7 Monthly Expenses We Don't Realize We Don't Need

By Nora Dunn on 26 October 2007 (Updated 7 July 2010) 53 comments

When you put together a frugal budget, you are usually careful to make sure you're not spending money where you don't need to. But are you getting railroaded by expenses you are bearing which you don't even realize you can avoid? Here are a few you may want to consider paring down.

Television

Okay, for some people television is not an option — it is a necessity. And if you are one of those people, that's fine. But even so, it might pay to take a close look at exactly what you are paying for and whether or not you can take up some of the slack.

I had free cable for the longest time. It was simply a matter of moving in, plugging in the tv to the cable outlet to see if it would work, and blamo — it worked! I didn't have the heart to advise the cable company that I was getting free cable, so I just kept it. Of course a few months later, the cable company realized the error of its ways and cut the cable. I thought as an exercise I'd see how long I could last without it. And you know what? With the internet I could get all the news stories I wanted and more, and although I initially missed some of my favourite shows, I didn't miss them enough to go back to paying upwards of $50/month for them.

If you are not willing to cut out the television entirely, consider cutting some of the extra services or beefed-up channel selections you have. Personally, I found my life was immensely enriched by listening to more music, reading, and socializing instead of sitting in front of the tube.

Credit Card Insurance

I recently wrote a post going into more detail about this expense, but to sum it up, more often than not it is a superfluous expense for which the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

Coffee

As per the well-known Latte Factor , those cups of java can add up! Sure, it always tastes better when you get the local brew and don't have to clean the coffee pot at home yourself, but you're paying through the nose for this service. Not only that, but every time you take away a coffee, you're hurting the environment by disposing of yet another (albeit recycled) paper cup.

Bottled Water

I just paid over $2 for a 710ml bottle of water. It's water! Shouldn't it be free? Bottled water comes from many sources and is sometimes just filtered tap water anyway, and the plastic is of such poor quality that after 6 months of shelf life the plastic actually starts to break down and leach toxins into your water! Not to mention the amount of waste used bottles are producing.

With a little forethought and preparation, you can carry a sturdy glass bottle or thermos of tap water around with you and save the astronomical expense.

Lunch

Ever since I was a child, I brown bagged yummy lunches that I looked forward to. No baloney sandwiches here — I brought left-overs! When I became an adult, I always cooked enough for dinner to yield a lunch the following day. No time was wasted in the morning getting it ready - it was already in a re-useable container in the fridge ready to go. Most workplaces have a microwave, and even if they don't, I don't mind cold stew if it will save me $10 on a mediocre lunch eaten out.

Home Phone

For the last year, I have had nothing but my cell phone as my "land line". This has worked out just fine, and I haven't missed the home phone one bit. Most cellular plans have great features and promotions that will suit your specific needs (be they long distance, lots of minutes, or a good range).

Another consideration as an alternative to the home phone is the increasing popularity of voice over IP, where you can use your internet connection to call other computers, land lines, and cell phones. Some of these services are free (or partially free) like Skype, and others you will pay for depending on your needs.

Grocery Store

The more often you go the grocery store, the more likely you are to spend over your budget. When I went shopping religiously every Tuesday evening, I had a list I'd been working on throughout the week, and I stuck to it quite effectively. Then I moved to a place more conveniently located closer to the grocery store, and thought it would be neat to just buy the ingredients only a meal or two in advance.

It may have been fun to prepare meals inspired by what I saw as I cruised the aisles, but my grocery expenses also almost doubled as a result. Not only that, but I gained weight too! Sticking to a list can save a ton of money and grief.

These are just a few among the myriad of monthly expenses we don't realise we don’t need to be doling out our dollars for. What are some of yours?

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Sometimes I wish I had access to the cool DIY shows, but for the most part we have gotten by with the basic antena or rabbit ears and internet options our entire married life. I only recall having cable a couple of times when I was single, and that was because I couldn't even get local channels without it, so I got the most basic plan I could. We don't really miss it, most of the time.

Guest's picture
Joanna

How do you have internet access at home with 1)no landline phone and 2)no cable?

