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Guest Post: Why I’m A Frugality Junkie

I’m currently away getting hitched and honeymooning on a secluded beach somewhere.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these guests posts that I have lined up for you!  I’ll be back online and back to reality on Wednesday, June 22, 2011.  — Amber

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This is a guest post from Kelly AKA Cordelia from the blog, Cordelia Calls It Quits.

I’m a frugality junkie.

I coupon. I rebate. I garage sale. I accept every freebie I’m offered, even if it’s something I’ll probably never use. I make do, I make it myself, I do without whenever possible.

Every dollar to me is a dollar worth fighting for. And I fight. Oh, I fight, baby.

For the most part, I enjoy doing it. It’s become a game for me, bargain hunting and trying to get more for my money than The Man thinks I should. But sometimes I get just plain tired of working so hard all the time. Sometimes I wish I could go out for an impromptu dinner with my husband (maybe in a nice new dress) without being wracked with guilt.

It’s times like this that I remind myself why I’m doing all this in the first place. It’s because I am not living the life I want to live. And I won’t be until I can rehab my relationship with money.

How I Sold My Future for Stuff

Shortly after graduating college, I started getting the credit card prequalification letters. You know the ones. The ones no recently-graduated, unemployed 22-year-old should ever qualify for.

I applied for a couple cards, thinking it might be good to establish a little credit history. (Yes, and also thinking it could be fun to have some “extra money” to play with.) And then I proceed to be very, very stupid with those cards.

There was always something I seemed to “need” that I couldn’t pay for at the time. Furniture for my first apartment, work clothes for my first full-time job—and plenty of things I didn’t really need at all, but that seemed oh-so very necessary at the time. Like that pair of shoes that was far too damn cute to pass up. (They were on sale, even! Seriously, I’d be dumb not to get them.) Or that concert by the band who never, ever came to my area, so when would I ever get the chance to see them again (and buy their overpriced merch, and maybe have dinner and drinks beforehand)?

I knew a lot of my spending was frivolous, but I was working full-time now; I could handle the payments, and didn’t I deserve a little something for all the time I was sacrificing for my job? I mean, everyone has debt; it’s pretty much a given of modern American adulthood. As long as I could keep up with the minimum payments, no harm, no foul. Right?

Wrong.

Indentured Servitude

When you look at money as just something that can be exchanged to buy things, it’s easy enough to spend it (and spend it, and spend it) without much thought. That’s what it’s for, isn’t it?

You really want that big screen TV, and you have the money to buy it (or to make the payments to charge it), so why not get it? You can qualify for a mortgage for that 5 bedroom, 3 bath house, so why wouldn’t you go for it, even if you don’t really need all that space? We work hard for our money, so we feel like we deserve to use it to make ourselves feel better, make our lives easier, indulge ourselves now and then. And our ad-inundated, consumer-obsessed society reinforces this mentality day in and day out.

But there’s a price to pay.

My price was my future.

After college, I accepted a job I wasn’t thrilled with, thinking it would be a placeholder till I could find something better. Then I slowly moved up in the company, all the while practicing my retail therapy to help me deal with the stress and dissatisfaction of said job.

The higher up I got, the bigger my paycheck looked, the more stress I was under, the more therapy I “needed” (and thought I could afford.) Things kept inflating until I found myself at the point I was at 6 months ago: 6 years in with this company and under a mountain of debt so mammoth it looked like I’d never be able to leave. I’d begun to realize I was miserable, that something needed to change–but I had no choice but to stay right where I was. Because my job paid well, and it was the only thing keeping me from going under at the weight of all my debt.

Without realizing it, I had locked myself in to a bleak, dissatisfied future with no visible out. All because I’d wanted some shiny stuff now and was way too good at justifying it.

That was my big kick-in-pants moment. That was when I stopped viewing my money as constant spending fuel and started realizing I could use it to invest in a better life. You’d be amazed how hard it is to buy a Frappuccino on the fly when you see your money as your future.

Money = Happiness

It’s true.

I don’t mean happiness in the mainstream sense of money = fancy cars or designer clothes or the latest technological gadgets. I mean it in terms of money = time. Or, if you want to get existential, money = life.

We’re all aware of this on a basic survival level. Money lets you buy food, put a roof over your head, keep yourself warm in the winter. But I’m talking more than just basic subsistence. I’m talking about having the freedom to live the life you want.

Maybe you hate your job, too. Maybe you want to start a business, or move to Italy, or go back to school. Maybe you just want to spend more time with your kids before they grow up. But you can’t, because you can’t “afford” it.

Well, I’ve come to realize something. You can choose what you can afford. You can make your own priorities. For me, what I can’t afford is several more decades in this job that means nothing to me. I’m willing to give up plenty to avoid that future: immediate comfort, instant gratification, treats and conveniences and immunity from public embarrassment.

There’s a Dave Ramsey quote I’ve adopted as my mantra:

“Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.”

I’m willing to be the crazy coupon lady. I’m willing to wear my old shoes till the soles start wearing out. I’m willing to eat Ramen for months if that’s what it takes. Because every dollar I save puts me that much closer to a future controlled by me, not by my monthly bills.

