Beginning Your Financial Diet

Aug 05, 2014Reading Time: 6 min

As Americans, amid this culture of excessive debt, growing up in the suburbs with life handed on a silver platter, it’s easy to have a lax relationship with money. We don’t all have the privilege of knowing money for what it is: a very important resource that makes living freely possible. In fact, high schools are currently incorporating financial literacy into their curriculums because they (accurately) believe it is as important as traditional academia.  

In the title I likened frugality to dieting. There are several intimate similarities, as gluttony is synonymous with excess, and spending excessively is the bane of frugality. A lean, fit spending strategy is something we can all implement into our lives. So, here’s a little beginner’s guide to taking that first step into a (financially) healthier life.  

Focus on one area, first. It isn’t easy magically transforming into an adeptly frugal person. It’s like tapering off an addiction, in this case, an addiction to spending money. Pick one area where your spending is terribly out of control and address it until it’s mild. Whether that is paying inconceivably for parking every day (a problem of mine living in Los Angeles) or greeting your daily barista with a $4 coffee order, that’s up to you. Focus on one source of constant financial strain and massage it into submission. Once you’ve tackle it, you can move on to another.

Learn to say “no.” As social animals, we are constantly bombarded by outside influences that make us test our will power. If you’re finally keen on making a difference with your spending then there’s no one holding you back but yourself. Whether it’s a friend inviting you out for a spending spree at the bar or diner, a significant other goading you into shelling out crazy bucks for a date, or a manmade advertisement sucking you in, remember it’s an act of strength to say no. Say your “budget is whack at the moment.” Use humor when telling friends your “religion doesn’t permit splurging.” Never stop trying to master the art of saying no, because it’s a discipline you’ll use the rest of your life to your benefit.

Peer Pressure

Remember there is invariably a better deal elsewhere. This applies to everything—clothes, cars, shoes, food, travel, etc. The amount of time spent searching for a better deal is directly proportionate to how much you save. Whether that means looking for second-hand goods or scouring the web for wow-worthy prices, life rewards the persistent. If you’re lazy and only want to get the process of shopping over quickly, then you will likely overspend.

Treat saving like a second job. When it all comes down to it, saving and earning are virtually the same. Both yield a bigger stash. The next time you feel strain considering whether to buy or pass up, remember how much that pain could be worth. Let’s say you found a toy that cost $20 and you really wanted it; five minutes of will power could earn you $20. It’s the same as working for five minutes and making $20.

Cook your heart out. Do you want to know an easy way to save $2,000 in a year? Don’t eat out as much. This is one of the hardest things for people to grapple with, because peer pressure is strong and food is good. If you’re serious about taking on a more frugal lifestyle, this is the first step to take. Plus, nutritional value comes with having control of your ingredients, and a healthier existence results from organic and fresh meals.

Rethink your cell phone plan. It is completely unnecessary to join the 46 percent of Americans who say their monthly bill is more than $100. There are services such as Republic Wireless that offer pay-as-you-go plans for as little as $5 a month. Moreover there is always a cheaper plan somewhere out there. A little research goes a long way, and once you find something better, it is an investment that continues to pay dividends.

Toss cable. It’s been rammed into our heads repeatedly and repeatedly and repeatedly that cable may be an outdated and costly way to get your entertainment. Because the Internet is such a vast, informative, entertaining, generous place, there is practically no logical need for cable service. The Federal Communications Commission reported in May 2014 the average cost of cable is $64.41. That’s nearly $800 a year. Netflix isn’t the only source of cheap entertainment, so make the move to finally (and inevitably) drop your cable before it consumes your finances.

Buy in bulk when a sale is incredible. Every once in a while there comes a deal that is too good to be true. It is in these rare instances that you should buy voluminously. Learn where and when to buy in bulk and you’ll be on your way to saving a lot in the long run.

Obviously, There Was a Good Banana Sale

Become a coupon hero. There are situations in which we have no choice but to spend generously, i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day. In these cases, it is to your boon to hit up deal sites such as for a vast array of coupons. There is always a promo code that could take a fraction off your order. When a holiday or special occasion is on the horizon, visit a site where a terrific deal is readily at your disposal.

Supplement your diet with reading material. Across the blogosphere and into pop message boards you’ll find everyday people like you and me who cherish a frugal lifestyle. You can share ideas and take valuable information into practice. One such example is Reddit. Learn new things and embrace an even greater appreciation for living within your means.

In conclusion, it is never too late to start. It could take a massive bill to shock you into spending less, or you could take the genius route and learn from others’ mistakes. If you’re successful, you could end up being like this guy who entered cozy retirement at the age of 29.