Cash-wise, it’s been a downright cheap week here–I’ve spent just a hair under three dollars. Believe it or not, that’s not my record, but it’s not bad, either. Bill-wise, it’s been a painful week, with a huge credit card bill (two car repairs, a visit to the vet, switching my phone plan, gas went up 20 cents in March), but that bill has been paid in full, as have the other ones, because–say it with me–debt is the devil.
Although I’ve lived close to the bone for some time now, it keeps surprising me that it’s possible to continue shaving away at my spending and still live what is overall a pretty good, full life. I can’t think of a thing I really miss (I miss the many good experiences I enjoyed not so long ago, which are not things, and I miss having them with the best damn companion ever, and I’m allowed to miss both for as long as I damn well please), which either means I’ve fully embraced simplicity or I’m just kind of sad and pathetic. I’d rather think I’ve taken the simplicity route.
Here are some ways I’ve cut back my spending:
1. Identified what’s important to me. Aside from the basics–food, clothing, etc.–what matters to me are good people and good experiences. This means I do say “yes” to going out to lunch or going on a little road trip or potlucking a few times a month. Yes, it’s spendy sometimes, but being alone is far more costly in ways that have nothing to do with money. Spend where it matters, but spend it wisely.
2. Said “no” when the impulsive, compulsive consumer in me wants a toy. For example, I used to have a serious magazine fetish. I subscribed to several and would buy others off the newsstand, but I’d flip through them once and then be burdened by the stacks of magazines I had sitting around. Now, I go to the bookstore once or twice a month, get a cup of coffee ($1.66 for a tall at my local store, which is pretty cheap for an afternoon’s entertainment), and read mags to my little heart’s content. Also, whenever I’m at the library, I stop by the magazine exchange and paw through them. It’s great fun and sometimes I come home with a treasure or two, then take them back when I’m done.
3. What are the three most exciting sounds in the world (a prize to the first reader who identifies the movie source of that quote)? Sale, cheap, and free!
Sale: I buy stuff on sale. I’m not saying you should stockpile except for toilet paper (I get a little nervous if I’m down to the last package) and enough food for a week or so, just in case, but I hold out for a sale on things I need or want. I check out the day-old rack, the dented cans cart, and the marked-down meat at the grocery store. You can save quite a bit if you’re willing to hunt out the bargains. Some people coupon; I think it’s a pain in the butt and not worth my time. You can save a lot, however, by using coupons, if you’re willing to invest the time.
Cheap: I shop thrift stores. They are not all full of nasty smelly junk no one else wants. I’ve seen many brand names, and sometimes still-with-the-tags-on items, at my Goodwill. Clothes will wash, as will bedding and towels and dishes, so get over your fear of cooties, except in shoes. I would be in dire straits before I’d buy used shoes. I’ve known people who’ve gotten good deals off of Craigslist and other buy, sell, and trade sites. Again, I think it’s a pain in the butt, but do what works for you.
Free: If someone wants to give you something you can use, say thank you and mean it and then use the hell out of it. I have a friend who’s passed along a lot of clothes to me over the years and I’m grateful for her generosity and also sometimes better clothed because of her. I do have a fault when it comes to clothing, and that’s to wear things to shabby and beyond, but I really really hate clothes shopping, as well as spending money on clothes. Same for shoes. I don’t get the shoe obsession. You have two feet; how many pairs of shoes do you really require?
My computer was given to me. It may be on the old and kind of slow side of the spectrum now, but it was free, and again, I’m grateful for it. When I started having problems with the keyboard, I asked one of my brothers–the one who’d be most likely to–if he had a plug-and-play keyboard I could borrow for a while. He did, and he didn’t let me borrow it–he gave it to me.
I’ve shamelessly asked some of my knitting pals for their cast-off (get it?) yarn and received some. I’ve given some of mine away, too. Books and magazines have changed hands, as well, whether given for keeps or loaned, among my knitting pals. Share your wealth and others will share with you.
4. I’m using what I have. I’m knitting out of my stash this year, for example, because I have a lot of yarn, I’m a slow knitter anyway, and I really, really don’t need more yarn. I’ve been in four or five yarn shops in the last couple of weeks and I’ve petted a lot of yarn (it’s a knitter thing), but didn’t see a thing I needed or even wanted all that much.
That old wisdom from many years ago, when there was real deprivation, is still applicable and wise: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. We are so pampered and spoiled and, yes–I’m going to say it–privileged that many of us in the U.S. don’t know our needs from our wants. We are virtual children when it comes to spending. Just look at how many people have overspent themselves into massive debt if you think otherwise. Set limits and stick to them. Buy what you need; use what you have; save for what you want. You’ll feel all grown up.
5. I save my pennies. I squeeze nickels ’til the buffalo poops. I have a penny jug and another bank for the silver coin. I have some money in the bank, where I’m earning just about nothing in interest but it’s relatively safe there. I have some safely stashed away elsewhere. Cash is a great comfort to me, and I’m never without it. I only wish I could transfer some of the discipline I have with money to other areas of my life. Maybe someday.
And that’s me on my (thrifted) soapbox for today. Make it a good one.