8 Fundamentals of Frugal Living

Frugality is the discipline associated with the virtues of simple & sustainable living.

1. Know how much it costs you to live. Save all of your receipts for purchases and bills for a month or two, add everything up. If you have expenses that occur at regular intervals, divide those amounts by the number of months to find a monthly amount that you need to set aside each month for those expenses (such as insurance or taxes on a house).

2. Be wary of "expert advice." I'm sure you've noticed that everybody wants your money. Most of us have about five different places to spend each dollar in our pocket. Many voices say to you: GIVE ME YOUR MONEY! There is no end to their demands. Be wary of so-called experts who are really hired guns for people who want your money.

3. Get out of and avoid debt. The Bible says, "The borrower is the slave of the lender." If you want to buy something like a car, make payments to your savings account until you have enough money and pay cash. If your debts are causing you financial trouble, find a reputable non-profit credit counseling service affiliated with the National Foundation for Consumer Credit and get into a repayment plan with them. Generally, only carry long term debt for education and purchase of a house. Never carry debt for entertainment or frivolous consumer spending expenses. Don't use credit cards - or even worse, payday loans or pawn shops -- as "phantom income" to increase your expenditures for consumer items or entertainment. Every penny you borrow must be paid back with interest, and as your debt increases so do your payments.

4. Question your expenses and live within your means. Save pennies and save dollars. Search for entire categories of spending to eliminate. For example, living without a car (or with one car instead of two) can easily save a family $200 or $300/month or more (gasoline, repairs, insurance, tickets and fines, taxes, licenses, registration, purchase cost of the car, etc.). This may require living close to your work, or close to public transportation, and/or a willingness and ability to ride a bicycle. It is always less expensive to ride the bus and take cabs or rent a car occasionally than to own and maintain an automobile. If you must have bad habits, look for cheap ones (like chewing gum) and avoid expensive ones (like cigarette smoking and alcoholism).

5. Increase your savings. As you learn to live better with less, you can save some money every month. Always pay yourself first. Learn how to defer present gratification for future gain. This is important for everyone, not just people who are poor. Many middle class families seem determined to forget the lessons learned by their grandparents which enabled their families to establish economic security. They're setting themselves up for serious problems if they experience a financial crisis..

6. Ignore all advertising! All commercial advertising is an enemy of your good life. Advertising is propaganda that encourages you to spend money you don't have for products you don't need. Your life will not be better if you buy more and more advertised products. It's like methamphetamine addition. You will never be able to get enough stuff. Use advertising only to check availabilities or compare prices. Learn the tricks of advertisers and teach your kids to ignore them.

7. Living better with less does not mean living cheaply or second best. The point is to live a good life within your means. Whatever our circumstances, accumulating large amounts of material goods is not what the good life is about. The good life is about our relationships - with family, with friends, with our neighbors and community, and the good that we do to them and to others. It is earning an honest living by honest work. When we pass from this life, all that remains behind us is the good and the evil we have done. Nobody's hearse will have a trailer hooked to it piled with junk to be buried with them. The old phrase, "He who dies with the most toys wins," is horse manure. If you find yourself spending money to buy more junk all the time, you need to look within yourself and find and resolve the emptiness and hurts that you are trying to heal by consumption.

8. Teach your children well. Your children will face grave challenges in their futures. Children who are taught - by example of their parents - to embrace instant gratification, to spend money frivolously, to find the meaning of their lives in the right clothes or the perfect car -- will be at a serious disadvantage in the years and decades to come. Teaching your kids these bad habits lays a curse on them that will plague them all of their lives.

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