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razz
11-7-11, 8:43am
While I appreciate that unemployment is a different challenge, sometimes the simple living approach needs to be reinforced such as this blog article.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Simple-Dollar/2011/1106/How-to-spend-less-than-you-earn.

I have been following his blog on and off for a while and he will remind his readers that self control is how he got out of serious debt.

"The biggest difference between someone who is buried in credit card debt and someone who is debt free isnít luck or income level. The biggest difference is self-control and the willingness to say no to most of oneís impulses.

I can tell you right now, from personal experience, that the single biggest change in my life in terms of finances over the past several years is simply gaining much more control over my impulse spending."

cdttmm
11-7-11, 8:50am
+1

Self control (aka self regulation or willpower) is an interesting thing and effects us in ways that many of us don't realize. I highly recommend a this book, if you want to learn more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/books/review/willpower-by-roy-f-baumeister-and-john-tierney-book-review.html?pagewanted=all

Stella
11-7-11, 2:50pm
Very good point!

In addition to self discipline I think a shift in focus helps. There used to be a frugality website called Cindy's Porch and her three rules, DO instead of BUY, Shop at Home First and Procrastinate really stuck with me.

I have a couple of friends that regularly comment on my self discipline, but I don't see myself as especially disciplined. My time is mostly focused on doing stuff instead of buying stuff. Today I'm cleaning the house, playing Bananagrams with the kids and making soup. Tomorrow I'm taking the kids to the library and making a duct tape wallet for Zach. Thursday I have two church things going on. Saturday we're having friends over to play cards.

It's not so much saying "no" as saying "yes" to things that don't cost money. That's what I'm trying to get across to a couple of my friends who have been complaining lately that they can't afford to do the things our family does, like travel. I think to myself, "sure you could. You make more money than us and have half as many kids." Instead of buying books (all of my friends' gazingus pin) I get them from the library or download books from the public domain on the iPad. I'm currently reading the Brothers Karamozov for myself and The Secret Garden to the kids. I'm not giving up reading, I'm giving up paying for and storing books. :) We have netflix for $8 a month instead of cable for $50. We play cards with our friends instead of going out on the weekends. I have people over for coffee (and I do splurge on coffee that was hand-roasted by Carmelite monks :) ) and a homemade cookie instead of going out for lunch. Over the course of the year those little things, which feel like treats, not sacrifices, add up to enough to do some bigger fun stuff and not worry quite so much.

loosechickens
11-7-11, 4:02pm
This came home to us quite forcefully many years ago, when my husband began to do income taxes as a side job. He did taxes for a number of our friends and neighbors, and many of them were people we had considered much "poorer" than us (at that time). Imagine how he felt when he realized that EVERY ONE OF THEM earned more than we did, in several cases much more. Yet, we were the ones with the nearly paid off house, by making extra principal payments, we were the ones with an emergency fund, we were the ones who did not live paycheck to paycheck. It was a major discovery.

Of course, we were also the ones who "paid" our savings account a regular payment on payday, bought stuff at thrift stores, sewed many of our own clothes, cooked from scratch, baked all our own bread and baked goods, heated with wood we cut ourselves, raised a big garden and put up a huge amount of food for the winters, used the public library, did not have a TV, and probably went into a shopping mall once or twice a year.

It really does, under most usual conditions (barring serious illnesses, hard, long unemployment, etc.) mean that self discipline, controlling spending and frugal decisions mean a lot more than having more income.

Ingenuity, development of practical skills, community, an appreciation for experiences as opposed to possessions......and that ability to defer gratification. Priceless.

Zoebird
11-7-11, 4:40pm
yup.

most of our friends earn more than us, but have a lot of debt. it's pretty amazing IMO.

rosarugosa
11-7-11, 5:43pm
Stella, I love those maxims of "Do instead of Buy" and "Shop at home first." Also the concept that you are saying "yes" to no or low cost things as opposed to the perception of self-denial.

Zoebird
11-7-11, 8:09pm
i was thinking of buying a new sweater, because i managed to burn the color out of one that i had, and then it occurred to me that i could. . . dye the sweater.

i have some food dye, and i can mix my own color, and give it a go. it would be no more ruined than it is now if i do that, right? :D talk about "shop at home." it's completely just redo-ing it.

also, i'm so perplexed. my parents sent $200 in toys to DS. it's 3 toys, but still. Anyway, frustrating for me because we asked for NO toys. I don't get object-oriented people. Anyway. . .

Stella
11-7-11, 8:53pm
Stella, I love those maxims of "Do instead of Buy" and "Shop at home first." Also the concept that you are saying "yes" to no or low cost things as opposed to the perception of self-denial.

