When I talk about frugality, I tend to focus on saving money, living simply, and making more. It’s a winning combination. By combining all three components, I knocked out nearly $40,000 of student loans, a car loan, and credit debt.
Unfortunately, I sometimes develop fatigue from concentrating on ways to prevent spending. It’s tiring to always keep watch for wasteful spending, and easier to simply swipe a card.
Thankfully, strong reasons such as reducing climate/carbon impact and disdain for contributing to major banks’ profits keep me motivated. I have a purpose, rationale, and philosophy undergirding everything I do. Without these, I’d fall off the wagon and spend crazily again.
Ironically, part of the reason I live this way is to spend money. I mean it. I save and save and save to spend money. Crazy, right?
The difference, now that I’m without debt, is that when I purchase something, there’s no interest against me. I’m following the age-old wisdom of the financially privileged/savvy to be liberated from banks’ powers to constrict and restrict.
Without loans and carried credit card balances, I’m free. And now, I can spend it the way I’d like. So after all the money gets deposited, invested, saved, what do I actually spend it on? What are all these efforts good for?
Since I’ve embraced frugality, three major spending areas continue to be of importance:
I’m currently in graduate school, which keeps me restrained from many travel opportunities. Frankly, that’s probably a good thing for my budget. But every now and then, I can save and purchase a flight — all interest free.
Most of my money actually gets spent to see family twice a year. Although, this fall break I’ll be going to Colombia!
When I fly, I look for the best deals possible by shopping various sites, check my frequent flyer mileage accounts, and book about 1.5 to 2 months out. I tend to decline most forms of trip and travel insurance, as my credit card provides those benefits for free. When I land in a new destination, I immediately try to find local shops and supermarkets to try and stock up on a few snacks/non-perishable foods. This planning allows me to experience the local cuisine and cultural foods, while managing the budgetary blast.
Travel is exceptionally important to me, but it has a powerful price tag. I don’t offer unsolicited advocacy for travel and don’t recommend that people travel to some faraway place. The fact is that travel remains relatively expensive, and it’s one luxury that I’ve been able to partake in with a positive net worth. It’s okay if you can’t travel today. Save for that opportunity.
Recently, I released my first book, Frugaling: Save more, live well, give generously. The title seemed to summarize everything about this site. The latter aspect – giving – is one of the most significant reasons for my frugality.
Throughout my life I’ve always given money to charity. Regardless of my current debt load, I’ve made efforts to give to others in time and donations. Today, charity holds great importance in my life, as I can give without going into debt. Every dollar to my favorite charities doesn’t represent a dollar to a bank, which will be placed under a horrific interest rate.
I don’t have a set percentage, amount, or expectation for giving each year. Rather, I find causes over the course of the year that mean a great deal and/or donate to what’s consistently moved me. Two organizations that I regularly donate to are Doctors without Borders and the Always Remember Never Surrender Endowment.
3. Professional opportunities
As a graduate student, I get paid a small stipend to work and study. Soon, I’ll be applying for internships (similar to a doctor’s residency) for counseling psychology. That process may cost $2000-3000, but is an essential part of the process to get a Ph.D. Afterwards, I’ll hopefully be hired at a site and begin to have more substantial paychecks.
Having my own savings allows me to pursue various options for employment without going into debt. Additionally, the process of becoming a licensed psychologist, which I desperately want, requires a formal examination. The test costs thousands of dollars – not to mention the study materials. It’s another area I’m saving and planning for.
From travel to charity to academic opportunities, these options became possible after I paid off the debt. Previously, I used loans as a method for travel and adventure and even giving. But I was simply digging into a deep, dark hole of debt. There was little hope or light before. All I can say is that good things come to those who can cut costs and pay off their debt fast.
A lot has changed during my journey to change my debt. What you’ll notice is that I’m not saving for a car, house, or large physical objects. I’m a product of the Great Recession, skeptical of big banks, and not ready to make such financial commitments. As such, I cannot envision taking on a mortgage, car loan, or anything else at this time. For now, I’m free from the trappings of debt and living well.
So what is your frugality good for and where do you ultimately spend money?