It’s that time of year again. Not January 1st, but September 1st, the real New Year’s Day on my calendar. After 18 years of being educated and 10 years of working in education, it’s hard not to feel like the beginning of the school year is when the real chance for a fresh start occurs. Every year I make my new school year’s resolutions, the ways I’ll improve on what I did the year before—what I’ll keep and what I’ll tweak and what I’ll throw out completely.
This is true for me on a personal level as well. It’s easy to get into habits during the school year that, once established, are hard to change. I strongly believe in the old adage that one should “start as you mean to go on”—that it’s much easier to get things off on the right foot and maintain them than to go back and try to change them further down the line.
As I sat thinking about how I wanted to start off this new year, it came to me (as has been said before) that making frugal choices so often coincides with making ones that simplify your life, that are healthier, and that are more environmentally-conscious. All of these things just seem to naturally go together—which is part of why being frugal feels to me like the right way to live.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. There are three main areas where I’d like to improve my frugality for this new school year—the first being the money I spend on food and drink while at work. We have in our staff room a handy machine that spits out tiny, plastic cups of sub-par coffee for the low price of forty cents a cup. I buy on average about three cups a day, so I spend roughly 1,20€. If, instead, I brought green or herbal tea from home, I could have a healthier alternative to the sludge, my own reusable mug to drink it in, and save money.
Same goes for lunchtime. Although I’ve worked at the same school for five years now, I’ve never bothered to sign up for a cafeteria card, which offers a well-balanced, hot meal for 2€. Every now and then I’ll remember and take the time to pack leftovers for lunch, but I usually end up heading to one of the sandwich places across the street and spending around 8€ per meal. This year, I’m signing up for a card.
Another big area where I need to make some changes is in my commute. As I said last week, we spend a huge chunk of our monthly budget on gas, since both my husband and I drive 45 minutes to get to our respective jobs. As much as my schedule allows for it, this year I’m going to use public transportation, be it taking the bus or the tramway. I’m hoping I end up with a fairly regular class schedule so that this will be easier to do, as I really think it will make a big difference.
Finally, I’m going to manage my time better while at work. This may not seem like an obviously frugal change, but every year I end up with gaps between teaching hours, and I usually fritter that time away chatting with colleagues. Later, I’m up all night grading papers and lesson planning, which cuts into my free time—time I could be using to write. I want to be more productive at work so that I can be more productive in developing my freelance business while at home.
Now that I’ve shared my frugal resolutions for the new year, I have to be responsible for sticking to them. Wish me luck—and a good year to all of you who are back to school.