By making changes that mostly affected things I didn’t care much about — that is, avoiding deprivation and still generally feeling happy and well fed — I was able to save over $11,000 that first year. And because the changes were sustainable, the initial savings snowballed into a grand total of $20,742 in the second year, as we happily continued not spending that money for another 12 months.
I threw the extra cash onto my mortgage and cut 10 years off of the amortization schedule. Then I stashed away a nest egg that allowed me to quit my job — and with it, my soul-crushing, 90-minute morning commute.
Like I said, the polar opposite of “Work hard to shop harder.”
What would you do with an extra 20 grand?
Maybe you could finally get out of debt. Pay for college. Invest in a beach house to rent out and eventually turn into a retirement home. Cut back your hours and spend more time with your kids.
The Real Secret to Frugal Living
If you’ve tried and failed in the past to embrace tips about frugality, it’s probably because, somewhere deep down, you’ve felt like cutting things out of your budget is a punishment that doesn’t allow you to enjoy your life.
And if you can’t love the life you’re living, what’s the point?
I’m here to tell you that frugality is a whole system of thinking that puts your big-ticket happiness ahead of small-time dopamine hits. It’s a philosophy that allows you to keep your eye on the things in life that are really worthwhile: time with your family, meaningful work, fulfilling hobbies. Getting your financial house in order is a means to that end because it gives you some freedom to focus on the things that actually matter most to you (for me, that freedom let me get out of a horrifying commute and spend more time with my family).
Once you get your priorities about what you most want out of life fixed firmly in your mind, it’s a lot easier to embrace the real meaning of frugality:
Frugality isn’t about getting by with less. It’s about wanting less.
It’s not enough just to Kon-Mari your house, skip the latte, or start cutting coupons. Instead, you have to change what you want out of life. Is your time with your family or your secure retirement worth a new designer handbag or a eating out three times a week? Buying those things may give you an adrenaline rush in the moment, but when you keep your eye on the prize, they become way less important.
They also start to be less tempting the more you practice saying no to them. Like any craving, the first step is not to give into it. With practice — and as you watch your savings snowball — you’ll find that you actually do want less of the material things you used to prize and much more of the good stuff that truly fulfills you.
If you’re inspired to embrace frugality as a philosophy instead of just a life hack, join me by subscribing to this blog. I’ll share the things that worked for me to cut back on spending as well as the emotional changes a life based on less spending has wrought.
Because I have to tell you: It’s life changing.
And you can do it too.