A Life Without Debt: Saving For The Fun Of It

It sounds like a no-brainer, but a big part of what keeps us out of debt is simply not spending too much money. Whether it’s on splurge items or our regular budget items like utilities, clothing, etc. we are always careful never to spend more than we have. However, just like everyone else, we tend to get complacent and allow some of our spending to become automatic. We got cell phones a few years ago and never really thought about changing the plans. We got cable and never really thought about going back to rabbit ears. We started buying a certain brand of ketchup and never really thought about switching to something cheaper. We just accepted those prices and payments, and many others, as part of the wallpaper of our lives. Complacency happens, even to debt free people.

However, as we’ve journeyed along we’ve learned to challenge that complacency and to shake things up on a regular basis. We regularly go through our budget looking for things we can cut out or down. Then we experiment with that until we find the place where it starts to make us uncomfortable, and then we stop. Most recently we looked at those cell phones. We looked at the actual phones that we had, as well as the plans. We discovered that we really weren’t using the features of the phones anymore. Features like Internet access and email were must have’s when we got the phones, but since I now work from home and my spouse has a phone provided by work, we just weren’t using them anymore. So we knew we could downgrade phones. My spouse was also using very few of his minutes and I don’t talk that much, either, so we knew we could reduce the plan, as well. We looked around and decided to go with a basic, pre-paid phone for me and nothing for him, saving us about $100/month. We weren’t having any trouble paying for the pricier phones and plans, they just weren’t necessary. We’ll try it this way for a while and see how it goes. If we discover that we need more minutes or different phones, we can always switch again.

We’ve done this with cable, reducing from a big package to smaller and smaller packages until we had cancelled it entirely without missing it. We could afford it, but it wasn’t necessary and we weren’t getting the value out of it. We’ve cut down (or out) on certain foods and beverages that we thought we couldn’t live without, but after experimenting with the cuts we found that we don’t miss them. We’ve done it with eating out, entertainment, and even our beloved travel (that one came back into the budget in a hurry). We’ve done this with just about everything we spend money on at one time or another. Sometimes the cuts have been permanent and other times we’ve decided that we really liked whatever it was we cut and we wanted it back. Sometimes we decide we want the item back but not all of it, so we decide on a reduced price alternative or a cheaper package of features.

We view it as a game now. What can we cut next? It’s not about living a life of deprivation. If we cut something and we wish we hadn’t, we simply get it back. No big deal. And it’s not about cutting out of desperation. When you cut out of desperation, you often don’t want to do it and resent it. We cut things because we want to. It’s a challenge and it teaches us to appreciate what we have. It’s about learning what is necessary and what is not. It’s about reminding ourselves to not take any aspect of our spending for granted.

When spending becomes mindless and we start to assume that, “that’s just the way things are,” we’re headed for trouble. I can’t count how many people I’ve spoken to about debt and when they really started trying to get a handle on their budget they were surprised by how much unnecessary spending was going on. So many things had simply become automatic and unquestioned that they had added up to big trouble. Cutting for the fun of it is a way for us to stay ahead of that sort of mindless spending and to keep our budget in top form.

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11 Responses to A Life Without Debt: Saving For The Fun Of It

  1. Meaghan says:

    good advice! I’m sure it won’t seem that much “fun” at first, but it will definitely keep us aware of our spending.

  2. Diane says:

    Very interesting idea! I’m not ready for this but it seems to be working for you, which is great.

    We like having cable – we work at home & watch the news channels during the day & some cable in the evenings.

    Although my bf & I work together at home, we still have cell phones for when we’re doing errands or traveling, and to keep in touch with my teenage son & college son – a necessity for me.

    We’ve cut back on eating out, but still usually eat out once a week.

    We don’t spend on extras like coffee out, manicures/pedicures, salon hair color. We group our errands to save on gas, even now that the prices are down.

    Since I’ve paid off all debt other than the mortgage and I’m saving money I feel okay with what we’re doing right now.

