The Frugal Portland Philosophy
As I continue writing in this space, some of you continue reading. And for that, I am shocked, amazed, and most of all, grateful. Now that I’ve been writing week after week for over a year (that’s 300+ posts for those of you keeping track!) I realize that not only have I found my voice, I’ve developed a personal money philosophy. This is ever evolving, to be sure, but the following themes appear with consistency.
Want to see if you and I are similarly minded? Great! Let’s call this a quiz, shall we, and score yourself one point for each of the following you agree with. Scores 5 and higher will get along with me quite nicely.
- Rather than paying interest to lenders, as much as possible, money should be earning interest for you. Get out of debt. Especially high interest debt such as credit cards. At one point I was paying 25% interest on my credit card, and the balance was above $15,000. It makes me sick to think of all that money I paid, for nothing.
- Student loans aren’t meant to be kept around forever. If you’re lucky enough to be paying something under $200/month on your student loan, double it. My student loans are charging me a relatively low interest rate, at 4.125%. However, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be seeing those returns in an investment, so it’s better to just get rid of them entirely and not think about it.
- Don’t pay retail for most things. High-end clothing is not worth the price you pay. Neither is cheapo clothing that only lasts one season. I do much better buying good brands at the used clothing stores than I ever would at big-box stores.
- Buy local, as much as possible. Credit unions, not banks. The local grocery store, not Safeway. Little box stores, not Target. American made, not Chinese.
- You don’t need a budget. Budgets are like diets, and for some reason, both lead to cheating. Just like one piece of cheesecake is not a good reason for four more pieces of cheesecake, spending more than you budgeted is not a good reason to throw it all out. Instead of a rigid budget, though, you’ll do much better if you have goals, and not much money sitting around in your account from month to month. Make yourself feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you won’t feel like you can afford little indulgences here and there. Be nice to your future self.
- There is a difference between frugal and cheap. You have to figure out where the line is for you. If you can’t live without designer shampoo, don’t. Live without something you don’t care about instead.
- Be nice to yourself. Say nice things in your head. Do not beat yourself up about past mistakes. Instead, reflect and move on. Do better this time around. Self deprecation is not your brand of humor. If, when you trip, you tell yourself, “I’m an idiot,” you need to do better with this point. This will take some time.
- Don’t compare your life to someone’s salary. And, for heaven sake, don’t take a job just for the salary. You’ve seen it before — people get trapped by their high incomes. Strive to be excellent in your career. Happiness isn’t found in an extra zero of income.