10 Money-Saving Habits You Should Never Apologize For
You are what you buy. At least, this is what our prevailing consumerist culture would like us to believe. We are being sold the idea that frugality is the opposite of prosperity, not a major component of financial stability.
The only way to counter this mindset that frugality is synonymous with suffering is by living a happy and successful life. There is no shame in financial responsibility. Let's fight the spendthrift masses, and champion these 10 frugal habits.
1. Living Within Your Means
Sad but true, most Americans would rather struggle with credit card debt than admit that they "can't afford it." Only you can live your life. Your friends are not going to fund your retirement housing or pay for your children to attend college. Don't let peer pressure keep you poor.
2. Paying Your Own Way
Splitting the dinner bill can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you go out with drinkers who underestimate their bar tab. If you aren't comfortable with supplementing your friends' entertainment or laying down the math on habitual freeloaders, ask the server for a separate bill. There is no shame in paying only what you owe.
3. Ditching Your Car
Public transportation is a great equalizer. At least in places like New York or San Francisco with excellent metro systems, that is. However, in places like Los Angeles or Houston, living without a car can carry a social stigma.
Numerous studies from around the world have shown that car commuters have higher levels of stress and social isolation than commuters who use public transportation, bike, or walk for their work commutes. Experiment with different transportation options. Your wallet and your health will thank you.
4. Negotiating the Price
Although haggling is an accepted and even expected activity in many cultures, negotiating a better price is frowned upon in the United States.
Luckily, you don't have to be a wheeler-dealer to ask, "What is the best price for this?" You would be amazed at what you can get from asking that simple question.
Not everyone is a natural haggler. Luckily negotiation is a skill that can be learned. Alternately, if you are like me and hate to haggle, bring along a friend who loves to negotiate as your purchasing agent when you need to buy a car or shop at a swap meet.
5. Working a Job Below Your Talent and Ability
I have a friend who is a sex worker. When people find out what she does for a living they always want to know, "Isn't that job degrading?" Her response: "I have had many jobs — like working fast food and teaching school as an adjunct professor — that were more degrading, and paid a lot less."
One of my neighbors is wildly over educated for his job as an Uber driver. But, he doesn't let his vanity get in the way of working long hours at his side gig. He loves his career and is working a second job because he is saving up for a baby. He wants to be a father more than anything, but doesn't want to start his life as a dad with debt.
It's not a dead-end job if the wage gives you more choices.
6. Raising Your Kids With No Added Magic
Bunmi Laditan's viral blog post argues that you do not need to spend money to make your kid's life magical, because childhood is already inherently magical. Don't believe her? Consider this: American children comprise 3% of the world's population, yet they consume 40% of the toys produced. Where do the world's happiest children live? According to an international survey by The Jacobs Foundation, not America.
If you opt out of the consumer arms race as a parent, you not only save money for your family's future, you also teach your children by example that they don't have to rely on material goods to enjoy a fulfilling life.
7. Avoiding Parenthood
Kids are expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it costs, on average, over $245,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18.
Parenting is a job that ends when you die and doesn't offer paid sick leave or vacation days. Those people who are pushing you to have kids aren't going to pay your bills or be the primary caregivers of your offspring. You don't owe your parents grandchildren.
Not everyone needs to experience the joys of parenthood. If you don't have a burning desire to bear children, don't. Leave that emotional and financial responsibility to the people who really want kids.
8. Shopping Secondhand
An easy way to reduce your carbon load is to buy secondhand goods. By purchasing used goods, you take fewer virgin resources out of the planet. It's also a great way to save money. A lot of money. (See also: How I saved $30,000 and Helped the Earth at the Same Time)
I started buying used goods at garage sales and thrift stores as a child. My allowance was small, so I had to figure out a way to make my money go further. My shopping habits were initially totally embarrassing to my mother (which was then just another perk of buying used). She believed only poor people shopped at thrift stores, and I somehow my used purchases were a betrayal of my middle-classness. (See also: 7 Ways Pride Is Keeping You Poor)
My mother did a 180 on thrift shopping when she discovered that I bought an Hermes scarf for $20 at The Salvation Army Store. Who shops at thrift stores? A lot of poor people. But, who can afford to donate their surplus to thrift stores? A lot of rich people.
9. Trash Picking
I paid for two entire years of my life by trash picking items left on the curb by my neighbors and selling those same items at garage sales… back to my neighbors. Trash picking helped me earn enough money to buy a house in Los Angeles at the ripe old age of 28.
From soda cans to midcentury furniture, people in this country throw away a tremendous amount of valuable goods. Why is getting a 100% discount on something you want ever a bad deal?
10. Celebrating Your Imperfect Lifestyle
To quote John Steinbeck, "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."
Don't let perfectionism rob you of your money and your life. An authentic life does not look like a Pinterest feed. Don't let the curated world of social media trick you into believing that you are the one person who isn't wearing artisanal work boots or tastefully furnishing their immaculately clean home with Pendleton blankets and reclaimed barn wood. Herd behavior is a hard habit to break, but consider what people who live outside of the norm are called: innovators and trendsetters. Live the life you actually enjoy, not the life that other people claim will make you happy.
The hardest part about living frugally is often the social component. If your cohort is all wannabe Joneses, then your sustainable lifestyle is not going to get a lot of validation. Seek out people who will applaud your frugal values.
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