Hard times hit us all at one time or another. A spouse loses a job, someone gets sick, we move and life is rocky at first, we start a new career or go back to school and the budget changes in big ways and not always with the green arrow going up. Then there is debt. Credit cards packing our wallet, school loans, and that house. Oh geez, what to do.
If you have debt this will take some time to conquer. But how worth it to overcome this. Debt holds us back. It holds us back from making new life changes (such as going back to school or staying home with a new baby), it decides how well we live and where we live, it keeps us up at night. When you are debt free, you are truly free in so many ways. Free to sleep at night, free to move about the country, free to stay home and raise the family.
I wrote a couple books as of lately and in doing so I reread my Complete Tightwad Gazette. I forgot how fun this huge book is. I have to reinspire myself often to stay on the frugal track. Right now we are debt free after years and years of working a few jobs at a time to get out of that debt. The cars are paid for, one of them was even a cash purchase. We have no mortgage yet, but we rent and my husband feels like that is just throwing money into the fire. I have to agree. We will just pay forever as with a house you buy, there is a chance to pay it off and own it outright.
So, that is the goal now. In the meantime, we live without the luxury of credit cards and shopping sprees, lunches out unless it’s Taco Bell’s dollar menu, and I walk everywhere with the kids.
A year and a half ago we downsized to a little house and saved ourselves around $600 a month on rent and utilities combined. With every life challenge, I learn more and more about saving and scrimping. I know how to be extremely frugal. Do I always practice it? No, and I have to reel it in all the time.
We have had job loss, a couple moves, gone from great jobs in management to minimum wage cashier jobs. Through it all, I never had to go back to work outside the home. I’m grateful for this because I had babies at home and I wanted to be with them every day and all day to see them sprout and thrive. I couldn’t bare the thought of putting them in a daycare. Not there aren’t great daycares out there and I know that this is a reality for so many. I write all these frugal, homemaking books in hopes that I can help those moms stay home if they want. I feel there is a way if you get smart about the money. I also believe that sometimes it is actually more cost efficient to have one person stay home. With commuting, lunch and coffee out, office clothes, and daycare, it adds up.
I remember being in huge debt and wanting to take off and travel or go back to school full time. I couldn’t do either because I had to have at least 2 jobs to make ends meet.
When you become debt free the world and possibilities open up. You can be frugal to save money instead of scraping by. When you practice frugality and thrift as the normal way and you put money away in savings monthly, when you cut cost as much as possible, and voluntarily downsize your life…you win in the end. You will never go through hard times again. Why? Because, when hard times hit you will be prepared.
If Bali loses his job, we have an emergency fund to live off of for a year. We also have cheap rent and no debt, no car payments. We can cut off our cable (which is already stripped down), we would downsize to one phone, and we would start shopping at WinCo solely. That would be all we would have to change. We wouldn’t suffer. If Bali got a job flipping burgers we would still be able to pay bills.
Many people are in debt out there, living paycheck to paycheck. They blow the extra money, the bonuses, they have shopping sprees with the tax returns. Then s**t hits the fan and they are unprepared and life gets scary.
Here are some quick ideas for beginning a new life the frugal way:
- Downsizing big time. Smaller house, get rid of a car. Move into town and get rid of all the cars and bike, walk, or bus. If you can’t move get a roommate. Transform the garage into an apartment. Some counties will actually pay for this, such as Marin county.
- Cut and trim all expenses. Get smaller phone contracts, get rid of the cable and get an antenna, reduce the water and gas usage. Find ways to reduce, reduce, reduce.
- Cut the grocery bill in half. Start shopping at Winco or Foodmaxx. Good news, they have far more organics and nonGMO’s than ever.
- Cut up the credit cards and use cash. Implement the envelope system.
- Hang clothes outside on a line and inside on a rack during the winter.
- Drink only water. Put a filter on the sink or get the Brita pitcher. Of course, I would never tell you to not drink coffee, just buy a less expensive brand and on sale.:)
- Give up your addictions. Cigarettes and good wine cost too much. Try a sober life and take up jogging. You’ll be the better for it.
- Stop going out. Brown bag the lunch, pack food for trips and outings, make your own coffee.
- When you do go out use those two for one coupons. Make it a special event to go to coffee. I have points I earn at the bank and get Starbucks cards every couple months. Save those up and use to treat yourself.
- Walk everywhere to save gas. We walk to the park, library, appointments, groceries.
- Do free activities, going to the woods to hike, the ocean to play, the library for movie night.
- Library. You can get great novels and new movies, even music through this free Barns and Noble.
- Reuse, recycle, refurbish everything you can. Be creative. Mend your clothes, paint that dresser.
- Become a queen of scratch. Don’t just cook from scratch, make your household cleaners, your beauty products, baby stuff…all from scratch. It’s far easier than you think.
- DIY. YouTube is great for this. You can learn to fix your sink, sew, cook, build a house.
- Unclutter and throw a garage sale to make money.
- Learn about trading and swapping in your area. This is becoming very popular.
- Learn about gleaning at the local farms. Sometimes the farms throw out produce stores don’t want. See if you can get it at a reduced rate.
- Use candles. Before I had babies I used candles at night. I loved it.
- Learn to live off grid. This isn’t for everyone but if we learn to really live simply we save money, we live sustainably. We need to learn to live green and now.
- Learn to farm. Even in the city you can have a garden, a couple fruit trees and chickens. If not that much space is available, just do container gardening.
- Grow your own seasoning. Grow herbs in the windows.
Good luck. Have fun with this. Learn everything you can.