Thanks Rosa! I find it works better both for me and my family, psychologically, to spend less time saying "no" and more time saying, "Oh look at this (healthy, frugal, or otherwise virtuous thing) isn't it so amazing and cool!" Positive reinforcement and all that. :) As my mom, a former Kindergarten teacher now corporate trainer says, there's not as much difference between 5 year olds and adults as we like to think there is. We're motivated in much the same ways.


i was thinking of buying a new sweater, because i managed to burn the color out of one that i had, and then it occurred to me that i could. . . dye the sweater.

i have some food dye, and i can mix my own color, and give it a go. it would be no more ruined than it is now if i do that, right? talk about "shop at home." it's completely just redo-ing it.



Oh fun! Let us know how it turns out. I love that kind of thing.

Jemima
11-7-11, 9:05pm
A lot of people seem to be well-trained in looking "out there" somewhere for entertainment, and that usually means it takes money. I have an old friend several hundred miles away who's always crying the blues about money. Yet she won't cook, revive the garden her ex-husband kept going, or entertain at home instead of going out for drinks, dinner, and a movie with women friends. She complains a lot about having to take care of the yard as well, and it just makes me want to scream, "Dig it up and plant vegetables and fruit bushes, you nitwit!!!".

A former boss, when I was on a long-term out of state assignment, was always looking for something to do "out there" on the weekends and frequently invited me to do whatever with her. It got so that I started thinking up excuses on Monday and Tuesday so I'd have a tactful "out". I enjoyed her company and in the context of her income she wasn't extravagant, but after getting through five days of a job I didn't like much and dealing with business associates all week, I wanted time to myself. A lot of times I spent the entire weekend in my hotel room, reading or making jewelry, and keeping in touch by email. I had some lovely naps as well.

I liked "Cindy's Porch" too, and I'm sorry to see that the website is gone. I try to keep her "shop at home" advice in mind, and I know for certain when I'm busy doing something enjoyable, spending money never crosses my mind unless I run out of a crucial item for cooking or a craft project.

It helps that I seem to have been born to enjoy creative activities, but I think everyone has some spark of creativity within them. Wish I knew how to fan the spark more effectively. :(

rosarugosa
11-7-11, 9:39pm
Zoebird: I would be interested in your results too. I have some clothing I would be interested in dying (is that the right spelling?), but I'm afraid of causing ruin and mayhem to my washing machine, or my sink, or myself . . .

Blackdog Lin
11-7-11, 10:11pm
I think self-control in spending IS something you can teach yourself. It has made all the difference in our lifestyle, and is what is going to allow me to "jump off that scary cliff" next year with an early retirement (not so very early - 55-years old with 32 years of service - but still, I know it's youngish.....)

This very forum (in it's earlier incarnation) is what got me into the mindset of spending less than we earn, of getting out of the debt spiral, of learning to be happy with a simpler life. Learning self-control, in the guise of making-do, is the very essence of what we do, what we believe in, here.

IMHO.....

Zoebird
11-7-11, 10:26pm
well, i'm planning on using a plastic yogurt bucket (it's a big-un) to do the dye, so all i have to do is recycle it if it all goes to heck, and then see what happens with the sweater after. I'll hand wash/rinse it, and do my best.

and if it's "more ruined" then that's ok. I still use it to garden in right now. :D

Jemima
11-7-11, 10:44pm
i was thinking of buying a new sweater, because i managed to burn the color out of one that i had, and then it occurred to me that i could. . . dye the sweater.

i have some food dye, and i can mix my own color, and give it a go. it would be no more ruined than it is now if i do that, right? :D talk about "shop at home." it's completely just redo-ing it.

also, i'm so perplexed. my parents sent $200 in toys to DS. it's 3 toys, but still. Anyway, frustrating for me because we asked for NO toys. I don't get object-oriented people. Anyway. . .

Don't waste the food dye and your time. It's going to wash right out again, even if you wash it by hand in cold water.

Even commerical dyes like RIT fade like crazy and bleed onto other clothes in the washer. I've tried it, and it also involved running the washer empty with a big shot of bleach afterward to make sure the dye didn't get on subsequent loads, so it wasn't all that cheap. Dye especially won't work well on synthetic fibers. It also won't cover stains, in fact it makes them more noticeable.

Sorry to disappoint, but effective home dying isn't cheap or easy, and you may as well learn that from me.