This is our dilemma. We've found its the least expensive to have a very basic landline service and DSL, and no cable. We're about to move, and we're going to try to go with dial-up instead of DSL, & see how it goes.

Guest's picture
Rach G

Joanna

Don't know if someone commented on this elsewhere but I don't have cable or a phone line either. I live in a metropolitan area and have access to two companies that allow you to access wireless services for a small fee.

So if you have a computer with wireless capabilities you can access wireless in your house without setting a router and wireless transmitter

The companies are CLEAR and Airimba, CLEAR runs about twenty five bucks and Airimba is 34 for a single use computer.

Check out if you live in a big city, if your in a rural area these might not be an option, but something to think about

Guest's picture
Guest

I would suggest dry loop DSL. It is essentially DSL without the expensive land line.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_DSL

Nora Dunn's picture

Great question about internet! Currently I use wireless only. I only have my laptop and I use free wireless services wherever they're offered. It can be a pain, but at least it's free.

And in Hawaii where I'm going to live by next week, I have free access to a wireless router, so I am lucky. 

Immediately prior to being a Professional Hobo, I too went with the basic phone and DSL. However I can't recall: is DSL service predicated on having a land line? I don't know. If I could do it all over again I'd take the DSL and nix the land line.

I have also had cable internet without the television cable services. I ended up paying an additional $5/month to separate the service out, but it was still a savings over the extra cash I would have doled out for tv cable too.  

Guest's picture

I don't pay for cable, landline phone, or internet. But when I plugged my TV into the wall, the cable worked. And my laptop has wi-fi, so I catch signals where I can. And I have an affordable cell phone plan. So I have what I need. I just don't pay too much for it. Great post!

Guest's picture
sylrayj

If power goes out, your wireless phones and maybe even cell phones stop working. Also, if you ever have to call 911, do it from a land line to speed things up, because 911 determines your location by the number you called from, and it may not be where the emergency is located. My daughter was rather fragile when she was born, so we're keeping our land line, to speed things up should there be a problem.

I can see wanting to switch exclusively, but make sure you know where you can find a land line, just in case.

Guest's picture
Guest

@ sylrayj

You can still call 911 from a landline that's been cut off, so there is no need for you to have phone service if that's all you are using it for...Just keep the phone plugged in(I don't think it can be cordless though.

Guest's picture
Peter Jeziorek

Honestly, you really don't need a cell phone. It's just a luxury. I don't have one and I'm doing fine. I don't have a car either. I save $500 a month just with those two alone.

Guest's picture
Wendy

Great point Peter, cell phones are little more than electronic leashes, hardly a luxury if you think about it. I had for nearly 4 years only a cell phone and no land line at all, it wasn't really a conscious choice and when my life settled down a little I dumped the cell in exchange land line and DSL.

I also don't watch television or drive a car. Forget about saving money, the freedom is worth it-- the extra time to enjoy life is worth it. If there's any irony it's that my tv watching auto driving friends also complain about the time and money they spend at the gym (which I don't have to, which is not because I'm blessed with a great metabolism; it's because I'm constantly burning calories by walking or bicycling to complete my daily errands.)

I really don't feel like I've given anything up, or been inconvenienced in any way, and the health/cost/time/effort/stress benefits far outweigh whatever I might be missing.

Guest's picture
Guest

You can't really say you don't need a car. A lot depends on where you live. If you have good public transportation, you can ditch the car. In rural areas, you must have a car. We do get by with one car. I walk to work. My husband drives or carpools to his job 15 miles away. Without a car, how in the heck would I visit my dad 2 hours away? There would literally be no way without a car.

Andrea Karim's picture

I need a cell phone. Whenever I attempt to go anywhere new, I get lost. If I didn't have a cell phone, I'd still be driving around Vancouver, looking for that whole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant with stellar dimsum, sobbing my eyes out.

Nice work, Nora. Good luck with the move, too. Call us when you land just so we know you got there safe. Also, don't forget to wear sunblock.

