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Frugal Should Not’s

I do the things you aren’t supposed to do. Not as a card carrying member of Team Frugal. Not if I ever wish to become Financially Independent. Not as a devout follower of Amy Dacyczyn. Cardinal Sins. Poor life choices. I’m screwed. With my 2012 car depreciating in my driveway, as I kick back and stream the last season of Girls via one of my many iPaidTooMuch Apple devices. Skipping, dancing, and latte drinking my way down the road to (financial) ruin. Or so they’d have you believe.

Who? The ‘they’. Internal or external Them. Collective wisdom. Bloggers (oops), commentators, talking heads, conventional advice. If you make THIS choice, you need not apply to our club. It’s a comfy clubhouse. Furnished with second hand furniture, featuring low-cost beverages (tap water), and a 24 hour beans and rice buffet.

photo (8)
A photo of one overpriced device, taken with another. Shouldn’t that cancel at least one of them out?

Me? I’m not a guru. I’ve got a Big Fat Mortgage, too many dogs, and only a failed attempt at major life change under my belt. Maybe all that is because I refuse to give up life’s little (or big) luxuries. I’d assert we need not be pop culture pariahs (among other things) in order to live this life. We can buy our trendy cupcake and eat it too. With some consciousness, creativity, patience, and my favorite tool in my tool bag, perseverance.

What are my frugal sins? And how do I mitigate them?

Television. As any cheapskate worth their hoarded ketchup packets will have, I gave up cable successfully long, long ago. Even if our break-up took a couple of attempts. That doesn’t mean I’m not a sucker for good TV. So I stream. (Doesn’t everybody?). I use the library, but living in a liberal bastion of the US, means so does everyone else. Gargantuan waiting lists offer delays of months and months on anything remotely current or popular, stymying even the most patient amongst us. It also means having to watch an entire season of a show at a breakneck speed to accommodate a hard due date, with no possible renewal. My life affords me about 40 minutes of quality TV a day. I don’t want that sullied with commercials, a rush, or worst of all a lack of quality viewing material. Justification for purchasing seasons of quality shows for my AppleTV. With iTunes Gift Cards. If you scour the interwebs, those precious little rectangles are available at discounts of as much as 15-20%. Add in potential swagbucks, Mr.Rebates, (not always available on GC purchases, it seems to depend) or plain old credit card rewards, and it stings less. I amass them a couple times a year for our entertainment bucks.

That Car. Never mind my TV habit. This alone is enough to get me escorted off the premises of any frugal estate. Buying a brand new car is never, never ever a good financial decision. I’m not even going to pretend. My financial ship would have been better served buying used. No doubt. No two ways about it. Maybe I’ll do it differently next time. Still. My high MPG, uber comfy, baby toting, german auto is not actually something I regret. I don’t feel had. My eyes were wide open, and I negotiated. Like a lot. Buy a car via email, folks. Invoice prices aren’t exactly ‘real’, but they are a far cry from stickers and MSRP. All my correspondence with salesmen was done via the comfort of my desk chair. Where I had ample time to consider my responses, their proposals, with none of this ‘Let me talk to my manager’ malarky. Total time spent at dealership? Under a hour. Lifetime of that car? It’s here to stay, barring any unfortunate incidents. Oh yeah, and its paid for.

Groceries. The on-going saga. While its been reigned in from the height of unsustainable crazy territory, I’m not exactly feeding this family of three on $20 or even $50 a week. Never gonna happen. Call me crazy, but I am simply not ok with factory farmed meat. I don’t think any of us should be. Since I am resistant to renouncing my carnivorous way, I’m going to pay for it. Ditto for produce from unknown lands, harvested by what often amounts to slave labor. Sure, its cheap for me! But, somebody is paying for it. This time of year in particular, with seasonal bulk purchases left and right, my budget is lower, but its not going to make any jaws drop. And that hard fought for low comes from compromises – sometimes local over organic, those aforementioned bulk purchases and a stocked freezer, leftover eating, chicken raising, sale shopping, a little gardening. My grocery spending is still a luxury, I realize. However, good food, ethical food, is cornerstone to our morals and beliefs. Not to mention our health. With that in mind, our budgetary limbo is limited.

Apples. Not the ones keeping the doctor away. Oh no. The capitalized proper, much more expensive noun. Of which much too many devices exist in my house. I finally bought that iPad. On Black Friday, after a full year of hemming and hawing over it. This breast-feeding mama does not regret it. While I still suck at one handed typing, having books, movies, and the interwebs at my fingertips during the many, many hours a day I am currently trapped in baby prison (I mean that in the nicest, most loving way possible), well that is worth every red cent. Keeps me from losing my mind. Keeps me connected to the world. Allows me some productivity. In fact, as far as I am concerned every breast-feeding mom should be issued one at the hospital, as a door prize of sorts. Mommy rants aside, Apple patronage is a suckers game. There are cheaper alternatives. Much cheaper and many. To which I wave a dismissive hand. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My shiz works. From my rock solid wifi, to my MacBook, to the beloved tablet, and all the awesome pictures I take of my kid with my phone. With little to no intervention from me, it all works. I’ll keep them for as long as humanly possible (and lets admit their lifespan is longer than most tech). I’ll buy them at any discount I can scrape together. I’ll utilize the mothership for service and repairs. I drank the kool-aid long ago. I’m good with it.

The above could be a list of reasons I may never be a millionaire. Next door or otherwise. In fact, the list goes on. Those dogs ain’t cheap. My sheets come from West Elm. I’ve an affinity for expensive chocolate. Broken rules. Shame on me. Somebody forgive me, for clearly I’ve sinned, right? Or. Or it could be how I am going to do it differently, maintaining the things that are important to me. Good food. Ease of use. A little Sons of Anarchy on the couch with those spendy dogs.

