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It has been a few decades since frugal living was a choice. My various jobs have been high on the fun spectrum but low on gobs-of-money.  

I have yet to make over $30,000 as a 35-year old.

Rather than try to fight for a high-paying and high unhappiness job, which sounds like more thrash than a raccoon in a trash can. I prefer to focus on what I can do with the human I am and the job I have, or at least that is what I am telling myself.

Frugal living is a means to use your money for things that matter to you. It’s about giving yourself more of what you love by trimming the expenses you don’t care about.

One Frugal Girl

I grew up in an upper-middle-class family and frugal living was something I avoided. Frugalness was as foreign as bubble and squeak sounding like a tasty dinner option.

My life changed when I had to pay for it.

I made plenty of mistakes from cashing out my retirement early to buying bonds when I needed money in six months to letting financial institutions look out for my best interest. Banks aren’t interested in my financial future, but they are interested in charging fees.

Sometimes it takes a while for important lessons to sink in. Once they do, I am like a small boat with a big hole! Dive, dive, dive!  

After years of trial, error, and try again, my routines have become so ingrained that they are no longer habits but a lifestyle.

Frugal life? More like hold my cup of homemade coffee as I reuse this cotton from a safety seal to clean my phone.

Don’t Fret, Frugal Mindset

Marketing will suggest otherwise, but I need very little to survive. I need food, shelter, and air; everything else is negotiable.

It’s a good reminder when I spy fancy and expensive Patagonia gear.

I have to steel myself. My best memories don’t include stuff, but events like exploring an animal-dense desert of South Africa or rambling the streets of Paris. I can’t remember what I wore, but I do remember what I did.

For this memory-deficient girl, that is saying something!

One way to advance the frugal living master class is to pretend saving money is a never-ending game. My splashiest example was joining the military. At 17, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I struggled with what I wanted to do for the next 83 years.

Similar to the breathy 80s tune, I was under pressure!

I heard classmates going to college and being undeclared until they figured out what they wanted. It sounded fun but expensive.

I refused to waste my nonexistent funds on uncertain possibilities. I would rather waste someone else’s! A painful preview of a 17-year-old mindset full of brash bravado.

I had plenty of reasons to join the military, but a big reason was college. With four years of military service, I was able to get a 4-year degree at a steep discount of $1,800. It was and continues to be the best deal I ever made.

Small Saves

Big savings massage my ego but the small, weekly savings bring consistency to my frugal living master class.

Small saves are how I stay motivated for the lifelong haul. Big saves come along occasionally, like refinancing a mortgage from 3.25% to 2.25% and paying for insurance in a lump sum, twice a year.

I can do small savings daily.

I pick up change, use the library, and always try a coupon code. Loyalty programs at the grocery store, exchanging gift cards for internet searches, and showering at work all to save a bit more money. These constant little wins add up, and my net worth is proof.

Last year, I started tracking my net worth. As of this month, it has been a year. I’m turning into a bean counter because I looked at my past net worth and compared it to today.

In a year, the money I saved and invested increased my net worth by 30k. I still have yet to make 30k in a year, let alone saving every penny of pay.

Small savings are how I keep my frugal living master class focused when saving large amounts are rare, and it’s training for the big leagues. When the dollar signs start growing for a house, car, or cruise around the world with zero adulting and a 24/7 buffet, I have a lifetime of a million tiny saves to cheer on the next big save.

Lazy, Not Hazy

Frugal living master class does include a section on being lazy with finances. Lazy, easy, simple, or as I prefer to think of it, automatic.

I harness the power of laziness by automating my finances. Of all places, behavioral science supports this musing.

Behavioral economist Brigitte Madrian found that when companies enroll their employees automatically in their retirement savings program, 90% of them stick with it.

NPR Life Kit

Retirement is easily automated thanks to my employer. The rest of my savings shenanigans face a similar fate.

Life is simpler when I let laziness get a chance to play. I still check on it, like a savvy Professor Minerva McGonagall-like figure but I allow for it to do what it does best: automatically move my goals forward while I watch funny cat videos.

Frugal Living Master Class

The proof is in the frugal pudding.

It’s a grainy sort of pudding.

I have managed to save 47% of my income through pre-tax, post-tax, and various shenanigan savings max.

Most of those savings are dumped into one or various retirement vehicles but there is room for annual bills, medical care, and travel. I have a life list that needs tending too!

I have squeezed plenty of juice from my pay, but as the 47% settles, I am beginning to wonder. What can I do to push that number to 50%?

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5 thoughts on “Frugal Living Master Class: A Green and Growing Legacy

  1. Thank you, Jewels! As an avid reader of your blog, I appreciate the compliment! 🎉

  2. I love this quote “I refused to waste my nonexistent funds on uncertain possibilities.” It made me laugh out loud. I used to be frugal to a fault. These days I’ve found a healthy balance between cutting out the excess and spending on the things I love! Great post!

  3. Dear David, if I gave out awards for my favorite comment, yours would win gold! 🙏

  4. Frugal living is a very underrated thing that exists in such a consumerist society. Even as MMM made it popular over a decade ago people are still spending like never before. The pandemic is helping increase people’s savings rates, but still.

    Soon, you’ll be increasing your net worth by 300k per year instead of 30k!

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