Greetings, frugal friends!! Today we welcome this guest post from fellow personal finance blogger Elsie, who blogs over at Gundo Money. Always nice to have the fresh perspective of a young person around here. Enjoy!
Back in 2012 I was living with a boyfriend who always reminded me about saving water. When the toilet was flushed or the shower got turned on we always had to state a reason. This all sounds funny to write about now but back then it was pretty serious—almost like our little water game. Sure California was in a drought but we weren’t poor and or desperate. Why the heck did we bother?
During that time I got to learn one of the most important lessons all frugal people know about and that is that money adds up! Any time something felt frivolous, like buying gas 10 cents cheaper or walking to work, he would remind me it all adds up. So despite how much I might have griped about his frugal ways at the time, to my chagrin I admit he was right.
Us personal finance nerds love to write about little money saving tips like $12 savings on the electric bill here, $20 savings on the grocery bill there. I’m sure my readers are asking themselves “what does this have to do with amassing savings, give us the BIG money saving tips.” The catch is, the small money saving tips are the ones that will change your financial life because those are the areas you’re not even noticing.
Money tends to get leeched from our wallets one small purchase at a time. Most families spend extra money all over the place that they don’t see, and eventually those little decisions add up to a big credit card bill. So what you really need to understand is that we make $1 and $2 decisions all day everyday and often the difference between money savers and money wasters is in these little details.
Another incorrect belief of the average money waster is that you can’t save a ton of money and still live well. Whenever I tell someone how much money they could be saving their reaction is either ‘that’s not possible’ or ‘you’d have to live like you’re poor.’ Neither of those statements are true. When you iron out the finances the average American lives a pretty ridiculously extravagant life. They live in houses and drive cars that are owned by the bank, spend $250 a week on groceries, and regularly throw their money away on $5 lattes. Then they sit there and tell me saving money like I do is nearly impossible. Well, with that lifestyle it is impossible!
Reclaiming your wealth is about living a bit more reasonably. You don’t have to go crazy, you just have to change your mindset and spend money in less ridiculous ways. So when you read TheFrugalFarmer or Gundomoney and we’re giving you advice on how to drive more fuel efficiently or downsize your house we really are spoon feeding you the tools you need to change your financial life. Keep in mind that you’re reclaiming your wealth because you’ve always been wealthy, you’ve just been shoveling your money into the fireplace for years.
The U.S. minimum wage is $7.25/hr. If the average minimum wage worker worked 24 hrs a day/ 7 days a week (not taking overtime into account) they would make $58,464 annually before taxes. So if you make more than that you make more than many Americans would if they never stopped working. Globally, if you make more than $34,000 annually you are in the 1 percentile. Here you were the one percent this whole time and you didn’t even know it.
So here’s the challenge, today when you go to work I want you to make five solid $1 decisions. Those decisions could be taking a shorter route to work to save gas, showering at the gym instead of home, not buying that $8 greens juice at the grocery store, or even just taking the kids to the park instead of seeing a movie. As my now-rich boyfriend would’ve said, it all adds up!
Elsie Brown is a blogger, student, and all around cheapskate who writes about how we can all live better lives on less. Visit her blog at Gundomoney.com
Laurie’s two cents: I can’t emphasize how right Elsie is here. It was the nickels, dimes and dollars that got our family into tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. No big purchases, no fancy vacations or new furniture – just the little things that we “really weren’t spending that much” on. Once we started tracking our spending, though, we found that our “little” purchases ($30 at the grocery store, $20 at the big box store, $10 on fast food) were adding up to BIG bucks.
Now that we have tracked our spending for 3+ years, we spend SO much less money than we used to. We started with a super high DTI (65%), and so debt payoff was super slow going at first but now things have really started to accelerate big time. The one mantra that has gotten us through the many slow periods of debt payoff is that “it all adds up.” Don’t worry that you’re only paying off X amount of debt each month; just focus on making those numbers go down.
Look back on occasion at how far you’ve come in the last year, or two years, or whatever. That will help motivate you to keep going. Also, keep looking for ways to cut costs. Analyze your budget every month and ask yourself “Do I really need to spend this?” If the answer is “no”, consider getting rid of the expense – just for a short while – so you can accelerate debt payoff. If you commit to perseverance, you will reach your financial goals, and oh, what a happy day that will be. 🙂
The small saving or the big saving they all add up. It’s important to keep an eye on them all. You may find that certain expenses are important or add value and others do not. You need to strike the balance that works best for you and keep you on track to accomplish your money goals.
I hear this all the time. Everyone wants to hit a homerun! What can I do to earn a ton of extra income? What big expense can I cut that will enable me to save money? But the thing is…small changes add up and lead to big results.
I’ve gone back into a store when I realized I didn’t get the $! off coupon subtracted from my bill. (Not if I’ve already gone home since that would waste gas). But I refuse to justify flushing the toilet!
I was a big couponner starting when I was around 19. At first I’d be really bashful when the checker would give me a hard time about my coupons. Either they weren’t for the exact right item or they weren’t accepted at that store. So I’d walk out of the store feeling defeated. But these days, Ive learned to be much stronger. They always say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If I see my items aren’t ringing up at the right price or not all the coupons are accepted I’m going to say something, If you’re persistent the manager will usually side with you. As with most things in life, you have to ask for what you want. The store doesn’t look out for my bottom line I have to.
Little things indeed add up. Whenw e first got out of school we were blowing through about $4k/mo on stupid crap that we thought we needed but couldn’t exactly explain what it was at the end of the month. By being mindful we were able to cut that in half and keep it there which freed up a lot of $$ for investing. We were shocked how much our monthly bill dropped the first month when we just tried to drop it 10% and we hit 25%. That perked us up and made us shoot for 50% the next month and now our goal is lwoer than that for each month.
Currently, we’re looking to make some more cuts to the budget like cheaper electricity plan, different internet provider, cancel direct tv, cancel ADT – most of those would’ve been done sooner, but contracts and mindsets prevented it from happening.
I so agree it ALL adds up. I realised last Sunday, every Sunday morning we read the utility meters and add the readings to a spreadsheet, add up our purchases for the previous week, meal plan for the up-coming week and take a look at our savings. I love Excel Spreadsheets!!
I am sharing this as I realised that we have been doing that each week for 15 YEARS! Yikes but it has all stood us in good stead.
We retired early and are now enjoying our hobbies and travel. Things that might have been not so accessible had we not made those conscious savings along the way.
Still looking for the small savings too and the bigger ones. Next week I will need to research a new gas/electricity plan.We know we will not bag a big saving as most of our electricity and heating comes via solar but even a little saving will be a bonus.
I love hearing about your story, my friend. You guys are living proof that the little steps in growing wealth really do add up. Thanks for sharing!
It’s so cool to hear people say “I love Excel spreadsheets.”
Can I just say, I wish everyone had this attitude about their money!
We pay by the can to have our trash picked up, but we don’t pay for recycling to be picked up. It drives me insane when my partner throws things out that could be recycled! Or composted! That is literally throwing money away! He has gotten better, but I still take things out of the trash to recycle/compost.
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