The secret to saving money--live below your means

Lynn O'Shaughnessy:

During much of the 1980s, I didn't have to wait until the yearly sale to buy a cute dress at Nordstrom. In my office, I was the person whom colleagues would ask for restaurant recommendations because I loved to eat out. My husband and I subscribed to Wine Spectator. Life was good.

But during the Christmas holidays in 1990, I found myself following my husband to San Diego for his better job opportunity. By the time the moving van pulled up to our house in a funky Los Angeles neighborhood, my career as a newspaper reporter had ended, as did my comfortable standard of living. While my husband and I struggled to live on one income after I became a stay-at-home mom, I began having to make the sort of financial decisions that never would have occurred to me when I was busy sipping Grgich Hills chardonnay. I don't know why this particular image remains with me, but I remember standing in the aisle of a grocery store wondering if I really needed to spend $1.30 on a can of frozen grape juice. I felt even more miserable at my local bookstore when I talked myself out of buying the hardback book that I was holding. I was living frugally because I had no choice.

I'm bringing this up now because I know there are thousands upon thousands of people who are faced with the same sort of nickel-and-dime decisions that I had to make. I know firsthand that these daily sacrifices feel lousy, especially when everybody else seems to be flush with cash. Who are these people who can drop $400 at Costco on the weekends and how come everybody else seems to already own a plasma TV?

When I look back on this period in my life, I realized that being forced into making painful financial decisions on a daily basis can ultimately be financially empowering. I can now buy any book that I want at Barnes & Noble, but I truly believe that the spending habits my husband and I were forced to adopt years ago have made us far better off financially.

In fact, I believe that if I had never left my well-paid job in Los Angeles, our net worth would be less today. Living through this period made me realize that frugality is a worthwhile pursuit, no matter how much you have in your checking account.

If you need motivation to put your spending on a diet, here are some of the strategies that work for me:

- Buy used. When I no longer enjoyed the luxury of buying everything new, I began hitting garage sales on Saturday mornings. Over the years, I probably bought thousands of kids' books - so many that I had to buy more bookcases - used ones - to deal with the overflow. My kids had wonderful clothes - OshKosh was my favorite brand - because I could buy outfits for a quarter or 50 cents. I kept my daughter, Caitlin, happy with tons of craft materials from bric-a-brac to felt to ribbon that I hauled home. And my son, Ben, who wants to be an engineer, spent countless hours playing with all the Legos, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs that I picked up for next to nothing.

Meanwhile, through newspaper classified ads, Craigslist.com and eBay, my husband and I have bought all sorts of stuff, including patio furniture (twice), an iPod, a dining room set (twice) and a Honda Accord with 21,000 miles on its odometer.

...
She has more tips. I am a big fan of Half Price Books, and Amazon also has a used book option with many of its selections. When you learn to live below your means you will have no problem saving money. While I have never become addicted to garage sales, I have found some significant bargains at Walmart when they get ready to clear some of their inventory.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

US, Britain and Israel help Iranian nuclear scientist escape

Iran loses another of its allies in Iraq

Texas Congressman Al Green admits to affair with drug using staffer