That is why I’m doing all of this.

Kelly AKA Cordelia is the author of the website, Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she is fighting to call it quits on living life on autopilot, structuring her world according to everyone else’s expectations, and to the notion of “that’s just the way things are.” She’s on a mission to live deliberately, make intentional choices, and make each day closer to a life she’s inspired to live

Comments

  1. Although I absolutely love Amber’s writing, I am really enjoying these guest posts!

    Good for you, Kelly! It’s hard to change your spending habits and to make more frugal choices than those around you, but it’s so worth it if it can help you pursue what truly matters to you.

  2. Whenever I read or hear anything about money, I tend to think of Ramit Sethi who wrote the book I will teach you to be rich. I go to his blog every once in awhile, and he talks a lot about how people try to be frugal to save money. But that doesn’t really work. Instead, he suggests people find a way to make more money so they can have the things they want. He talks about how “rich” isn’t just about monetary wealth, but the same stuff you mention in the post: personal freedom, emotional happiness. Not having money is the quickest route to depression, and being free from the worry of not having enough can be seriously liberating. :D

    • Excellent point. I’ve read some of Ramit’s blog myself. You’re right, richness has nothing to do with what you own. Being financially “successful” just means having your finances in line with your life, and using them as a means to make what you really want come true.

  3. I love it. I am a frequent shopper at the local swap meet here in San Diego. My 71 year old uncle turned me onto it. Every time I go I think…. Oh my god. I spent so much more on that______ than I would have here. I am also taking steps in the direction of less is more. I would rather know what I have, than be overwhelmed by what I own. This was a great post and I RSS’d your regular blog. Glad I found you. Thanks Amber!

    • I do the same thing with prices. I’m a big couponer, and whenever I’m forced to pay full price for something (need it in an emergency, can’t find a sale, etc.), it kills me. Because I know that every dollar I’m losing could have been spent on something else.

      And I’m a fan of the minimalist philosophy myself. Letting go of our attachment to “stuff’ is a great way to get yourself on a more frugal path (and a more relaxed life!).

      So glad you’ll be reading!

  4. I think the US of A should have significantly more strict credit laws. I’m pretty f’n tired of $30K millionaires thinking they need Range Rovers, “fly” apartments, lavish clothing and bottle service. It’s an absolute joke how many people live beyond their means. If you can’t afford, 3 kids, don’t have three kids. If you’re not going to pay off your truck note before you buy a new one, don’t buy that vehicle. This is just LOGIC to me. I don’t have patience for people defaulting on shit and filing for bankruptcy just so they can start over and do it all over again.

    • Cordelia says:

      I understand your frustration. I’m incredibly mad at my younger self for buying into the “you deserve it now, you can pay for it later” mentality. Credit is such a way of life for most Americans that we don’t stop to realize how incredibly stupid it is to live outside our means. All it does is shackle us down in the future.

      I happen to know someone with a massive amount of debt who recently filed bankruptcy, and one of the first things she did to celebrate was to take people out to dinner, talk about leasing a new car, etc. All I can do is shake my head and try to let everyone who isn’t beyond hope know just how much I regret my own debt.

  5. Cordelia, this is hilarious, because YOUR post helped ME a lot today! I’m all psyched to be leaving my job, but I’ll also have to be a lot more careful with my money from here on out. Thanks for reminding me it’s definitely worth it to lead the life we want!

  6. I am a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan – I’ve adopted that quote as well! My dream is to perform (and continue to help others overcome body image disorders) for a living, and right now I’m working retail just to make ends meet. I’ve tried working a 9-5 job, and I find that it makes me miserable – so retail is where I will be until I’m debt free and can do what I truly love. However, I’m finding myself in the same situation – I’ve already been offered a promotion and while I am going to take it in order to make more money and get more hours, I don’t want to continue working my way up the ladder – I don’t want to be a full-time manager at a retail store five years from now. Nononononono.

    I am 24 years old and use coupons. I don’t go out to bars an order expensive cocktails (I don’t go out to bars at all!). I consider eating at Panera Bread a “night out”. I don’t have cable. My car barely runs, but for now it gets me from point A to point B and I have no payments to make on it. I don’t care if I can’t travel, or see movies in the theater, or eat out every night. I don’t want to spend my money – I don’t have any to spend anyways! I’m with you all the way!

    <3

    • The more and more I learn about you, the more I’m convinced that you’re a girl after my own heart! My husband and I consider it a “night out” if I allow us to get a $5 Little Caesar’s pizza and a $1 Netflix. Sometimes I get frustrated having to be such a penny pincher, but I just remind myself of my 10+ years now working for The Man, and how that all could have been avoided if I’d just treated my money like time instead of free spending cash. A little monetary restraint now is SO worth it for all the extra freedom it buys you down the road.

  7. So smart, so smart. I’m always on the lookout for other frugalistas because inspiration helps.

Trackbacks

  1. […] you heard my spiel on why you should never sell your future to debt?  Read it again.  I could have gotten to this point of freedom years ago if it weren’t for […]

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