Guest's picture
debbie

I have a question for anyone with a home security system. I have to keep my $35 a month land line so that my alarm will dial the security company, etc. Any ideas about this? I hate having the land line...
thanks.

Guest's picture
Renee

We kept our home phone service but just recently cancelled all the extras like caller id, call waiting, call forwarding, long distance...etc. Cut our bill from about 60.00 a month to 20.00 month. My husband almost cried when we cancelled caller ID, but has found that we really don't miss it!

Guest's picture
Donna

I have an organic home security system - a German Shepherd. The intruder doesn't need to know she's a pussycat.

We have basic cable. We gave up all the other cable channels when we realized we weren't watching them anyway. We do use cable internet and yes, DSL requires having a land line.

I save what I can where I can by not using this or that - and make my coffee at home ;)

Guest's picture
Michelle

Actually, our phone company (AT&T) offers DSL without having a landline. The DSL service costs about $10 extra, but our landline is costing us $35, so I still think we'd come out ahead. We're just having a hard time getting rid of it because of the 911 consideration.

Guest's picture
Teresa

With the way the internet works today cable isn't something that we really need unless of course you can afford to pay the high rising cost that the cable companies are charging.You could just use a satellite dish but then they are getting more expensive too.I've found that with enough surfing you can find anything you need on the internet and that includes being able to watch cable tv shows.I've even discovered a site where I can watch just released movies without downloading anything or even having to join the site.As for cell phones,yea some of us can live without them and some of us can't it all depends on what they are needed for.I just moved to a really small town where there is no cell tower so of course we get no signals and I thought that it would bother me since I'm an avid cell phone user.But since we can use Yahoo to call other computers that are long distance I've found not only do I save money but I can connect with a lot more people.

Guest's picture
Teresa

Sorry about all the repeats everyone,my computer is doing the fritz thing today and my comment wouldn't go through so now it's on here three times.

Guest's picture
Elizabeth

Loved this post, as I do not account for but spend on just about all the items you outline here. My telecomm is definitely the ballbreaker in our household as well!! At $99/month I am about as stripped down to the basics as I feel I can go - digital cable, VOIP phone and internet in one package. Can't do without the internet, and I am negotiable on the other two except that we have a two-company monopoly-of-sorts. You can't have DSL from one company without taking a landline hookup, which we long ago dropped (VOIP is cheaper!); and if you drop cable from the other company, the internet cost doubles! So my solution has been to stick with the package plan which, without saving me money, is at least giving me the best value I can find, since in any other setup I'd be spending 3/4 of the cost for 2/3 of the service... It is rather criminal. I feel trapped! I have a small child, I could have sacrificed the cable but not the land or cell phones. SIGH! The only way I can fight back is also by not owning a car.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Yup - the cable companies get you coming and going with their package plans. You end up paying way more for just internet, so they entice you in with "super-value" package deals, to the point where it doesn't make sense not to, but then again you are still spending more money that you would if you just opted for internet.

I wonder what we as consumers can do about this. Any thoughts?  

Guest's picture
Kristine

I signed up with a great package intro deal. When it ran out- I tried to bargain for a continuance, saying it was just not worth more to me. They came down some, but not enough. So I canceled the TV, and told them it was a trial to see if their local competitor (FIOS) was good, then I would switch all 3. Within 2 weeks they offered me the intro rate for another 2 years, and sent me a promotional $200 visa card! Yearly savings: 650. But it took actually canceling TV as a negotiation tactic. I was really willing to walk away. Thats' the upper hand in any negotiation. In 2 years from now, I will probably just cancel the TV for good.

Guest's picture

We've definitely found the thing with grocery store trips to be true! We also have basic cable. There are a few shows that we really like. We may reevaluate that at some point, though.

Linsey Knerl's picture

We were so convinced we needed cell phones when my hubby started driving alot for his job.  It wasn't that he needed the phone for emergencies as much as for when he needed to call home for directions.  We saved a TON of money on minutes by getting a very small plan and getting him a GPS for his car.  No more calls home from him, and the GPS is free to use once you purchase it!