  3. minny says:

    We sing from the same hymn sheet. In a few weeks we are moving to a house with no Satelite dish or cable – so we have decided to go back to terrestrial TV.

    We too, do the same procedures with spending – it works. I’m sure we get more fun out of thrift and saving as others get from spending and indulging – and no nasty bill and worry at the end of it.

    What fascinates me about cell – or as we say mobile – phones and the necessity to keep in touch every second of every hour of every day, when people had just one land line in the house the world didn’t come to an end!!!!!! I do have a mobile phone and I pay as I go – last year I spent about $25.

  4. Cindy M says:

    Bravo, me too. True, it can be a challenge and like a game but one that can make you feel good about yourself and what you can accomplish. Makes you use your imagination and appreciate what you do have and work hard for and what you can do without.

  5. manageME7 says:

    Simple but very effective money management post. In acquiring the basic as well higher amenities we often neglect the prices attached to the product or services. We do not go for substitutes which are equally effective in quality with fewer prices. Keeping this factor in mind we can save more.

    Life is so simple, do not make it difficult. Just try to manage yourself.

  6. Gail says:

    I read so many posts, well actually no enough of them, where people are out of debt and still looking for places to cut and I say Bravo! Some may think they are nuts, but how nice when you know you have the money to spend on something you really want without knowing you are upsetting the family budget for the month because you picked up a new book, or did go out to eat for a special occassion. There are ways to make those events even a tad cheaper. We buy (and read) lots of non-fiction books that deal with our business so we have a membership/frequent buyer card that gives us discounts or free books. If I know ahead of time that we are going out to a nice restuarant (our kind of nice anyhow) I can pick up a gift card at the grocery store and earn fuel perk points on the card.

    It is fun! We still aren’t completely out of debt, but as those bills go further and further down, LIFE is opening up. I think so many are so buried in debt, that it is the only life they know and they are jealous of those who get their act together so that their needs and many of their wants are satisfied. It is the only reason I can see that people blast the savers on these blogs. Really, who wouldn’t want to be out of debt and be able to once again have cash money in their pocket that isn’t earmarked to go somewhere else?

  7. minny says:

    Just thinking – it seems so very bizarre that living within your means, thrift and prudence are considered a bit, well, off the wall!

    And, that spending more than you have, saving nothing and living on the financial edge is considered ‘good’ for the country and society.

    Is it me? Or is the whole thing back to front and more than a little nuts?

  8. Diane says:

    I think that with the current economic situation things are changing. I know its been a wake-up call for me, and I was already focused on paying off debt!

    The past years of excess made over-spending seem normal to many people. And apparently frugality seemed odd…

    I hope that will change and that excess consumerism will be the odd thing in the future, but I suspect many will return to their free spending ways when the economy changes again. We’ll see.

  9. Saver Queen says:

    Great post! We do the same thing. We too enjoy flexibility with our spending habits. We cut back almost everywhere we can, but if we find it’s too restrictive, we simply make adjustments or splurge a little now and then. I find the frugal life to be one enriched with mindfulness and appreciation of value, and fulfillment, not deprivation.

    Minny, you are so right. Why is the natural course of action to throw-away instead of re-use, to pay more, not less. To me, the frugal life just makes sense.

  10. Bshon C Price says:

    After filing bankruptcy in 2007 i “had” to do all the well thought out actions in the article on saving. And now almost two years later i am beginning to see the results of the disciplines that i have had to live with. I now have a lot more maneuverability financially & i would say i feel happier as well as empowered! So yes to all the cost saving actions aken here. You can’t go wrong :+)

  11. Breton Wench says:

    How about no TV? We have lived with this for 12 years – and three children later we are fine with broadband internet access and a third hand DVD player.

    When my daughter was asked by a friend why we don’t have TV she replied ‘Why don’t you have cat?’. Same reason, because we can do without it…….

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