Zoebird
11-7-11, 10:47pm
thanks, jemima. i remember doing tie-dye as a teen, and really enjoyed it. my favorite onsies for DS were tie-dyed by a friend, and i think she used RIT. they held their color well, and they were organic cotton. i think my sweater is a blend.

a friend of mine used kool-aid to dye her child's play silks (silk or muslin fabric), and i thought i might try it.

i guess i'll jsut keep using it for gardening.

Zoebird
11-7-11, 10:48pm
oh, and it's not a stain. i dried it too close to the fire, and it got bleached out? or some such. :D

rosarugosa
11-8-11, 8:22am
Thanks, Jemima! Those are the very outcomes I fear, so I think I won't bother!

iris lily
11-8-11, 9:06am
Very good point!

In addition to self discipline I think a shift in focus helps.

Agreed. When I am in serious weight loss mode, denial and self-discipline won't last long. It's a change of focus that brings longs term results. Rather than looking for the fast stuff, I look for, and think about more, cooking and preparing food with better ingredients. It has to be fun and interesting.

jania
11-8-11, 9:43am
I think one of the reasons I've never gone into debt (except for mortgage) is that I only looked at credit cards as a more convenient way to pay for things when money wouldn't work, like booking an airline ticket or shopping on-line. I've never used the credit card to pay for things unless I actually have the money available to pay cash and can pay off the bill when it arrives. Of course I love have the card available for some emergency, which luckily hasn't yet happened.

Zoebird
11-8-11, 3:40pm
same here, jania. with the exception of an emergency, where we had to pay more than we could afford, but we were able to pay it off the next month. thank goodness.

it's the school debt that i was a damn fool about. i'm still angry with myself.

jp1
11-8-11, 11:15pm
Aside from "impulse buying", which was never a huge issue for me, is the issue of "thoughtless buying". One of the bigger long-term impacts on my budget was the decision to bring my lunch to work every day. Prior to reading YMOYL I'd thoughtlessly gone out every day and spent $5, $6, $7 on lunch. I didn't especially like the food at any of the places. There was no social component since I usually ate lunch alone. And I actually hated the act of waiting in line at a crowded lunch place to buy my food. Buying lunch was strictly a functional activity. Once I started tracking expenses and realized how much life energy I spent on "functional food eaten out" (yes that was actually the name of the category) I started bringing my lunch more and more regularly until that category no longer had down arrows on the monthly chart. Not much effort involved since it's usually leftovers from the previous night's dinner, but the monthly impact on my spending was quite noticeable.

Recently one of my coworkers, who always buys lunch, and always asks what I'm doing for lunch, commented that I must save a ton of money by bringing my lunch every day. He's really gotten into Suze Orman over the last year or so, so I took this as a chance to give the 30 second elevator pitch of YMOYL. He's in the right space mentally to go there so hopefully it'll lead to more questions/discussion and we'll have another convert to the idea of simple living.

pony mom
11-9-11, 12:35am
I wonder how many people actually know how much they earn and spend? Not any of us here, of course.

Since my income has shrunk a lot (thanks economy) and two of my workdays I spend on-call, I try not to go anywhere since it is tempting to buy something. My will is strong though and if I am tempted, I try to appreciate whatever it is and then let it go. It's almost becoming a game to me. There are two things I'll be needing soon--a new bottle of oil for washing my face, and new eyeliner. So I'm using up what I do have and delaying buying them until I run out. How long can I make them last?? It's fun!

The holidays are coming and I'm a PITA--there's nothing I really want! I don't even want to exchange gifts with anyone because A)I don't have extra money to spend and B)I may get something I really don't want.

It is kinda nice going to a store and just browsing, knowing you don't have to buy anything, knowing you can walk out empty-handed and you won't die. Not spending money gets easier with practice.

Acorn
11-9-11, 2:37am
Pony mom, I feel the same way - there is simply nothing I want. It isn't that I deprive myself by not shopping, but I just don't want or need anything so shopping is a waste of time for me. In the past I would shop as a leisure time activity and it would lead to needless unfocused spending, but once I took a break from shopping it has been very easy to maintain self control about spending and acquiring. Shopping seems to be routine in the US - something done just to pass time rather than because it is necessary.
I have always spent less than I earn and I think spending more just becomes a bad habit that is hard to break.

Gingerella72
11-10-11, 1:19pm
This is probably the most poignant article on personal finance that I've ever seen. The financial gurus preach "spend less than you earn, spend less than you earn" over and over again, but no one actually addresses *how* you go about doing that. For people who have zero concept about self-denial, it's important to spell it out to them. To many it's a "duh" concept, but for some this can be earth shattering to grasp.

