A blog about keeping yourself and your expenses lean in Oakland County, Michigan.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Repost: Living the Frugal Life - My story of how I got here


Wow I can scarely believe it has been a year since I started this frugal lifestyle! Here's a post I did a while back about me and how I got here!

A few weeks ago I was over my dad’s house for a surprise shower for my sister-in-law. We were all making plates to take home and instinctively I grabbed some already used yet clean foil to cover my food. My dad said to me, “The box of foil is over there,” pointing to a huge box of foil (they shop at Costco and Sam’s) and I told him I was good with what I had. I could’ve grabbed the new foil but instinctively I didn’t. After reading so many blogs of ways to save reusing used but clean foil, envelopes, or whatever just seemed like the normal thing to do.

I had to smile to myself thinking about it as well, because my husband has said more than once to me, “I hope you continue to save all this money and put all this work in when we no longer need to.” And to me that was proof that I will.

It is actually quite amazing I never got into the couponing game a lot sooner. I guess I didn’t know all the details, how much it could save and how it was interconnected with so many other things. My father is very frugal and good with money. And although I certainly didn’t appreciate it when I was younger we learned a lot and I’m very grateful for it.

I remember being five years old and working on another house and asking all these questions about why we were fixing it up if we weren’t moving there and my father trying to explain to me the best he could about rentals and passive income. It was so ingrained in my mind that when I was 16 and had a boyfriend I couldn’t understand why he didn’t have any rental properties or stocks at 19. I really thought that was what people did between the ages of 19 – 25. Thanks to both of my frugal parents I’ve had life insurance since I was 10 and have paid on myself since I was 20, two retirement funds and know how to budget money.

I also learned how to budget and save early on and about delayed gratification. By the time I was 10 we had a good weekly allowance system where me and my other four siblings in the home rotated jobs. We all were paid based on our skill-level (age, I’m the oldest) and when the younger one had a turn on something difficult (like dishes, I have a sister that’s 6 years younger than me) we had to help. Our jobs were periodically checked on and if they weren’t completed we were docked our pay. What was our allowance for? Well we don’t celebrate holidays so we used it to save up for things we wanted. Don’t get me wrong I had a happy childhood and we were bought clothes, jewelry, and gifts spontaneously at times from our parents. But it wasn’t like I came back to school in January and was going to have the new Super Nintendo like everyone else. My brothers and I had to save up and buy it ourselves. Also we didn’t really keep candy in our house so we had ride our bikes to the nearest store to get some and part of our allowance was for that. Also we didn’t drink pop on a regular basis, it was a treat and we paid $.50.

We also had a budget for everything. We had a budget for school clothes and summer clothes. We went on vacation and we were getting three meals that day, prebought snacks in the car and one activity. So for example if we stopped at the gas station and I just had to have some chips I used my allowance money. Or if we were on our way to Disney World and we drove by a Go Kart place and said, “Ohh let’s go do that,” we could, as long as we paid with our own allowance money.

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well it was. I had a paper route at 10 and started caddying at golf courses at 11, started a part-time job in an office at 16. Had to supplement my income somehow!

So I learned a lot. I had to learn to budget. How much did I put in the video game fund? Was I going to buy I pop today or go to the store to get some candy? And how much did I need to save for my next vacation or some brand name clothes? Yes I learned early on about budgeting and delayed gratification.

When it came to grocery shopping my father always stockpiled and bought in bulk to save on things. He has a freezer in a garage to stockpile even more. He also does rebates and usually uses coupons when going out to eat. I can never remember running to a store because we ran out of something. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him run into a 7-11 or buy anything other than gas at a gas station.

Don’t get me wrong I still live here in a America and for the most part if I had excess I wasted it, but if I didn’t have excess I had no problem managing it and living on less.

But throughout my life some habits did stick. I never did too many impulse or convenience store purchases. When going on trips or even if I’m out for the day I bring a cooler full of snacks and drinks (not paying convenience store prices!). I mostly bring my lunch and batch cooked for myself. I then I got married . . .

To someone who may have had the exact opposite upbringing as me financially. And then he got laid off . . .

So with a new house 2 months later here we are trying to manage October 2008 trying to fight the monthly increasing utility costs and pay our mortgage.

And because of my upbringing and us managing things we did. We always paid our mortgage and part of the heat and we caught up on everything with our tax return. But there were weeks that it was very hard. There were weeks that I made meals out of chicken broth, beans and spices. There were weeks I had a grocery budget of $10. But we made it. I shopped only at Aldi’s for that winter.

So in July 2009 when the bills are probably at their lowest I was determined to find a way to not struggle as much this winter. And then I got offered an on-line class on couponing and everything clicked (thanks to my frugal upbringing and probably a little to my marketing degree) and I got started right away.

I actually tried to apply half of what I learned midway in and was mortified with the results. I spent $250 at Kroger and saved $80. Granted I would’ve saved only $30-$40 but saving less than 25% was not going to help me much. I might as well just stick with Aldi’s. But I keep with the class, kept reading and researching and now I am up to saving between 60-80%. I gave it 3 months (as everyone will tell you that you must) and it DID start working. I am in much better financial shape than I was this time last year!

So that’s me how about you? How is your journey going? Did you grow up with a frugal family? What is your story? Whether it is easy or hard it is worth it, just stick with it, keep reading and researching and you will get it!

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