are his office while he writes a novel.  Lifestyle choice that works for us).  He quickly stopped tipping $1 every time he bought coffee and then switched from Starbucks ($2.24) to McDonalds ($1.07).  He's the guy writing a novel at McDonalds, yep.  He used to bring his own coffee there, till they told him he had to actually buy something (embarrassing).
12. Price comparison shop EVERYTHING.  Then ask whether you even need it at all.
13. Bring snacks.   (We actually still eat out a fair amount, but that's after paying off all debt.) 
14. Offered to bring dessert to dinner parties (cheaper than bringing a nice bottle of wine).

By this point, we were spending $16K less per year.  The savings was its own reward. 

Took us 8 months to pay off $20K of credit card debt.
16 months after that, we had saved 45K and are under contract for our first home.  (We went with NACA - below market interest rate, no PMI, no closing costs.  Look it up!)

Next up:
1. maxing pre-tax deductions (FSA, 401K, IRA).
2. attacking 25K of high-interest student loans.

Give yourself a year, and you'll be posting your own success story here, too!
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 03:09:13 PM by astralweeks »

ramengurl

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 16
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2018, 09:01:32 PM »
I do think everyone is different on how they do this and their internal motivations as well.  Best advice I give is to read Your Money or Your life, because everyone I know responds somewhat differently because what makes me happy is different than what makes another person happy.  Aside from that it takes a while for something new to become a habit , and anything too drastic will feel like deprivation.   And most likely result in your being miserable and just giving up.  I would read book and then attack the biggest items first.  Eg: maxing out 401k maybe way more effective in savings result and way less time consuming than giving up store bought coffee. It may take 5 min to login to your 401k site and change your election and possibly save a couple grand.  VS- the cummulative time spent saving that equivalent in making coffee at home (brewing, washing dishes, to go cups, buying milk/ sugar/ creamer, accidental spills).  If you spend $2 a day on coffee, cutting that habit would save you around $730 - (cost of making at home). 

N

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1378
  • Location: Chicago
  • You must change your life. -Rainer Maria Rilke
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2018, 11:56:08 PM »
I was totally not frugal at all, and it really came to a crisis for me (and my family) but now I am really very disciplined.
It took practice and time and YNAB and desire to do better.
I read the blog multiple times, and I read the forums, and I have had a journal. All of those helped.
Good Luck!!

heybro

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 196
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2018, 03:26:55 AM »
I'd try to get things set up automatically. 

So, set up your paycheck to contribute to your retirement automatically so you don't even see the cash.
I know this is controversial, but you could also try paying for things with cash.  This 'hurts' more when you spend it and it creates a tangible visual on how much more you can spend that month because once your wallet is empty, its empty.

Likewise, try to end any automatic payments that you are not passionate about.  So, end the automatic subscriptions, clubs, etc.

And, if something doesn't work, try something else.  You could also set up an 'accountability buddy' somehow.  hehe.

AMandM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 915
Re: Advice for me please...frugality doesn't come naturally
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2018, 07:19:08 PM »
My advice is based on the approach I have taken to something that does not come naturally to me: keeping a tidy house.  Like becoming frugal, becoming tidy requires changing a lot of little (comfortable, pleasant, familiar) habits and replacing them with other (unfamiliar, awkward, sometimes unpleasant) ones.  The new habits almost all have one orientation in common (putting things away, not wasting money). 

So here are some things that have helped me.
Focus on the ends, not the means: I think about the prettiness of a clear table, not the chore of dealing with the stuff scattered on it. The frugality analogy is focusing on your goal (peace at the end of the month, a jump in your account balance) and not on the deprivation of avoiding this purchase.

Train myself to ask myself questions: Why not put this away, rather than just set it down? If I don't put it away now, when will I? Do I really need to have it lying out?  The frugality analogy is weaker here, but there are questions worth asking about every purchase. Do I really need this? Is there a cheaper alternative? If I don't buy it now, can I buy it later if it turns out to be truly necessary?

Assign a place for everything, so that everything can go in its place. A lot of my untidiness comes from leaving stuff lying around because there is no specific place where it belongs, so in a sense it doesn't feel out of place. I've slowly been purging and also designating "homes" for the stuff I keep. Similarly, if you make a budget then every legitimate purchase has a "home" with "space" for it.

Good luck!

P.S. One last piece of advice, not tidiness based: cut out of your life, as much as possible, the flow of messages telling you to buy stuff.  The most obvious are ads in all their forms. Throw away the flyers in the Sunday paper, install adblockers, don't watch TV, cancel subscriptions to consumption-based magazines (shelter mags, hobby mags, etc.), unsub from email promotions, etc.  But also, block fb feeds of friends who post nothing but purchases, avoid socializing that revolves around buying stuff (where feasible--I know it isn't always).