Guest's picture
Pax

OK, a question and a comment.

First, and I do realize that this was a splurge in the eyes of some, but having grown up in and around the movie and music businesses, an HDTV is important to me. Last year the decision to buy one was made, and I didn't even get the cheapest - I got the one with the specifications and technology that I preferred, and knowing this is a long-term purchase, I also sought out one that used as little electricity as possible. It was paid for via 0% interest and paid off on time. I don't have it because it makes me look cool, I have it because I'm passionate about movies. I have a great-sounding home theater system that goes with it, but it consists, with one exception, of components that were either handed down to me or bartered for on Craigslist using items that were simply taking up space in my life.

So, the question part: if any of you DO have HDTVs, any tips on keeping prices down? My experience is that to get HD programming, at least in New York where I live and you can't install an antenna for over-the-air broadcasts, you pretty much have to have cable. Does anyone have any tips for saving money here? it stinks because there is no "basic cable" where HD is concerned.

And now my comment:

PLEASE FOLKS, be CAREFUL with the "I just grab my neighbor's wireless" bit. All the smartness with your finances in the world doesn't matter if your financial records are easily accessed while you're on an unprotected network. Also, never conduct online banking (or really any sending of passwords, especially if you happen to just use ONE password for everything) on a "open" network. This includes Starbucks!!!

Put it this way - if you're on an unprotected network, and I was on it with you, I'd be able to see every password you typed, read every email, and yes, potentially even browse the files of your computer. Saving $30/mo on internet only to have your identity compromised is penny smart and pound foolish folks. Be careful!

Guest's picture
Candice

I wanted to add to your comment:

Hooking in to your neighbor's wireless is free for a reason - it's theft. Just like you don't pay for that candy bar you stick in your pocket at the convenience store, if you are getting free wireless without the network owner's permission, it's stealing. It's not only bad money sense, it's bad moral sense, too.

I highly recommend that people lock down their wireless as much as they can. It's so easy to get on an unsecured network and do illegal things that would end up in the prosecution of the network owner. (I know because my brother got in trouble with their ISP for alledgedly downloading media - media that was totally out of character had my brother actually been the one to download it.)

Guest's picture
Karen

My husband and I are currently in the process of implementing most of these tips.

* We don't have a television, but we do have high-speed internet. Bonus: my spouse's workplace reimburses us for the internet subscription, so it's free to us.

* We do have a land-line and always thought that it was necessary for 911 service (we have children and I was worried that if they called on a cell, they wouldn't be able to give our address correctly), but perhaps that's not true based on a previous post. I'll be checking into that today!

* We don't drink coffee, and we bottle our own water in reusable containers.

* We use cash, so no credit card insurance required.

* We always make our own lunches. I agree with you, Nora, leftovers are yummy!

* We shop for food twice a month and stick to a list, reducing impulsive purchases.

On top of that, we are currently looking to move to a neighborhood right across the street from my husband's employer, so we can dump the second car for a few years. This will provide great savings on insurance and fuel!

Guest's picture
Guest

Honestly, I never thought I'd say this... but I used to spend a fortune getting facial waxing and getting my hair cut and dyed. After my son was born, the expense and hassle of doing this finally caught up with me. I learned to groom my own eyebrows, and they look good. It's not as hard as I feared. I keep my hair longer, so I don't need to get it cut often, and I color it myself. It saves a ton of money as well as time, both of which are at a premium. And the learning and experimentation have been kind of fun. I get a lot of compliments, and if it's not always perfect, well, it acutally fits my punky DIY aesthetic better than any salon fussing can ever achieve!

Andrea Karim's picture

Well, yeah, but it's my only phone. If I didn't have it, it'd be tough to call my parents when I need to, which often happens when I'm out and about. I'm not a cell phone junkie by any means - I don't use the phone unless I really need to, and I have a cheap plan. But it's my main means of communication, for freelance work as well.

All the others, though, make me feel vindicated. I haven't had a TV in years, and I don't miss it. I don't mind paying for internet service that's fast and reliable, because I use the internet at home all the time, for work and entertainment purposes.

