Michelle’s Journey From Shopaholic To Frugalista
As a child, I didn’t really know what the word “save” even meant. I identified with its meaning on the volleyball court much more so than in the financial world. If a friend told me they were saving up for a new pair of shoes or the newest toy, I just assumed that meant they were waiting for their parents to take them to the store to buy whatever it was they wanted. This is how my world worked, so you can see why my perception was a bit skewed. You see, although my parents were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t remember wanting for much of anything. We weren’t allowed to have video games, but that was because my parents thought they were a waste of time, and not because they were a money suck. When I was 13, my mom gave me an alpha-numeric pager (I’m 31, for the record. Let’s just skip over the part about how funny this is.) When I was 16, she bought me a brand new Honda, while most of my friends were driving their parents’ old station wagons and clunky vans. Because of how generous my parents were, I never learned what it meant to budget for something or to actually save up the money before making a purchase. Obviously, my money mistakes are no fault of my parents who only did the best job they could at giving me and my sister rich, fulfilling lives, but I do often wonder if they did spoil us just a bit.
Years after moving out of my parents’ house, my husband and I married young and started our own little family. When the check and pen were in my hands instead of my parents, it seemed so much more difficult to find balance in the bottom line. After the mortgage and the car payments were doled out each month, we were left with very little wiggle room, even though we were both working full-time. This led to a bit of consumer debt and a lot of head scratching and stressing. In the last year, we have learned so much about finances and how to live frugally and mindfully that we are finally in a place where we are actually climbing out of debt and getting our finances in order, and miraculously doing so on only one income.
So, how does one make the leap from big-time spender to hardcore budgeter?
For The Home
The biggest mistake I used to make for decorating our home was simply buying way too much stuff! Clean and organized living spaces always looks nicer than cluttered homes. Sometimes, it’s not what you do to a room, as much as what you refrain from doing. Having too much furniture can make a room look small and disorganized. Keeping to the basics will make your place look fresh and modern. I even recommend going through every room of your house and really assessing if you might have too much stuff. Do you use all the furniture? Does it make the room look smaller than it is? Are your walls cluttered with art? Are toys taking over every single corner of the house? If so, why not sell some of those items? In most cases, you probably won’t miss them or ever want to replace them anyway.
Future guest: Wow, your house is so nice and clean! I didn’t know you were a minimalist!
Future you: I’m not. I’m just fiscally responsible….and dead sexy.
The above conversation could happen to future, frugal you. Consider yourself warned.
A couple years back, we had purchased carpeting for one of the rooms in our home. Apparently, our room is oddly misshapen as the carpet installers gave us a rolled-up swatch about 4×7 ft. Instead of tossing this extra carpeting, we sealed the edges, bought a $15 rug liner from Target, and put it on our living room’s wood floor in front of the couch. It looks great and cost us $15! Old Michelle definitely would have bought a brand-new $300+ rug. New Michelle is so much smarter! One day, I might want a new rug, sure. Right now, though, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
It’s taken me a long time to realize this, so kindly hold my hand while I spit this out; you are not any more beautiful in expensive clothing. I know that some of you are not with me on this one, and that’s okay. Like I said, this revelation is new to me as well! I used to feel like I had to have the newest, brand-name clothing to be cute, funny, and likable. I don’t, though. You don’t either! Clothing can be beautiful, flattering, fashionable, AND inexpensive. My husband used to tell me that he liked me best in jeans and a tank top, my hair back in a ponytail, and very little makeup on my face. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to believe him.
Upgrade Your Mindset, Not Your Shoes
A few months ago, I thought I needed new workout shoes since the pair I’d been wearing had been worn pretty thin. Instead of going to the store to drop money I didn’t have, I went to my closet. I had bought a pair of Nike Shox 5 years ago, but hadn’t worn them too many times. They didn’t look like it, though, since I’d stupidly chosen to wear my then-brand-new kicks on an off-road run with a big group of crazy friends. After splashing through a million mud puddles, the shoes found themselves in the back of my closet, not to be seen again for years. Fast forward to a few months back when I rediscovered them. Years ago, I would have tossed them, but since the shoes were still structurally in phenomenal condition, and since I’m no longer a complete moron, I took them out and gave them some TLC. I did buy new inserts and lace them up with an extra pair of laces that came with some shoes I’d also bought years back. As for the outside of the shoes, I hand washed them with dish soap and used a bleach pen on the bad spots. They seriously look brand-spanking-new, and I spent very little money on them!