I’ve mentioned before that I really like saving money. To me it’s like a game to find new ways to reduce my spending. Constantly finding new ways to lower spending keeps me on my toes and protects me from slipping into careless patterns that could lead to debt. It also frees up more cash that I can stash away for emergencies or my old age, making it more likely that I will remain debt free throughout my life.
The problem is that every year it gets more and more difficult to find new ways to reduce spending. Once the obvious biggies are gone like unnecessary cell phones, cable, expensive clothes, and meals out, while employing the usual savings strategies like using coupons, planning meals, and shopping sales. Once this is done, where does someone like me look to cut spending?
The answer lies in frugality. Some might even say extreme frugality. To cut more from an already lean budget requires looking into the areas of the budget I take for granted. For example, I have a budget category for cleaning supplies. But do I have to buy every cleaning supply? Can I make my own for less? I’ve discovered that I can and it saves me a significant chunk of money every year. I’ve experimented with washing plastic bags and reusing aluminum foil. I make my own laundry detergent. I keep a lot of things like jars, spare parts, and fabric to use for money saving projects. I have a budget for utilities, but I try to never spend the maximum that I budget. I’m always experimenting with my utility use and settings to cut a little more from the bill (or at least stay even with the price increases). I repair rather than replace most things. I learn to DIY as much as I can, even if it’s something I’d rather not do. Heck, I’ve even tried making my own envelopes.
Some things that I try are worth it and work out very well. Others result in discomfort or inconvenience that cancels out any savings I might gain. But I never give up. I’m always trying new things and looking for new ideas. Even in an already lean budget I’ve learned that there are still ways to cut down the spending, if I’m willing to move out of the mainstream and try some strange ideas. I enjoy using my creativity and abilities to save a little bit of money. It requires thinking differently from most people. Most people just accept that there’s no way around buying certain items. I’m always questioning my needs, wants, and use patterns.
If you’re interested in learning how to cut more from an already lean budget (or if you want to slash and burn an overburdened budget) I recommend two books. First, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn is full of frugal tips that range from everyday common sense to things some people might consider extreme. I read it once a year and I’m always amazed that I can find just one more thing to do to reduce my spending.
The other book is Choosing Simplicity by Linda Breen Pierce. Not so much a how to or tip guide, this book examines the lives of real people who chose to reduce their spending and simplify their lives. It’s great motivator and a book that reminds me of the benefits of living simply and remaining free from consumer pressures.
Do I have to constantly look for ways to reduce my spending in order to remain out of debt? At this point, no. We make enough money to allow for buying plenty of cleaning supplies, foil, and other everyday items. But I like the challenge and I like the freedom that cutting spending gives me. Every “small” amount I save provides me with more money for the larger things I enjoy like travel, and for the things I will need in the future like home improvements and retirement.
I have a mindset that I simply do not like spending money that I do not need to, or that does not bring me great joy. And I hate waste in all forms, whether it’s monetary waste or physical trash. I’m willing to go out of my way to find ways to avoid spending money on items that don’t bring me joy and to cut down on waste. I think that’s a large part of what has kept us debt free.