Books, DVDs, CDs, and eating out are our gazingus pins. We used to justify it because they're our only form of entertainment. We'd say, "We don't take expensive vacations, we don't go to concerts or plays or operas, we don't engage in expensive hobbies, and what harm can a DVD on sale for $7.99 do? Besides, we gave up cable TV so we HAVE to buy DVD's!" And much of our eating out is fast food, so it's not like we're having 5 star meals.....but those seemingly petty purchases add up quickly if done on a regular basis. We're now trying to curb this by taking advantage of our library, and eating at home more.

Zoebird
11-10-11, 2:54pm
i feel the same way about the holidays and have since i was about 10. i'm just not an object-oriented person. Go figure. I try to get family to give me consumables or experiences (e.g., year membership to the museum). but i usually end up with "stuff." in the last few years, it's been practical: new sheets; new towels; new socks (yes, seriously. LOL). whatever i needed that i could buy for myself but haven't.

spending at the holidays is tough, hence my "thirft-christmas?" thread.

Spartana
11-10-11, 3:42pm
The biggest thing for me has been learning to love the free & low cost things more than I love the expensive things. I actually prefer those things now over more costlier things. i.e. I'd MUCH MORE prefer to ride my bike at the beach and have a picnic lunch than go to an expensive concert and fine dining. It means I never feel like I'm denying myself anything because I'm doing the things I love. I always tell people to write a list of all the free & low cost things they can think of, and try doing them instead of expensive things and see if you like them better. This can include everything from eating, clothing, recreation, vacations and even housing. We are a society that is programmed to think that "expensive" means better. . That things that are free are not as good, not as fun, not as worthy, that those things are of less social value and prestige. But changing this mindset can be the key to changing your lifestyle towards a more frugal way of living - and living well below your means - without feeling you are deprived of anything. I know this was key for me and that I enjoy my life more than I ever did when I wanted more expensive things.

Spartana
11-10-11, 3:51pm
It is kinda nice going to a store and just browsing, knowing you don't have to buy anything, knowing you can walk out empty-handed and you won't die. Not spending money gets easier with practice.

And of course you can leave your wallet (cash, CC, debit card and checkbook) at home or in the car when you shop and just bring the amount of cash you want to spend (on say eyeliner and face lotion) and no more. You can browse still but if you are an impulse buyer this is one way to stem that impulse. I do this for pretty much everything - especially food shopping which is just about the only thing I shop for nowadays - and it works great. I also am at a point where the more I browse, the less of a desire I have to buy. I get overwhelmed by the amount of "stuff" out there (not to mention all the shoppers) and find I absolutely lose interest and try to find a way to "make do' with what I have.

heydude
11-10-11, 3:59pm
putting things off works wonders. i always use "jan 1st" as an excuse. but, by then, all the holiday glintz has worn off and I do not want to buy it by then. it is funny.

put it off as many months as you can.

if something new comes up, write it down, it is amazing how you forget about it. out of sight, out of mind.

furthermore, i develop lists and put what i really want at the top. i can justify not getting all the things at the bottom, if i just focus on the top one. soon, the top one doesn't even matter and so the whole list doesn't matter.

but at least have one that you really want to work towards. when you finally buy it, u find how it doesn't live up to all that list or priority and thus the ones at the bottom REALLY do not.

mira
11-10-11, 3:59pm
This post on his actual blog received a lot of critical comments, but it resonated with me and the way my perspective or focus (as Stella so wisely put it) has shifted over the last few years.

I too have friends who earn more than my partner and I combined, yet who whine about being unable to afford to travel or put money into a savings account. When my best friend has a bank balance of zero at the end of every month and makes a point of telling me - either directly or indirectly - it really saddens me. I can't tell her how to manage her money; she has to make that mental leap from her current mindset of "not earning enough" to "not managing my money/time/resources wisely" by herself. I always hope I can lead by example in at least a few ways though. I know that sounds awfully arrogant, but I know if I can manage not to be broke at the end of the month, so can she.

heydude
11-10-11, 4:03pm
i just want to add that sometimes giving in can help you have better self control. if you finally give in to something and buy it, it actually might take off some pressure. you'll see how it wasn't worth it, feel bad, etc. and be even more determined to never do it again.

i have actually cut down my food budget A LOT just because one year I ate out like five times in 3 months and just hated having spent all that money. i scaled back to make up for it for my year end numbers and never did scale back up again! hehehehe.

pony mom
11-11-11, 12:13am
It's come to the point where shopping make me a bit sad and depressed. So many things to pick from and I don't want any of it.

