Eventually Saving Money is Easy

easy stuff

Recently, an acquaintance asked me for some financial advice.

“Give me your easiest financial tips. You know, stuff that I don’t have to work too hard at. I’ve got to pay off some debt and save up some cash for a vacation.”

Privately I was thinking, “Way to set the bar low. Wouldn’t want to work at anything, would you?” (You must understand that this acquaintance almost always looks for the easiest, laziest way to do the minimum on any task. She’s frustrating to be around, which is why I don’t refer to her as a friend.) At any rate, I started offering up suggestions.

“Open a savings account and have money direct-deposited every pay period.”

“Nope, I’d have to go to HR to get that set up and they’re a pill to deal with,” she said.

“Okay, turn off lights when you leave a room and raise and lower your thermostat a few degrees.”

“No. I want to be comfortable and I don’t like stumbling around a dark house.”

“Coupons at the grocery store?” I asked.

“Too much effort, too little reward,” she said.

“Brown bag your lunch.”

“No time to put that stuff together in the mornings.”

“Okay, cut down on or eliminate things like cable, eating out, vacations, cell phone plans, etc. Go to the library.”

“I don’t want to deprive myself. That’s hard to go without that stuff. And the library is nasty.” (This is the same person who gets grossed out by library books and other frugal options.)

“Have a yard sale and make money off your unused junk.”

“Eh. That’s a lot of work to set up and manage,” she said.

Finally after a few more basic ideas I gave up. “That’s the easy stuff,” I said. “From there it gets harder like moving to a cheaper house, getting rid of one car, drastically downsizing your life, getting a better or second job, learning about investing, or starting a garden.”

“Well, that stinks,” she said. “I thought at least some of it would be easy.”

I just had to shake my head and walk away to keep from saying something stupid like, “Lady, it doesn’t get any easier than taking a shorter shower or flipping a light switch.” But later, when I reflected on the conversation, I thought maybe I’d been too harsh in my judgment of this woman.

I’ve been living frugally for so long now that almost everything seems easy to me. I’ve downsized, bargained, and cut so many things over the years and mastered so many DIY skills that it all seems like second nature. If I think back, though, to when I was less careful with my money, I can remember a time when something like using a coupon would have seemed like a monumental effort. Not that the task itself was difficult (how hard is it to get the scissors and cut out a piece of paper, after all), but that the effort would have seemed pointless. I probably would have thought, “Saving fifty cents on a toothbrush? Will that really help anything?”

Of course now I know better. I know that every little bit counts, both in money saved and quality of life gained. (After all, frugality has allowed me to travel and have more freedom than I otherwise would.) Applying money saving tips day in and day out has placed me on the cusp of being able to semi-retire at the ripe old age of (slightly north of) forty. That’s worth all the work and learning I had to do.

What I think is lacking with my acquaintance is the will to do any work, let alone hard work. She knows she needs to save money, but she isn’t willing to do anything or sacrifice anything, no matter how small, to get there. She wants the infomercial method of saving money: Sit at home, do nothing, and somehow rake in thousands a week. And we all know that’s never going to happen.

Until she’s truly ready save, everything is going to seem difficult and stupid. Once she reaches the place where she’s serious, though, suddenly nothing will seem difficult. Sure, it might take some effort (learning how to repair your own faucet, for example, requires some education and a little practice), but nothing is insurmountable when you’re ready to live a different life. When you’re serious about making saving money a way of life, everything is easy. My acquaintance hasn’t reached that point yet. When, or if, she ever does, she’ll likely look back and laugh at how “hard” it all was.

(Photo courtesy of Gisela Giardino)

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7 Responses to Eventually Saving Money is Easy

  1. Petunia 100 says:

    She wouldn’t have to go to HR to set up automatic transfers to a savings account. Just open an online savings account and set up transfers to happen each payday. HR doesn’t need to know a thing.

    But maybe that is too much work, too? 🙂

  2. Alexandria says:

    I was thinking the same as Petunia.

    On some level, just sounds like an entitled brat. (Like most of society these days, it feels like). Lord knows I am a “cut a lot of corners/make things easy” type person. But, come on. How hard is it to make a lunch every day??? 5 minutes a day? {I believe in being efficient; not clueless or snotty}.

    But on another level, I get it. When you are used to certain luxuries or habits, it’s hard to imagine the flip side of the coin. My impression is always others expressing horror at little things that don’t matter (making lunch every day, going to the library versus buying books, skipping the latte and the salon). The perks are *shrugging* and dealing easily with difficult financial times, being able to retire early, having to work less in the here and now, etc. It seems a very simple choice, to me. But, if you have never been to a library or never brown bagged your lunch, you have a lot of very large preconceived notions to overcome. Once you do just about everything listed in the article, none of these things are really that big of a deal.

  3. Alexandria says:

    P.S. There is “googling coupons before you make every purchase” (habit) and there is “spending 40 hours a week couponing.” 😉 Lots of grey area in the middle. I find the lazy end of the coupon spectrum works pretty well for me (we still save tons over the long haul).

  4. jim says:

    I get that she sounds lazy and totally disinterested in trying to budget, but I suspect no one has actually shown her – yes, hands on shown her, how to use coupons or set up automatic transfers. So when you say, what sounds to you like – duh! turn the frickin lights off, she hears gobily gook ’cause she can’t visualize how to do those most basic things. My wife can seemingly make dinner out of nothing and in hardly any time. When she gets sick she wants me to fix dinner, but I go out and buy it ’cause I literally haven’t got a clue on how to do that. I’ve tried, but have never really succeeded. I was never taught in a way that really sunk in. I suspect that’s what’s going on here.

  5. David @ PBC says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Your acquaintance lacks the determination to make things happen. That person cannot save money if she does not follow practical tips such as the ones that you thought of. It will take some serious efforts before your friend achieves what she wants to do.

  6. Minny says:

    If this woman is in debt she can’t afford to do lots of these things and that she does is the reason for her debt – well, we all know that don’t we.

    Packed lunches – easy. Choose the right filling and makes a week’s worth of sandwiches and freeze each days lunch. Whisk it out of the freezer in the morning – ready to eat by lunch. That with fruit and you are sorted.

    But, we all need our lightbulb moment!

  7. Gailete says:

    Seeing the title of this article made me think it would be about something else. The literal putting money away in the bank for a EF or retirement. Shoving that first $5 into the bank is scary when you haven’t done it before. You are worried that you will need that $5 or you will end up charging something on your credit card because you didn’t have the money. But saving little by little each month and finding that you aren’t living in the poor house, helps you get into a good habit.

    Just like this woman who can’t see the light. It is scary to give up something and not immediately see the light at the end road. Once you have set aside that little bit for while, you will want to save even more. That is where you need to start you friend with. Something so incredibly small that she will literally not notice it. One easy way to do that with credit cards is round up the minimum payment to the next dollar. It may not sound like much and it isn’t a bunch of money, but to have the knowledge that you paid more than the minimum is powerful. In a couple months maybe she can get brave enough to round up to the nearest $5, etc. I know this works because I have done it after I got rid of the obsessive spender husband. Now all is paid off and it is a powerful feeling!

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