Guest's picture
Cindy M

Excellent and interesting posts. Go #6. Nora, I'm right there with you on all but the phone thing. I have a land line (not that expensive) and could care less about a cell phone; somebody please tell me what is the fascination with people running their mouths on their phones all the time, I will never understand it. (I have to keep a tracfone right now because I help babysit the grandnephews at my niece's house; she has no land line, but when the babysitting is over, my tracfone is history). The car is paid for and when it wears out, no more car for me, and I'm actually looking forward to it. I use rabbit ears for the TV and am fine with it. I bet if you asked, most people would say they tune into their local public TV channel, ABC, CBS or NBC most nights anyway and could get over not having cable easy enough. And I get my DVDs and VHS tapes from the library, I would never even rent a movie again, my library has a great selection and you can reserve them ahead of time. I do work from home and need the high-speed internet connection so I pay for that. I do mind but then again, I'm home and would hate like the dickens to return to an office setting. Bottled water or coffee out? Please. That's what your thermos and water bottle that you can find at any thrift store are for, to refill at home before you leave.

Guest's picture
Karen

Cindy, I agree with you about the cell phone thing. We have one because it's a necessity for my consultant husband who bounces between clients all day. Without it, he'd be unable to do his job. Fortunately, it's a reimbursable expense. I have mine for emergency use, and it costs all of ten bucks a month because it's a rider on the contract for my husband's phone. I'd just as soon not have the darn thing, but the expense is negligible, so I keep it. Now, if I could only remember to charge it occasionally!

Our home phone is probably short-lived at this point. It seems silly to keep it, since the cells meet our communication needs. At the very least, I'm going to drop back to minimal service and drop long-distance.

Guest's picture
Mel

Another expense, renting movies. I "rent" my movies from my local public library.... it works for me.

Guest's picture
Donna

Mel, our public library is a great resource for movies, internet, classes, and yes, books! Good idea to remind us of the movies available there in VHS and DVD format.

Guest's picture
Guest

As cell phones conquer consumer minds and markets, researcher Carolanne Patton notes that "the brain reaches peak absorption in the UHF bands, right where cellular telecommunications operate." British military scientists have discovered that cellphone transmissions disrupt the brain sites for memory and learning, causing forgetfulness and sudden confusion.

Other studies show that electromagnetic signals from cellular phones reduce the ability to concentrate, calculate and coordinate complicated activities such as driving a car. Startled by $4 billion a year in extra claims among cellphone-wielding drivers, North American insurers did a double-take that found simply juggling `cell phones is not causing a 600% increase in accidents over other drivers busy shaving, applying makeup, tuning radios, taming pets, making out, pouring coffee, retrieving dropped cigarettes, talking and gesturing to passengers, or actually steering the vehicle.

Instead of just another dangerous distraction, tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy found that using a cell phone severely impairs memory and reaction times. "Hands-free" mobile speaker-phones cause even more crashes because they typically emit 10-times more brainwave interference than handheld units.

full text at: http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/chris/2005/02/15/grave_cell_phone_danger...

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Many people are bringing up great points about cell phones and questionning the need for them.

Amen!

If it works out to have just a land line and not the cell phone, it's still an excellent frugal decision to make. My point was simply to eliminate one or the other. And in the day and age where everybody seems to need to be available for calls all the time,  cell phones are the easy choice.

My own needs are for a cell phone simply because I don't currently have anywhere to hang my hat long enough to get a land line. My cell is also key for emergencies, not the least of which are running into car trouble on the side of the road in an unsafe area, or even being accosted on foot. It is a safety thing for me. 

But Guest, you also make some great observations about the dangers of using and carrying cell phones with the UHF bands. I wonder when (or if) the technology will change to a safer format... 

Guest's picture
Karen

Even though I own a cell phone, I found myself contemplating the deeper meaning of Nora's statement: "in the day and age where everybody seems to need to be available for calls all the time."

