Thankful for frugality

A couple years ago a friend came over and commented on how cluttered my apartment was.  I figured they were exaggerating.  Then a little while later, it happened again with someone else.  So maybe it was me?

I started cleaning things out.  And around that time I came across a great article online about cleaning out a home.  Isn’t it funny how one thing leads to another?  I don’t remember how I found that article to begin with, but at the end of it were links to other articles on the same site.  They looked interesting, so I clicked a few.  And the links on those pages looked interesting too, so I clicked some more.  I spent a long time on that site.  It was my first time on a personal finance site, or even hearing the term “personal finance,” and already I was hooked.

Since then I have read a lot of sites and found many that I like and now follow.  I have also read some fantastic personal finance books.  (Remember books?  Those things made of paper?)  This is a fantastic interest in so many ways, and the timing was great.

The basic idea is to spend less than you earn and save the difference.  The goal can be to save for a house, or a car, or a vacation.  The goal might be to fund your retirement or to retire early.  There are a lot of people who choose to retire at a younger age, like 40 or 50.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to work until I was 65 because of my health, but I did expect it to be longer than it’s been.  I figured I should at least make it to 50 or 55, so I started doing the math to figure out how I could have enough saved by then to retire early.  Thanks to being raised by a very frugal mother, I have always spent less than I’d earned, but I now realize I could have been doing much better.  Of course, in order to spend less than you earn, if you don’t do this already or if you need to improve, you have 3 options:

  1. Spend less.
  2. Earn more.
  3. Do both

Simple, right?  Earning more wasn’t a great option for me then.  I simply didn’t work in a field where I could have been earning more, and a side job was unlikely because of my health.  I did try doing some consulting work, but I just didn’t have the energy for it.  Spending less seemed unlikely because I was already spending so much less than most people I knew.  Still, since earning more was out, I decided to give it a shot.

I AM SO GLAD I DID THAT!  As it turns out, I could indeed spend less money.  And I hadn’t known it then, but I was about to enter a new stage in my life where I would have a much lower income and then no income at all.  Now, I do still have expenses, like rent.  I have luxuries, like internet access and my smartphone (I know, I know… I’m gearing up to getting rid of that.)  But I have gotten rid of so much else.  My new diet helps, both because I can’t eat out and also because I am more full, so I am eating less and spending less on groceries.  My electric bill went way up this money, but I can’t get through the summer without air conditioning, at least not without being incredibly ill every day.  But since I have so little energy I rarely go out, so I am spending less on gas for the car and on passes for the subway.  Sure, new clothes would be nice, but I don’t actually need new clothes, so I skip them.  The one area I am not skimping on is anything health-related.  Food, supplements, medications, treatments, and tests were the vast majority of my credit card bill this month, and I’m ok with that.  I mean, I wish more of it was covered by my insurance, but so be it.  Not only is there no point in living if I don’t take care of my body, but it can also be viewed as an investment.  After all, if I can get healthier, maybe I could go back to work, and then I’d have a bigger income.

A big point in the personal finance world is to find balance.  Cut back on spending, but not to the point where you’re not enjoying life.  Of course, that’s assuming you have an income.  So if (when?) I win the insurance battle, I’ll loosen up on a few things.  And in the meantime, it feels good to have a way of being at least a little bit proactive, of having a tiny bit of control in a situation where I otherwise have none.

So I’m still reading the personal finance blogs, spending extra time on the ones that encourage and give tips on frugality.  I love the comments by other readers, and the forums that some of them have.  The other readers/participants are so inspirational.  If they can do it, I can do it, right?

Oh, and back to what started it all, my apartment is looking much neater now, but there’s still more to go through and get rid of!

In case you’re curious, here are a few of my favorite sites and books:

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