The Art of Frugality: The Budget

As promised, I’m back with more thoughts on money-saving ways. 🙂

More than anything my parents did or did not give me growing up, I’m thankful for the way they taught me to manage my money. We had allowance (for doing chores), a savings account (that they would match up to a certain amount when we made a contribution), and a clothing allowance beginning in high school (when I learned that name brand clothing-at full price-was overrated!) I think having that modeled to me as a child has made living that way as an adult so natural.

When I became a nurse, I started to realize that knowledge about using money wisely was one of the major things that set my finances apart from some of the low-income families I helped at work. We didn’t have much money either. But in this case, certainly, knowledge IS power. I would also add self-discipline and contentedness to that list.

Jonathan and I married young. He was 21 and I, 22. We were still in college and barely made ends meet the first year (Heck, we’re still on a tight budget now!) Through scholarship, jobs, and parents/grandparents who generously gave gifts, I was able to whittle away at tuition and living expenses and graduate college completely debt free.

We still don’t have any debt apart from our mortgage. That’s something that is important to us (and I have to admit it feels pretty good, even when it’s hard). Here’s a list of a few things I think help us to accomplish that on a tight budget:

Communication helps to build good habits. I realize a lot of people don’t like to talk about money. It’s touchy. It’s private. But when you know you’re accountable to someone you love (your spouse, for example), it makes you think twice at the register. From my experience, getting married is a great time to start a budget. From the beginning. Before you develop other habits. That way you can both be involved in practicing new ways to manage your money. Some of you may think this is overboard, but Jonathan and I entered every receipt into a budget spreadsheet for the first 2 years we were married. I’ll admit it is a real time commitment, but, for us, it was extremely helpful in setting our habits early in our marriage. And after 2 years, we really didn’t need to do it anymore. We had a really good handle on where our money went and what our spending tendencies were. Now, we can use something like mint.com with a lot of confidence.

Pay attention. This really is one of the biggest things to me. I’m amazed how many people say things like “I know I’m spending a lot, but I’ve got to eat, right?” Or they have no idea what something they always buy costs (milk, for example). When it comes to groceries, I’m not a coupon-er. For me, it’s too much time spent on things I don’t usually want. I do like free coupons (ones that come in the mail or print out with my receipts). But, the most important thing to me is realizing what I normally pay or what I could typically get it for when it goes on sale. Oatmeal may be on my list, but maybe it could wait another week if the price is up (some things can’t wait, of course).

Also, I’ve found that certain stores sell a few things I get really regularly (like frozen fruit or string cheese) for half the price of my usual grocery store. I’m not talking about spending all day going all around town. But a few strategic things that are really discounted really add up in savings.

Having “spending money”, no matter how tight the budget. Spending money is what we call it. The point is, set aside a little (in our case it’s really a little) money that you can spend on whatever you want without being questioned. If I want to spend it all on gum and coffee that month, that’s my prerogative. If I want to save it up for something I’ve had my eye on, I can. I think it helps to alleviate the need for impulse buys.

Make up your mind. Whatever your financial goals are, make up your mind that that’s how it’s gonna be. If you don’t want to take out a loan to refinish your bathroom, don’t. If you don’t want to spend $500 on groceries a month, figure out how to do it another way. Deciding ahead of time is huge in helping you to meet your goals.

I’m no expert. I’m certainly not a financial guru. I do believe in putting myself around people who are wise with money if I want to be wise with money. These are just my humble opinions from my experience.

Take it for what it’s worth 🙂

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2 Comments

Filed under money saving, personal thoughts

2 responses to “The Art of Frugality: The Budget

  1. good tips! I think it really helps to grow up in a family that has good spending habits/practice. Being content is also extremely important…making the most of what you have.

  2. Yep and yep…to all you said. 🙂

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