Three years ago I sat at my then-girlfriend’s kitchen counter, which looked out at the Pacific Ocean. The panoramic window looked on beautiful condos and homes nestled along the California coast. The weather was perfect, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Amidst this perfection, my heart sank with the weight of tens of thousands of dollars in debt. It was something that could stand in the way of relationships, compromise my job prospects, credit scores, savings, investments, retirements, and giving to others. I wanted to excise the morass of debt, but didn’t know how.
I started writing Frugaling as an aspirant — a mere amateur in the financial planning world. What could I know about saving money, making money, and changing my prospects? While I didn’t have all the answers, I had hope.
I could never have predicted what happened next.
By cataloguing my story, sharing my triumphs and travails, and being open the entire way, I benefited financially and emotionally. The former included about $40,000 in revenue. Something that would allow me to pay off almost all my debt. The latter permitted me to regain my breath — to relax once more. I was able to let go of most financial uncertainty stress.
Three years of Frugaling flew by faster than I could have ever expected. It’s hard to fathom where I was then and now. Much has changed. Here’s what I’ve learned:
The rules don’t apply evenly across populations
We don’t all start from $0, the same educational prospects, families, or social networks. We aren’t all born the same race. We aren’t each afforded a $1 million loan from our fathers.
Finance, while personal, goes beyond “personal finance.” After writing for years, it’s clear both in comments, criticisms, and critical thinking that society has great power in affording people the opportunity to succeed.
Whenever we talk about financial management, we need to consider multiple stories — not just our own.
People care deeply about food concerns
Some of the most popular articles have been about food. And I don’t think it’s an accident. When people look at their budgets, one of the highest lines is for food.
Food is often an area where people look to cut back on. Maybe you eat out too much. Maybe you eat too much. Maybe you spend too much on coffees.
More importantly, any little change in your food spending instantly affects your total spend for a month. Reduce the regular visit to your favorite restaurant, make a meal at home, and you can immediately see the benefit to your wallet.
Simple living, minimalism, and frugality are deeply intertwined
If we imagined a venn diagram, these three concepts would greatly overlap.
Those who enjoy canning, meal planning, and living simply are usually following the frugal life, too. Minimalism directly affects budgets, too. Reducing the urge to fill closets, cabinets, and stuff the remaining areas can help you save money every month.
I’m inspired from each of these concepts. I read — mostly checking out books at the library. I cook (or attempt to) at home. And I constantly look for ways to reduce extra stuff and refuse impulse buys.
Debt can suffocate its victims
Swimming in debt made me struggle for air, space, and time. How long would I have to live this way? How long would I be able to negotiate this rat race? I felt choked by the burden.
Many live like this — even middle-income earners. One way or another they find themselves in great debt and/or living paycheck to paycheck — always on the precipice of a missed house payment, medical bill, or job loss. Every day is a struggle.
Debt has a sneaky way of controlling lives and forcing people to work more, save less, and reduce time spent with loved ones. Debt can impact marriages, relationships, and family members. And oftentimes, it’s inescapable until the final dollar is paid off.
These lessons have taken years to understand and conceptualize — to convey them today. I’m honored and humbled you’ve taken the time to follow along, read, subscribe, tweet, and share.
Cheers to another three years!
Your frugal friend,