What rules are you breaking? And why? Is it going to keep you from reaching your goals?

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Comments

Kaitlin Jenkins
Reply

Glad to see you’re a fellow VW driver ;) I too, have a 2012 depreciating in my parking spot out front, but take console in the fact that we at least got in on the 0% interest deal.

I think it’s important to allow ourselves a few small things (spendy chocolate, lattes, whatever-pick your poison) now and then to keep ourselves sane, and from going on a major spender-bender if you will. Holding back too long can lead to an opening of the flood gates that creates much more damage than the original ‘sin’ would have, ya know?

I find with myself, if I limit a little ‘treat’ like that to once a week or less, it actually FEELS better when I do indulge. If I can combine said treat with a coupon/discount I’m on cloud 9 ;)

dogsordollars
Reply

Small things are totally important to not falling of the wagon completely, and yeah the research and time it takes to track down that deal can be just as cathartic as the actual spend. My chocolate comes on sale, I buy a 10 latte get 2 free punch card. Over the years I’ve fine tuned it. I have a tendency to ‘snowball’ though, so sometimes I have to resist the deal for the sake of digging in my financial heels.

PS I love my car. ;)

Heather
Reply

I think people are pulled into too many zones of black and white. You have to be all or nothing when it comes to some of these clubhouses – and that’s not always possible or even wanted. I don’t want to be frugal at the cost of buying pink slime. Nor do I want to break the bank buying only at my local farmer’s market.

When I first started reading your blog, it resonated with me because I felt it was about being CONSCIOUS consumers (which is not the same as frugal). Knowing where you were spending your money and why – and making sure you were good with it. It’s wasn’t about financial independence (someone’s got to hold jobs in America), but it was about looking at what I spend money on, and being okay with it. And if I wasn’t okay with it, making the effort to change it.

So yah, I have a budget now. It’s not any kind of crazy $50 buys me everything per month budget, but it is a budget I look at, tweak and question. I’ve called my insurances/mobile/etc and switched to get better rates. I’ve made the choice for TV because I like hosting TV nights with friends. I buy local and organic (and sometimes both at the same time) when I can, but I don’t beat myself up for that bottle of salsa I could have made at home either.

The nice thing about it is because I know where my choices are, when we’ve had to cut back, I know where the fat is and how to trim it. So it hasn’t been as painful. And I know that I’ve got savings building up.

As for your iPayTooMuch addiction. Well, I hear there are support groups for that kind of thing… ;)

dogsordollars
Reply

Conscious consumption does not always? often? ever? intersect with frugality, but when it does… oh man. Bells and Whistles for this gal. But thats a line everyone has to negotiate, or should IMO. What is important? Why? Will it cost me more/less? Can I afford it? Just acknowledging the existence of that trade-off is HUGE. Congrats on the budget! I am sure its an impressive organizational feat. :D

Jenny N.
Reply

I kind of feel like since your car is paid for, it doesn’t really need to be on the list. Yeah, it’s losing value on paper, but it’s certainly valuable for your piece of mind to have a comfortable, reliable vehicle when you’re driving precious cargo around. If you had purchased a brand new 2012 with a 60 month loan at 10% interest, that would be a different story.

I think part of being frugal is not overspending in some areas so you can put your money to things that are a priority. Those priorities don’t always have to be 401k’s and investing. I think quality electronics and good food are on that list.

And I feel you on the breastfeeding front. I’m back at work now and pumping. I don’t have a lock on my office door, so I have to go to a separate room. Entertainment is necessary! Even when nursing, my little guy will eat 30-45 minutes at a time. That time crawls if you don’t have anything to preoccupy your mind.

dogsordollars
Reply

Can you imagine 30-45 minutes several times a day staring into space? I mean I coo and talk to my baby, but he’s a little preoccupied at the moment. The things you don’t think about until they become your reality, but I am so happy I have that damn iPad!

Done by Forty
Reply

Your post made me laugh! I still have DirecTV, for what it’s worth. I called in to cancel, ready to just stream and watch my Steelers at a bar like any other frugal fan. Then they gave me the NFL Sunday ticket for free and knocked $15 off my bill if I agreed to stay for another year.

That’s probably a blog post for later in the week but I loved your tongue in cheek style today. The things we choose make for more interesting stories, good and bad, frugal and spendthrift.

dogsordollars
Reply

I agree! Everyone has a reason, sometimes elaborate reason(s) for making the choices they do. Those are often the best stories.

I played the ‘but wait there’s more’ dance with my cable company a few times too. Not a bad thing to take advantage of while you can get it, as they do eventually pull the plug on the sweet deal.

Trish
Reply

I think it is whatever makes you comfortable. Amy Dacyczyn did have a tendency to come across as if not making frugal choices was akin to sinning. But that was her point of view. She had a goal in mind that made extreme frugality worth it for her. The first rule I break is that I have no goal. Whatever. I save money on things that aren’t important to me (granite countertops aren’t). But I board my horses at a barn when I could have them at home or not at all. I have my reasons. the thing I hate more than anything is wasting money, as in when my husband does his shopping at the pricey IGA, instead of being organized enough to get to Walmart.

I just read a book called Walden on Wheels (avail as an ebook for cheap). Really good, and emphasized making your own path, not just following others into a meaningless career and house in the suburbs.

Cassi
Reply

The place I spend most money is hanging out with friends. I love them, and whenever I try to tell them I’m trying to be frugal, they remember for a few days and then want to go out to the movies the next day. I can never say no to them because we always have a good time. Honestly, if I’m over budget it is because I couldn’t say no to them.

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