One of the reasons I am a reluctant cell phone user is that I hate the obligation I feel to answer the darn thing whenever it rings. Sometimes I want to be inaccessible, but having my cell number seems to give callers the impression that I am available anytime they want to bend my ear.

Guest's picture
Guest

Might want to read what Snopes says about toxins in plastic bottles:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/petbottles.asp
(as in... not true)

The tap water around here tastes horrid, so I buy water so that I don't turn to pop or something instead, I buy the cheapest stuff tho. Even if it's just filtered tap water, it's not the local tap water, and it tastes ok. I'm willing to pay for that.

Guest's picture
Guest

Might want to read what Snopes says about toxins in plastic bottles:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/petbottles.asp
(as in... not true)

The tap water around here tastes horrid, so I buy water so that I don't turn to pop or something instead, I buy the cheapest stuff tho. Even if it's just filtered tap water, it's not the local tap water, and it tastes ok. I'm willing to pay for that.

Guest's picture
Karen

It's not toxins in plastic water bottles that keeps me from buying them. Rather, it's the waste of throwing them away. Ever think about what happens to those bottles after you're done with them? Most aren't recycled. They merely get hauled away to the nearest landfill with the rest of the junk we humans bought but didn't really need.

Guest's picture
Guest

(If that was aimed at my comment) Yes, I do think about it, and take my bottles to the recyling drop-offs in town. Since there's a big recyling center just a few miles from town, hopefully the town is honestly taking them there for that and not just landfilling instead. As I said, the tap water here just tastes disgusting, even filtered, and if I didn't drink bottled I'm sure I'd end up turning to other, less healthy, drinks in buyable containers instead.

Guest's picture
jack

Just get cable internet, buy a splitter and plug in the tv. You've got free cable tv!

Guest's picture
Wesa

We have DSL without a landline. It really depends on your location.

I find that I spend/waste more if I only shop once a week at the grocery store, as I tend to overcompensate on the produce. I shop at least every other day, if not daily, and stick to a list of what I need. I plan meals around what is leftover in the fridge and really only pick up the rest of the meal, keeping our food budget within reason.

Guest's picture
Lucille

Coffee: We are both coffee junkies. We make it at home and take it with. My $50.00 espresso machine has more than paid for itself.

Cel Phones: We found out my husbands work gives a 20% discount for our existing provider. I also went through are call records after he changed jobs and saw that we were never coming close to using our minutes every month. We changed our plan, saved $30 a month and got nationwide service (no roaming). I won't do without a cel phone after having someone hit my parked car and then had their boyfriend show up and threatened me. We also have roadside assistance with ours that has paid for itself. I seem to have bad luck with vehicles dying without any warning on trips.

Cable: Everyone tells you to ditch cable. Maybe I am just making excuses to justify keeping it but cable keeps other expenses down. We save by no longer renting movies and the related cost of driving to the video store. We also go out due to boredom less. Since the last time we went out for a few drinks ended up costing $60, having cable is cheaper . I just wish they would move to ala carte since we watch the movie channels and about 10 of the other channels. TV packages are rigged so you have to jump up into the next package in order to get certain popular channels. Our internet is reimbursed by work.

Bottled water: We bought a $90 water distiller off of Amazon. We use reusable bottles. A 24 pack of water is between $5 to $9 and we were going through two a week. We also don't have mountains of recycling in the garage.

Guest's picture
Guest

All,

I installed a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit a couple of years ago, and hve just loved it!

The RO I installed in my current home (approx $180) is a 36 gallon/day unit, and provides all of the clean, fresh, pure water we can use! It only takes simple maintenance, i.e. flush the RO membrane monthly and change the filters yearly to keep it working properly.

We gave up the satelite TV and went with the rabbit ears, but we havn't even turned our TV on in a month!

Guest's picture
jkjk

I use a regular water filter - the old fashioned canister type. $30 or so for one from ACE, and $25 a year for filters.

Prepaid cellular is around 12 cents a minute through Tracfone, if you purchase the double-minutes card, and buy at least 200 minutes at a time. I spend about $20 a month.

