20 February 2015

Living the Cheapskates Way - Without Feeling Deprived

We've been living this way for so long it has become more than a habit, it is so much an ingrained part of our lives that when I went to my inbox yesterday afternoon and read Shelley's email I was a little confused.

Shelley wrote "I've been trying for months to be a Cheapskate. I write a meal plan and a shopping list and I try to stick to it. I go around turning off power points and lights in empty rooms. I've instigated the no air-conditioner unless it's over 30 rule in the hopes of keeping the power bill down. I don't buy anything unless we need it, and I try to shop around and buy as cheaply as I can. I haven't bought new clothes in over six months and I've cut back my hair cuts to every 12 weeks instead of the regular 6 weekly trim I've always had. I know the bill money is there and we are still eating, we are getting a little ahead on our mortgage and I know I should feel good about it but I don’t. I just feel deprived, like I'm missing out. What am I doing wrong? How can you live like this for so long and be so happy and contented."

Really, what was the problem? She was paying the bills, feeding the family, they had a roof over their heads and a regular income. What did she have to feel deprived about?

I am happy and contented, thank you. And I apologise to Shelley for my lack of empathy.

What she missed, and I had forgotten, is that we have been living this way for almost 20 years and in the beginning I felt just like Shelley. I hated having to not only count but account for every cent we spent. I hated having to deliberately find free things for us to do at home instead of going out to dinner or to the movies or taking the kids on holiday like we had been able to. I was like Shelley too, I really, really hated not being able to get my hair cut every six weeks. For me that was the absolute hardest part of our lifestyle change so Shelley has all my sympathy, I know just how she feels.

But that was our time of extreme frugality. It was the time when we had to cut right back to the bare bones of spending to just survive.

What helped was knowing that this was just a short period of time in the grand scheme of our lives. That it wasn't forever, things would improve. Once we'd paid off some debts and worked out a true spending plan for the tiny income we had life became easier. We still had to count and account for every cent but there was room in the budget for occasional treats (and eventually I was able to get my hair cut regularly again).

I had also changed my attitude. I liked our lifestyle BDS (before disaster struck), I most definitely did not want to change it. The problem was that our income had dropped dramatically and wasn't going to improve any time soon so I had to find other ways to maintain our standard of living.

I found other ways to have the things we needed and wanted. I learned to shop smarter, cook, sew, knit, grow a garden. I learned to entertain at home instead of going out. I learned how to throw a birthday party for 20 kids for $20. Basically I changed the way I looked at the money I spent and what I received for it.

Wayne and I also sat down and had a good hard look at our lifestyle. We looked at the things that were really important to us and at the things that were really just fluff, things we did and had because everyone else had them or did them. And we consciously chose to ditch the stuff that wasn't important to us so we would have the money to pay for the things that were.

Often when you first make the decision to live the Cheapskates way you go at it all gung-ho, believing it has to be all or nothing and the changes must be immediate, but it takes time to completely change your lifestyle, especially if you are changing a family's lifestyle at the same time.

Remember baby steps, and one at a time. Along the way allow yourself a few treats and if you find something you really, really dislike, look for a frugal alternative that will fit with your new lifestyle.

There is no right or wrong way to live the Cheapskates way. What works for one Cheapskate may seem beyond mean and miserly to another, and a complete extravagance to yet another.

It's up to you to choose how you live the Cheapskates way. You choose just how frugal you want to be and just how that will fit in with yours and your family's lifestyle.

Shelley what I'm trying to say, in a very long-winded way, is try not to do anything that makes you feel deprived or like you are missing out.

Cheapskating isn't about being miserable with the most money in the bank.

It is about learning how you can live life debt free, cashed up and laughing.

It's about living the good life for less, and enjoying every day of it.

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  1. Shelley, I think it's a matter of attitude and how you look at your life. You are alive and hopefully well, you have a home, you have an income, you have food, you have air conditioning if it's over 30°. There'd be many people who think you're so fortunate. I'm a great one for being grateful for all I have, not what I don't have. I do feel frumpy if my hair isn't cut regularly .. can you strike a happy medium and have it cut every eight weeks? Instead of feeling deprived, change your mindset so that you feel clever at being able to manage your finances. There is so much on the web about making your home and yourself feel good on a budget. It's not money, it's attitude.

  2. We have been living a mostly frugal lifestyle for two decades.
    We go out for lunch, but don't like going out for dinner.
    We watch DVD's but don't want Pay TV.
    I buy lots of brand name clothing for my family whenever I find it in the correct size at the op shop.
    I read magazines from the Library, and have ordered books that I want to read from them as well.
    We eat well and all the meat in my freezer has " reduced " on it,
    If I want a haircut I either get my daughter to trim it ( I have long straight hair ) or I book a student cut at the TAFE. I have very student friendly hair
    We live within our spending plan. All our bills are paid.
    And like you Cath, we are content. But reading your post reminded me that the first few months were a little difficult. Not being able to buy a coffee at a cafe - but having the money to buy a jar of instant
    Making extra payments on our home loan - to save big $ long term
    Doing without a second car to make those extra payments meant that 10 years later when we really needed a second car we paid cash for it. Never had a car loan in 23 years.
    We did work out a happy balance and are still married. And we have never argued about money. The second biggest reason for divorce.


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