Why I’m Almost Frugal

by Beth · 5 comments

in Etc,Living Frugally

First of all, I want to thank everyone for making me feel welcome here at Almost Frugal.  I’m really enjoying being part of such a great, supportive community.

I realize that I haven’t properly introduced myself and how I fit into the AF picture, so I’ll give you a little background.  I come from a solid middle-class family, although we were definitely on the lower end of the scale when I was younger.  We always made do with what we had and my parents made a good life for themselves thanks in large part to a strong work ethic.

Fast forward to high school.  We moved around a lot with my father’s job, and just before I started ninth grade we moved to a wealthy suburb of our capital city.  The kids I hung around with wore name-brand clothes, drove nice cars, and lived in huge, newer houses.  Most importantly, they spent money as a way to pass the time.  I wasn’t really happy in this environment, but it took me a long time to understand why, years of working part-time jobs after school to try and pay for outfits from the Gap and dinners out with friends.

I was lucky enough to figure out that what I was missing was something real–not something that could be bought–and to find friends who felt the same way.  Part of that was just growing up, getting out of the high school mentality, and part of it was discovering that appreciating simple things was key to living a simple life.  Which doesn’t mean that I don’t love window (and catalogue, and online) shopping as much as the next person–just that for me, I get as much or more pleasure from looking as I do from buying.

I’m lucky to have a husband who is even less materialistic than I am, and we have a very common sense approach to our finances.  With the exception of our apartment, we don’t own anything that we didn’t have the money in the bank to buy outright.  Although I have a small salary we usually manage to save a bit every month.  So what makes me ‘almost’ frugal?  My biggest challenge is fighting the battle of the “stuff” (especially in a teeny-tiny home) and learning to be very deliberate about what I spend my money on.  I also tend to spend too much money on both food and small-purchase items.

I think another of my financial flaws is being too conservative.  I don’t like taking risks in any way, especially with money, and I need to think more creatively about income.  The fact is that although I enjoy my job, it involves lots of hours of work for very little return, which is not helping us to try and build up our retirement savings, of which we have next to none.

So that’s a bit about me.  I look forward to sharing more with you on our frugal journey!


1 Random Thoughts of a April 7, 2010

Good for you for figuring our what makes you happy early in life. I also tend to spend quite a bit on food. =) What can I say, I live to eat.
.-= Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom´s last blog ..Auto Show =-.

2 Kelly April 8, 2010

Hey- if it makes you happy!
Cream in my coffee is one of my big luxuries- they can tear it out of my cold, dead hands…!

3 dj April 8, 2010

Food: 1) Are you eating all of it (no throwing out) and still maintaining a healthy weight? Lucky! 🙂 2) Is it healthy food? There are certain foods I can't have in the house because I eat it all, so I don't buy them. It takes willpower. The only pre-made food I buy is pizza, on sale, and we have that on Friday date night,while watching a movie. I haven't bought junk food in several years now. We do make popcorn, and if we want fries, we cut up potatoes/yams and bake our own. My rule is, you can have anything, as long as you make it. 3) Maybe a meal plan would help, a week or a month in advance. Even if you planned 5 or 6 days/wk and then have a "sandwich night" (Movie Reference: "About Last Night"). 4) Do you stick to a food budget, a shopping list? 5) I like the site http://www.recipezaar.com because you can search by ingredients and cooking methods. I love my crock pot! 😉 I cook once a week, and then reheat. Sometimes I open the refrig and say, what do I need to use up, and search recipezaar.

Job: 1) Are you making money after expenses (i.e., not just taxes, but clothes, travel) or spending more than you make? Evaluate options. 2) Are you and your husband taking full advantage of any benefits offered (harder to find these days) by your employer's.

Retirement: Open up a Roth IRA acct at Vanguard and have an automatic payroll deduction. Or, visit your local S&L. Our local S&L lets you buy CD's in very small amounts every month, and those could be placed in an IRA. Pay yourself first. Checkout the book "The Intelligent Asset Allocator". Watch out for fees, fees, and more fees, upfront, back-end, administrative. They'll sneak them in, and call them something else, but in the end they are taking your money. Be careful, there are so many people and companies that will gladly separate you from your money, and the marketing hype is working against you. Will Rogers said, "I am more concerned with the return of my money than the return on my money." This is truer today. I like the movie "Trading Places" and "Boiler Room". They teach you in entertaining ways, that they make money whether you do or not, and buyer beware.

4 Beth April 8, 2010

Wow, great suggestions, dj! The food budget is a work in progress–I mostly don't throw things out but I do too much short-term shopping, buying a quick dinner at the corner store where it cost 3x the regular grocery store price. I try to meal plan but I'm not very good at sticking to it.

As for the salary, I'm definitely not making much out of the deal. I need to educate myself more on retirement options in France, because as I don't work in a permanent position (it's a yearly renewing contract) I honestly have no idea if I'm putting anything towards retirement or not. There is no such thing as an IRA here, so it makes private saving options a bit trickier. This is where my lack of personal finance knowledge comes in–I need to know more.

5 Kelly April 8, 2010

So stay tuned for Beth’s post next week! I saw her this evening and she told me she’s going to research retirement options in France. I’m looking forward to the subject, because I know nothing about it either!

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