Guest's picture
Michelle

Great post! I can happily say that I employ all of these suggestions except the home phone. Like it was mentioned above, my DSL (far cheaper than cable internet where I live) is bundled with my phone, making it super cheap. I also learned my lesson during the blackouts a few years ago...cell phones didn't work but traditional land lines did. I didn't have a landline then but as soon as the power was back up, I got one. A week without isolated without the ability to call 911 was all I needed to convince me.

Also, I work for the phone company. Job security, yo.

Guest's picture
Guest

I know most of us realize that our cigarette addiction is expensive and unhealthy, but it's such a hard habit to break! I've tried everything and I finally found a solution. Electronic cigarettes, yes, electronic cigarettes. I know it sounds odd, but they work! They supply nicotine in vapor form like a little nebulizer - no tar, no carcinogens, and so much cheaper! All I buy are inexpensive refills which last way longer than tobacco cigs. Check out these sites:

http://www.greencigarette.com/
http://www.keepsmokinginside.com/

Guest's picture
Kevin

I find many of the comments here to be oddly judgmental about other people's decisions.

I mean, I don't have cable, because I don't derive any value from it; it would be money down the drain. But some people have cable for various good reasons that make sense to them and their family.

Being a frugal person does not mean forcing yourself to follow a set of accepted guidelines for frugal people. It means knowing what's really important to you and your family, adjusting your expenses to reflect that, and making sure that in the process you're getting the best value for your money, and not getting into high-interest debt.

So if you're a movie junkie and you think an HDTV is important, there's no need to apologize to the people who insist you should buy a used TV set from ebay. If you've made the decision to buy it with your eyes wide open and aware of all the other things you might want or need to spend money on, and you purchased it within your means, then you are living wisely and taking care of what's important to you.

If people think you're a spendthrift or a show-off because you have an HDTV, that's their problem, not yours. You made your purchase decision after assessing your needs and your budget. They're trying to fit you into the same mold they've crammed themselves into.

If people think that because I have a cellphone, I must be one of those jerks who spends unthinkingly, can't stop talking loudly, and can't bear to be disconnected for five minutes, that's not my problem at all.

They have no idea what factors went into my decision to carry a cellphone, and they have no idea how I use it. But for the sake of addressing the stereotypes; I run a tight household budget, and no expense goes unexamined on a monthly basis; the pay-as-you-go cell phone passes muster every month. And I only answer calls when I'm not talking to someone else, not driving, and not affecting other people's enjoyment of a public space.

Guest's picture
Michelle

I very much agree. Everyone has parts of their lives they prefer to spend more money on than others. We, for instance, don't have cable but we have a nice TV and surround sound system because we enjoy watching movies and playing video games. So we save on not having cable so we can splurge a little on having video games/movies. But some people out there would think we're horrible for having any of it. Most people anymore seem to instantly (instinctively, maybe?) criticize any decision/idea/lifestyle that is different than theirs.

People in glass houses and all that.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Kevin - I think you hit the nail on the head with regards to frugal living in general: it is a matter of choice. Once you determine what is important to you, you can then engineer the rest of your finances (and life) to suit your needs and desires.

I lived in Hawaii for 6 months as part of my frugal travel lifestyle. When writing about it once, I came under fire for living somewhere so expensive; as if I was out of touch to the reality of finance for most people that I could live in Hawaii and suggest that I was living a frugal lifestyle. But the reality is that I lived in Hawaii for considerably less than most people can live - anywhere. It was a matter of making choices, and living by them every day.

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Kristine

What does it mean to be a professional hobo?

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Anne

Many people would argue about the TVs and Lattes, lol, however these really are expenses that we don't need. I think these are some great ideas to Tips to Teach your Kids about Smart Money Management. Thanks for this post!

Guest's picture

I don't agree with you, I think the TV and cable is important in many people lives. I know I can't live without my TV.

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Tani

I don't get why all these articles say you don't "need" a land line phone. My land line is only $25/mo & I have no cell. Why does everyone "need" a cell phone? Bet most people don't pay less than $25/mo for a cell unless it's a prepaid one.