New year, new focus! After some hesitation, I decided to renew my domain and webhosting subscription and try to keep this blog going. Where better to pick up than by continuing my miniseries, the last entry of which was in August?
In that post I promised to talk about ways to replace spending with free or cheap behaviors. Well, it’s as true today as it was in August: We need to avoid spending at all costs. (That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant to renew this blog, but I figured $9 per month overall is cheap for an activity that will entertain me and hopefully help keep me focused.)
A number of the money things I’d hoped would happen have happened, but one of the biggest has not: We haven’t sold our condo. That means we’re paying two mortgages and sets of utilities. We’ve reduced the price on the place several times, so when we do sell, it’ll be at a considerable loss.
So that means we not only need to keep living frugally to cover bills, but any extra money we DO come up with needs to be saved to help cover the loss when we sell the condo. It’s tough. But we’ve found lots of ways to make it work. Enough so that when one of us got a year-end bonus, we were able to save nearly all of it!
Living like a cheapskate is such a holistic thing; it’s permeated all parts of life. So it’s really hard to categorize or pick out the behaviors we’ve developed. But here goes:
– Don’t throw anything away. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve kept using and wearing that are not ideal. Clothes, shoes, dishes, furniture; if it’s even marginally functional, I keep it.
– Make things last as long as possible. Last year I finally started wearing makeup again after years of not. I like it; it makes me feel more confident and in control. However, the makeup I like (while not super high-end) costs more than I’m prepared to spend right now. So I’ve cut back makeup-wearing to only special occasions. That way I keep my hand in the game, but the products I have will last for a very long time.
– Ask for long-term loans. When we first moved in, we didn’t have nearly enough furniture to furnish our new larger surroundings. Our friends we’re renting to generously loaned us several pieces that they want back eventually but are in no hurry to get. So a good portion of our furniture will need to go back to them when we can afford to replace it.
– Keep an eye out for free stuff. When moving, we started noticing furniture sitting in the alleys behind houses. We realized that sometimes people just leave unwanted items in hopes that someone will get it. We had to be quick, but we managed to obtain a few pieces that way, including two chairs that we may actually end up keeping, they’re in such good condition.
– Tell your friends you’re looking for free stuff. We had a friend bring over some old dining-room chairs and a grill because she knew we were on the hunt for such things. A couple more friends donated their old drop-leaf dining-room table for our new sewing room.
– Use giveaway sites on the internet. Thanks to Freecycle.org we now have a loveseat, an extra dresser, a shoe rack and several other things.
– If you can’t get it for free, look for it cheap. Craigslist yielded some decent bargains on end tables, a table for the music room and other items.
– Keep your social life cheap. I’m not gonna lie; I miss going out to eat, going for coffee, going on trips, going to music shows. It’s not like we never splurge on these things, but it’s a much rarer occasion. But we haven’t turned into hermits; cooking dinner for friends (or going to their home for dinner) and watching movies or playing games at home is just as good a way to hang out as eating at a restaurant.
– Be patient and appreciate what you have. The biggest danger to maintaining this lifestyle is feeling deprived. It’s not like I don’t have money in the bank and ample credit limits, so spending would be the easiest thing ever. Getting impatient for “the good life” could derail our long-term prospects for prosperity. So I just try not to think too much about the things I want; if I do, I try to enjoy the anticipation of someday being able to afford them. I look around at my big, could-be-beautiful home; my loving family; and my circle of generous and loyal friends. I think about my good health, my smart kids and my promising career. I appreciate being lazy, I appreciate working hard. There are so many things to love about life even without the ability to spend freely.
That’s all I can think of right now. Let me know if you have any smart strategies or tips to share about living on the cheap. And Happy New Year!