Anyone here watch "Til Debt Do Us Part"? A money expert, Gail something (famous) goes over a couple's finances and looks at their home and belongings and tries to help them get out of debt. The people are always shocked to hear how much over their income they are spending. They had no clue! Their house is stuffed with toys, electronics, clothes, cars...and they don't know where it goes. I caught a few minutes of an Oprah's Lifeclass episode and the show was about debt. The couple on there had a combined income of over $7000/mo. and still overspent. How irresponsible.

Aqua Blue
11-11-11, 10:29am
It's come to the point where shopping make me a bit sad and depressed. So many things to pick from and I don't want any of it.

Anyone here watch "Til Debt Do Us Part"? A money expert, Gail something (famous) goes over a couple's finances and looks at their home and belongings and tries to help them get out of debt. The people are always shocked to hear how much over their income they are spending. They had no clue! Their house is stuffed with toys, electronics, clothes, cars...and they don't know where it goes. I caught a few minutes of an Oprah's Lifeclass episode and the show was about debt. The couple on there had a combined income of over $7000/mo. and still overspent. How irresponsible.

I've had people shake their heads and tell me I am way too anal because I always get a receipt and know exactly how much I spend. I write expenditures line by line when I get back home and can tell you to the penny what I have spent in a given catagory. It seems sooooo irresponsible to me to not know.

Mighty Frugal
11-11-11, 4:47pm
It's come to the point where shopping make me a bit sad and depressed. So many things to pick from and I don't want any of it.

Anyone here watch "Til Debt Do Us Part"? A money expert, Gail something (famous) goes over a couple's finances and looks at their home and belongings and tries to help them get out of debt. The people are always shocked to hear how much over their income they are spending. They had no clue! Their house is stuffed with toys, electronics, clothes, cars...and they don't know where it goes. I caught a few minutes of an Oprah's Lifeclass episode and the show was about debt. The couple on there had a combined income of over $7000/mo. and still overspent. How irresponsible.

I LOVE that show and watch it as often as I can (I even have her books-Gail is my secret girlfriend!!! LOVE HER!!!) It amazes me as well the sense of entitlement so many people have. They actually say 'I want my cake and eat it too. I want it all' so they get a huge house, a COTTAGE, sports car, gas guzzler SUV and then are shocked when they get into trouble. So many people want it all without working for it and saving.

I find so many children do not even understand the concept of 'saving up for something'

so I try to teach my boys. Although we could easily afford to on on a 3 day trip to Great Wolf Lodge (about $1k) we are SAVING for it. We are all putting money away and figure we'll have enough by spring or fall of 2012. That way I teach my kids delayed gratification. And I figure one day in the not too distant future (both dh and I will most likely lose our jobs in 2012) this is the way we will have to live.

ApatheticNoMore
11-11-11, 6:22pm
I think at some point people might actually prefer to do the fun activity that takes money over the equally fun one that might not. Paradoxical?

Perhaps the archtype is the person from country songs who goes out and blows all the disposable income they got for the week drinking and partying it up on a Friday or Saturday night. Not to be taken too seriously? Of course not (and my wife left me and my dog died :)). But it is ...an interesting symbol.


Maybe they want to feel that all that "working for a living" actually buys something. That 40 hours a week of drudgery (for a bad job it will be under degrading conditions, with a mean boss, etc.) might just really be the price they pay for the right TO EXIST (to eat, to be protected from the elements) is a harder truth to swallow. Or that it is just the price they pay for existence and retirement a few decades from now by means of stock purchases or whatever, is also a hard truth to swallow (depends on the person). Now some ("good provider" archetypes) manage to make it the price they pay to give their offspring all the opportunities they didn't have in life (those music lessons, that college education etc.) and find their meaning that way.

If the money is blown on activities, as opposed to treating electronics as "toys" (highly toxic to mine and produce and destroying the planet toys - hey but I am typing this on a computer) at least the social harm is minimal (harm of burning gas leaving one's abode? Maybe, but really, it might also be better for the environment to keep the entire population in prison cells but ... I don't consider it any better an idea than the idea that noone should ever go out).

Anyway one of my best (easiest to implement) suggestions if you'd rather have time than money in the here and now is: take additional unpaid vacation time .... take additional unpaid vacation time :)

pony mom
11-11-11, 9:58pm
Aqua Blue, I'm just like you. I have notebooks filled with expenses and could tell you exactly what I spent on....shampoo, oil change, shoes, etc. Now I can't imagine living any other way. How did I ever just carry around some cash and spend it on this and that, not knowing if I'd have enough for something I need in the future? Crazy!